Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, February 13, 2015

When you win a game like Illinois did last night, reeling off a 21-0 run to dump a stunned Michigan team in overtime, you know it might be a special season. That?s all I?m gonna say about that.

It was about defense for the Fighting Illini. How staunch was it? Michigan was held without a field goal over the game?s final 8:13.

?It wasn?t necessarily about execution,? coach John Groce said. ?It was about heart.?


Oh, Rayvonte Rice returned from injury/suspension after missing nine games. But, frankly, he didn?t make a splash.


Iowa! Iowa? Iowa. Are you like me? Stunned? Stupefied? How else to explain a 64-59 home loss to Minnesota for a team that was riding high and that had so much on the line? It?s like Herky got hit in the head with a pillow case stuffed with oranges.

I?m disappointed, especially by a rudderless offense. But, hey, congrats to Minnesota. Nice win, Gophers. That?s three victories in a row (and four in five games) for Minnesota!


Toot! Toot! Purdue has won five of six games and remains tied for second in the Big Ten with an 8-4 mark after dumping Rutgers last night. I am impressed.

The Boilermakers may finish 11-7 in the Big Ten. NCAA worthy? Hold on there, bub. Not so fast. That may not be good enough to earn a big dance ticket. The Boilers? resume is lacking. I think Purdue needs to go 12-6-with one of those wins coming on the road: at Indiana, at Ohio State or at Michigan State.


The NFL draft isn?t as far away as you think. And, it could be a big one for the Big Ten. In fact, Bob Flounders of says the league is aiming for its best first-round showing since 2006. As many as nine Big Ten players could be first-rounders. You want contrast? The league has had just nine first-rounders in the last three drafts combined.


Looks like Penn State will start to receive bowl money again in 2015, something that wasn?t allowed as part of sanctions for the Sandusky scandal.

The university and conference announced Thursday morning that Penn State will receive its conference bowl game revenue share again beginning this season. It was approved by The Big Ten and the Council of Presidents/Chancellors Wednesday.

It?s a lot of loot, too. The Big Ten sent a total of 10 programs to bowl games in 2014, netting a reported $4.7 million per team before $6 million was added to the pot thanks to Michigan State and Ohio State playing in "New Year Six" bowls.


I passed a long a story recently where Nebraska?s Randy Gregory said he should be the No. 1 pick in the draft. Here, an NFL scout says Gregory ?just doesn?t make enough plays.?

Mark Eckel of quoted an unnamed scout as saying that Gregory was a likely flop in the NFL. The scout compared Gregory to Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan, a pass-rush specialist who was drafted No. 3 overall by the Miami Dolphins in 2013. Jordan has had minimal impact in the NFL thus far, and the scout told Eckel to expect the same from Gregory.

I wonder about Gregory. He is an athletic pass rusher, but he?s not big enough to play the run in the NFL as DE. Could he become an OLB? We will hear 1,234,943 words of analysis on Gregory between now and draft day. I wonder what his time will be in the three-cone drill?


OK, a lot has been going on with the Rutgers? football staff. Dan Duggan of gets you caught up. Keep a pen and pad handy.


Michigan State has said ?goodbye? to star running back Jeremy Langford. Now what? Who is going to carry the rock in East Lansing?

"Delton Williams enters as the guy with the most experience, but we're going into similar situation as we did in 2013, in that it's wide open," said co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner, who also coaches the running backs. "You look at the spring as everyone getting equal opportunities, and at end of spring, you have got to whittle it down and see who the best people are, and then LJ Scott will get his opportunity in the fall."

Others to watch: Gerald Holmes, Madre London and Gerald Owens. I think MSU will figure something out. Any RB running behind that monster 2015 Spartan o-line should be just fine. Trust me.


Good news for Ohio State: According to a report, the suspension of Marc Loving is slated to end on Saturday at Michigan State. Nice timing, huh?

The Buckeyes went 2-1 without Loving, the team?s second-leading scorer with 11.7 points per game and a 53.2-percent three-point shooter.


Good advice from Bill Livingston of Enjoy Ohio State?s D?Angelo Russell while you can.

Livingston notes that Russell, barring injury, will be Thad Matta's first one-and-done freshman since B.J. Mullens in 2009. Russell is that impressive overall. Russell certainly is better equipped for the NBA than the two other guards who left Columbus after one year, point guard Mike Conley and shooting guard Daequan Cook from Ohio State's 2007 NCAA runner-up team.


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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