Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, February 23, 2015

Don?t look now, but Michigan State is coming on. The Spartans scored a big win on Sunday at Illinois to remain in a second-place tie in the Big Ten and to polish an NCAA resume.

MSU has come to life since a home loss to Illinois on Feb. 7. MSU was 3-3 in its last six games after that defeat to the Illini, and some wondered if this was an NCAA team. Since then, Michigan State has won four in a row. This team appears to be peaking at just the right time.


Speaking of MSU ? Nice piece from Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal on the despicability of fans who rip Michigan State players via Twitter.

Funny how ?tough? people are on Internet. Almost as ?tough? as people when they are driving their car. My advice: Just ignore all of the idiots.


Iowa needed a performance like it got on Sunday, when it waxed Nebraska, 74-46, in Lincoln. And in doing so, my favorite Big Ten player, Aaron White, moved to fifth all-time in scoring for the Hawkeyes, easing past Devyn Marble.

Frankly, I was worried for Iowa, thinking it had a chance to get tripped up by the struggling-but-dangerous Cornhuskers. The Hawkeyes have now won two in a row to remain on track for an NCAA bid. Good to have you back, Herky!


Jesse Temple of FOX Sports Wisconsin thinks like me: The Badgers should be a No. 1 NCAA seed.

No doubt, if Wisconsin continues to play at such a high level and continues to win, the Badgers should be rewarded with a No. 1 seed. But, honestly, seeds are overrated and overhyped. Really, this year, you just want to avoid Kentucky's region. In the history of the NCAA tournament, Wisconsin has never earned a No. 1 seed. Yes, it is true that being a top seed does not guarantee success. Wisconsin made the Final Four last year as a No. 2 seed, and the Badgers did so in 2000 under Dick Bennett as a No. 8 seed.

So, there?s that.


The talk of the Big Ten not allowing freshmen to play already is impacting league schools. Thad Matta of Ohio State says it ?has been a nightmare,? as coaches in rival leagues are saying the Big Ten would be the only league with such a rule-which is false. I feel badly for Matta.

"I'll tell you what – I am dealing with more issues on that in recruiting," Matta said. "We're getting crushed in this thing. It's not going to happen. Why they link the Big Ten to it, I don't know.

"I have been dealing with that the last couple days trying to explain that if it does happen, which it's not going to, but if it does, it's not just the Big Ten, it will be across college basketball."


A story on how it was a ?huge mistake? not inviting Rutgers QB Gary Nova to the NFL Combine.

Look, it doesn?t really matter. There is no correlation between a Combine invitation and an NFL career. The NFL will evaluate Nova, and he?ll get his chance in his pro day. The NFL is filled with guys who didn?t go to the Combine-or weren?t even drafted.


Along those same lines, Pete Prisco of opines that with such a shallow class of quarterbacks in the 2015 NFL draft, perhaps Connor Cook should have entered the draft.

According to some general managers at the NFL Combine, Cook would have been a potential top-10 pick in this draft. As it is, the class is limited with Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota at the top of the quarterback class, and then a serious drop in talent.

"I don't even know if I like the top two guys," one general manager said. "They can both be picked apart."

Which begs this question: Where the heck are all the quarterbacks? One theory is that the spread offenses that permeate high school and college football have made it difficult for young passers to make the transition to being NFL quarterbacks.


Remember last year, when Nebraska coach Bo Pelini accused Michigan State?s defense of timing claps to mess up the Cornhuskers? snap counts? Well, former Spartan LB Taiwan Jones admitted at the Combine that MSU did just that. Let?s call it ?gamesmanship.?

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio brushed off the accusations days after MSU?s 27-22 victory over the Cornhuskers. Reflecting on the game while speaking to reporters at the Combine on Friday, Jones echoed his coach's reasoning for the team's use of clapping on defense.

"A lot of people say the clap might have thrown off the snap count, which it might have, but sometimes that's how we change our fronts and are able to do different things on our defense," Jones said. "That game, it so happened to work in our favor in the latter portions of the game."


Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has changed his public view on how last year?s unionization vote impacted his 2014 team.

Fitz repeatedly said that the team was unaffected by the process and even that it brought them closer together. But Fitzgerald recently told Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune the opposite. Interesting.


Good get for Nebraska coach Mike Riley, who landed former Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart as secondary coach.

Stewart spent seven years in the NFL, either being a DC or secondary coach for four different clubs. His last two stops were in Dallas from 2007-08, and Philadelphia in 2009. After he left the Eagles, he was the DC at the University of Houston from 2011-2012.

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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