Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, September 4, 2015

The Jim Harbaugh era is underway. And, as Nick Baumgardner of points out, he has much to do. But, at least Harbaugh now knows what he?s working with.

Opening at Utah was a stern test for Michigan; it would be for any team. So, this may not have been a good measuring stick. Still, I think if the turnover issues get ironed out and the ground game gets on track, the Wolverines will be just fine and win their share of games in 2015.

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Meanwhile, Minnesota also took the lid off its season last night. And, like Michigan, the Gophers lost to a better team. But Minnesota may have found a running back in redshirt freshman Rodney Smith.

Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune also isn?t too impressed with QB Mitch Leidner. Agreed. At this point, Leidner is who he is: A pedestrian signal-caller. He?s good enough to beat who he is supposed to beat. But can Leidner, who struggles to pass consistently, elevate his team? Debatable. Maybe at some point, freshman Demry Croft gets a chance for a program that has lost five of its last seven games.


Illinois will charge onto the field tonight under a new coach in Bill Cubit. Who saw this coming a month ago? Regardless, maybe it?s for the better. Cubit is a fine coach and leader who I think will keep things together during a tumultuous time. And Cubit?s cause will be helped by DE Jihad Ward playing after hurting a knee during camp and being projected to miss two games.


Michigan State also kicks off tonight, playing at Western Michigan. It?s odd for a Big Ten to visit a MAC team-especially one the caliber of MSU. Nonetheless, it?s cool that the Spartans are doing it. Kudos. Now, enjoy your blowout win tonight, fellas. And don?t look ahead to that visit from you-know-who (Oregon).

Penn State has a new tricked-out equipment truck. Check it out in this video!

More Penn State: A nice feature on TE Mike Gesicki, who may emerge as one of the Big Ten?s top tight ends this season. Learning how to block has made Gesicki an all-around threat.

The news at Rutgers in recent days has not been good, from Kyle Flood sending emails to a professor to players getting arrested. The players are rallying around Flood.

The entire situation has caused some to wonder about the long-term viability of Flood. But it may be too early to make a judgment on Flood and RU.

Still, the tumult and uncertainty can?t be good for the program. This all needs to be cleared up-quickly.


Last year at this time, Wisconsin QB Joel Stave was second-string and dealing with a case of the yips. Now, he?s a rock-solid starter who is working in a new offense suited to his skills. This could be a good season for the senior.

"It was different from this year for sure," Stave said. "It was a frustrating time for me at this point last year because I knew I wasn't going to be playing. So this year is a lot more fun going into this week in that I'll be playing on Saturday."


Could Nick Saban play multiple QBs vs. Wisconsin on Saturday? Maybe.

Headed into the final few days before the season opener, he has yet to name a starter but has narrowed the competition to Jake Coker, Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris.

"I would not rule out — I'm not saying we're going to do this or that we even want to do this, but if that doesn't happen we may play more than one guy in the first game," Saban said.


Maryland?s Randy Edsall is looking for a breakthrough. And, he?ll do so with a new 4-3 defensive scheme run by a new coordinator in Keith Dudzinski.

"There's always going to be adjustment," Dudzinski said. "You're going to have to adjust week to week whether you have experience or not. You're going to see different offenses every week. One week you're against the power run game, the next week you're going to be in spread. There's always going to be tweaks and things you have to do."

Something to watch: Just two vets are back among the front seven for the Terps.


In case it didn?t hear it the first 8,236 times: You officially are on upset alert, Iowa, with FCS power Illinois State coming to Kinnick.

I wonder how the Hawkeyes feel about EVERYONE thinking ISU could beat them. Will it motivate Iowa? Will the Hawkeyes buckle if punched between the eyes? Fascinating stuff.


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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