Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, July 29, 2013

The smoke has cleared-Big Ten media days are over. The last word has been uttered, at least for now. Teams have begun to report to camp, and the season is just around the corner. And it?s a big one for the conference, as it chases the SEC and its seven national championships in a row. In fact, the Big Ten is entering a no-excuse season. At least that?s what Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal thinks.

Couch says it?s a put-up-or-pipe-down season for the league, with a familiar bottom line …

?If you want to change perception, change the way people talk about you … you?ve got to go out and win,? Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said at media days.

That means a national title or at least a Rose Bowl. Yep. The last Big Ten team to do it was Ohio State in 2002-and that was a long time ago. No more talk, just action. Let?s go.

URBAN & MAGNETS: Like any good coach, Ohio State?s Urban Meyer always expects the unexpected. That?s why he has a bunch of magnets representing players on the wall of the coaching staff?s meeting room.

?I have magnets that I will stare at, move them around,? Meyer said. ?It?s like a checkerboard: I can see what we have. As long as I can see some depth at those positions - for example, at running back - I?m good.?

CARSON REMINISCES: What has been the biggest hit of Penn State linebacker Glenn Carson?s career? He answers that-and some other questions–here in this video.

MORE PENN STATE: Bill O?Brien is a smart man. Intense, too. To help preserve the depth of his shallow roster that has 65 scholarship players, his team will do more ?thud? work in camp in hopes of avoiding injury.

REPLACING KOVACS: There is a leadership void on the Michigan defense with safety Jordan Kovacs gone. But defensive back Thomas Gordon is stepping up for a unit that continues to improve. Gordon not only needs to lead-but he also needs to be plays. Who are the playmakers on this unit?

MORE MICHIGAN: Is there a better offensive tackle tandem in the Big Ten than the Wolverines? Michael Schofield and Taylor Lewan?

Maybe not. Some other good ones: Ohio State?s Jack Mewhort and Taylor Decker; Nebraska?s Jeremiah Sirles and Brent Qvale; Michigan State?s Fou Fonoti and Skyler Burkland; Iowa?s Brandon Scherff and Brett Van Sloten; Penn State?s Donovan Smith and Adam Gress. Still, the Wolverines? duo is tops.

GOPHER WIDEOUTS: Minnesota needs help at wideout. It?s no secret. The Gophers don?t have a player who caught more than 19 passes last season coming back. That?s why coaches will try incoming freshman quarterbacks Donovahn Jones and Chris Streveler at receiver.

If signal-callers Philip Nelson and Mitch Leidner stay healthy, Jones and Streveler may be wideouts all season. Stay tuned.

HAWKEYE LINEBACKERS: Is Iowa?s trio of senior linebackers James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey underrated?

Chris Borland of Wisconsin, Max Bullough of Michigan State and Ryan Schazier of Ohio State get the majority of attention in Big Ten circles when it comes to linebackers.

?Those are really good players, and I?m not comparing,? Kirk Ferentz told ?But our guys are really good players, too.?

I agree. How can Iowa?s group not be considered the top linebacking corps in the conference? At least to start the season?

NO LONGER THE NEW KIDS: The great Tom Shatel  of the Omaha World Herald realized that Nebraska?s transition to the Big Ten is basically over. It?s no longer the new kid. Bo Pelini concurs.

?I think so,? he said. ?I think when we've pretty much gone through and played everybody, we've been in the stadiums now. You know, you feel like you're in the conference when you're not in the first time for this, first time for that. That wears on you after a while.?

Rutgers and Maryland will have the distinction of being the newbie soon enough. And, it?s a good feeling for the Huskers to shed it. Now, it?s time for the Cornhuskers to win the Big Ten-which is much different than the Big Ten it joined in 2010.

MSU QUARTERBACKS: The quarterback situation at Michigan State continues to generate chatter. Why not? Andrew Maxwell is the man-for now. But, that could change quickly if he struggles.

Would Mark Dantonio really pull the trigger on a quarterback change? Could redshirt sophomore Connor Cook, redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor or true freshman Damion Terry really be under center for the start of a football game?

"If one guy is out-playing another guy, we'll make the change and make the move," Dantonio told

Dantonio has to. He can?t go 7-6 again. Not with another great defense.

O'BRIEN ON QUARTERBACKS: Penn State coach Bill O?Brien thinks the hype around young quarterbacks Tyler Ferguson and Christian Hackenberg may be out of hand.

"Look, Matt McGloin had played a lot of football before we came here," O'Brien said at Big Ten media days. "And Matt McGloin went out there and had a fantastic season. He has a chance to make the Oakland Raiders. You're talking about a guy who really is a potential pro quarterback.

"So to expect a young quarterback to go in there and play like Matt McGloin, that's not fair to that young quarterback."

No. It?s not fair. But because of what O?Brien did with McGloin and while in the NFL, people always will expect his quarterbacks to play well.

B1G SIGHTS & SOUNDS: If you missed anything from Big Ten media days, it?s surely contained here in the great Dirk Chatelain?s ?Sights and Sounds? notebook on

SOME HOOPS NEWS: The excitement for Michigan hoops already is building. Why not? Many stars are back from the national runners-up. rates Mitch McGary the No. 1 center in the nation and 11th-best player overall. Glenn Robinson III is rated the ninth-best player in the nation.


My take: Amen.

My take: Yet another reason to expect big things.

My take: Ciante Evans has to be a leader for a Nebraska defense that has lots to prove.

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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