Big10 RappUp Big10 RappUp Buckeyes Lead Postseason Charge With a coaching change at one major program, a coaching search at another, a member school making it to the first-ever College Football Playoff and a litany of teams advancing to bowl games, the Big Ten Conference is having a very noteworthy December.<br /> <br /> The last time the Big Ten had 10 teams make it to the postseason was 2011, but Ohio State fans may have already forgotten that year. The Buckeyes advanced to the Gator Bowl under <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> that year but lost to Florida to fall to 6-7, the most losses in a season in program history.<br /> <br /> Since then, Ohio native <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> not only has resurrected Ohio State football, he’s taken it to the clear top rung of the conference and beyond. Saturday night’s 59-0 slam dunk of Wisconsin is proof. So is the fact that Ohio State hasn’t lost a regular-season Big Ten game since Meyer took helm of the program.<br /> <br /> Everyone else is trying to keep up, which is a big reason why <strong>Brady Hoke</strong> was let go at Michigan – that and the fact that UM was 5-7 this season and missed out on a bowl.<br /> <br /> And it’s a big reason why Nebraska fired <strong>Bo Pelini</strong>, ironically an Ohio State grad, despite the fact that he led the Cornhuskers to at least nine wins in all seven of his seasons in Lincoln. Another factor was Pelini’s volatile temper, which he often took out on players, officials and reporters.<br /> <br /> Athletic director <strong>Shawn Eichorst</strong> had seen enough, and instead of conducting a lengthy search and involving lots of input he announced on Thursday that 61-year-old <strong>Mike Riley</strong> was Pelini’s replacement.<br /> <br /> Riley has spent 14 seasons over two tenures at Oregon State, leading the Beavers to 93 wins and a 6-2 record in bowl games. His reputation as a respectful, gentlemanly ambassador for the sport no doubt played a role.<br /> <br /> “There was one coach who fit all the characteristics that I was seeking to lead our tradition-rich football program,” Eichorst said. “Mike Riley has a proven record of success, a sound approach to football and teaching, an understanding of the educational mission of our university and the integrity and values that we cherish at Nebraska. I have no doubt that Mike will assemble a tremendous staff and lead our student-athletes to win Big Ten titles and compete for national championships in the years ahead.”<br /> <br /> Still, Riley’s introduction on Friday was met with criticism by many because of a failed run at the NFL level, his lack of championships, and his age. Many Cornhusker fans and pundits believed the odds-on favorite would be former NU quarterback and current Oregon offensive coordinator <strong>Scott Frost</strong>, whose Ducks shredded Riley’s Oregon State squad at the end of the regular season.<br /> <br /> Riley, though, was the pinpointed candidate, and he wasn’t about to turn down the job.<br /> <br /> “It is truly an honor to join the University of Nebraska family,” he said in a statement. “Though we love Corvallis and Oregon State, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach at one of the nation’s most storied football programs and I can’t wait to get started.”<br /> <br /> Riley was under contract at Oregon State until 2021 and was the longest-tenured coach in the Pac-12. He was named coach of the Beavers in 1997, taking over a program that hadn’t had a winning season since 1970. He directed Oregon State to several stunning upsets and winning seasons over the years but the team was just 5-7 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12 this year.<br /> <br /> Pelini posted a record of 66-27 at Nebraska, but lost at least four games in all seven of his seasons. The Cornhuskers played in the 2012 Big Ten Championship Game but were shellacked by Wisconsin, 70-31. NU lost to the Badgers 59-24 this season and allowed Melvin Gordon to set a new all-time rushing record with 408 yards.<br /> <br /> Riley has strong recruiting ties in California and has helped several of his QBs to professional careers. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion became the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer this fall.<br /> <br /> Michigan, meanwhile, isn’t tipping its hand and appears willing to wait on premier coaches, which has led to even more speculation regarding former UM quarterback <strong>Jim Harbaugh</strong>, currently the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Some connected to the program including ex-Michigan QB <strong>Brian Griese</strong> don’t want Harbaugh to return.<br /> <br /> But no matter how that situation shakes out, the Wolverines will have to endure a rare stay at home while a record 10 league teams play in bowl games.<br /> <br /> The following is a sneak peek at those matchups:<br /> <br /> * After winning the Big Ten Football Championship Game, Ohio State was granted the No. 4 seed and will take on top-seeded Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1 (8:30 p.m. Eastern, ESPN) in New Orleans. The Buckeyes will be making their 44th official appearance in postseason competition, having last appeared in the 2014 Orange Bowl. Ohio State will take part in the Sugar Bowl for the second time, following a victory over Texas A&amp;M in 1999 (the 2011 win over Arkansas has been vacated). Big Ten programs have played in six Sugar Bowls, most recently following the 2011 season.<br /> <br /> * Michigan State heads to the Goodyear Cotton Bowl where it will face Baylor at 12:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 1 in Arlington, Texas. The Spartans will be making their first appearance in the Cotton Bowl and only the second by a Big Ten team, as Ohio State earned a Cotton Bowl win following the 1986 season. Michigan State has advanced to a program-record eight straight postseason contests and is making its 25th bowl appearance in team history.<br /> <br /> * Minnesota will take part in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl at 1 p.m. ET on Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla., against Missouri. The Gophers will be making their 17th postseason appearance and third straight bowl trip. The game will mark Minnesota’s first appearance in the Citrus Bowl, the Big Ten’s second-oldest current bowl partner behind only the Rose Bowl Game. Big Ten teams have played in 24 Citrus Bowls, including each of the last 22 seasons.<br /> <br /> * Wisconsin will play in the Outback Bowl for the first time since the 2007 season in a game that will take place at noon ET on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla., against Auburn. The Badgers are taking part in postseason play for a school-record 13th straight season and are making their 26th bowl appearance. Wisconsin will make its fifth trip to the Outback Bowl. The Outback Bowl is the Big Ten’s third-oldest current bowl partner and has been affiliated with the conference since the 1993 season. Big Ten schools have played in 25 Outback Bowls, including each of the last 21 seasons.<br /> <br /> * Nebraska earned an invitation from one of the conference’s newest bowl partners, the National University Holiday Bowl, which will take place at 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 27 in San Diego, Calif., against Southern California. The contest will mark the Huskers’ fourth appearance in the Holiday Bowl and first since the 2010 campaign. Nebraska will be making its 51st bowl appearance and eighth straight postseason contest. Big Ten squads have played in the Holiday Bowl on nine occasions, most recently after the 1994 campaign.<br /> <br /> * Iowa makes its sixth bowl appearance in the last seven seasons and will take on Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl at 3:20 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla. The Hawkeyes will play in their 28th postseason outing overall, the 10th appearance by a Big Ten school in this bowl game and fifth straight. Iowa will participate in the TaxSlayer Bowl for the second time and first since the 1983 season, when it was called the Gator Bowl.<br /> <br /> * Penn State will make the Big Ten’s debut in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at 4:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 27 against Boston College. Played at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, N.Y., the Big Ten’s partnership with the Pinstripe Bowl marks the conference’s first bowl game tie-in on the East Coast. The Nittany Lions will be making their 39th official appearance in postseason play and first since taking part in the TicketCity Bowl following the 2011 campaign.<br /> <br /> * Following its first season as a Big Ten member, Maryland makes a bowl appearance for the second consecutive season and will face Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl, one of the Big Ten’s newest bowl partners. The 2014 Foster Farms Bowl will be held at 10 p.m. ET on Dec. 30 in Santa Clara, Calif. The contest will mark the third time that a current Big Ten team will pay in the Foster Farms Bowl, including a 2007 appearance by the Terrapins in what was then called the Emerald Bowl. The Terrapins will participate in their 26th postseason contest.<br /> <br /> * Fellow Big Ten newcomer Rutgers also earned a bowl berth in its first season in the conference and will face North Carolina in the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl at 4:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 26 in Detroit, Mich. The Scarlet Knights will be making their ninth bowl appearance in the last 10 years and taking part in their 10th postseason game overall. Rutgers has won five of its last seven bowl games.<br /> <br /> * Illinois will make its first bowl appearance since the 2011 season against Louisiana Tech in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, to be held at 1 p.m. ET on Dec. 26 in Dallas, Texas. The Illini have won their last two bowl games and will be making their 18th postseason appearance overall. The Big Ten has taken part in the Heart of Dallas Bowl in three of the last four seasons.<br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp b381a557-bc82-41db-b4dd-2bf70a1f1452 Tue, 09 Dec 2014 16:56:26 GMT Barrett Becoming B1G's Best So this is getting kind of silly.<br /> <br /> Ohio State quarterback <strong>J.T. Barrett</strong> is one of the surprise stories in college football this season and now is considered as one of the premier performers in the Big Ten. So Barrett winning the conference Freshman of the Week award on Monday basically is no longer news.<br /> <br /> A 6-1, 225-pound redshirt freshman for Wichita Falls, Texas, Barrett has been borderline spectacular this season after taking over the QB duties from two-time Silver Football winner <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, who is recovering from shoulder surgery.<br /> <br /> In a 56-17 rout of Rutgers in the Horseshoe last Saturday, Barrett was up to his old tricks with 261 yards and three touchdowns passing to go along with a game-high 107 rushing yards and two more scores.<br /> <br /> He came into the game leading the league in total offense and only padded that average with 368 yards as the Buckeyes moved to 5-1 overall, 2-0 in the conference and won their 18th straight regular-season Big Ten game.<br /> <br /> Sure enough, the Big Ten Conference recognized Barrett as the Freshman of the Week for the fourth time this season and he also was tabbed Offensive Player of the Week for the second time.<br /> <br /> Barrett connected on 19 of 31 passes without an interception against the Scarlet Knights. His 100-yard rushing day came on just seven carries and included a 33-yard TD scamper right up the gut of the defense – the longest run from scrimmage by a Buckeye this season until running back <strong>Curtis Samuel</strong>, a true freshman, ripped off a 34-yarder in the fourth quarter.<br /> <br /> Minnesota produced the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and Special Teams Player of the Week after the Golden Gophers’ narrow win over Purdue.<br /> <br /> Senior safety <strong>Cedric Thompson</strong> won defensive POW honors after logging six tackles and a pair of interceptions against the Boilermakers. Freshman kicker <strong>Ryan Santoso</strong> won the special teams award largely on the strength of his 52-yard field goal with 4:59 remaining. That was the game-winning kick and the longest FG by Minnesota in 11 years.<br /> <br /> <strong>Just A Handful</strong><br /> <br /> There hasn’t been a lot of movement as far as the Big Ten and the major polls are concerned as only four teams have managed to be in both of them this season and one of those – Wisconsin – dropped out after a surprise loss to Northwestern.<br /> <br /> Minnesota, though, joined the party – sort of – by squeaking into the No. 24 spot of the USA Today/coaches poll after hanging on against Purdue and improving to 6-1 overall.<br /> <br /> Michigan State (6-1), fresh off a 56-17 win at Indiana, is at No. 8 in The Associated Press poll and No. 5 in the coaches poll. The Spartans’ only loss came Sept. 6 at Oregon.<br /> <br /> Ohio State stayed at No. 13 in the AP poll and inched up one spot to No. 12 in the coaches. Nebraska (6-1) is at No. 16 in each.<br /> <br /> Maryland (5-2) received three points in the AP poll and Wisconsin (4-2) had 17 in the latest coaches poll.<br /> <br /> Only three teams remain unbeaten in Big Ten play: Michigan State and Minnesota are 3-0 while Ohio State is at 2-0.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes play the Spartans and Gophers in back-to-back weeks (Nov. 8 and 15) on the road.<br /> <br /> <strong>Next Up</strong><br /> <br /> Ten Big Ten teams were in action on Oct. 18 with the following results:<br /> <br /> Maryland 38, Iowa 31<br /> Minnesota 39, Purdue 38<br /> No. 8 Michigan State 56, Indiana 17<br /> No. 13 Ohio State 56, Rutgers 17<br /> No. 19 Nebraska 38, Northwestern 17<br /> <br /> Illinois, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin all had an open week.<br /> <br /> On Saturday, the conference again will showcase five league games while four teams enjoy an open week.<br /> <br /> Here is the Oct. 25 schedule (all times Eastern):<br /> <br /> --/No. 24 Minnesota at Illinois (noon, ESPNU)<br /> Rutgers at No. 16/16 Nebraska (noon, ESPN2)<br /> Maryland at Wisconsin (noon, BTN)<br /> Michigan at No. 8/5 Michigan State (3:30 p.m., ABC)<br /> No. 13/12 Ohio State at Penn State (8 p.m., ABC)<br /> <br /> <strong>Bye:</strong> Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> <br /> * Minnesota is off to its best start in league play since 1990. A win at Illinois would give <strong>Jerry Kill</strong>’s team a mark of 4-0 in the Big Ten, which hasn’t happened since 1967. Michigan State and Ohio State were 8-0 in conference games in 2013 and are yet to lose a league game this year. OSU is two wins away from reaching the all-time program and conference record of 20 straight wins, which was accomplished from 2005-07. MSU has won 12 straight Big Ten games.<br /> <br /> * Barrett’s pass-efficiency rating of 182.1 ranks third in the nation. The Big Ten has two more QBs who are among the national leaders in Michigan State’s <strong>Connor Cook</strong> (164.0, eighth) and Rutgers’ <strong>Gary Nova</strong> (161.5, 12th).<br /> <br /> The conference also has a couple of wide receivers with elite statistics. Redshirt freshman <strong>DaeSean Hamilton</strong> ranks 14th nationally in receptions per game at 7.2, which is impressive considering just about everyone ahead of him is on a team that practically abandons the run. Also, MSU’s <strong>Tony Lippett</strong> is averaging 112.3 yards receiving per game, good for 11th, and has eight TDs (third).<br /> <br /> * Despite the previous note and the fact that college football is producing more dangerous passing attacks, the Big Ten still is holding up its reputation as a conference that values running the football. Nebraska’s <strong>Ameer Abdullah</strong> leads the nation in all-purpose yards per game (192.7) including 146.3 on the ground, which ranks fourth. Wisconsin’s <strong>Melvin Gordon</strong> (174.3) and Indiana’s <strong>Tevin Coleman</strong> (170.3) rank 1-2 nationally in rushing. Minnesota’s <strong>David Cobb</strong> (144.7) is right behind in fifth.<br /> <br /> Coleman also is first nationally in yards per carry (8.8) and fifth in rushing touchdowns (11). Abdullah is second nationally in rushing TDs with 14 and Gordon is a notch behind with 13.<br /> <br /> As a team, Wisconsin leads the nation in rushing offense with 343.0 yards per game. Conversely, Penn State is tops nationally in rushing defense, allowing just 60.8 ypg.<br /> <br /> * Michigan State, Minnesota and Nebraska are bowl eligible with six wins in their pocket. Four other Big Ten teams – Iowa, Maryland, Ohio State and Rutgers – can attain that status with one more win. The conference could place as many as 11 teams in bowl games this winter, and that figure doesn’t include the College Football Playoff.<br /> <br /> * By the way, Abdullah now ranks fourth on the conference’s career all-purpose yards list with 6,263. He currently sits 203 yards behind Indiana’s <strong>Anthony Thompson</strong> for third place. <strong>Ron Dayne</strong> of Wisconsin (1996-99) is tops with 7,429 yards followed by Ohio State great <strong>Archie Griffin</strong> (1972-75) who racked up 6,559 yards.<br /> Jeff Rapp b5034209-6a88-402b-bdad-15704d729f87 Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:13:14 GMT Buckeyes Atop Challenge Schedule Ohio State once faced Kentucky in the Rock-N-Roll Shootout in Cleveland and the 1996 matchup turned out to be a one-sided affair.<br /> <br /> The Wildcats, who were the defending national champions and would go on to make it to three consecutive NCAA title games, were simply too much for the Buckeyes. After the lopsided win, however, then-UK coach <strong>Rick Pitino</strong> tried to defend the honor of the embattled <strong>Randy Ayers</strong> and propped him up as a topnotch coach.<br /> <br /> It didn’t quite work. Ayers was fired after the 1996-97 season; Pitino wouldn’t stay long in Lexington but would leave there a legend.<br /> <br /> After his second stint as an NBA head coach, this time in charge of the storied Boston Celtics, Pitino returned to college basketball in 2001 and created new glory at Louisville.<br /> <br /> There has been just one encounter with Ohio State since then – a Jan. 4, 2003 contest in Columbus in which the 24th-ranked Cardinals posted a 72-64 win over OSU. However, <strong>Jim O’Brien</strong> was the Buckeye head coach at the time. In fact, Pitino and <strong>Thad Matta</strong> haven’t faced each other since Matta was named head coach at OSU in 2004.<br /> <br /> There were a couple times those two teams were in the same building for the NCAA Tournament with the possibility of battle. One was in 2009 when the Buckeyes lost in overtime to Siena in Dayton, avoiding perhaps a beatdown in the following round from a Cardinals team that advanced to the title game. The other near-miss was in 2012 when each time lost Saturday night semifinals in the Final Four that was staged in new Orleans.<br /> <br /> Fast forward to Dec. 2 of this year. Ohio State and Louisville will meet, Matta and Pitino will shake hands, and two college basketball superpowers will no doubt spice up the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.<br /> <br /> The marquee nonconference game has been slated for a 9:30 p.m. Eastern tip from the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville with ESPN handling the broadcast duties. In all, the ESPN networks will carry all 14 Challenge games over a three-day period.<br /> <br /> Three games will be played on Monday, Dec. 1, capped by Pittsburgh’s visit to Indiana.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes will play in the final of five games the following night, which also includes a tasty Syracuse-Michigan matchup at Crisler Arena.<br /> <br /> Six games are scheduled for Dec. 3, many of them of high interest. Michigan State will be at Notre Dame, Iowa will have to take on North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Duke is at Wisconsin, a game with a rich history.<br /> <br /> Ohio State has posted a mark of 6-4 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge under Matta and the Buckeyes have won five of their last six games in the event. Overall, OSU has an official mark of 6-6 in the Challenge.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes first participated during the 2002-03 season against Duke in Greensboro, N.C., a 91-75 Blue Devils victory. The late <strong>Brent Darby</strong> drew praise from Duke head coach <strong>Mike Krzyzewski</strong> afterward.<br /> <br /> The two teams met again in Columbus in 2011 in what has to be Ohio State’s most enjoyable moment in the Challenge, also known as the “my butt is sore” game. Krzyzewski uttered those words after the No. 2 Buckeyes flogged the No. 3 Blue Devils to the tune of 85-63 in front of a raucous sellout crowd that included <strong>LeBron James</strong> and <strong>Dwyane Wade</strong>.<br /> <br /> The teams rematched at Cameron Indoor Stadium the following year as No. 2 Duke rallied for a 73-68 win over No. 4 Ohio State.<br /> <br /> Ohio State returned home for the Challenge last year and easily took care of Maryland, now a Big Ten member, with a 76-60 win. The No. 5 Buckeyes were led by LaQuinton Ross, who produced 20 points and six rebounds. <strong>Sam Thompson</strong> added 14 points.<br /> <br /> Ohio State has been among the top 15 teams nationally in each of the last five Challenge games (4-1 record) and among the top five in each of the last four games (3-1).<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes are 2-3 in road Challenge games.<br /> <br /> As for the Louisville series, OSU holds an all-time mark of 4-3 against the Cardinals. The most noteworthy win came in 1961 when the top-ranked and defending national champion Buckeyes squeaked out a 56-55 win at Louisville during the NCAA Tournament en route to the title game.<br /> <br /> The <strong>2014 ACC/Big Ten Challenge</strong> schedule follows (all times Eastern):<br /> <br /> <strong>Monday, Dec. 1</strong><br /> Nebraska @ Florida State (7 p.m., ESPN2)<br /> Rutgers @ Clemson (7 p.m., ESPNU)<br /> Pittsburgh @ Indiana (9 p.m., ESPN2)<br /> <br /> <strong>Tuesday, Dec. 2</strong><br /> Minnesota @ Wake Forest (7 p.m., ESPNU)<br /> Syracuse @ Michigan (7:30 p.m., ESPN)<br /> Illinois @ Miami (Fla.) (9 p.m., ESPN2/U)<br /> North Carolina State @ Purdue (9 p.m., ESPN2/U)<br /> <strong>Ohio State</strong> @ Louisville (9:30 p.m., ESPN)<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;<br /> <strong>Wednesday, Dec. 3</strong><br /> Michigan State @ Notre Dame (7:15 p.m., ESPN2)<br /> Virginia Tech @ Penn State (7:15 p.m., ESPNU)<br /> Iowa @ North Carolina (7:30 p.m., ESPN)<br /> Virginia @ Maryland (9:15 p.m., ESPN2)<br /> Georgia Tech @ Northwestern (9:15 p.m., ESPNU)<br /> Duke @ Wisconsin (9:30 p.m., ESPN)<br /> Jeff Rapp 629b0b74-cfb1-4557-91f2-b8ea6d17b92b Fri, 15 Aug 2014 20:58:06 GMT Battle For The B1G East The college football topic that has been revisited most frequently this offseason has been the institution of the four-team playoff that will take center stage this winter.<br /> <br /> Two semifinals wrapped around the New Year’s holiday, one champion, lots of scrutiny and unprecedented pressure-packed postseason action all set up by a season’s worth of drama and a committee that consists of people with former titles of coach, journalist and even Secretary of State.<br /> <br /> There’s no sexy title for it, just College Football Playoff.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> But will it change the landscape of college football?<br /> <br /> “Not for Ohio State,” said former Buckeye standout <strong>Chris Spielman</strong>, now a national television analyst. “I think the goal remains the same. It always has. Except that instead of getting in the top two you need to get in the top four to control your destiny.”<br /> <br /> Very true. However, the Buckeyes will have a little different route to reach the promised land this year. With Maryland and Rutgers now official members of the Big Ten, the conference has reconfigured for the 14 schools.<br /> <br /> For football, the league now features East and West divisions instead of the previous arrangement of Legends and Leaders, which drew a lukewarm reception the last couple years.<br /> <br /> Geography now rules, meaning Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State are all beasts of the suddenly loaded East along with Indiana and newbies Maryland and Rutgers. That leaves Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Illinois and Purdue in the West.<br /> <br /> With new “life partners” in each division and added importance to divisional games, reporters repeatedly asked players and coaches at Big Ten Media Days if rivalries have been redefined.<br /> <br /> “I don’t think so,” OSU defensive end <strong>Michael Bennett</strong> said. “I know a lot of people are trying to put even more on our game with Michigan State, and it is a huge game, but we have some other big ones that will count. Plus, we always have that team up north at the end of the schedule.”<br /> <br /> A Michigan reporter asked Ohio State quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> if the rivalry with UM has lost any luster.<br /> <br /> “I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “All our games with them have been special, great games.”<br /> <br /> Still, there is reason to believe the balance of power in Michigan may have shifted. While the Wolverines were dragging through a rough 7-6 season and creating uncertainty within their program (more on that below), Michigan State was filling the role of league kingpin.<br /> <br /> The Spartans bounced back from an early-season loss to Notre Dame to sweep through the Big Ten ledger, knock off Ohio State in the league title game and outlast Stanford in the Rose Bowl.<br /> <br /> With MSU and Ohio State set to meet in East Lansing on Nov. 8 in what is being billed as the biggest Big Ten game this fall, many believe the two schools are on the brink of a fierce rivalry.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes aren’t sure they want to label it as such but clearly admit that the loss to Sparty last year changed their outlook and perhaps the culture of the league.<br /> <br /> “It was a new experience,” tight end <strong>Jeff Heuerman</strong> said of dealing with defeat in December. “We went 24 straight games with this coaching staff and never lost a game, so we didn’t know what it was like until that Michigan State game. It was an experience we went through together and I think it made us stronger. Coming back, we’ve got the best coach in the country and the best quarterback in the country. It’s going to make us a real contender this year.”<br /> <br /> Heuerman is one of the real strengths of the offense along with Miller, the two-time winner of the coveted Silver Football award as the MVP of the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> When asked how important it is for Miller to hold up this season, Heuerman retorted, “How important for Cleveland is it to keep <strong>LeBron</strong> (<strong>James</strong>) healthy?<br /> <br /> “Braxton, we all rally around him and keep him healthy is huge. There’s nothing else really to say. We have to keep him healthy.”<br /> <br /> Most of the experts consider Ohio State to be the team to beat in the Big Ten East even though the all-important game with Michigan State is on the road and the Buckeyes have to replace nearly as many starters (11 to MSU’s 12).<br /> <br /> “I can tell you there are guys in that Spartan locker room who take offense to that,” a Michigan State beat writer told SRU.<br /> <br /> <strong>Wolverine Strong?</strong><br /> <br /> Michigan seems rejuvenated from the offseason and changes that include the firing of offensive coordinator <strong>Al Borges</strong> and the hiring of new OC <strong>Doug Nussmeier</strong>.<br /> <br /> Still, it appears that head coach <strong>Brady Hoke</strong> and company need to get it turned around quickly.<br /> <br /> An article about the Wolverines entitled “Time To Panic?” is prominent in the Athlon Sports Big Ten preview. In it, Hoke admits that the team is still trying to find a higher level of toughness.<br /> <br /> “As much as anything else, that’s the identity we’re striving for,” the coach said.<br /> <br /> It would help immensely if quarterback <strong>Devin Gardner</strong> and linebacker <strong>Jake Ryan</strong>, who have been ticketed to lead on each side of the ball, could stay healthy throughout 2014.<br /> <br /> When last OSU fans saw Gardner up close, he was limping off the field after a gutty performance in a 42-41 loss to the Buckeyes. The senior, though, claims he’s now 100 percent.<br /> <br /> An Ohio native, Ryan missed much of last season with a knee injury but recovered well from the setback.<br /> <br /> “Knowing that I could be back on the field in six months from the time that I had my injury was one of the main things that kind of got me through and helped me with everything,” he said.<br /> <br /> “It was a touch process but I have to give credit to the trainers and everyone that got me through it. The therapy was awesome. I can’t thank them enough.”<br /> <br /> When asked what medication he used to handle the knee pain, Ryan said, “Advil. I didn’t take any of the other stuff they prescribed for us. You hear all those stories. Not good.”<br /> <br /> In Chicago, Gardner and Ryan said they are aware some have suggested Hoke’s job is in peril but they intend to do everything in their power to halt that rumor.<br /> <br /> “Nobody (on the team) is going to talk about that,” Gardner said. “My job is to continue to encourage my teammates and to continue to try to win football games and be the best quarterback I can be. Once I do that, the hotseat and whatever, those things are going to go away.”<br /> <br /> Added Ryan, “Coach Hoke is a great coach. He’s busting his butt every single day for us, for our team, and I can’t wait to see what this season brings.”<br /> <br /> <strong>New Kids On The Block</strong><br /> <br /> If Michigan is indeed a contender, Ohio State and Michigan State are the class of the Big Ten, and Penn State is improved under new coach <strong>James Franklin</strong> as expected, then newcomers Maryland and Rutgers are fighting for fifth place in the division and respectability.<br /> <br /> Maryland was 7-6 overall last year, 3-5 in the ACC, and boasts perhaps the best receiver in the country in <strong>Stefon Diggs</strong>.<br /> <br /> Rutgers was 6-7 overall last year, 3-5 in the American Athletic Conference, and is coming off a loss to Notre Dame in the Pinstripe Bowl.<br /> <br /> The immediate outlook is a little cloudy for the Scarlet Knights but defensive lineman <strong>Darius Hamilton</strong> suggest his team is ready to battle.<br /> <br /> “We’re tough and relentless and we’ve got a lot of heart,” he said. “We’re kids who won’t stop fighting and we’re going to give it all we’ve got for each other, and we’re going to let the chip fall where they may.”<br /> <br /> Hamilton said his dad called him to tell him the news about RU being added to the Big Ten and said, “There it is, and chance to prove yourself.”<br /> <br /> “When I was younger I never really got tied up in the conferences,” Hamilton admitted, “but when I committed to Rutgers I knew that they were in the Big East and I knew what that competition level was. Honestly, it’s just a dream come true to be able to play against the best competition week in and week out. It’s going to mean a lot to us to have our fans behind us and to play in different atmospheres with different fans.”<br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp 503ff4ed-6bf0-456a-8e18-457b2d3213f1 Fri, 01 Aug 2014 18:53:46 GMT Your 2014 Storylines To Come With the 2014 college football season right around the corner, Ohio State fans no doubt are on the brink of moments of euphoria and potential heartbreak.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes are sure to be a top-five team when the preseason polls are released and most experts and analysts see <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> blessed with a quality coaching staff and what appears to be the most talented roster in the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> The expectations of greatness, as always, are in place. The Buckeyes are supposed to win every game they play, <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> is supposed to be a Heisman candidate, and the defense is supposed to be much improved with fresh faces in the back seven and new assistants <strong>Chris Ash</strong> and <strong>Larry Johnson</strong> on the job.<br /> <br /> We’re not sure who the kicker or middle linebacker is but, hey, this is Ohio State. Whoever is in there will help the Buckeyes win games, right?<br /> <br /> Still, it all has to play out. The college football season may look like a bunch of weekends stacked on top of each other when perusing an upcoming schedule, but it’s still a long drawn-out process replete with twists, turns, strategies, injuries, bad calls, polls, conjecture, unlikely plays and several what-just-happened moments.<br /> <br /> The truth is, the experts don’t know for sure who the top teams are and no one knows what’s coming. However, as a longtime member of the Ohio State football reporting pool – and with Big Ten Media Days scheduled for Monday and Tuesday – I thought it was the perfect time to take a preseason look at the storylines that are sure to surface in Columbus and around the conference.<br /> <br /> Here are a dozen:<br /> <br /> <strong>The Braxton Microscope –</strong> This one is obvious since Miller is entering his fourth year as a starter and true standout, and because the quarterback position at Ohio State is simply one of those positions that always draws national interest.<br /> <br /> Every preseason publication is hailing Miller as a top Heisman candidate even though his name often is accompanied by scrutiny and some observers are still waiting to see him run a sophisticated offense. That, of course, will depend on the development of OSU’s offensive line and whether <strong>Ezekiel Elliott</strong> or some other talented young runner can approach the dependability and production of Carlos Hyde in the backfield.<br /> <br /> It also would be a great help if his receivers could become more dynamic in space and haul in passes on the move. Remember, <strong>Troy Smith</strong> was blessed with an array of topflight receiving options during his Heisman year of 2006. <strong>Ted Ginn Jr.</strong>, <strong>Anthony Gonzalez</strong>, <strong>Roy Hall</strong>, <strong>Brian Hartline</strong> and <strong>Brian Robiske</strong> all played in the NFL for a spell. Ginn and Hartline still do.<br /> <br /> <strong>Devin Smith</strong> and <strong>Evan Spencer</strong> are back to lead this year’s group but some new stars need to emerge as well. There are plenty of athletic candidates – <strong>Jalin Marshall</strong>, <strong>Johnnie Dixon</strong>, <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>, <strong>Corey Smith</strong> and <strong>Curtis Samuel</strong> among them.<br /> <br /> What’s most intriguing, though, about Miller’s Heisman case is that despite being a heroic highlight machine, which always helps, he also could lift to the top of the list based on his four-year body of work. If he breaks several school records such as most yards from scrimmage all-time, wins a third Silver Football (unprecedented) and has the Buckeyes poised for the College Football Playoff, he is headed to New York if not plucking the trophy.<br /> <br /> But none of that is going to happen without health and protection, which leads to …<br /> <br /> <strong>O-Line Makeover –</strong> No matter how the offense performs, the offensive line play will become a key storyline. Sometimes the front five toils in relative obscurity but considering the Buckeyes will trot out four new starters, <strong>Taylor Decker</strong> has to shift to the all-important left tackle spot, and former Alabama center <strong>Chad Lindsay</strong> is among the new faces, the group will be assessed with regularity.<br /> <br /> If they play to the liking of Meyer, who often professed his affinity for the outgoing group – especially <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> and <strong>Corey Linsley</strong> – then <strong>Ed Warinner</strong> will become an assistant coaching god in these parts. If not, reporters such as myself are going to keep pointing out the deficiency and wonder what could have been.<br /> <br /> The line will have some time to develop, although the preseason schedule is a little trickier than in Meyer’s previous two seasons at OSU. The unit will have to hold up through Big Ten wars and will be severely tested in East Lansing, which leads to …<br /> <br /> <strong>Old Sparty –</strong> Yes, nothing is ever going to replace the uber-rivalry with Michigan, but the something-year war between Ohio State and Michigan State in the Meyer era sure is heating up fast.<br /> <br /> Meyer notched his first conference win at Spartan Stadium in 2012 but last year’s rematch in the Big Ten Championship Game was painful as Sparty made all the plays down the stretch and earned a Rose Bowl berth with a 34-24 victory over OSU in Indianapolis.<br /> <br /> Now the Buckeyes are charged with returning the favor in a huge East Division matchup in East Lansing. Under the lights. With the whole nation watching.<br /> <br /> If the Buckeyes win, it’s a sure bet they will be in position to return to the title game and flirt with a national title. If they don’t, they could fall out of both races, the anguish of MSU ruining a 24-game win streak will be revisited and Meyer suddenly will have to answer for “the Michigan State problem.”<br /> <br /> Hey, that’s how this stuff works.<br /> <br /> On the other hand, beating MSU also would carry major significance because it would prove that the Buckeyes, who are now built for speed, can still hold up in a mosh pit. Lots of 50-yard touchdowns impress poll voters but those who follow the Big Ten know line play and defensive toughness are critical if you want to win the conference. <br /> <br /> Which leads to …<br /> <br /> <strong>Man In The Middle –</strong> Ohio State has been as blessed as any school at middle linebacker (sorry, Penn State), but the position has been a bit of a headache since <strong>James Laurinaitis</strong> departed. Sure, there’s been talent there but not the steadiness of a <strong>Randy Gradishar</strong>, <strong>Tom Cousineau</strong>, <strong>Marcus Marek</strong>, <strong>Chris Spielman</strong>, <strong>Steve Tovar</strong>, <strong>Andy Katzenmoyer</strong>, <strong>A.J. Hawk</strong> … OK, you get the point.<br /> <br /> <strong>Curtis Grant</strong> has been a stand-up guy in his career and was plugging the middle admirably before being slowed by multiple injuries but the truth is his career has been a disappointment thus far – and now it’s nearly over.<br /> <br /> Grant has his senior season to save face and anchor the OSU defense, and there are indications he’s ready to do that. The only problem is he’s got a young Buck chasing his job. <strong>Raekwon McMillan</strong> arrived with a stud recruiting rating and he arrived early. The Georgia product is a sturdy 6-2, 240 and looks the part of future All-Big Ten MLB.<br /> <br /> The battle to take the reins of the Buckeye defense will be subplot worth following all season.<br /> <br /> And there are other young defenders looking to make their mark, especially in the secondary, which leads to …<br /> <br /> <strong>The Ash Factor –</strong> Changes needed to occur in the back of the Ohio State defense and the coaches’ hands were already forced with corner <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> and longtime starting safeties <strong>Christian Bryant</strong> and <strong>C.J. Barnett</strong> departed.<br /> <br /> However, young talent abounds in the back end, and that includes new secondary coach and co-coordinator Ash. The former Wisconsin and Arkansas DC wants his corners to press up and challenge receivers this season, a development that already emerged in the spring with solid results.<br /> <br /> <strong>Doran Grant</strong> and <strong>Armani Reeves</strong> are corners who look like body builders and safeties <strong>Tyvis Powell</strong>, <strong>Vonn Bell</strong> and <strong>Cam Burrows</strong> all can cover ground and hit. <strong>Gareon Conley</strong> and <strong>Eli Apple</strong> also could find roles and have impressive talent.<br /> <br /> It’s hard to believe OSU could rank second-to-last in the conference again in terms of passing yards allowed (268.0 last season). A fierce defensive line and an aggressive approach in the defensive backfield should change that considerably.<br /> <br /> Better play against the pass could lead to more three-and-outs and even better field positioning, which leads to …<br /> <br /> <strong>The Return of Tresselball? –</strong> Not quite, but it’s worth noting that the Buckeyes have a major weapon in punter <strong>Cameron Johnston</strong> and actually were very good in the field-position game last season.<br /> <br /> In fact, in part because of solid special teams play, the Buckeyes’ average starting spot on offensive drives was 32.7 while the defense had to take the field with an average starting mark of 25.4. The 7.3 differential ranked second in the country.<br /> <br /> This is significant because the defense is expected to be improved and the offense most likely will need time to jell, meaning the coaches can be a little more conservative with their play calling.<br /> <br /> Meyer doesn’t want to do that, of course, but it may be the smartest course of action. And if the Buckeyes even out and bit and begin to mirror themselves from the days of the previous regime, that, no doubt, will be a storyline.<br /> <br /> <strong>League Business</strong><br /> <br /> Of course, Ohio State is just one of 14 teams in the conference trying to find its voice this fall. Here then are a few other storylines awaiting a very interesting Big Ten season.<br /> <br /> <strong>New Tenants –</strong> Rutgers and Maryland. Just get used to them because they are your 13th and 14th members of the Big Ten. Quick, anyone know the names of their head coaches. Let me help you out: <strong>Kyle Flood</strong> is in his third season at RU while fourth-year coach <strong>Randy Edsall</strong> is the man with the whistle in Maryland.<br /> <br /> <strong>Impact Freshmen –</strong> Ohio State should lead the way once again in terms of landing athletes who are capable of plugging right into the two-deep. McMillan, Samuel and <strong>Damon Webb</strong> are just a handful of guys who could find the field quickly. Still, there are only so many open spots and other Big Ten teams have more pressing needs. Other newbies to look for include Minnesota RB <strong>Jeff Jones</strong>, Maryland OL <strong>Derwin Gray</strong>, Michigan WR <strong>Freddy Canteen</strong> and Northwestern running back <strong>Justin Jackson</strong>.<br /> <br /> <strong>League Mitosis –</strong> The Big Ten has split into two new divisions, the East and the West, and the appointments actually make geographic sense. Purdue and Indiana were separated but will still be “life partners” – the Big Ten’s term, not mine – and we now have a division with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State. That’ll take the sting out of having to market Rutgers and Maryland – and should make no one want the return of the Legends and Leaders days.<br /> <br /> <strong>2-5 –</strong> The league has to answer to another unacceptable bowl record and the perception won’t improve until the Big Ten can win a couple more spotlight postseason games.<br /> <br /> <strong>Franklin Arrives –</strong> The league welcomes just one newly appointed head coach, <strong>James Franklin</strong>. He appears to be an ideal hire for Penn State, which is still trying to escape the black cloud of the <strong>Jerry Sandusky</strong> mess/<strong>Joe Paterno</strong> firing. The former Vanderbilt head coach has all the goods including laudable recruiting chops and he’s got a great young QB (<strong>Christian Hackenberg</strong>) with which to work.<br /> <br /> <strong>Hot Seats –</strong> <strong>Tim Beckman</strong> (Illinois), <strong>Bo Pelini</strong> (Nebraska) and <strong>Kevin Wilson</strong> (Indiana) better watch their keisters.<br /> Jeff Rapp 4b235622-fbdb-4023-bf81-fd06f9f6189e Mon, 28 Jul 2014 03:11:15 GMT Hoops Season Hits Stretch Run The national headlines will proclaim the most noteworthy result of the new Associated Press poll released on Monday as Florida surpassing Syracuse for the top spot.<br /> <br /> That’s natural and certainly important considering the Orange suffered just its second loss this season over the weekend – and it came in controversial fashion thanks to a disputed block-charge call that benefited Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium.<br /> <br /> However, in Big Ten country there is less intrigue about the No. 1 slot and more interest in the conference race at hand and the poll juggling below the elite line.<br /> <br /> For example, Michigan is now in the Big Ten driver’s seat after defeating rival Michigan State at home on Sunday, 79-70. <strong>Nik Stauskas</strong> continued his outstanding sophomore season by torching MSU with 25 points.<br /> <br /> The Wolverines moved to 19-7 overall and 11-3 in the league. They also jumped MSU in the latest AP poll, moving up four spots to No. 20. With three league games remaining, UM now controls its own destiny in terms of being to claim an outright Big Ten title.<br /> <br /> <strong>Tom Izzo</strong>’s Spartans (22-6, 11-4), the preseason favorite to win the league, dipped from No. 13 to No. 18 in the AP poll after the loss. Still, despite suffering a multitude of injuries, MSU is just a half-game out of first place and has point guard <strong>Keith Appling</strong> getting healthy in time for March.<br /> <br /> The Spartans will host last-place Illinois to open March but then have to face Iowa and Ohio State, two teams battling to finish in the top four of the regular-season standings, which would ensure a quarterfinal appearance in the Big Ten Tournament.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin, which has managed at least a tie for fourth place in the league since <strong>Bo Ryan</strong> has been head coach, is in position to keep that string alive after winning 79-74 at Iowa on Saturday. The Badgers (22-5, 9-5) have recovered from their midseason swoon and now are the conference’s highest-ranked team at No. 14 in the AP poll.<br /> <br /> No. 20 Iowa (19-7, 8-5) is one game behind UW in the loss column while No. 22 Ohio State (22-6, 9-6) is a game behind in the loss column. The Buckeyes won their only meeting with Wisconsin this season and would hold the tiebreaking advantage with the Badgers if applicable.<br /> <br /> Iowa and Ohio State split their regular-season series with each winning on the other’s home floor, meaning their tiebreaker would go to their record against the team that finishes at the top of the standings.<br /> <br /> In the scenario where they are tied for fourth with Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin ahead of them, Iowa would be at a distinct disadvantage if the tiebreaker were composite record against teams ahead of them in the standings. The Hawkeyes are just 1-4 against those top three teams with a March 6 contest at Michigan State still pending.<br /> <br /> Ohio State is 1-0 vs. Wisconsin, 0-1 vs. Michigan and 0-1 vs. Michigan State with the regular-season finale with MSU scheduled for March 9. That will serve as the senior sendoff for longtime starters <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>Lenzelle Smith Jr.</strong><br /> <br /> The Buckeyes would come out well in a three-way tie with Wisconsin and Iowa but not necessarily in a two-way tie with Iowa. Since the Hawkeyes mauled Michigan 85-67 on Feb. 8 and have a chance to split with Michigan State, they have the edge at the moment.<br /> <br /> However, Iowa still has five league games, three of them away, thanks to their Feb. 18 trip to Indiana being postponed because of damage to Assembly Hall at the time. The Hawkeyes have to return to IU on Tuesday after a tester at Minnesota on Tuesday. Iowa will host Purdue on March 1, head to MSU on March 6 and close at home against Illinois on March 8.<br /> <br /> Ohio State has to trek to Penn State on Thursday, Indiana on Sunday and then hosts the Spartans with a week of rest.<br /> <br /> The only other league team with a decent chance of earning Thursday off at the Big Ten Tournament, which is set for March 13-16 in Indianapolis, is Nebraska (16-10, 8-6), which many experts picked to finish at the bottom of the standings.<br /> <br /> Minnesota (17-11, 6-9), Indiana (15-11, 5-8), Purdue (15-12, 5-9), Northwestern (12-16, 5-10), Illinois (15-12, 4-10) and Penn State (13-14, 4-10) all have losing records in the conference and don’t figure to crawl out.<br /> <br /> The Florida Gators (25-2), meanwhile, are back atop the AP poll for the first time since they repeated as national champions in 2007. Ohio State went into the NCAA Tournament that season No. 1 in the country.<br /> <br /> Syracuse (25-2), which lost twice last week, dropped to fourth. Wichita State (29-0) and Arizona (25-2) both moved up one place, to second and third.<br /> <br /> Florida, the fifth school to hold the No. 1 spot this season, received 47 first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel. Wichita State was No. 1 on 14 ballots, and Arizona got the other four first-place votes.<br /> <br /> The complete AP men’s poll follows:<br /> <br /> &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Record &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Points &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Previous</strong><br /> 1. Florida (47) &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;25-2 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,606 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;2<br /> 2. Wichita State (14) &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;29-0 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,549 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;3<br /> 3. Arizona (4) &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;25-2 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,494 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;4<br /> 4. Syracuse &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;25-2 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,410 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1<br /> 5. Kansas &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;21-6 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,310 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;8<br /> 6. Duke &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;22-6 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,286 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;5<br /> 7. Louisville &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;23-4 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,152 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;11<br /> 8. Villanova &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;24-3 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,113 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;9<br /> 9. Creighton &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;23-4 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,103 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;11<br /> 10. Saint Louis &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;25-2 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;1,047 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;10<br /> 11. Cincinnati &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;24-4 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;921 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;7<br /> 12. Virginia &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;23-5 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;909 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;14<br /> 13. San Diego State &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;23-3 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;886 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;6<br /> 14. Wisconsin &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;22-5 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;818 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;16<br /> 15. Iowa State &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;21-5 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;709 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;17<br /> 16. Michigan &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;19-7 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;653 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;20<br /> 17. Kentucky &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;21-6 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;629 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;18<br /> 18. Michigan State &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;22-6 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;552 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;13<br /> 19. North Carolina &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;20-7 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;440 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;—<br /> 20. Iowa &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;19-7 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;418 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;15<br /> 21. Memphis &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;21-6 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;288 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;22<br /> 22. <strong>Ohio State</strong> &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;22-6 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;253 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;24<br /> 23. SMU &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;22-6 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;155 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;—<br /> 24. Texas &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;20-7 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;129 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;19<br /> 25. New Mexico &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;21-5 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;113 &nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;—<br /> <strong>Others receiving votes:</strong> UConn 81, UCLA 41, Oklahoma 35, Stephen F. Austin 11, UMass 9, Gonzaga 2, Green Bay 2, N.C. Central 1.<br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp b8cdb210-f65a-4dae-9bcf-fc8748192c17 Tue, 25 Feb 2014 18:19:31 GMT B1G Football Races Heat Up As we get into the meat of the schedule and the halfway point of conference play for many Big Ten teams, it’s interesting to find four league games are on the docket and four Big Ten teams will be watching right along with the rest of us.<br /> <br /> The ledger for Oct. 26 has a pair of games wit noon starts: No. 25 Nebraska (5-1, 2-0) at Minnesota (5-2, 1-2) on ESPN and Northwestern (4-3, 0-3) looking for its first league win of the season at Iowa (4-3, 1-2) in a game slated for Big Ten Network.<br /> <br /> That leads to a tasty matchup in Champaign as somehow-unranked Michigan State (6-1, 3-0) looks for more national respect at Illinois (3-3, 0-2).<br /> <br /> Then in prime time, No. 4 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0) puts the conference’s only unbeaten mark and a 19-game win streak on the line by hosting Penn State (4-2, 1-1). The game will mark the third straight in which the Buckeyes will face a team that had two full weeks to prepare for them.<br /> <br /> Speaking of open weeks, the league’s other four teams – No. 22 Wisconsin, No. 24 Michigan, Indiana and Purdue – all will take a powder.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin (5-2, 3-1) stayed in the hunt for the Leaders Division title with a win at Illinois last week but will need Penn State and some other league team – likely Michigan – to knock off Ohio State and have a chance to return to the Rose Bowl for a fourth straight year.<br /> <br /> The Wolverines (6-1, 2-1) are still licking their wounds after dropping a 43-40 decision in four overtimes at Penn State on Oct. 12, though they bounced back last week with a shootout victory over Illinois (see below). Indiana (3-4, 1-2) has some work to do to be bowl-eligible while Purdue (1-6, 0-3) would just like a chance to record a league win with <strong>Darrell Hazell</strong> as head coach.<br /> <br /> <strong>Streaky</strong><br /> <br /> Ohio State’s string of 19 straight victories, which wasn’t secure until a the latter stages of a 34-24 homecoming win over Iowa last week, is the longest active win streak in the country. It’s also the second-longest stretch of wins in program history. The Buckeyes had a 22-game win string snapped in a loss at Michigan in 1971, which set off the 10-Year War between coaches <strong>Woody Hayes</strong> and <strong>Bo Schembechler</strong>.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> won his last game at Florida, a bowl matchup with Penn State, which means he has a personal win streak of 20 games. It’s the third time in his head coaching career he has managed to win 20 straight, which no other coach ever has achieved.<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s 19 triumphs in a row equals marks set during the 2005-06 and 2002-03 seasons. The 19 victories rank as the eighth-longest stretch in Big Ten annals.<br /> <br /> <strong>Brainiac</strong><br /> <br /> Speaking of Penn State, the conference recently spotlighted Nittany Lions senior offensive lineman <strong>John Urschel</strong>.<br /> <br /> Urschel, who claimed the Big Ten Medal of Honor last May, was a first-team All-Big Ten honoree in 2012, starting all 12 games at right tackle and helping the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in total offense during the conference season. A candidate for the 2013 National Football Foundation National Scholar-Athlete Award, he earned his bachelor’s degree in less than three years on campus. He earned his first master’s degree last May and is currently working on his second master’s.<br /> <br /> This semester, Urschel is teaching Integral Vector Calculus and researching multigrid methods and computational mathematics.<br /> <br /> <strong>Pinball, Anyone?</strong><br /> <br /> Michigan beating Indiana by 16 points at home after suffering defeat at Penn State was not overly newsworthy, but the Wolverines doing so by the score of 63-47 was, especially when individual statistics were totaled.<br /> <br /> UM receiver <strong>Jeremy Gallon</strong> recorded the most productive day in conference history as he racked up 369 receiving yards to shatter the previous conference record of 301 yards, set by Purdue’s Chris Daniels in 1999. Gallon’s yardage is the second-highest total in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) history, averaging 26.4 yards per catch in the win.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, quarterback <strong>Devin Gardner</strong> set a program record with 503 passing yards, while his 584 yards of total offense is 1 yard shy of the Big Ten record. Gardner’s and Gallon’s efforts are single-game highs in the FBS this season.<br /> <br /> The 110 combined points mark the third-highest single-game total in Big Ten history, while the game’s 17 scoring drives averaged just 2:06.<br /> <br /> <strong>Should We Even Bother?</strong> <br /> <br /> Northwestern kicker <strong>Jeff Budzien</strong> set a new Big Ten record last weekend after converting both extra-point attempts against Minnesota. The senior has now connected on each of his extra points in his career, converting 127 consecutive attempts to break the previous conference record of 126 set by Michigan’s <strong>J.D. Carlson</strong> from 1989-91. Jeff Rapp 99d8991d-30c6-4628-b8a9-f952961351d9 Sat, 26 Oct 2013 05:02:22 GMT Interview Loaded Day 2 In Chicago Big Ten Media Days have ended and the 36 student-athletes, commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong>, Big Ten Network president <strong>Mark Silverman</strong>, and all 12 conference head coaches – including <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> – have survived it.<br /> <br /> Despite a record throng of reporters and a sellout for Thursday’s annual Kickoff Luncheon, those obligated to attend handled their media responsibilities in impressive fashion and without incident.<br /> <br /> In fact, went digging for some unique perspective and came up with, well, loads of it.<br /> <br /> Meyer’s podium address on Wednesday was summarized in a Rapp Around column from later that day – to see it, click here – but the second-year OSU head coach also informed and even entertained the following day during his roundtable discussion with curious reporters.<br /> <br /> Meyer, no doubt, was relieved when the questions on Thursday eventually shifted away from player misdeeds after a Wednesday session in which eight of the 11 inquiries centered on his discipline policies.<br /> <br /> Still, he was upright and honest when asked about the recent unpleasantness. Earlier in the week before departing for Chicago, Meyer and the university put out a release dealing with off-field troubles for running back <strong>Carlos Hyde</strong> and cornerback <strong>Bradley Roby</strong>, who made the news for separate incidents in bars that led to police involvement.<br /> <br /> Hyde, who amassed 970 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns last year, is still considered a person of interest in a case involving a Westerville, Ohio, woman who alleges the running back struck her in a nightclub. Reports continue to vary, even from those who claim to have seen the surveillance video of the confrontation, and Meyer is insistent that Hyde is suspended indefinitely until all the facts come forth in the case.<br /> <br /> The coach did, however, hint at a punishment for Roby, who was charged with battery after a fracas in a Bloomington, Ind., bar last weekend. Meyer said discipline will follow and suggested that he was leaning on a suspension of some sort. He added that Roby also will “be on a very short leash,” but wouldn’t elaborate.<br /> <br /> Meyer again expressed bitter disappointment since he also dismissed true freshman <strong>Tim Gardner</strong>, a lineman from Indianapolis, and has suspended incoming tight end <strong>Marcus Baugh</strong>, a product of Riverside, Calif., for the Aug. 31 season opener with Buffalo. They were arrested by Columbus police for alcohol-related offenses.<br /> <br /> Meyer didn’t want to spend any of his two hours of availability to the media on Thursday speculating on the impact suspensions for Hyde and Roby could have on the Buckeyes. However, former Ohio State running back <strong>Eddie George</strong>, also on hand in Chicago as an analyst for FOX Sports, said Hyde is not instantly replaceable.<br /> <br /> “It’s not that simple,” George told “He’s maturing to where he can really become a beast and from what I hear from the coaches he has done a great job of leading and doing the work in the weight room. He came on huge last year. It’s hard to replace a guy like that, even though there’s a lot of talent at that position.”<br /> <br /> Some analysts believe the defense would suffer more from a prolonged absence of Roby than the offense without Hyde, who has many capable backups. The candidates at corner behind Roby are vastly unproven.<br /> <br /> Someone who would miss him immediately is safety <strong>Christian Bryant</strong>, who was sent to Chicago in Roby’s place after the news of the arrest broke.<br /> <br /> “Me and Roby are on the same side, the boundary side, so without him being right there with me – we’ve been playing with each other for three straight years now – it would kind of be a letdown, just because that’s my partner in crime throughout the game,” Bryant said.<br /> <br /> “We talk throughout the game, and with him on the field I feel like everybody is a little bit more comfortable and at ease. Without Roby it would be pretty tough, but I’m looking for him to be back.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Help Has Arrived</strong><br /> <br /> While Meyer isn’t sure about the makeup of his team leadership and now has some real issues with which to contend regarding Hyde and Roby, the overall outlook is still pretty sunny.<br /> <br /> Ohio State is as loaded player for player as any squad in the Big Ten and was the only league team to have three players named to the conference’s Players To Watch List.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten announced the names in Chicago and OSU leads the way with quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>, linebacker <strong>Ryan Shazier</strong> and Roby taking up three of the five slots for the Leaders Division. Penn State wide receiver <strong>Allen Robinson</strong> and Wisconsin linebacker <strong>Chris Borland</strong> were the other two.<br /> <br /> Michigan was the only other school with more than one player mentioned on the Players to Watch List as UM quarterback <strong>Devin Gardner</strong> and offensive tackle <strong>Taylor Lewan</strong> were tabbed. The other three players from the Legends Division to make the list are Michigan State linebacker <strong>Max Bullough</strong>, Nebraska quarterback <strong>Taylor Martinez</strong> and Northwestern running back <strong>Venric Mark</strong>.<br /> <br /> Shazier, Roby and Robinson were the only players on the list who were not present in Chicago.<br /> <br /> Meyer raved about the development of Miller and Shazier while in Chicago but spread around the praise. He noted the team’s wealth of experience in the secondary, believes young defensive linemen <strong>Noah Spence</strong> and <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong> are on their way to being All-Big Ten players and is happy with the depth at tailback.<br /> <br /> He also said “it would be disappointing if our offensive line isn’t one of the best in the Big Ten” and likes what he’s seeing of the four returning starters there.<br /> <br /> And the coach raved on.<br /> <br /> “Receiver is probably the one area we were weakest at last year, and I think this year, with the injection of some speed in the recruiting class and also development of the guys we have, that I’m really counting on them to become one of the strengths of our offense,” he said just one yea after openly questioning the group.<br /> <br /> “The two guys that really developed throughout the year last year, two very good tight ends in (<strong>Jeff</strong>) <strong>Heuerman</strong> and (<strong>Nick</strong>) <strong>Vannett</strong>, and we’ve not traditionally been known as a two tight end offense. However, with these two talented players, you’re going to see some 12 personnel, which they’re two guys we have to find a way to get them on the field at the same time.”<br /> <br /> Plus, Meyer admitted that he’s very encouraged by the potential of several incoming freshmen and believes they will make an immediate impact.<br /> <br /> “We don’t recruit to redshirt, we recruit to play – especially offensive skill,” Meyer said. “They’re given an expectation level of what they’re supposed to be like on the first day and then it’s in their court.”<br /> <br /> Miller said he is especially impressed with newcomer <strong>Dontre Wilson</strong>, an all-purpose back out of Texas. Offensive tackle <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> agreed and said he saw “a lot of guys that can fly” in the first few days of workouts with the freshmen.<br /> <br /> Bryant also is impressed.<br /> <br /> “I actually called my dad after the meeting and I was like, ‘All these guys look like athletes,’ so this is a great recruiting class,” he said.<br /> <br /> <strong>Putting The Gray In Black And Blue</strong><br /> <br /> With all the recent discussion about concussions and the public’s thirst for high-scoring games, the offseason conversation for football continued to shift toward measures that hinder overly physical defensive play.<br /> <br /> At the collegiate level, it has even reached to a proposal that “targeting” – going after ball carriers in defenseless positions – could now lead to an immediate ejection. The ready example for this new rule is the vicious hit South Carolina’s <strong>Jadeveon Clowney</strong> put on Michigan running back <strong>Vincent Smith</strong> the minute Smith received a handoff in the 2013 Outback Bowl.<br /> <br /> Michigan head coach <strong>Brady Hoke</strong> is not happy with the development – and it’s not because his player was popped. Hoke is an old-school defensive coach and doesn’t like the shift toward disallowing defenders from clean hits within the flow of the game.<br /> <br /> Not surprisingly, Bryant, perhaps OSU’s most aggressive tackler if it’s not Shazier, also is not a fan of the idea.<br /> <br /> “If it’s purposeful, I would say it’s worthy of an ejection, but not if it’s unintentional,” he said. “It’s not really my rule but I will be abiding by the rules, so I don’t think I’ll be ejected for any games.<br /> <br /> “You have to be more cautious with how you’re tackling but I don’t think it’s going to take away from the physical part of the game. It may for some people but for me personally it’s not.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Meyer’s Tree Grows</strong><br /> <br /> Meyer has hired several coaches who have gone on to head up programs and Wisconsin’s <strong>Gary Andersen</strong> is in that tree.<br /> <br /> Andersen was Utah’s defensive line coach under Meyer in 2004 when the Utes posted an undefeated season. He stayed on in Salt Lake City as defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach at Utah State. Success there led to his appointment at UW, replacing the controversial <strong>Bret Bielema</strong>.<br /> <br /> Meyer and Andersen expressed great appreciation for each other in Chicago. In fact, Meyer lit up when asked to talk about Andersen’s emergence.<br /> <br /> “First of all, I have great respect for Coach (<strong>Barry</strong>) <strong>Alvarez</strong>, have for many, many years, and I was honored when he asked me for my opinion,” he said. “Gary I would put in one of the top two, three hires I’ve ever made, the recommendation of Utah’s head coach, <strong>Kyle Whittingham</strong>. He made a direct impact on our program, and I couldn’t be more proud of who he is as a person. And I think he’s at the right place, a great school with a great athletic director, and really proud of Gary Andersen.”<br /> <br /> Andersen also has made a quick impression on the Wisconsin fans and Badgers.<br /> <br /> “He’s all about the players, and I think that’s real important,” UW wideout <strong>Jared Abbrederis</strong> said. “We can all see it. The first thing he told me when he came here was that he called the Utah State players. He called each and every one individually. It’s good to know that he cares about his players there that much. He brings a lot of spice to the program and it’s been fun having him.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Dual Threats Abound</strong><br /> <br /> The Big Ten is now blessed with several quarterbacks who are virtually as adept at hurting defenses running the ball as they are passing, Miller at the top of the list, and several of them were in Chicago.<br /> <br /> Illinois’ <strong>Nathan Scheelhaase</strong>, Nebraska’s Martinez and Northwestern’s <strong>Kain Colter</strong>, all seniors, are among the weapons as well as Miller and Gardner, both juniors.<br /> <br /> While they all have talent running the ball, they have been told to be smart about it.<br /> <br /> Gardner admitted his likes to run the football and dish out a little contact every once in a while.<br /> <br /> “My old coach told me I play like a linebacker at quarterback, so they tell me to run out of bounds and don’t try to do certain types of things, but sometimes you’ve got to let the defense know that you’re not a chump,” he said. “Sometimes I do it and I take it a little far, but I’m not going to play timid or anything like that.”<br /> <br /> Miller has been known to try to drive into pursuers, a move that led to him being hurt against Purdue.<br /> <br /> “He’s a bigger guy and the type of offense that they run, the quarterback has to be a downhill runner, but that’s not my job here in this offense,” Gardner said of Miller. “Our running backs will do that and when I can I’ll give a little forearm shiver here or there.”<br /> <br /> Gardner has spent part of his time in Ann Arbor at wide receiver, which allowed him to get a feel for the real price of being hit.<br /> <br /> “It helped me and it made me such a tougher person, mentally and physically,” he said. “I got a chance to pancake a few guys and knock some guys on their back. I’ve never done that in my life. It was actually pretty refreshing knowing I could do that.”<br /> <br /> Still, QBs are so valuable to their teams that coaches are conflicted with calling their number on running plays. Martinez, for example, was slowed part of last season with a lingering ankle injury.<br /> <br /> Martinez admitted the soreness slowed him a bit in 2012 yet he still relishes every carry he can get.<br /> <br /> Has he ever cringed at the thought of taking off with the ball?<br /> <br /> “I want to run the football, so I’ve never done that before,” he told “Whenever I get the chance to run the football I’m excited to. But I have so many weapons around me and in the backfield that I don’t want to be greedy about it. So I try to get the ball to <strong>Ameer</strong> (<strong>Abdullah</strong>) or an outside receiver because I know they can make the plays also.”<br /> <br /> Colter said he has the same approach.<br /> <br /> “Football is for tough guys and for me and I’m sure Taylor, too, we love running the ball,” he told “When you’re in the game, you’re going to be tired and you have to take that suck-it-up pill. And when your number is called, you’ve got to make a play.<br /> <br /> “I’m trying to improve my vertical passing game and passing the ball downfield, too. It’s my final go-round, so I’m just going to try to give it my all and make some more plays.”<br /> <br /> Gardner likes to be athletic, too, but is excited at the notion that Michigan appears more committed to a traditional offense with lots of passing capability under the direction of offensive coordinator <strong>Al Borges</strong>.<br /> <br /> “The spread is like anything – that was so amazing, and then everyone figured it out,” Gardner said. “The spread is going to be figured out because there are so many great defensive coordinators. I think Coach (<strong>Greg</strong>) <strong>Mattison</strong> has it figured out this year and I can’t wait to see what he does with the spread teams we play. I think a pro style is the best way to go, with spread concepts.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Quotable</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Miller on the hope of another undefeated season for the Buckeyes –</strong> “It crosses my mind a few times.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Bullough on the Spartans coming off a 7-6 season –</strong> “When you lose games the way we did, it makes you want to go play games right now. It makes the offseason long. Whenever pride is involved, it makes it personal, and that makes it that much more meaningful.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Mark on being named preseason first-team all-conference by some publications –</strong> “I don’t really look at that stuff. I don’t believe in predictions; I believe in production. So if that’s where they want to have me that, that’s great, I respect that. I’ll tell them thank you. But my obligation is to Northwestern. If somebody asks me if I think I’m the best running back, yes, I do think I’m the best running back. And there are other guys who should feel that way as well because there are a lot of great running backs in the Big Ten.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Miller on evening kickoffs –</strong> “I love the night games. It reminds me of Friday night lights, high school. I don’t know, there’s just something about the night games I love. It feels like everybody is watching. I wish we had a night game every game.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Martinez on directing the Cornhusker ball-movers –</strong> “It might be the best offense Nebraska has ever had.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Gardner on his assertion that Bullough is the best LB in the Big Ten –</strong> “He’s a really big guy and he knows a lot about offenses, it appears.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Bullough on being a third-generation Spartan –</strong> “It’s fun. It’s cool to have that opportunity, to have those players and family members in front of me. It’s something I’ve taken advantage of in terms of talking to my dad or my grandma whenever I needed advice. It’s an honor. I look at it as an opportunity more than something I have to overcome.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald on his new team mantra to help the Wildcats through the rigors of summer workouts –</strong> “Embrace the suck.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Colter on NU being a potential contender this fall –</strong> “Every season is a little bit different, but we’ve got the translate that confidence that we had at the end of the season over to this season. We had some losses that we shouldn’t have, but I think we’re confident that we should be able to win every game that we play.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Purdue coach Darrell Hazell on working under Jim Tressel –</strong> “I spent seven years at Ohio State and Coach Tressel was a big influence on me, the way I do things today. There’s a lot of great values and just his demeanor through the course of my time there was something that you can take from, and the great decisions that he made on game day. When those bullets are flying, it’s a chaotic moment. I learned a lot from Jim Tressel there in my seven years at Ohio State.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Hoke on the state of college football –</strong> “<strong>Lloyd Carr</strong>, 12 years ago we were in a staff meeting and the first thing he said was the landscape of college football is changing, and not for the better. He was talking about the money. When we start losing sight of what’s important in college football, which is most kids who are around these tables, then we’re really being a detriment to the game.<br /> <br /> “And the ship has sailed. I don’t know how you turn it back when you look at TV contracts that leagues are signing and all that. I mean the Olympics now doesn’t have wrestling, and that was one of the original sports. I don’t get that. So there’s an analogy in there somewhere.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Gardner upon hearing Hoke said trends in college football are “cyclical” –</strong> “He used that word? He has to stop doing that.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Abbrederis on sporting a thick beard in Chicago –</strong> “I never grew a beard before so I was like, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ We’ll see with the helmet and the chinstrap if it’s comfy or annoying. If it is, I might shave it.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Gardner on empathizing with his receivers since he used to play the position –</strong> “I know how much it sucks to run around and you’re open and you don’t get the ball or it’s a bad pass. I try to be more sensitive to their feelings. I tell the receivers that everybody eats. But it’s their job to get open. I can’t do anything about that.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Gardner on the theory of paying college student-athletes –</strong> “I don’t know how much money people have and I’m not really good with numbers and things like that. I only took one math class at Michigan, so that’s not my deal. I feel like it’s just my job to play football and do my best.”<br /> Jeff Rapp 1ab746ff-e1f9-4a22-889f-ceaf35f3ee82 Sat, 27 Jul 2013 21:12:07 GMT Ohio State-Michigan Redux? Ohio State-Michigan times two.<br /> <br /> The 2013 season marks perhaps the first and last time we could see such a double dip as the Buckeyes and Wolverines are still in opposite divisions and could meet in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis just one week after clashing in Ann Arbor.<br /> <br /> That is, in fact, the way Athlon sees it shaking down. The college football annual hails OSU as the class of the Leaders Division and UM atop the Legends Division, meaning their storied feud could reach epic proportions this year.<br /> <br /> And if that isn’t enough to enthuse traditionalists and fans of OSU and Michigan, Athlon also features a story prominent in its Big Ten coverage entitled, “The Ten-Year War, Part II.” In it are suggestions that coaches <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> and <strong>Brady Hoke</strong> have the programs on extremely solid footing.<br /> <br /> “The schools may not be ushering in another decade of dominace, a la the ‘Big Two and Little Eight,’ but it’s clear Michigan and Ohio State are setting the tone for the conference, even as it expands in today’s unpredictable climate,” the article said. “Their recruiting stands above that of the league’s other schools, and their performance on the field appears to be moving toward a different level.”<br /> <br /> Athlon tabs 10 “Games To Watch” in the Big Ten this season, four of them involving Michigan and three involving Ohio State. The publication seems to think more highly of OSU’s individual players, though, as seven Buckeyes were tabbed preseason first-team All-Big Ten while left tackle <strong>Taylor Lewan</strong> was Michigan’s lone member.<br /> <br /> Athlon also rated position groups within the conference and deemed Ohio State to have to best quarterbacks, offensive linemen, defensive linemen and defensive backs in the Big Ten. Wisconsin’s running backs, Indiana’s wide receivers/tight ends, and Michigan State’s linebackers also were lauded as best in the league.<br /> <br /> Checking in at 2 through 6 in the projected Leaders standings behind Ohio State, according to Athlon, were, in order, Wisconsin, Penn State, Indiana, Purdue and Illinois while the respective ranking in the Legends Division shows Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan State, Minnesota and Iowa behind Michigan.<br /> <br /> Next year, Maryland and Rutgers will be added to the Big Ten equation and the conference will realign with more geographically correct East and West divisions, meaning Ohio State and Michigan will be in the same hemisphere of the league.<br /> <br /> <strong>Let’s Do Lunch</strong><br /> <br /> The Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon is scheduled for July 24-25 in Chicago and on July 10 the conference announced the names of the 36 student-athletes who are expected to represent their schools at the event.<br /> <br /> The list includes 19 returning All-Big Ten selections. Also, all 12 head coaches will be on hand.<br /> <br /> The Kickoff Luncheon begins 11 a.m. Eastern on July 25 with the players and coaches autograph and photo session for attending fans. Big Ten Network host <strong>Dave Revsine</strong> will serve as emcee and Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient <strong>John Urschel</strong> of Penn State will speak on behalf of the players.<br /> <br /> The players expected to be in Chicago include the reigning Big Ten Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year in Ohio State’s <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> and Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year in Michigan’s Lewan. In addition to Lewan, Miller and Urschel, other previous first-team All-Conference honorees include Michigan State’s <strong>Max Bullough</strong> and <strong>Darqueze Dennard</strong>, Nebraska’s <strong>Taylor Martinez</strong>, Ohio State’s <strong>Bradley Roby</strong> and Wisconsin’s <strong>Jared Abbrederis</strong> and <strong>Chris Borland</strong>.<br /> <br /> A limited number of tickets remain available for $100 per seat or $1,000 per table (10 seats). Contact <strong>Sue Immekus</strong> at the Big Ten office at 847-696-1010, ext. 122, or to purchase tickets.<br /> <br /> The list of attending players is below:<br /> <br /> <strong>Legends Division</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Iowa</strong><br /> Christian Kirksey, Sr., LB<br /> James Morris, Sr., LB*<br /> Brett Van Sloten, Sr., OL<br /> <br /> <strong>Michigan</strong><br /> Devin Gardner, Jr., QB<br /> Thomas Gordon, Sr., S<br /> Taylor Lewan, Sr., LT*<br /> <br /> <strong>Michigan State</strong><br /> Max Bullough, Sr., LB*<br /> Darqueze Dennard, Sr., CB*<br /> Blake Treadwell, Sr., OG<br /> <br /> <strong>Minnesota</strong><br /> Ra’Shede Hageman, Sr., DT*<br /> Donnell Kirkwood, Jr., RB<br /> Brock Vereen, Sr., S<br /> <br /> <strong>Nebraska</strong><br /> Quincy Enunwa, Sr., WR<br /> Ciante Evans, Sr., CB*<br /> Taylor Martinez, Sr., QB*<br /> <br /> <strong>Northwestern</strong><br /> Kain Colter, Sr., QB*<br /> Venric Mark, Sr., RB*<br /> Tyler Scott, Sr., DE*<br /> <br /> <strong>Leaders Division</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Illinois</strong><br /> Tim Kynard, Sr., DL<br /> Corey Lewis, Sr., OT<br /> Nathan Scheelhaase, Sr., QB<br /> <br /> <strong>Indiana</strong><br /> Mitch Ewald, Sr., K*<br /> Greg Heban, Sr., S*<br /> Kofi Hughes, Sr., WR<br /> <br /> <strong>Ohio State</strong><br /> <strong>Jack Mewhort, Sr., OT*<br /> Braxton Miller, Jr., QB*<br /> Bradley Roby, Jr., CB*</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Penn State</strong><br /> Glenn Carson, Sr., LB<br /> John Urschel, Sr., G*<br /> Malcolm Willis, Sr., S<br /> <br /> <strong>Purdue</strong><br /> Ricardo Allen, Sr., CB*<br /> Bruce Gaston, Sr., DT<br /> Gabe Holmes, Sr., TE<br /> <br /> <strong>Wisconsin</strong><br /> Jared Abbrederis, Sr., WR*<br /> Chris Borland, Sr., LB*<br /> James White, Sr., RB<br /> <br /> * indicates previous All-Big Ten selection<br /> <br /> <strong>B1G Sends Quintet To NBA Via Draft</strong><br /> <br /> Five former Big Ten standouts were selected in the 2013 NBA draft on June 28 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, including four first-round choices.<br /> <br /> Three Big Tenners were selected among the first nine picks, the most of any conference, and it marked the first time three conference players were picked in the top 10 since 1990.<br /> <br /> Indiana’s <strong>Victor Oladipo</strong> was the first conference player chosen, going to the Orlando Magic at No. 2. It is the second time in four seasons a Big Ten player was among the draft’s top two picks, following Ohio State’s <strong>Evan Turner</strong> in 2010. Hoosier teammate <strong>Cody Zeller</strong> was picked fourth by the Charlotte Bobcats.<br /> <br /> Michigan’s <strong>Trey Burke</strong> was the ninth overall selection by the Minnesota Timberwolves before his draft rights were traded to Utah. Burke’s teammate, <strong>Tim Hardaway Jr.</strong>, went 24th overall to the New York Knicks, giving the Big Ten four first-round selections for the first time since 2007. Ohio State produced three of those selections that year – <strong>Greg Oden</strong> first overall, <strong>Mike Conley Jr.</strong> fourth and <strong>Daequan Cook</strong> 21st.<br /> <br /> Speaking of Ohio State, Buckeyes forward <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> rounded out the drafted Big Ten standouts after being selected 58th overall by the San Antonio Spurs. Thomas led the league in scoring last season and finished with an average of 19.8 points per game.<br /> <br /> Indiana and Michigan were two of three teams to have multiple players selected in the first round, and it is the second time in the last three years five Big Ten players were selected in the annual draft.<br /> <br /> <strong>Answering The Critics</strong><br /> <br /> Soon after Oladipo and Zeller were selected so highly, criticism grew for the Indiana basketball coaching staff. The Hoosiers entered the 2013 NCAA Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed and with a pair of bona fide stars yet were ousted in a Sweet 16 contest in Indianapolis by Syracuse.<br /> <br /> In fact, the Wall Street Journal published an article claiming the 2012-13 Hoosiers had just become “the biggest underachiever in NCAA history.”<br /> <br /> That sounded a bit harsh to the IU staff, so much so that Indiana associate head coach <strong>Tim Buckley</strong> decided to fire back.<br /> <br /> In an interview with the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel and other media outlets, Buckley reminded that IU head coach <strong>Tom Crean</strong> and assistants inherited a depleted and even-injury-plagued roster as well as myriad NCAA sanctions five years ago and recovered the program to where it sat atop college basketball for much of the past season.<br /> <br /> “Someone point out to me what was underachieved from April 1 2008, until we went through (NBA) draft night,” Buckley said.<br /> <br /> The Wall Street story, written by <strong>Ben Cohen</strong>, pointed out that five college teams with similar talent won the national championship, including the 2012 Kentucky team with <strong>Anthony Davis</strong> and <strong>Michael Kidd-Gilchrist</strong>.<br /> <br /> The story indicated that only two other teams with a pair of top-five picks didn’t advance past the Sweet 16 -- Duke in 2002 and North Carolina in 1984.<br /> <br /> Buckley, though, took offense. After helping Crean achieve success at Marquette he was part of the Hoosiers winning 27 games and reaching the Sweet 16 two years ago. This past season, IU won 29 games, was ranked No. 1 for 10 weeks, and captured its first outright Big Ten title since 1993.<br /> <br /> “I want to say something in regard to this team under-achieving,” Buckley said. “The reason I do is No. 1, I know myself and Coach Crean and the coaches and players. We’re a very prideful group.<br /> <br /> “I was in Coach Crean’s living room at 10 a.m. on April 1 of 2008. I was there when we faxed the letter of agreement (to accept IU’s offer) at 4:26 p.m. And we came to Indiana and every day we found something new and different that was going to be a great challenge.<br /> <br /> “I was here when we brought in 320 unofficial visits that first year. We continued to build, and we had former players here, like <strong>Calbert Cheaney</strong>, you can go down the line, who were supportive. The fans who came to the games.<br /> <br /> “When we brought Cody Zeller here (during his recruitment) and we weren’t winning, we could point to those fans and say, ‘They’re here now. Just think what it will be like when we get good.’ They (the fans) helped us do that.<br /> <br /> “We were on that bench and watched that ball roll off the rim at Michigan (IU held on for a 72-71 victory) and we clinched the outright Big Ten title for the first time in 20 years. Then we had two players drafted in the top four, which I believe was the best in the history of the program.<br /> <br /> “I know what everybody put into it. I know what everyone’s family put into it. I know what the players and their families put into it. We’re proud of this group. We’re disappointed as much as anybody was in not going further in the NCAA tournament.<br /> <br /> “Our fifth-place team in the Big Ten played for the national championship. That’s how good this league was. For us to do it night in, night out … we never lost two games in a row. We had a resilient bunch. I’m proud of what we’ve done and everybody associated with Hoosier Nation should be proud of what we did.”<br /> <br /> <strong>New Bowl Alignments</strong><br /> <br /> The Big Ten has eight bowl games lined up with the Rose still at the top of the automatic tie-in list down to the Little Caesars, which will pit the league’s No. 8 team vs. a MAC school.<br /> <br /> The Rose Bowl remains unchanged as part of the BCS structure with the winner of the Big Ten Championship Game earning an automatic berth (unless that team is nabbed to play in the BCS title game).<br /> <br /> The league’s No. 2 team heads to the Capital One Bowl, the No. 3 team to the Outback and the Nos. 4 and 5 teams to either the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl or the Gator Bowl. The Meineke Car Care Bowl matches the Big Ten’s No. 6 team with the Big 12 team of the same standing and the Heart of Dallas Bowl matches the Big Ten’s seventh-best team with a Conference USA squad.<br /> <br /> And there is more to come. On June 3, the Big Ten Conference announced it had come into an eight-year agreement with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl and the New York Yankees.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten is committed to playing in the game beginning in 2014 and through 2021. The partnership with the Pinstripe Bowl will mark the conference’s first bowl game tie-in on the East Coast.<br /> <br /> Additionally, for all New York Yankees regular season games, beginning in 2014, the Big Ten will have a significant branding presence in Yankee Stadium, featuring a fixed sign along the first-base line and home plate rotating signage. <br /> <br /> “The Big Ten Conference playing college football at Yankee Stadium is something I know my father would be proud to see come to fruition,” said Yankees managing partner <strong>Hal Steinbrenner</strong>. “He had a great passion for college football and spoke glowingly of his involvement with several of the conference’s programs. Welcoming a national powerhouse conference like the Big Ten to participate in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl and partner with the New York Yankees for years to come only expands the prestige of our great annual bowl game in New York City.”<br /> <br /> Added Big Ten commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong>, “Once we saw the success of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, it became obvious – especially with the Big Ten’s growing East Coast footprint – that being in the media capital of the world at one of sports’ most renowned venues was a natural pairing. By agreeing to an eight-year partnership, it increases the likelihood that most of the Big Ten schools will have the opportunity to participate in the game, while giving our coaches, student-athletes, administrators and fans the opportunity to experience the nation’s biggest metropolis and an iconic setting like Yankee Stadium.”<br /> <br /> Last year’s Pinstripe Bowl, a 38-14 Syracuse victory over West Virginia, recorded a 3.9 household coverage rating. For bowls played prior to New Year’s Day, only the Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Alamo Bowl recorded better overall ratings.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> The 2013 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will take place on Sat., Dec. 28.&nbsp; The game will be nationally televised by ESPN, which has also secured national and local radio rights for ESPN Radio.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the Big Ten also has agreed to play a Pac-12 team in the Bay Area Bowl, previously the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, beginning in 2014. The pact runs through 2019.<br /> <br /> The postseason game will be played in the new 68,500 seat Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, future home of the NFL San Francisco 49ers and site of the Super Bowl in 2016.<br /> <br /> “Our objective entering negotiations for the next bowl cycle was to elevate the game,” said executive director <strong>Gary Cavalli</strong>. “Specifically, we wanted to move up in the Pac-12 and secure the highest quality opponent possible. We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to achieve both goals. With a Pac-12 vs. Big Ten matchup and a new world-class stadium, we’ve positioned our game very well for the future.”<br /> <br /> Under terms of its renewal with the Pac-12, the Bay Area Bowl will have the No. 4 pick, within parameters established by the conference, (after the Rose/Playoff Group, Alamo and Holiday bowls), a jump of two positions from its current No. 6.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten has played just once in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, a victory by Illinois in 2011.<br /> <br /> Also, the two power conferences will meet in the Holiday Bowl beginning next year and running through 2019.<br /> <br /> “We are entering a new and exciting time for the Holiday Bowl,” said <strong>Bill Geppert</strong>, 2013 bowl president. “The Holiday Bowl has a rich history as ‘America’s Most Exciting Bowl Game’ and this new agreement lays the foundation for continued success. In the ever-changing world of college football, we are excited to begin this new chapter that will no doubt provide a huge economic impact to San Diego as our community welcomes thousands of college football fans to our beautiful city every December.”<br /> <br /> Included in the Big Ten agreement is the stipulation that the Holiday Bowl will not have the same team in its game more than twice during the six-year span. The Holiday Bowl previously enjoyed a relationship with the Big Ten from 1992-94 and conference teams have played in nine games, beginning with a victory by Indiana in 1979.<br /> <br /> Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State have played in the Holiday Bowl, including when the Wolverines faced BYU for the national championship in 1984.<br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>Summer Hoops</strong><br /> <br /> Four Big Ten standouts, the most of any conference, were named to the 2013 USA Basketball World University Games roster and have competed for Team USA. <br /> <br /> Indiana’s <strong>Yogi Ferrell</strong> and <strong>Will Sheehey</strong>, Iowa’s <strong>Aaron White</strong> and Michigan State’s <strong>Adreian Payne</strong> were the four conference athletes named to the 12-man roster, which includes Michigan coach <strong>John Beilein</strong> as one of its assistants.<br /> <br /> The team opened its play in the 2013 World University Games with a record-setting 140-46 win over United Arab Emirates. Ferrell contributed a USA Men’s World University Games single-game record 13 assists and also logged15 points and four steals. White added 16 points and Sheehey 15 in the rout.<br /> <br /> The Americans established three U.S. single-game team records in the lopsided win, including 36 assists, 70 rebounds and 39 attempted three-pointers.<br /> <br /> <strong>Commish’s Anniversary</strong><br /> <br /> July 1 always seems to mark significant milestones in the calendar year and that is no different in regards to the hiring of Delany, who began his tenure at the conference office on July 1, 1989.<br /> <br /> In his 24 years as commissioner, Delany has helped welcome four new schools to the Big Ten, including Penn State, Nebraska, Maryland and Rutgers, created the Big Ten Network, and led the development of instant replay in college football.<br /> <br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp e6e8cb3b-558c-4c3c-9d5c-1733ca20b3e8 Thu, 18 Jul 2013 03:24:30 GMT Hankins Leads Weak Draft Class With Ohio State sending just three players to the seven-round NFL draft this past weekend and Michigan chipping in just two, the Big Ten had one of its quietest showings in many years.<br /> <br /> In fact, only 22 Big Ten football players heard their names called at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the lowest total the league has produced in the last 20 NFL drafts.<br /> <br /> Twenty-one Big Ten players were drafted in 1994, although the league had just added Penn State as its 11th team – and didn’t have 12 member schools as it does now. Plus, OSU defensive tackle <strong>Dan Wilkinson</strong> was the top overall pick that year and one of four first-rounders from the conference. In fact, eight Big Ten players were picked in the first three rounds that season.<br /> <br /> This year the number was seven, which is lowest total of any BCS conference.<br /> <br /> Michigan didn’t have a player selected until <strong>Denard Robinson</strong> was plucked in the fifth round; Nebraska didn’t send anyone to the league until <strong>Rex Burkhead</strong> was chosen in the sixth round. Cornhuskers safety <strong>Daimion Stafford</strong> followed in the seventh round, giving Nebraska its weakest showing in the draft since 1969.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes did slightly better than that even though linebacker <strong>Etienne Sabino</strong>, tight end <strong>Jake Stoneburner</strong> and fullback <strong>Zach Boren</strong> were not drafted. The first OSU player chosen was defensive tackle <strong>Johnathan Hankins</strong>, who was a mid-second-round pick (No. 40 overall) of the New York Giants on Friday night.<br /> <br /> Defensive linemate <strong>John Simon</strong> and offensive tackle <strong>Reid Fragel</strong> followed on the final day. Ohio State was in danger of having its smallest draft class since 1968 until Fragel was selected in the seventh round by the home-state Cincinnati Bengals.<br /> <br /> How strange was the Big Ten showing at the draft? Well, Illinois, a team that was winless in conference play (2-10 overall, 0-8 in the Big Ten) led the way with four players selected. Actually, it was the fourth straight year the Illini sent four players to the NFL draft despite their recent ineptitude on the field.<br /> <br /> Conversely, Northwestern, which posted a 10-3 record and won its first bowl game in five decades, had no players drafted. Also ironic: Rutgers, which is awaiting entrance into the Big Ten, had seven players selected.<br /> <br /> Only one Big Ten player went in the first round: Wisconsin center <strong>Travis Frederick</strong>.<br /> <br /> Here is a listing of that selection and the other 20 in order from the Big Ten:<br /> <br /> First round (1) – Wisconsin C Travis Frederick to Dallas (No. 31 overall).<br /> <br /> Second round (4) – Purdue DT Kawann Short to Carolina (No. 44 overall); Michigan State RB Le’Veon Bell to Pittsburgh (No. 48 overall); Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins to New York Giants (No. 49 overall); Wisconsin RB Montee Ball to Denver (No. 58 overall).<br /> <br /> Third round (2) – Illinois G Hugh Thornton to Indianapolis (No. 86 overall); Penn State DT Jordan Hill to Seattle (No. 87 overall).<br /> <br /> Fourth round (5) – Illinois DT Akeem Spence to Tampa Bay (No. 100 overall); Michigan State TE Dion Sims to Miami (No. 106 overall); Penn State LB Gerald Hodges to Minnesota (No. 120 overall); Michigan State DE William Gholston to Tampa Bay (No. 126 overall); Ohio State DE John Simon to Baltimore (No. 129 overall).<br /> <br /> Fifth round (4) – Michigan RB Denard Robinson to Jacksonville (No. 135 overall); Illinois CB Terry Hawthorne to Pittsburgh (No. 150 overall); Iowa CB Micah Hyde to Green Bay (No. 159 overall); Wisconsin OT Ricky Wagner to Baltimore (No. 168).<br /> <br /> Sixth round (2) – Michigan G William Campbell to New York Jets (No. 178 overall); Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead to Cincinnati (No. 190 overall).<br /> <br /> Seventh round (4) – Penn State LB Michael Mauti to Minnesota (No. 213 overall); Illinois DE Michael Buchanan to New England (No. 226 overall); Ohio State OT Reid Fragel to Cincinnati (No. 240 overall); Nebraska S Daimion Stafford to Tennessee (No. 248 overall).<br /> <br /> Several players, including a handful of Buckeyes, still will go into camp with at least a remote chance to make a roster.<br /> <br /> Undrafted Ohio State players who reportedly have signed free-agent contracts with NFL teams include defensive end/outside linebacker <strong>Nathan Williams</strong> (Minnesota Vikings), Stoneburner (Green Bay Packers), Sabino (New York Giants) and defensive tackle <strong>Garrett Goebel</strong> (St. Louis Rams).<br /> <br /> Also, the Houston Texans – already the home of former OSU wide receiver <strong>DeVier Posey</strong> – have landed Boren and defensive backs <strong>Travis Howard</strong> and <strong>Orhian Johnson</strong> to free-agent deals.<br /> <br /> Boren converted to linebacker in the middle of last season but worked out and attended the NFL combine as a fullback. Sabino, Howard and Johnson are all Florida natives.<br /> <br /> Stoneburner, who arrived to OSU a wide receiver from nearby Dublin Coffman and who left a hopeful tight end, expressed excitement on Twitter.<br /> <br /> “Today didn’t turn out how I expected... But I am SO GLAD to say, I’m a Green Bay Packer,” Stoneburner posted.<br /> <br /> Williams will be joined in Minnesota by former OSU wide receiver <strong>Duron Carter</strong>, the son of former Ohio State and Vikings star wideout <strong>Cris Carter</strong>.<br /> <br /> The free agents will head off to their destinations soon. Most NFL teams hold mini-camps for rookies and undrafted free agents on one of the first two weekends after draft<br /> <br /> <strong>Other Reported Big Ten Free Agent Signings:</strong><br /> Michael Zordich, FB, Penn State – Arizona Cardinals<br /> Adam Replogle, DT, Indiana – Atlanta Falcons<br /> Craig Roh, DE, Michigan – Carolina Panthers<br /> Roy Roundtree, WR, Michigan – Cincinnati Bengals<br /> Troy Stoudermire, CB, Minnesota – Cincinnati Bengals<br /> Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State – Houston Texans<br /> Kenny Demens, LB, Michigan – Houston Texans<br /> Kyler Reed, TE, Nebraska – Jacksonville Jaguars<br /> Darryl Stonum, WR, Michigan – Kansas City Chiefs<br /> Jordan Kovacs, S, Michigan – Miami Dolphins<br /> James Vandenberg, QB, Iowa – Minnesota Vikings<br /> Stephen Morris, CB, Penn State – New England Patriots<br /> Matt Stankiewitch, C, Penn State – New England Patriots<br /> Elliott Mealer, OL, Michigan – New Orleans Saints<br /> Mike Farrell, OT, Penn State – Pittsburgh Steelers<br /> Anthony Rashad White, DT, Michigan State – Pittsburgh Steelers<br /> Ben Cotton, TE, Nebraska – San Diego Chargers<br /> Marcus Cromartie, CB, Wisconsin – San Diego Chargers<br /> Jay Jay Johnson, CB, Purdue – San Diego Chargers<br /> Marqueis Gray, QB/TE, Minnesota – San Francisco 49ers<br /> Patrick Omameh, G, Michigan – San Francisco 49ers<br /> Jake Bscherer, OL, Wisconsin – Seattle Seahawks<br /> Graham Pocic, OL, Illinois – St. Louis Rams<br /> Robert Marve, QB, Purdue – Tampa Bay Buccaneers<br /> Akeem Shavers, RB, Purdue – Tampa Bay Buccaneers<br /> Jeff Rapp 05717577-2c35-44c0-b41f-66ae4505badc Wed, 01 May 2013 13:56:36 GMT Michigan Is NCAA Bridesmaid For basically the entirety of the 2012-13 college basketball season, the Big Ten emerged as the premier conference in the country.<br /> <br /> Top to bottom, the Big Ten’s 12 teams were good enough to match up with those of other leagues and its elite teams were cementing the stellar status, especially considering member schools such as Indiana, Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State all spent several weeks in the top 10 of the national polls.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten Tournament was as action-packed as hoped with Wisconsin playing at a high level to reach the finals but Ohio State cutting down the nets in Chicago.<br /> <br /> The NCAA Tournament showcased more Big Ten excellence as four teams made it to the Sweet 16 representing four different regions. The possibility of an all Big Ten Final Four even existed.<br /> <br /> Of course, that didn’t happen. Michigan State fell flat against Duke and Indiana failed to solve Syracuse’s vaunted zone defense. Ohio State advanced to the West regional final but came up short in its Elite Eight contest with Wichita State.<br /> <br /> That left the onus – and for some reason the reputation of the Big Ten – on Michigan. The fourth-seeded Wolverines produced a furious rally in the final minutes of regulation to produce an eventual overtime win over Kansas, the top seed in the South, and then clipped Florida to reach the Final Four.<br /> <br /> A win over Syracuse in Atlanta set up the championship scenario: Michigan vs. No. 1 overall seed Louisville and a chance for the Big Ten to claim its first national title since Michigan State won it all in 2000.<br /> <br /> UM shot 52.1 percent (25 of 48) from the floor and 44.4 percent (8 of 18) from behind the three-point arc but couldn’t quite keep up with the Cardinals in the high-powered finale April 8 and fell 82-76. <strong>Trey Burke</strong> scored a game-high 24 points and freshman guard <strong>Spike Albrecht</strong> came through with a career-high 17 points off the bench for the Wolverines (31-8).<br /> <br /> However, Louisville came up with several key plays in a high-octane second half and also benefited from heroism via a reserve guard – <strong>Luke Hancock</strong>, who scored 22 points and his all five attempts from long range. When last we saw Hancock he was paying for George Mason and had his sophomore season end in a blowout loss to Ohio State in the 2011 NCAA tourney.<br /> <br /> The Cardinals (35-5) captured the headlines and the imagination of the public with <strong>Rick Pitino</strong> becoming the first coach to win a national championship at two different schools (he already had done so at Kentucky in 1996) and guard <strong>Kevin Ware</strong> on hand as a spectator after his gruesome broken leg injury suffered on Easter Sunday.<br /> <br /> “These are my brothers,” a beaming Ware said after the Cardinals rallied from a 12-point deficit and began celebrating the title. “They got the job done. I’m so proud of them, so proud of them.”<br /> <br /> “I had the 13 toughest guys I’ve ever coached,” said Pitino, who was named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier in the day. “I’m just amazed they could accomplish everything we put out there.”<br /> <br /> As for Michigan, much of the postgame national discussion centered on three things: the supposed coaching gaffes of <strong>John Beilein</strong>, the expectation that Burke and a parade of teammates would leave early for the NBA, and the fact that the Big Ten has gone 0-5 in the title game since the Spartans cut down the nets in 2000.<br /> <br /> What often didn’t enter that conversation is that Michigan had the youngest team in the entire NCAA Tournament field.<br /> <br /> UM, which won the 1989 title game, was back in the final game for the first time since the Fab Five lost the second of two straight championship games in 1993. Players from that team, including <strong>Chris Webber</strong>, cheered on the latest group of young stars.<br /> <br /> Despite having the best shooting night of a runner-up since Georgetown in 1985, the Wolverines were branded a failure by some, but Burke wasn’t buying it.<br /> <br /> “A lot of people didn’t expect us to get this far,” said the sophomore point guard and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year. “A lot of people didn’t expect us to get past the second round. We fought. We fought up to this point, but Louisville was the better team today, and they're deserving of the win.”<br /> <br /> The 6-0 Burke became the third Wooden Award winner to lose in the national championship game, joining Indiana State’s <strong>Larry Bird</strong> and Duke’s <strong>Elton Brand</strong>.<br /> <br /> The youngster didn’t have much help in the second half, though. Albrecht was held scoreless after the break, and no one else posted more than 12 points for the Wolverines.<br /> <br /> As a result, Michigan fell to 1-5 all-time in national title games. The five losses are third-most all-time.<br /> <br /> Other Big Ten runners-up of late include Indiana (2002), Illinois (2005), Ohio State (2007) and Michigan State (2009). Michigan makes it five different Big Ten teams to come up a game short in the last 12 NCAA Tournaments.<br /> <br /> Since 2000, those five title game appearances by the Big 10 are second-most of any conference behind only the ACC which has played for the title six times. What is troubling to the league is the ACC has gone 5-1 in such games and the Big East (4-0) and SEC (3-0) haven’t lost in championship games in the same time frame. <br /> <br /> In terms of Final Four appearances, the Big Ten is tied with the ACC for second with nine over those last 13 years. The Big East has the most with 12.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten, which posted an overall nonconference mark of 121-31 (.796), ended up as the bridesmaid again this year and also came in second in conference RPI. The Mountain West was first in conference RPI.<br /> <br /> <strong>Rice Not So Nice</strong><br /> <br /> A recent report following up on the firing of Rutgers men’s basketball coach <strong>Mike Rice</strong>, the school athletic director and others suggests that the school’s upcoming move to the Big Ten may have had a factor in the mishandling of the situation.<br /> <br /> ESPN’s unveiling of surveillance videos showing Rice verbally and physically abusing players in practice has led to a full-scale controversy along with the ouster of the coach and administrators.<br /> <br /> “One of the great questions, and it almost resonates from Watergate, is who knew what and when did they know it,” <strong>Bob Ley</strong>, ESPN’s award-winning host, said midway through ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” report.<br /> <br /> The focus of the report centered on tapes submitted by former Rutgers assistant <strong>Eric Murdock</strong>, who sued the university, showing Rice cussing out and shoving players as well as firing basketballs at their head and body from close range.<br /> <br /> It also delved into what Rutgers president <strong>Robert Barchi</strong> knew, and what he should have done to remedy the situation.<br /> <br /> Barchi was informed of Rice’s brutish behavior just days after publicly accepting the Big Ten’s invitation to join up and took no action. He later admitted wrongdoing by calling the cover-up a “failure of process.” The school eventually canned Rice, assistant coach <strong>Jimmy Martelli</strong>, AD <strong>Tim Pernetti</strong>, and university general counsel <strong>John Wolf</strong>.<br /> <br /> Pernetti left with a $1.2 million severance and other perks.<br /> <br /> Pernetti originally decided to suspend Rice for three games without pay and fine the coach $50,000 in mid-December rather than fire him after commissioning outside counsel to investigate Murdock’s assertions.<br /> <br /> Perhaps ESPN columnist <strong>Howard Bryant</strong> offered the best perspective when he wrote, “There’s no question that you’re not going to let anything get in the way of that Big Ten deal. Whether it’s Pernetti or Rice or Barchi, they all know what’s taken place here. You have $25 million at stake, you’re not going to get in the way of that deal. And this easily could’ve derailed it, especially with those details.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Tubby, Carmody Replaced</strong><br /> <br /> The Big Ten basketball season wasn’t a glory run for everyone involved. In fact, two schools decided to fire their coaches.<br /> <br /> Northwestern wasted no time in dumping 13-year coach <strong>Bill Carmody</strong>, doing so just after the Wildcats were eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament. They eventually landed longtime Duke assistant <strong>Chris Collins</strong>, son of Philadelphia 76ers coach <strong>Doug Collins</strong>.<br /> <br /> Chris Collins was introduced as NU’s new coach on April 2. He has hopes of putting the Wildcats in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.<br /> <br /> “I’m not afraid of the work that needs to be done,” he said with his father watching from the front row. “I know it’s going to take time. I’m ultra-competitive. I’m passionate about what I do. To me, in life if you love doing something, you want people to know about it.<br /> <br /> “We’re going to build a winner,” he said. “I’m confident. I’m excited. But I also know it’s going to take work.”<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Minnesota let go of coach <strong>Tubby Smith</strong> even after he had just won an NCAA Tournament game over UCLA. Minnesota (21-13) lost to Florida two days later in Austin, Texas, and Smith’s six-year run at Minnesota was over the following day.<br /> <br /> He was 124-81 (.610) there, won 20 games five times, and guided Minnesota to three NCAA Tournament appearances. However, the Golden Gophers were 46-62 in Big Ten play and never finished higher than sixth in the conference with him at the helm.<br /> <br /> On April 8, the school announced it had tabbed 30-year-old <strong>Richard Pitino</strong>, son of Rick, as its new head coach. Pitino cut his coaching teeth as an assistant for his dad and Florida coach <strong>Billy Donovan</strong>, but he served just one year as a head coach, leading Florida International to a mark of 18-14 this past season.<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> <br /> * The Big Ten will send three teams and six gymnasts to the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships following the conclusion of NCAA Regional competitions on April 6.<br /> <br /> Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota will head to the national meet after finishing among the top two at their respective regional sites, while Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State will send individual all-around competitors to the championships, scheduled for April 19-21 at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, Calif.<br /> <br /> At the Morgantown Regional, Michigan placed first to advance to the national meet for the Big Ten-leading 20th time, while Illinois followed in second to punch its ticket to the NCAA Championships for the second time in the last three years. Minnesota finished second in the Gainesville Regional to clinch its berth to the NCAA Championships for the third time and first since 2002.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes’ <strong>Sarah Miller</strong> and <strong>Melanie Shaffer</strong> each qualified for the NCAA Championships at the Columbus Regional as Miller tied for first on balance beam (9.950) and Shaffer qualified with a fourth-place finish in the all-around (39.325). Nittany Lion <strong>Sharaya Musser</strong> tied for second in the all-around (39.375) at the Norman Regional to advance to the national meet.<br /> <br /> * Five women’s basketball players were named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) All-America team. Minnesota’s <strong>Rachel Banham</strong>, Nebraska’s <strong>Jordan Hooper</strong>, Ohio State’s <strong>Tayler Hill</strong> and Penn State’s <strong>Alex Bentley</strong> and <strong>Maggie Lucas</strong> each garnered honorable mention recognition.<br /> <br /> * Three conference performers on the men’s side have announced their intentions to leave school early to seek employment in the NBA. Ohio State forward <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> was the first to do so followed by Indiana forward <strong>Victor Oladipo</strong> and IU center <strong>Cody Zeller</strong>. All three were first-team All-Big Ten and named to several All-America lists.<br /> <br /> Other Big Ten players expected to follow suit and leave early for the draft are Michigan State forward <strong>Adreian Payne</strong> and the Michigan triumvirate of Burke, <strong>Tim Hardaway Jr.</strong> and <strong>Glenn Robinson III</strong>.<br /> <br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp 724650e7-5be6-4cf9-91cd-80120ee88d2a Wed, 10 Apr 2013 19:14:07 GMT Indiana Finally Back On Top There was reason to believe that <strong>Trey Burke</strong>’s driving attempt in the final seconds of Michigan’s palpitating regular-season finale with Indiana on Sunday not only would decide the Big Ten championship but also who would win the coveted league player of the year award.<br /> <br /> UM’s outstanding point guard narrowly missed his scoop shot and center <strong>Jordan Morgan</strong> failed to tap in the bounding ball front point-blank range, allowing Indiana to post a 72-71 victory and claim the outright title.<br /> <br /> Ohio State kept itself, Michigan and the winner of the Michigan State-Wisconsin game alive by defeating the Hoosiers March 5 in Bloomington, but the Buckeyes and company still needed from help from the rival Wolverines.<br /> <br /> No. 2 IU and No. 7 Michigan staged a back-and-forth classic but the Wolverines, who were undefeated at home heading into their final appearance at Crisler Arena, missed on the front end of a one-and-one free throw twice in the final seconds.<br /> <br /> After Indiana center <strong>Cody Zeller</strong> scored inside to provide the final points, Burke took off with the inbounds pass and caused the entire league to gasp as he flipped up a shot at the basket. The chaos that ensured included the ball rolling around on the rim and Morgan missing a clean follow.<br /> <br /> Indiana (26-5, 14-4) celebrated the win and the program’s first outright title in 20 years.<br /> <br /> Head coach <strong>Tom Crean</strong>, for some reason, celebrated by confronting and shouting down Michigan assistant <strong>Jeff Meyer</strong>, who used to hold the same role at Indiana under the deposed Ralph Sampson.<br /> <br /> “You helped wreck our program!” Crean shouted at Meyer while being restrained.<br /> <br /> On Monday, Crean claimed he later called Meyer and apologized. That evening the Big Ten awards rolled in and, somewhat surprisingly, forward <strong>Victor Oladipo</strong> was not named the Big Ten Player of the Year.<br /> <br /> That nod went to Burke, a sophomore who was second in the conference in scoring (19.2 points per game) behind OSU’s <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> (19.7) and led the league in assists (6.8 per game). Certainly, Burke was highly valuable and productive for Michigan, but the Wolverines (25-6, 12-6) had to settle for a tie with Wisconsin for fourth place after their paper-thin defeat.<br /> <br /> A junior who is among the most-improved players in college basketball, Oladipo was considered the leading contender for POY honors heading to the final week. However, he endured foul trouble in the loss to Ohio State and was upstaged by Zeller’s game-high 25 points and winning play against Michigan.<br /> <br /> Burke won POY honors in voting from the coaches and media, though the complete tally is not revealed.<br /> <br /> He had 20 points and four assists against the Hoosiers. Oladipo had 14 points and a career-high 13 rebounds as IU battered Michigan on the boards, 46-27. He also played his usual stellar defense, which became part of his imprint on big games this year.<br /> <br /> In fact, Oladipo outpointed Ohio State’s <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, which is an award handed down by the coaches. His teammate, swingman <strong>Will Sheehey</strong>, was tabbed as the Sixth Man of the Year, also only a coaches award.<br /> <br /> The media came off as more appreciative of Craft as he was among the five players named first-team All-Big Ten along with Burke, Oladipo, Zeller and Thomas. Michigan’s <strong>Tim Hardaway Jr.</strong> replaced Craft on the coaches’ first-team list.<br /> <br /> Oladipo and Burke were the only unanimous selections by the coaches. The media was unanimous in voting for those two as well as Zeller and Thomas, a 6-7 lefty forward who scored in double figures in every game this season.<br /> <br /> The two voting bodies agreed on Wisconsin’s <strong>Bo Ryan</strong> as the Coach of the Year and Michigan State guard <strong>Gary Harris</strong> as the Freshman of the Year.<br /> <br /> Harris and MSU teammates <strong>Keith Appling</strong> and <strong>Adreian Payne</strong> appeared on both second teams as did Wisconsin forward <strong>Jared Berggren</strong>. Illinois guard <strong>Brandon Paul</strong>, one of the league’s leading scorers and most talented players, had to settle for third-team status.<br /> <br /> The coaches put out five-man lists for the All-Freshman team and All-Defensive team. Craft and fellow OSU guard <strong>Shannon Scott</strong> joined Oladipo, Morgan and Berggren on the All-Defensive squad. The All-Freshman team included Harris, Indiana guard <strong>Yogi Ferrell</strong>, Michigan guard <strong>Glenn Robinson III</strong>, Purdue guard <strong>A.J. Hammons</strong>, and Wisconsin forward <strong>Sam Dekker</strong>.<br /> <br /> <strong>Tourney Awaits</strong><br /> <br /> With the Big Ten regular season in the books, one of the most anticipated Big Ten Tournaments in the 15-year history of the event is now at hand as all 12 league teams will convene in Chicago for the first time ever. The last time the tourney was held there was 2007, well before Nebraska joined the conference.<br /> <br /> Ryan put his Badgers in the top four of the standings as he has done in all 12 of his years as UW head coach. Wisconsin (21-10, 12-6) had the tiebreaker edge with Michigan and earned the four-seed, which allows the Badgers to avoid having to play on Thursday (March 14) in the tournament’s first round.<br /> <br /> Those two teams would meet in the March 15 quarterfinals if UM can just get past last-place Penn State (10-20, 2-16). Other first-day games have No. 8 Illinois (21-11, 8-10) matched with No. 9 Minnesota (20-11, 8-10), No. 7 Purdue (15-16, 8-10) taking on No. 10 Nebraska (14-17, 5-13), and No. 6 Iowa (20-11, 9-9) paired with No. 11 Northwestern (13-18, 4-14).<br /> <br /> Top-seeded Indiana will take on the Illinois-Minnesota winner to open quarterfinal play and that game will be followed by No. 2 Ohio State (23-7, 13-5) vs. the Purdue-Nebraska winner. No. 3 Michigan State (24-7, 13-5) faces the Iowa-Northwestern survivor.<br /> <br /> Ohio State has to be considered a team to fear. The Buckeyes enter the United Center as the conference’s hottest team with five straight wins, including eye-opening ones over Michigan State and Indiana.<br /> <br /> Plus, head coach <strong>Thad Matta</strong> has the best winning percentage in BTT history with a mark of 16-5 (.762). In his eight previous appearances, Matta has led the Buckeyes to the championship game six times and OSU cut down the nets in Chicago in 2007 as well as back-to-back in 2010 and ’11 in Indianapolis.<br /> <br /> Ohio State also has the best all-time record in the event – officially 19-9 even with the 2002 title and appearances the previous two years stripped away because of NCAA sanctions.<br /> <br /> Chicago was the site of the inaugural event in 1998 and will serve as the host for the eighth time in the tournament’s history. The conference tournament averaged 18,882 fans per session when the event was last held at the United Center in 2007. The men’s tournament set total and average attendance records while in Chicago in 2001 with 109,769 fans in attendance for an average of 21,954 patrons per session.<br /> <br /> Big Ten Network will broadcast the first two games of the tournament, the 7-10 and 6-11 games are on ESPN2, and the first two quarterfinal matchups will be shown on ESPN. CBS will take over from there with national broadcasts of the March 16 semifinals and a 3:30 p.m. Eastern start to the March 17 championship game. That will serve as the run-up to the network’s Selection Sunday show.<br /> <br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp f55d9d71-7c77-483e-994b-622df62023fe Tue, 12 Mar 2013 20:13:08 GMT Six Lanes Full Of Contenders <p> </p> <p><em><strong>(Editor's Note: This story on the editor's pick for top contenders for the Big Ten men's basketball title originally was published on The Ozone on Jan. 3, 2013. To read it, place your cursor over the link below and click.)</strong></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> &nbsp; <p></p> <br /> <p>link: <a href="">Hoops Contenders</a></p> <p></p> Jeff Rapp d03a1183-54e8-48ba-877e-61b2a54de6a8 Fri, 04 Jan 2013 01:00:00 GMT Hazell Returns, Bielema Departs It’s that time of year again – time for the coaching carousel to whir in motion. With the regular season over, the massive bowl schedule not kicking off until Dec. 15, and programs all over the country reassessing, several head coaches were fired to set off the inevitable domino effect.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten, of course, was not immune. Virtually within the same time frame on Tuesday, reports spread like wildfire that Purdue was about to name a new head coach and Wisconsin, even with the Rose Bowl awaiting, also was in a state of flux at the top.<br /> <br /> That news and other important items relating to the Big ten follow:<br /> <br /> <strong>Hazell Heads West</strong><br /> <br /> When <strong>Jim Tressel</strong> hired <strong>Darrell Hazell</strong> away from Rutgers, it became apparent early that Hazell had an immediate positive effect on the Ohio State passing game and was a key member of the new offensive brain trust.<br /> <br /> Hazell moved on to become the head coach at Kent State and in two years there authored a complete turnaround of the program.<br /> <br /> Now Hazell is back in the Big Ten as the head coach of Purdue and his assignment is twofold – revive the Boilermakers’ offense and change the culture in West Lafayette, Ind.<br /> <br /> Purdue flirted with other candidates including Cincinnati coach <strong>Butch Jones</strong>, but announced Hazell as the successor to <strong>Danny Hope</strong> on Wednesday morning after several reports had already linked him to the job.<br /> <br /> Boilermakers athletic director <strong>Morgan Burke</strong> hired the 48-year-old Hazell to lead the school dubbed as the Cradle of Quarterbacks out of mediocrity and Hazell obliged in the release announcing his hiring.<br /> <br /> “I’m extremely excited to work with the players at Purdue, and I look forward to experiencing a lot of success in the future,” Hazell said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”<br /> <br /> Purdue scheduled a Wednesday evening press conference to introduce Hazell as the new head coach and allow him to break the news to his players at Kent State (11-2), which is preparing for a Jan. 6 appearance in the Bowl in Mobile, Ala., vs. Arkansas State (9-3).<br /> <br /> Hazell grew up in New Jersey but played football at Muskingum College in Ohio. Tressel lured him back to the Buckeye State in 2004, and he remained an important part of the Ohio State coaching staff until 2010, when he left to become a head coach. At Kent State, endured growing pains with a 5-7 mark in 2011 but the Golden Flashes came on strong this past fall, posting an 8-0 record in Mid-American Conference regular-season play and advancing to the league title game as the Eastern Division champion.<br /> <br /> The Flashes came extraordinarily close to continuing their dream season this past weekend, but lost a 44-37 decision to Northern Illinois in double overtime in the MAC Championship Game.<br /> <br /> Hazell won this season’s MAC coach of the year award after leading Kent State to its first winning season since 2001, first bowl appearance in more than four decades and the brink of a BCS bowl game.<br /> <br /> Burke made it clear during a Nov. 25 presser announcing Hope’s firing that the program was in need of a new leader who could revive the Purdue offense, which was borderline anemic this season.<br /> <br /> “We are an offensive-minded program,” Burke said. “That’s where we’ve made our mark over the years. I don’t see that under the circumstances changing. We’re not going to move into a coach that has a dramatically different scheme because we’ve built this team to play a certain kind of football.<br /> <br /> “We’ve seen other institutions that made a coaching change, then they changed their style of play. It took two or three years to adjust. We’re not going to do that. We’ve got talent in this program, we know we have talent in this program. We want it to be nurtured.”<br /> <br /> Purdue has tended toward an up-tempo style offense that thrived under coach <strong>Joe Tiller</strong> and quarterback <strong>Drew Brees</strong>. Hope kept that system but with disappointing results and a bevy of different quarterbacks.<br /> <br /> Ironically, many PU fans were in the corner of Northern Illinois coach <strong>Dave Doeren</strong>, who also has been a Big Ten assistant, but Doeren just accepted the head coaching position at North Carolina State.<br /> <br /> Burke reportedly offered Jones a five-year deal worth $13.5 million, but those negotiations broke down.<br /> <br /> Hope earned a Big Ten-low $950,000 in guaranteed compensation last year, though Burke acknowledged he was willing to spend more on his next coach.<br /> <br /> Details of Hazell’s contract were not immediately available. He made a base salary of $300,000 with the Golden Flashes.<br /> <br /> Hazell, who was an assistant head coach at OSU from 2005-10, becomes the first black coach in Boilermakers history and will take over full-time duties later this month. The Boilermakers (6-6, 3-5) will face Oklahoma State (7-5) on. Jan 1 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and are a decided underdog. Receivers coach <strong>Patrick Higgins</strong> has been tabbed to serve as head coach for the bowl game.<br /> <br /> Hope compiled a record of 22-27 in four years at Purdue.<br /> <br /> <strong>Bielema Era In Madison Ends</strong><br /> <br /> While Hazell becoming the new boss at Purdue was surprising, <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> leaving Wisconsin after seven successful years there was even more jaw-dropping.<br /> <br /> Bielema seemed to be the right fit at UW, especially with former coach and current athletic director <strong>Barry Alvarez</strong> a step behind him as an acting mentor.<br /> <br /> But Bielema couldn’t resist the urge to take his headset to the mighty Southeastern Conference and accepted an offer to become the new head coach at Arkansas. The university released a statement Tuesday night saying Bielema had agreed to a deal to take over the program, which is still reeling following the firing of former coach <strong>Bobby Petrino</strong>.<br /> <br /> Former Michigan State head coach <strong>John L. Smith</strong> served as acting head coach of the Razorbacks in 2012 but couldn’t rejuvenate the program. The Hogs went to the Sugar Bowl to face Ohio State following the 2010 season and finished 10-3. Last year they were 11-2 including a victory over Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl. In 2012 under Smith they were just 4-8, 2-6 in the SEC.<br /> <br /> Arkansas has not yet released terms of Bielema’s deal but a report claimed he was prepared to sign a six-year agreement paying him $3.2 million annually.<br /> <br /> Alvarez’s hand-picked successor at Wisconsin, Bielema was 68-24 with the Badgers, with four double-digit win seasons. He coached Wisconsin to a 17-14 victory over Arkansas in his first season at the Capital One Bowl.<br /> <br /> UW is heading to its third straight Rose Bowl – and has a ticket to face Stanford – after waxing Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game. However, the Badgers were unsuccessful in the last two trips to Pasadena, losing to TCU and then Oregon.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin (8-5) backed its way into the league title game after losses to Ohio State and Penn State to end the regular season. The third-place Leaders Division finish still merited a date against Nebraska in Indianapolis since OSU and PSU were ineligible from postseason play because of NCAA sanctions.<br /> <br /> Still, Arkansas came courting.<br /> <br /> “His tough, aggressive style of play has been successful and will be appealing to student-athletes and Razorback fans,” Arkansas athletic director <strong>Jeff Long</strong> said in a statement. “He not only shares the vision and values for the future of Arkansas football, he embraces them.”<br /> <br /> The move was the second stunning hire this year at Arkansas, which brought in Smith as the interim coach after firing Petrino for hiring his mistress to work in the athletic department. Long announced after the season that Smith wouldn’t return.<br /> <br /> Arkansas continually ranked among the SEC’s best passing teams under Petrino, but Bielema is expected to bring his signature power game, which has featured hulking offensive lines and punishing running backs such as current UW senior <strong>Montee Ball</strong>.<br /> <br /> “During my conversation with Jeff (Long), he described the characteristics for the perfect fit to lead this program,” Bielema said in a statement. “It was evident we share the same mission, principles and goals.”<br /> <br /> Ball tied <strong>Barry Sanders</strong>’ longstanding single-season record of 39 touchdowns last year, and this year became the FBS career leader in touchdowns. He currently has 82 touchdowns after running for three Saturday night against Nebraska.<br /> <br /> The 42-year-old Bielema was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin for two years before being promoted to head coach in 2006. He played for Iowa and started his coaching career there as an assistant under <strong>Hayden Fry</strong> and later <strong>Kirk Ferentz</strong>.<br /> <br /> Rumors surfaced that Alvarez told Bielema to immediately leave the program when he learned of discussions with Arkansas, but Alvarez didn’t address that issue publicly, instead saying, “I was very surprised when Bret told me he was taking the offer from Arkansas. He did a great job for us during his seven years as head coach, both on the field and off. I want to thank him for his work and wish him the best at Arkansas.”<br /> <br /> After the Cotton Bowl victory, the Razorbacks ended the 2011 season ranked No. 5 in the nation and Petrino said the program way on course to compete for a national championship. But his April 1 motorcycle accident led to the scandal with his mistress – a former Arkansas volleyball player he had hired to work in the athletic department.<br /> <br /> Petrino, who was married at the time and has four children, was fired.<br /> <br /> Arkansas’ on-field outlook plummeted quickly. The Razorbacks suffered an overtime loss to Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 8, a setback that led to a four-game losing streak that dropped Arkansas out of the rankings. The Razorbacks finished with the school’s lowest win total since 2005, missing a bowl game for the first time since 2008.<br /> <br /> To make matters worse, Smith made headlines of his own when he filed for bankruptcy during the season, revealing $40.7 million in debt he blamed on bad land deals.<br /> <br /> Long, though, still has designs on pushing forward. The school is expanding the 72,000-seat Razorback Stadium and is currently building an 80,000-square-foot football operations center.<br /> <br /> “The infrastructure in place at Arkansas shows the commitment from the administration to accomplish our goals together and I am excited to begin to lead this group of student-athletes,” Bielema said. “This program will represent the state of Arkansas in a way Razorback fans everywhere will be proud of.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Bowl Trouble</strong><br /> <br /> Wisconsin and Purdue are two of seven Big Ten teams heading to bowls – and the matchups do not look favorable for the conference.<br /> <br /> The Badgers have not named an acting head coach for the Rose Bowl battle with Stanford. Purdue, as previously mentioned, will face Big 12 combatant Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, also on New Year’s Day.<br /> <br /> Also, league runner-up Nebraska heads to the Capital One Bowl, Michigan will play in the Outback Bowl, Northwestern travels to the Gator Bowl, Michigan State competes in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, and Minnesota heads to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.<br /> <br /> Even without 12-0 Ohio State and 8-4 Penn State, the Big Ten has earned at least six bowl berths for the 14th straight year.<br /> <br /> The Badgers will be in the spotlight again when they face Stanford at 5:10 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 1 on ESPN. Wisconsin, which holds an 11-12 record in bowl games, becomes the first Big Ten team to go to three straight Rose Bowl Games since Michigan went to Pasadena following the 1976-78 campaigns. Conference teams are 30-35 all-time in the Rose Bowl Game, while the Badgers hold a 3-5 mark in the game.<br /> <br /> Winners of the Big Ten Legends Division, Nebraska is set to appear in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., where the Huskers will face Georgia at 1 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 1 on ABC. Nebraska is one of the most accomplished programs in the country in terms of postseason appearances and is one of three Big Ten teams boasting 20 or more postseason victories, owning 24 triumphs in bowl contests. However, the Cornhuskers will be hard-pressed to take down a Georgia squad that was 5 yards away from advancing to the BCS title game.<br /> <br /> Making its 42nd postseason appearance, and third consecutive, Michigan will play in the Outback Bowl for the first time since the 2002 season, where it will face South Carolina at 1 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 1 on ESPN. The Wolverines are 3-1 all-time in games played in Tampa, Fla., including a 38-30 victory over Florida in the 2003 game.<br /> <br /> Northwestern also will make a New Year’s Day appearance in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., where it will face Mississippi State at noon Eastern on ESPN2. The Wildcats earned their 11th bowl berth, advancing to the postseason for the fifth straight time under coach <strong>Pat Fitzgerald</strong>.<br /> <br /> Michigan State makes its first appearance in Tempe, Ariz., for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, where the Spartans will take on TCU at 10:15 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 29 on ESPN. The Spartans are heading to their 23rd postseason game and sixth straight under head coach <strong>Mark Dantonio</strong>, matching the longest streak in school history.<br /> <br /> Minnesota travels to Houston to take on Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. Eastern on ESPN. The last time these two teams met was a doozy – a 44-41 overtime victory for Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl.<br /> <br /> The Boilermakers, who will kick off New Year’s Day bowl coverage at noon Eastern on ESPNU, have been victorious in their last two bowl games. They return to the state of Texas for postseason play for the first time since the 2004 Sun Bowl. Purdue has faced Oklahoma State once previously, a 33-20 Boilermaker victory in the 1997 Alamo Bowl.<br /> <br /> <strong>O’Brien Honored</strong><br /> <br /> Penn State’s <strong>Bill O’Brien</strong> was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by the conference’s coaches and members of the media, edging out Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, another candidate for national awards, in the process.<br /> <br /> Upon accepting, O’Brien confirmed he plans on being the Nittany Lions head coach in 2013, ending speculation that arose when he was linked to several NFL head coaching jobs.<br /> <br /> Last January, O’Brien left as offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl-bound New England Patriots and took over a Penn State program in shambles in the midst of the fallout from the <strong>Jerry Sandusky</strong> scandal. Although his hiring was initially criticized by some former players and alumni, O’Brien eventually helped bring a sense of pride back to Happy Valley.<br /> <br /> He also held the program up through crippling sanctions and the exodus of several veteran players including star running back <strong>Silas Redd</strong>, who transferred to USC.<br /> <br /> He affirmed his desire to stay at Penn State – but was somewhat noncommittal – when the topic came up during a radio interview with 790 the Zone in Atlanta, though he didn’t definitively rule out a return to the NFL.<br /> <br /> “I plan on being the head football coach at Penn State,” O’Brien told the station. “That’s my plan and that’s what I intend to do.”<br /> <br /> Despite a rough 0-2 star that included a home loss to Ohio University and a one-point setback at Virginia, O’Brien was able to lead the Nittany Lions to a 8-4 record and tapped into the right arm of quarterback <strong>Matt McGloin</strong>, who became the leading passer in the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> “It was a tough, tough year here, especially if you go back to November, but I think these kids – and again it goes back to this senior class – they’re wise beyond their years,” O’Brien said.<br /> <br /> “As time went on they realized that it’s not about bowl games, it’s about making sure that we do our part to help put an end to child abuse but at the same time go out and play as good of football as we can. And like every season, we wish we had some plays back and some games back, but I think at the end of the day we played pretty good football.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Powerball</strong><br /> <br /> The conference is looking powerful in men’s basketball, even after it had to settle for a 6-6 tie in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Associated Press poll that was released Dec. 3 had Indiana still firmly entrenched at No. 1, although Duke also was receiving a share of the first-place votes after topping Ohio State in the Challenge.<br /> <br /> Indiana, which dusted North Carolina in the Challenge, entered the week at 8-0 and with 45 of a possible 65 first-place votes. Duke, which also was 8-0, garnered the other 20 and was second in the poll. Michigan, 7-0, at the time the poll was released and 8-0 after a 32-point win over Western Michigan on Tuesday, is No. 3 in the AP poll.<br /> <br /> Ohio State, which bounced back from the five-point loss at Duke with a win over Northern Kentucky on Saturday, entered the week at 5-1 and No. 7, a drop of three slots. Kansas (6-1), which will pay a visit to OSU on Dec. 22, is No. 9.<br /> <br /> Three other Big Ten teams join Indiana, Michigan and Ohio State in the top 20 – Illinois (8-0) at No. 13, Minnesota (8-1) at No. 14 and Michigan State (6-2) at No. 19. Like OSU, Minnesota’s only loss is to Duke.<br /> Jeff Rapp cef50eec-8c66-4e6f-b407-11a107b3bb15 Wed, 05 Dec 2012 19:19:22 GMT Grid Season Already Embarrassing <p><em><strong>(Editor's Note: This story on the state of Big Ten football originally was published on The O-Zone on Sept. 29, 2012. To read it, place your cursor over the link below and click.)</strong></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p></p> <br /> <p>link: <a href="">Big Ten Train Wreck</a></p> Jeff Rapp 2d739500-8898-47ad-be23-3eff5c71f4b3 Sat, 29 Sep 2012 18:24:00 GMT Football Season Finally Arrives <strong>CHICAGO –</strong> All 12 member teams will be in action Labor Day weekend, kicking off the 117th season of Big Ten football.<br /> <br /> It promises to be a fall unlike any other.<br /> <br /> Sure there will be marquee games right out of the chute such as Boise State at Michigan State on Aug. 31 and Michigan vs. Alabama in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 1.<br /> <br /> And there will be familiar faces as well, including Wisconsin’s <strong>Montee Ball</strong> (the leading rusher in the conference last year), dynamic Michigan quarterback <strong>Denard Robinson</strong> (who could break several league marks this season), and Iowa coach <strong>Kirk Ferentz</strong> (the most tenured Big Ten coach).<br /> <br /> <strong>Rex Burkhead</strong> should be just as versatile performer at Nebraska, Ohio State’s <strong>John Simon</strong> will continue to chase down quarterbacks, <strong>Chris Borland</strong> will return to anchor Wisconsin’s defense, and UW coach <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> again enters the season on top.<br /> <br /> However, there is much change afoot.<br /> <br /> Burkhead and Ball are the only first-team offensive All-Big Ten performers from 2011 who are back, and three member schools have new head coaches – <strong>Tim Beckman</strong> at Illinois, <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> at Ohio State, and <strong>Bill O’Brien</strong> at Penn State.<br /> <br /> In fact, for the first time in the history of Big Ten Football Media Days, which was held Thursday and Friday in Chicago – and for the first time since 1966, for that matter – <strong>Joe Paterno</strong> was not representing the program as its head coach. Of course, Paterno was fired from his 46-year post in November and died of lung cancer at the age of 85 on Jan. 22.<br /> <br /> The scandal involving former Penn State defensive coordinator <strong>Jerry Sandusky</strong>, his conviction of sexually abusing 10 boys, and the cover-up orchestrated by the university hierarchy has led to months of unrest in Happy Valley and recently imposed sanctions.<br /> <br /> The punishment is crippling – a fine of $60 million, a four-year bowl and probation, a massive loss of scholarships, the vacating of all wins dating back to 1998, and an open door for student-athletes to transfer to other programs without having to sit out a year. The Big Ten piled on by censuring the school and stripping it of league revenue over the same four-year period, which could cost Penn State another $13 million.<br /> <br /> With all of that thundering down on Penn State on Monday and leading to speculation about an exodus of players, O’Brien reluctantly moved right into the spotlight when he arrived to town.<br /> <br /> “We’ve got a bunch of kids back in State College right now that are sticking together, that have been through a lot of tough times over the last six months but have turned the page and are ready to move forward,” he said at the lectern.<br /> <br /> “And all I can tell you is that we’ve got a great staff. We’ve got a tough, smart football team. The fans need to get on board, our alumni need to get on board and our lettermen need to get on board.”<br /> <br /> Of course, that didn’t keep reporters from delving into the pain, especially considering that while O’Brien was speaking star PSU running back <strong>Silas Redd</strong> was in the midst of a three-hour meeting with USC coach <strong>Lane Kiffin</strong> about the prospect of moving right into the Trojan backfield.<br /> <br /> O’Brien, as one might imagine, is most concerned with the restrictions on recruiting and the relaxing of the rules regarding transfers since his roster is sure to deal with constant tinkering<br /> <br /> “It’s like NFL free agency without the rules,” he said. “So they can do what they want as long as they tell our compliance office that they’re contacting these kids, and it is what it is. So I don’t really have anything to say on that.”<br /> <br /> O’Brien certainly backed that claim when, moments later, a reporter greeted him with the following: “Hi, Coach. Can you give us an update on the Silas Redd situation?”<br /> <br /> “No,” O’Brien said, before the reporter had finished exhaling his question.<br /> <br /> The former offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, O’Brien has embraced what is already in place – Penn State’s excellent football tradition, topnotch facilities and impressive community support. However, the theme of his comments here centered on moving forward and forging the program into a new age.<br /> <br /> He even hinted that the team may don new uniforms this fall.<br /> <br /> “There’s a lot of discussions going on with our football team right now,” he said when asked about the possibility of the Nittany Lions having a different gameday look. “We’ve got a group of young men there, like I said, that are sticking together. And there’s changes that have taken place at Penn State over the last six months that are reflected already. The new era of Penn State football.<br /> <br /> “And some of the changes people will have to wait and see until September, on September 1st.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Meyer Makes His Mark</strong><br /> <br /> Meyer also comes from a winning background, having won two national championships in six years at Florida and also putting together eye-opening two-year stints at Bowling Green and Utah.<br /> <br /> All eyes were on him when he took to the lectern Thursday morning.<br /> <br /> “I’m honored to be here representing the Big Ten conference and Ohio State University and look forward to starting training camp a week from Friday,” he opened. “I like our players. I like our team. We had a conditioning test that our players are telling me about. And the energy level is real high right now in Columbus with our football team. So I’m anxious to get going.”<br /> <br /> Meyer immediately was asked to compare the SEC to the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> “Big Ten, the SEC, the last few years, is kind of the kingpin with the success they’ve had in the BCS,” he said. “I have watched a lot of the Big Ten as we got ready to play some Bowl games in recent years. I see the Big Ten has changed dramatically.<br /> <br /> “As a matter of fact, I think it was eight out of the 12 teams are running some sort of spread offense right now. And then there’s two option offenses and then traditional offenses, and that’s obviously a drastic change from historically what you think of the Big Ten. So there’s a little bit of a movement.<br /> <br /> “There’s some great defense in this league, which there’s always been. But there’s several teams right now playing as good as defense as anybody in America.<br /> <br /> “So I think it has changed, but it’s going to be interesting, the evolution, in the next few years with the coaching transitions that are taking place.”<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes are coming off a 6-7 season and are dealing with sanctions of their own, including a postseason ban in effect for this season. Meyer admitted he’s still struggling to deal with that, but he still has his team reaching for a big season.<br /> <br /> “There’s no such thing as a buffer year in college football, certainly not at Ohio State and certainly not with myself and our staff and our players,” he said.<br /> <br /> Meyer’s no-nonsense approach has been well-received so far and compelled him to suspend the scholarships of veterans <strong>Jack Mewhort</strong> and <strong>Jake Stoneburner</strong> after they were arrested for urinating in public and trying to elude police this summer. The charges against Stoneburner have been dropped but Meyer is making both players work their way back into good graces.<br /> <br /> “They’re not reinstated yet,” Meyer said. “They’re actively working out. They have to fulfill their penance or obligation that we’ve asked them to do. Obviously the kind of people that they are, the families they’re from, we did take their scholarships. They’ve had to pay for their summer school. Very expensive mistake.<br /> <br /> “They’re doing what they are supposed to do. Monitoring it closely. And that decision won’t be made until we get to training camp. But as of now they’ll be reporting to training camp a week from Friday.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Hands Off</strong><br /> <br /> Meyer was among the many league coaches who said he has no designs on raiding Penn State because of the stipulation that Lions players can leave without penalty.<br /> <br /> In fact, he went a step further.<br /> <br /> “I have a problem with that,” he said. “A player has a right to choose, especially by the rules, to go where he wants. To actively go get a player on another team, I’m not sure … when he’s part of a team, you’re getting into a situation that I’m not quite very familiar with, and we’re not going to get very familiar with it.”<br /> <br /> The third to speak on Thursday, Meyer got plenty of backing from other league coaches, including Bielema and another rival, Michigan’s <strong>Brady Hoke</strong>.<br /> <br /> When this thing came about, and obviously a very unprecedented situation, of course when you're sitting at the head table of your staff room and assistant coaches have a lot of different opinions, I made the decision as a head coach we would not reach out to any Penn State players,” Bielema said.<br /> <br /> “And it wasn't anything more than I have a group of 105 players that are reporting on August 5th that I want them to understand and believe that I think they can help us win another championship. And to bring someone in at this point so close to the season, I just wasn't comfortable with it.”<br /> <br /> Added Hoke on the subject, “To be honest with you, we kind of made a decision – I’d be lying if I didn't say we didn't look at the roster to some degree – but we've kind of made a decision that we’re going to stay and recruit the guys and keep our business our business.”<br /> <br /> Some coaches, however, including Purdue’s <strong>Danny Hope</strong>, said looking into possible interest from Penn State players is within the rules and therefore something worth pursuing. Beckman even admitted that he and his Illini assistants are already on the case.<br /> <br /> “We were in State College, but we did not go on campus,” Beckman said. “We went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by.”<br /> <br /> Beckman said that he has spoken with O’Brien and that the Illinois compliance director has contacted Penn State about the players in question so that all rules would be followed accordingly.<br /> <br /> <strong>New Frontier</strong><br /> <br /> Meyer, of course, is no rookie coach and is expected to bring the Buckeyes right back to respectability. And he was once a member of the OSU staff under <strong>Earle Bruce</strong> as a graduate assistant in the 1980s. But he’s still new to the Big Ten in this capacity, and that means adjusting to many aspects of the job and getting used to a new league.<br /> <br /> Ditto for O’Brien and Beckman.<br /> <br /> Hoke went through it just last year and came out all right – he was named Big Ten Coach of the Year after the 2011 season.<br /> <br /> “It’s that familiarity and the expectations,” Hoke said. “‘What’s Coach going to be like game week? What’s he going to be like during two-a-day camp?’ All those things. And as a coach it’s ‘How are they going to respond?’ because it’s a grind.”<br /> <br /> Michigan State coach <strong>Mark Dantonio</strong> agreed.<br /> <br /> “I think the biggest thing with being a newcomer is your don’t know the people, whether it’s the reporters or the opposing coaches or who are the players, the key players, on each team,” Dantonio said. “So there’s a little bit of a learning curve there. I try to be consistent, but I was probably a little bit more at ease now than I was that first year.”<br /> <br /> Bielema is now among the most experienced league coaches but he still remembers what it was like to be in the shoes of someone like O’Brien or Beckman.<br /> <br /> “One of the neat things for me going into my seventh year is I've known so many of these coaches,” he said. “The first year when I came in, I kind of came in like a mouse in the room. I didn't know anybody in there other than Kirk who I had worked for. Now I go around the room, I knew Mark Dantonio when he was an assistant. I actually shared defensive ideas back with him when he was at Ohio State and I was at Kansas State.”<br /> <br /> The newcomer role has helped bond O’Brien and Beckman, at least according to Beckman, who came over after a successful head coaching stint at Toledo.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know Coach O’Brien personally,” Beckman said. “We were not able to meet him at the Big Ten meetings in February. So this was the opportunity, really, for us to get together here earlier today. I have the utmost respect for him. I think he’s doing an outstanding job at Penn State and with the situation there at Penn State.<br /> <br /> “He was a fabulous coach in the NFL and has been around some quality, quality leaders. So I expect great things at Penn State, as always.”<br /> <br /> <strong>All Better Now</strong><br /> <br /> Ironically, despite Beckman’s comments, O’Brien seemed miffed when reporters asked him about Illinois’ coaching staff seeking out Penn State players, leaving many to wonder if the two head coaches really were in good spirits with each other.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the two league coaches fans assume don’t get along – Bielema and Meyer – say they are just fine.<br /> <br /> Bielema reportedly was miffed after prized offensive lineman <strong>Kyle Dodson</strong> flipped his commitment from Wisconsin to Ohio State and delivered the following comments during his signing day address:<br /> <br /> “There’s a few things that happened early on that I made people be aware of, that I didn’t want to see in this league, that I had seen take place in other leagues. Other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices, that are illegal.<br /> <br /> “I was very up-front, very pointed to the fact, actually reached out to coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him. The situation got rectified.”<br /> <br /> Bielema, though, downplayed any possible rift with Meyer.<br /> <br /> “At that time of the year people needed something to write about,” he said of reports of their alleged feud over the winter.<br /> <br /> Meyer also claimed no harm, no foul.<br /> <br /> “We have a very, very good relationship,” he said when asked about Bielema. “I think you’d have to ask coach, but we get along fine. We had a conversation about it at the Big Ten meetings, I believe it was in February. A lot of the things that were reported weren’t said.<br /> <br /> “We stand by exactly the way how we do things. And from my understanding, once again, it hasn’t been discussed again, there’s absolutely no problem whatsoever with the way Ohio State does their business. And that comes from the fellow coaches in our Big Ten conference.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * The official standings from last year were adorned on the front page of the league release at the conference. Why is that noteworthy? Well, Penn State was listed as the second-place team in the Leaders Division in 2011 with a record of 0-0. Of course, that includes marks of 0-0 at home, 0-0 on the road and 0-0 within the division. The nonsense of vacated games.<br /> <br /> * The first league team to hit the gridiron is Minnesota, which will play at UNLV under the lights (11 p.m. Eastern, CBS Sports Network) on Aug. 30. The following evening (8 p.m. Eastern, ESPN), Michigan State will host Boise State for a big opener of national appeal.<br /> <br /> * The Big Ten has not really addressed the recent trend of schools offering recruits younger and younger these days, but Northwestern head coach <strong>Pat Fitzgerald</strong> believes it should.<br /> <br /> “I’m not sure recruiting 15-year-old kids – their kids, they’re not young men – is the right thing to do,” Fitzgerald said. “What matters is what’s right for kids.<br /> <br /> “I was 15 years old and I was starting to date my wife, Stacy. I was really hoping she’d talk to me. I didn’t need some adult texting me and placating to my ego before I even had a (driver’s) license. So let’s talk about society here. What are we doing? There was something pretty healthy about not being offered a scholarship until after your senior year.”<br /> <br /> * The Big Ten Conference once again announced a preseason Players To Watch list which recognizes 10 players of high stature. A media panel designates five players from each division for the honor. Representing the Legends Division are offensive tackle <strong>Taylor Lewan</strong> and quarterback Robinson of Michigan, cornerback <strong>Johnny Adams</strong> and defensive end <strong>William Gholston</strong> of Michigan State, and running back Burkhead of Nebraska. Representing the Leaders Division are defensive lineman Simon and quarterback <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> of Ohio State, defensive tackle <strong>Kawann Short</strong> of Purdue, and running back Ball and linebacker Borland of Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> <strong>Quotable</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>Simon on the prospect of a 12-0 season for the Buckeyes –</strong> “I think it’s very realistic that we can win all our games. We just have to not get ahead of ourselves and take it one game at a time.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Bielema on being a newlywed –</strong> “Nineteen weeks and five days that we’ve been into this relationship. It’s because I get reminded on a daily basis, not that I knew that stat. I was sitting packing for our trip down here last night. And of course my wife is yelling at me because we were supposed to leave three hours ago, which I’m learning to understand after 19 weeks and five days that you have to learn to do these things.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Fitzgerald on the idea of football recruiting becoming as involved as basketball recruiting –</strong> “I don’t want at 10:45 at night some coach texting me with, ‘What’s up, Dawg?’ I don’t want to do that. Now, if we have to, we will. But I’m a ’Cat, I’m not your Dawg.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany on being asked to respond to the fact that Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State are all currently on NCAA probation –</strong> “The last 30 years, you’d be surprised to find out that any five-year period the Big Ten has had between four and six or seven teams on probation. Going back 30 years there’s not been a five-year period where we didn’t. And if you look at the Big 12 or any of the major conferences you’d find the same thing.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Penn State offensive lineman John Urschel on if there is an added emphasis for the Lions to put together a good season –</strong> “Absolutely. We’re representing the university and we’re the face of the university. Unfortunately, you guys don’t get to come in and talk to our world-class professors or talk to some of the great academic students we have. You guys are stuck with us. But it’s an opportunity for us to show everyone how well Penn State is doing.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Meyer on how he can avoid having too firm a grip on the OSU football program –</strong> “How do I keep things in order, in check? I think humility is one. Also understanding that we’re a product of those around us, and it’s never about the head football coach, it’s about a bunch of players which is most important and second-most important is a group of coaches.”<br /> <br /> <strong>O’Brien on what he told his players when he met with them after the NCAA sanctions were announced –</strong> “I talked to them about adversity. I gave them my own story, my own personal story on adversity as it related to my wife and I with our son, Jack. And I talked to them about each one of them have stories of adversity in their lives. Our coaches have stories of adversity in their lives. And the measure of a man is how you overcome adversity. I talked to them about without a shadow of a doubt they’re going to be able to play six to seven Bowl games per year in front of 108,000 screaming fans in Beaver Stadium and I expect it to be 108,000 fans in Beaver Stadium.”<br /> <br /> <strong>O’Brien on how he’ll deal with the scholarship reductions on the Penn State program –</strong> “I came from a league where there were 53 players on the roster, eight practice squad players and 45 players on the active roster, 21 on offense, 21 on defense, three specialists on game day. So I’m pretty well aware of how to handle a roster of 65 scholarship players. So we have plans in place. I’m not going to get into the details of those. They’re already in the works. But I don’t think that that’s as bad as everybody says it is.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Robinson when asked about a popular video game commercial –</strong> “I actually saw the <strong>Desmond Howard</strong> one where he’s on Ohio and the dad throws the TV out the window. That’s kind of funny.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Meyer on the importance of the Michigan game this year with no postseason to follow –</strong> “I don’t know if you can add any more to it. And the big reason is hopefully by the end of the season there’s going to be two really good football teams that are going to go play each other. But I think that will be – I certainly imagine in our home stadium there will be a buzz about that. I’ve already heard it. And I haven’t made that decision on how we’re going to attack that game other than it’s the biggest game of the year and we will get ready for it.” Jeff Rapp 84ec8dcc-42da-4322-ac7f-cb2a1e421e6a Fri, 27 Jul 2012 21:49:00 GMT Sparty Reins In Indy After the Big Ten made its case as the best overall conference this men’s basketball season, the league tournament in Indianapolis appeared to be a time for it to shine heading into March Madness.<br /> <br /> The regular season went about as well as commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong> could have hoped as the Big Ten headed into its March 8-11 tournament in Indianapolis tops in the country in RPI according to and also stood out for having five teams in the top 25 – actually top 15 – of The Associated Press rankings. In fact, more than half of the teams entered as an RPI top-50 squad and all 12 league teams were in the top 159 of RPI, setting the Big Ten further apart from the pack.<br /> <br /> Also, with Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State all having tied for the regular-season crown at 13-5, it only figured that more drama was in store.<br /> <br /> Not all of it was positive, however.<br /> <br /> Even the warm-and-fuzzy story of Northwestern trying to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history likely required the Wildcats to still win a game in Indy. Plus, <strong>Bruce Weber</strong>’s lame-duck status as coach of Illinois was in danger of turning ugly, especially if the Illini were to be bounced on the first day of action.<br /> <br /> And then there’s Penn State and Nebraska, two programs in not-ready-for-primetime mode, especially when compared to the likes of the top of the conference.<br /> <br /> Still, through all the subplots, the tournament and the atmosphere at Bankers Life Fieldhouse delivered, especially with a rather epic final that arguably was as good as any in the history of the 15-year event.<br /> <br /> The Michigan State Spartans arrived a wounded animal after Ohio State clipped them in East Lansing on March 4, the last day of the regular season. Not only did the Buckeyes ruin MSU’s Senior Day with a 72-70 win compliments of a dagger 18-foot jumper by <strong>William Buford</strong> with a second to go, they also created a three-way co-championship, thereby stealing Michigan State’s outright title.<br /> <br /> Longtime Spartans coach <strong>Tom Izzo</strong> called the loss to cap the regular season his most disappointing since heading up the program – even though the seventh Big Ten championship banner of his era was raised afterward.<br /> <br /> Sure enough, MSU arrived on a mission while the Buckeyes showed renewed confidence after a pair of key road wins to in the last week of the regular season.<br /> <br /> OSU was not a top seed, however. By virtue of tiebreakers, the Spartans earned the No. 1 seed in Indianapolis with co-champ and bitter rival Michigan checking in as the 2-seed and Ohio State as the 3-seed. Those three teams posted 13-5 Big Ten marks. Wisconsin, which was just a game back at 12-6, came in as the 4-seed.<br /> <br /> Which of those kingpins would get knocked off? Or would we have, for the first time ever, a showdown of the league’s four best teams into the weekend?<br /> <br /> <strong>Chalk, Please</strong><br /> <br /> The answer turned out to be the latter. On Thursday, three of the four games ended with the higher seed advancing (more on the game of exception below). On Friday, all four quarterfinals winners were the teams of higher repute, creating the first-ever 1-2-3-4 survival in the history of the tournament.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin, as expected, had to tap into its diligence to make it to the semis with a 79-71 decision over No. 5 Indiana in the second quarterfinal matchup. The determined Spartans had no problem with No. 8 Iowa in the first game on Friday, posting a 92-75 win<br /> <br /> The second session on Friday, which had sold out the day before, began with a doozy of a contest as Michigan needed overtime to send away pesky Minnesota, the 10-seed.<br /> <br /> Actually, the situation appeared dire for the Wolverines as they trailed 56-50 with 1:30 left in regulation. But <strong>Zack Novak</strong> hit a clutch three to cut the lead in half and after a must-have defensive stop, <strong>Evan Smotrycz</strong> followed suit with 17 seconds left. Minnesota missed a pair of attempts in the final seconds and succumbed in overtime.<br /> <br /> Next up were the Buckeyes, who had to endure the longest wait of any team in the history of the tournament before getting on the court. With 12 league members and a fourth game added to the first round, the 3-seed now does not appear until the eighth game – after every other team has already played at least once and three had played twice.<br /> <br /> Ohio State was anything but rusty, however, rolling to an 88-71 win over No. 6 Purdue, a team that played the Buckeyes to three points in Columbus on Feb. 7. <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong> poured in a season-high 30 points in the victory as OSU connected on 37 of 61 shots (60.7 percent).<br /> <br /> The Saturday semifinals, with CBS on hand to feed the games out nationally, were more a recognition of the cream of the Big Ten crop than another exercise in the league’s highly competitive nature.<br /> <br /> Michigan State tuned an early 9-0 hole against Wisconsin into a 35-25 lead, built the advantage to as high as 19 and cruised to a 65-52 win in the first semi. Your play, OSU.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes flexed their muscle in the second game of the day with a 77-55 destruction of rival Michigan. Sullinger was at it again with 24 points and <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> added 22, but it was the Ohio State defense that was the story as the Buckeyes vaporized point guard <strong>Trey Burke</strong> and center <strong>Jordan Morgan</strong>.<br /> <br /> Sunday’s finale was staged before a crowd of 17,125, which is an excellent turnout on Selection Sunday and with 10 of the 12 league teams bumped off. Those on hand were treated to a high-level basketball war replete with ebbs and flows and big plays.<br /> <br /> In the first half, Ohio State was outshot, recorded just one assist and received only nine minutes of court time from Sullinger because of foul trouble yet trailed only 34-32 at the break. A three-pointer by Thomas six minutes into the second half gave OSU a 52-45 lead but the Spartans responded with a 10-0 run to seize a lead they would never relinquish.<br /> <br /> Still, there was drama. A basket by Sullinger with 3:27 remaining trimmed the MSU lead to 64-62 and the Buckeyes missed on a chance to tie and a pair of potential go-ahead three-pointers in the following couple minutes. That set the stage for a dagger three by <strong>Draymond Green</strong> over Thomas that provided a 67-62 lead with 1:35 to play.<br /> <br /> MSU hung on and hoisted its first Big Ten Tournament trophy in 12 years.<br /> <br /> “I thought it was one of the tougher, better games that I’ve seen watching this thing over the last years,” Izzo said. “I guess I’m prejudice, but it was big-time plays, couple mistakes here and there by both teams, big-time shots.<br /> <br /> “I think there were two teams that were pretty evenly matched. I think Ohio State has got a very talented group. I think there’s two, three pros on that team.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Weber, Sadler Exit Stage Left</strong><br /> <br /> The postseason is supposed to provide new life for teams that haven’t reached their potential but it also can be a death knell for the programs that have fallen woefully short. Illinois certainly qualified for the latter after a 6-12 Big Ten season that started off with a promising mark of 4-1.<br /> <br /> The Illini beat Gonzaga and played Missouri to a four-point game in the nonconference and took down Ohio State and Michigan State in league play. But Weber sounded like a coach who saw the writing on the wall late in the season after his team lost nine of 10 games, leaving many to wonder if he sensed his players had quit on him.<br /> <br /> Sure enough, UI suffered a 64-61 loss to Iowa to open tournament action on Thursday. Illinois (17-15) allowed the smaller Hawkeyes to corral 16 offensive rebounds and never attempted a free throw in the contest, giving even more credence to the idea that this is a soft team that already had packed it in for the season.<br /> <br /> Still, it’s Weber’s head that went to the chopping block.<br /> <br /> With the Illini home before Friday for their first time in the history of the tournament and Weber sounding defeated about his future, the expectation was that UI officials would dismiss him within 24 hours of the team’s postseason exit.<br /> <br /> That expectation was met when Weber was canned on Friday. He spoke briefly during a press conference and became emotional. Not long after that, Izzo came to Weber’s defense after the Spartans won their quarterfinal matchup with Iowa.<br /> <br /> “I’m sick about it,” Izzo said at the end of his postgame press conference. “Bruce is a friend of mine. He’s been here since the <strong>Gene Keady</strong> days. He’s done it the right way. He doesn’t cheat. He mans up to his own responsibilities. Incredible, incredible person. I’ve recruited against him and lost and I’ve recruited against him and won, and it hasn’t changed things. (But) this isn’t about a friendship. This is about a profession.<br /> <br /> “Yeah, friendship is some of it, but it’s not all of it. We lost a good coach. We got a coach that beat me and my team more often than not, and I just … I can’t figure that out.”<br /> <br /> Weber actually attended tournament semifinal games as Izzo’s guest and sat with Michigan State fans. He was seated next to former NBA coach <strong>Flip Saunders</strong>.<br /> <br /> Illinois missed the NCAA tourney just four times in a 25-season stretch from 1983-2007, and Weber had a hand in the tail end of that, leading the Illini to the 2005 national championship game. Just this season, he logged wins over two top-10 teams (MSU and OSU) and posted a 10-0 start, the program’s best since the 2005-06 season. Also, guard <strong>Brandon Paul</strong>’s 43-point outburst in the win over the Buckeyes was the most by a Big Ten player in a league game since 1994.<br /> <br /> But, of course, Weber fell prey to the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately approach. His conference record his first three seasons in Champaign was 39-9. After that it slumped to 50-56. That was enough for new Illinois athletic director <strong>Mike Thomas</strong> to drop the axe, just as he did to UI football coach <strong>Ron Zook</strong>.<br /> <br /> Later on Friday, another Big Ten coach was sent packing.<br /> <br /> Nebraska athletic director <strong>Tom Osborne</strong> announced the firing of <strong>Doc Sadler</strong>, who just finished his sixth season with the Cornhuskers. Nebraska went 12-18 overall and just 4-14 in its first year in the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> Sadler had signed a two-year contract extension last year that ran through 2015-16 and his salary was $900,000 a year. His contract calls for him to be paid as much as $66,667 a month until he finds another job – up to a total of $3.4 million.<br /> <br /> “Doc and I both felt this season could be his best with an experienced team returning, and with new facilities we could start moving into a brighter era for Nebraska basketball,” Osborne said in a statement released by the school. “However, injuries, a difficult schedule and competing in a new conference has made the season even more difficult.<br /> <br /> “Unfortunately, I feel the program has lost momentum which makes recruiting and fan support more problematic, thus the change.”<br /> <br /> Sadler was a former coach at UTEP, where he led the Miners to an NCAA and NIT appearance in two seasons. Nebraska made three trips to the NIT under Sadler.<br /> <br /> He teared up repeatedly during a press conference confirming his departure and even had to leave the podium at one point. When he finally composed himself and finished up his address, he asked if reporters had any questions but those on hand asked none.<br /> <br /> Nebraska dealt with injuries to several players this season, most notably big men <strong>Andre Almeida</strong> and <strong>Jorge Brian Diaz</strong>, as well as freshman guard <strong>Corey Hilliard</strong>.<br /> <br /> “What went wrong?” Sadler posed. “Besides three of my top six players not playing all year because of injury? I think that’s about it. People don’t want to hear any excuses or about injuries, but they are the facts.<br /> <br /> “I won more basketball games in my first five years at Nebraska than any other coach did in that time, so I don’t hang my head.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Bubble Burst</strong><br /> <br /> With Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana all in the top 15 in the polls entering the week of the tournament, and with Purdue owning 20 overall wins and a winning conference mark, the Big Ten had a lock on six spots in the NCAA Tournament.<br /> <br /> A seventh could be added to the field in one of two ways: a team in the lower half of the standings coming out of nowhere to win the tournament and earn the league’s automatic berth or Northwestern winning a game or two in Indianapolis. The latter not only seemed more feasible, the Wildcats had backers all around the country as they appeared to be on the doorstep of their first-ever NCAA tourney appearance.<br /> <br /> NU entered town 18-12 overall and 8-10 in the Big Ten. In their last five regular-season games the Wildcats posted wins over Minnesota, Penn State and the two losses were acceptable: an overtime defeat vs. Michigan and a two-point setback against Ohio State.<br /> <br /> Another win over Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament and decent showing against a high seed on Friday probably would have been good enough – but it didn’t happen.<br /> <br /> The Wildcats went ice-cold down the stretch – in fact, they made just one field goal in the final 9:53 of regulation – and allowed the Golden Gophers to push the game to overtime. As cruel fate would have it, more missed opportunities in the extra session led to a 75-68 Minnesota victory.<br /> <br /> NU was outscored 6-0 in the final minute of OT, leaving the ’Cats to wonder if their NCAA dreams had melted away. In the somber Bankers Life Fieldhouse locker room, though, they looked for a sliver of hope.<br /> <br /> “This is one game on our resume,” said forward <strong>John Shurna</strong>, the leading scorer in the Big Ten this season. “Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way. We’ll put up our entire resume against these other teams and see how it plays out Sunday. We’ve been on the bubble the entire time. This is a game we wanted to win to put ourselves in but a loss doesn’t mean we are out.”<br /> <br /> Still, it was difficult for the Wildcats not to look at the game ruefully.<br /> <br /> “It was turnovers down the stretch that really killed us,” NU ‘s <strong>Drew Crawford</strong> said. “We had a couple mix-ups that really hurt us in the fourth quarter and overtime. You can’t do that and win a game. We were making dumb plays and they just capitalized on it.” Crawford then was asked what it would mean to be part of a historical team – the first in school history to go to the Big Dance.<br /> <br /> “It’s not like we affect the history, so we really don’t think about that too much,” he said. “But we wanted to be able to do it. I’m hoping we still have that chance.”<br /> <br /> On Selection Sunday, however, Northwestern’s name was nowhere to be found in the NCAA Tournament bracket. The Wildcats instead joined Big Ten brethren Minnesota and Iowa in the NIT.<br /> <br /> <strong>Tourney Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * The battle between Iowa and Illinois on the first day was the first between the teams in the Big Ten Tournament. The Illini had only played three previous times on Thursday of the tourney and were 3-0 in such contests before the three-point loss to the Hawkeyes.<br /> <br /> * Iowa and Michigan State entered their quarterfinal matchup with a 2-2 mark against each other in the tournament and nearly identical overall records in the event: Iowa 14-12 and MSU 15-12. However, their encounter on Friday was no contest. The Spartans won 92-75.<br /> <br /> * Michigan State’s Izzo is the only league coach to have been on the sidelines for every year of the Big Ten Tournament, which began in 1998. MSU won the title in 1999 and 2000, but hadn’t advanced to the tourney finals since the latter championship until this year. The win tied Izzo with OSU’s <strong>Thad Matta</strong> for the most tournament titles with three.<br /> <br /> * Ohio State set a record by reaching the championship game for a fourth consecutive year. In the process, Buford became the only Big Ten player ever to play in four tournament title games.<br /> <br /> * <strong>Bo Ryan</strong> became Wisconsin’s all-time winningest coach with the Badgers’ victory over Indiana in the quarterfinals. It marked Ryan’s 266th win since taking over in Madison.<br /> <br /> * Green was named the BTT’s Most Outstanding Player. He averaged 15.7 points and 11.7 rebounds per game in MSU’s wins over Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio State. He’s the first Spartan to win the honor since <strong>Morris Peterson</strong> in 2000.<br /> <br /> * Joining Green on the All-Tournament team were teammate Wood, Sullinger and Thomas of Ohio State, and Minnesota point guard <strong>Andre Hollins</strong>.<br /> <br /> * Michigan came into the postseason with a best turnover margin (+7.0 per game) of any league team. However, in the loss to OSU, that number flipped. The Wolverines compiled 18 miscues to Ohio State’s 11.<br /> <br /> * The total tournament attendance was announced at 107,737, a new record.<br /> <br /> * Next year’s event shifts back to the United Center in Chicago then will flip-flop between Indy and Chicago the following two years. Delany said the conference would like to appoint a permanent site after that.<br /> <br /> <strong>The Good</strong><br /> <br /> * The performance of Wisconsin freshman <strong>Rob Wilson</strong> in the Badgers’ quarterfinal defeat of Indiana. Normally a bit player off Ryan’s bench, the Cleveland-area product burned IU for a career-high 30 points. The 6-4 guard canned 11 of 16 shots including 7 of 10 from long range.<br /> <br /> * The defensive work of OSU point guard <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> against Michigan counterpart Burke, who finished 1 of 11 from the field with eight turnovers. Simply put, a clinic.<br /> <br /> * The three-pointer Buford made from the corner with Michigan coach <strong>John Beilein</strong> standing directly behind him. When the ball got swung to Buford, he pulled up with Beilein in his back pocket and on the court – yet still swished the shot to provide Ohio State with a 26-12 lead.<br /> <br /> * Michigan State’s first half on Friday. In the Spartans’ first appearance since a heartbreaking loss to Ohio State in the regular-season finale, they showed no hangover effect. In fact, they put together perhaps their best 20 minutes of the season, blasting out to a 55-39 lead over Iowa by canning 21 of 30 shots (70.0 percent) and committing just four turnovers. Two of the miscues were offensive fouls.<br /> <br /> * The upside of Indiana center <strong>Cody Zeller</strong>. Already hailed as the league’s Freshman of the Year according to the coaches, the 6-11 Zeller get more impressive in person every single time. He runs the floor like a lithe shooting forward, has terrific hands and simply plays within the confines of the offense. He was IU’s leading scorer during the regular season at 15.4 points per game, a figure that may just go up as long as he’s in crimson and cream.<br /> <br /> * Penn State guard <strong>Tim Frazier</strong> didn’t have a great shooting performance against Indiana, but it’s still astounding how much he does for his team. The 6-1 junior led the Big Ten in assists in the regular season at 6.3 per game and also was second in scoring at 18.6 points per game. He also was the team’s leader in rebounds (4.8) and steals (2.3). Against the Hoosiers, he scored a game-high 26 points, grabbed two rebounds and recorded four assists and five steals. PSU’s next leading scorer in the game was Trey Lewis with 11 points.<br /> <br /> * The work of lead official <strong>Terry Wymer</strong> in the Northwestern-Minnesota game. He was on top of the all the key calls and at one point told baby-faced center <strong>Elliott Eliason</strong> of Minnesota to get up and not say a word when he sensed the frosh was going to roll around on the floor in protest of a call.<br /> <br /> <strong>The Bad</strong><br /> <br /> * Minnesota’s <strong>Chip Armelin</strong> going in for the wrong player after head coach <strong>Tubby Smith</strong> summoned him at a crucial moment in overtime against Michigan. “What are you doing?!” Smith barked.<br /> <br /> * The histrionics of Indiana forward <strong>Derek Elston</strong>. A rough-and-tumble power forward who wore a facemask for much of the season, Elston hit a three to stretch a 16-point lead to 19 yet still felt compelled to hold up three fingers, pump his fist multiple times and then start beating his chest to remind everyone how much “heart” it takes to make a wide-open trey against Penn State’s zone defense.<br /> <br /> * Penn State. OK, that sounds mean, but the Nittany Lions weren’t any good all season and didn’t alter their status in Indy. PSU starts four babies – three freshmen and one sophomore – with Frazier, so there is hope for a brighter future. But right now there is no experience, skill or standout asset about this team after No. 23.<br /> <br /> * The (presumably) drunken idiot Michigan fan who kept yelling “Jimmy!” at the top of his lungs at Big Ten Network analyst and former Buckeye <strong>Jim Jackson</strong> while he was live on the air after the final game on Thursday. I’m guessing a 1992 Fab Five reference would have been made if Jackson would have turned to acknowledge him. However, J.J. was working.<br /> <br /> * The technical Wymer called on Purdue coach <strong>Matt Painter</strong> as Thomas was gliding in for a fastbreak layup. Wymer didn’t like what Painter was saying in his ear in protest and immediately bipped him. The problem is the knee-jerk reaction wiped away a breakaway basket by the Buckeyes.<br /> <br /> <strong>The Ugly</strong><br /> <br /> * <strong>Verdell Jones</strong>’ knee injury in the second game on Thursday. The 6-5 senior went down in a clump in the first half against Penn State and was writhing on the ground in obvious agony. He refused to be carted away but wasn’t able to put any weight on his right leg when he finally left the court. Word came out later that evening that Jones had suffered an ACL tear.<br /> <br /> * Illinois guard Paul, who has a tendency to be on either end of the teeter-totter, definitely left town with a handful of crumbs. Paul scored just four points in 37 minutes against Iowa and was 2 for 11 from the field, including 0 of 4 from behind the arc. Even worse, he was credited with seven turnovers.<br /> <br /> * <strong>Russell Byrd</strong>’s back-to-back airballs while the Spartans were just trying to put a wrap on a big quarterfinal win over Iowa.<br /> <br /> * Green’s shooting percentage against the Buckeyes this season. Including a 4-for-15 showing in the BTT title game, the Big Ten Player of the Year ended up 15 for 49 (30.6 percent) from the field in three games vs. the co-champs.<br /> <br /> <strong>Quips &amp; Quotes</strong><br /> <br /> <strong>* Izzo on the firing of Weber –</strong> “My wife and I shed a tear this morning over it, and it was half for Bruce and half for my profession. I’ve known Bruce Weber since the day I was a grad assistant. There’s not a classier, better guy. And I don’t want to just hear better guy – better coach.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Wymer to OSU assistant coach Jeff Boals after the Buckeye bench during a particularly heated moment of the championship game –</strong> “You need to sit your ass down right now.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Penn State coach Patrick Chambers to Ross Travis after the freshmen forward missed inside for the second straight possession against Indiana –</strong> “F&amp;#!ing finish that! That’s two layups!”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Izzo on Adreian Payne’s maturation as a player –</strong> “You know, I think he’s growing. I think all sophomores … we’re in such a screwed up society, where we try to speed everything up. And normal maturation process of kids is freshman and sophomore years, most of them take to get there. And we’re in the Kentucky mode now where every freshman and sophomore is supposed to be at a certain level.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Izzo on MSU freshman Russell Byrd –</strong> “Unfortunately, it isn’t going to happen this year like we’d hoped, but he is getting a little better. And if he sets his feet, then someday he’s going to be great, great, you know, I’m hoping in the (Jon) Diebler mode, a guy that can really just stroke it if he sets his feet and gets himself ready.<br /> But Russ’ mind is going a thousand RPMs and his body is going about 10. The coordination of it just isn’t there yet.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Izzo on why he’s a fan of Indiana freshman center Cody Zeller –</strong> “Nothing bothers him. He does not get frustrated. You could probably punch him in the mouth or you could kiss him and it doesn’t seem to affect him either way.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* UW’s Wilson on his 30-point explosion against Indiana –</strong> “The weight of the ball felt like it was going in today. I don’t remember that feeling in a long time. I don’t know the last time I’ve been in the interview room.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Ryan after a reporter asked him about the Badgers’ struggles in the tournament –</strong> “Where were you between ’04 and ’08? Were you doing your job here?<br /> <br /> <strong>* Matta on Michigan drawing Ohio University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament well aware that Beilein and UM football coach Brady Hoke refer to Ohio State as “Ohio” –</strong> “That’s going to be really confusing for them. I don’t know, maybe they can borrow whatever uniform we’re not wearing. That is irony as its finest right there.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Thomas, a sophomore forward for the Buckeyes, on whether he planned to leave for the NBA after this season –</strong> “No comment. I mean, right now I’m just focusing on the team and then trying to get to the national championship and going from there. I’m playing well, and that’s great for the team and on my part, but I’m just thinking about this team right now.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Green on the rematch with Ohio State after losing teammate Branden Dawson to injury –</strong> “You lose a Branden Dawson and everybody’s worried that William Buford gonna go off. If I look at the stat sheet, Buford finished with 11 points. He had 10 at the half.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Northwestern coach Bill Carmody on the agony of losing yet another close game –</strong> “It’s just every emotion you think, the staff and the players. It’s beyond frustrating. It’s just very hard right now. I don’t know what else to say. I thought the effort was there tonight, it just didn’t work out. The ball didn’t bounce right for us.”<br /> <br /> <strong>* Izzo on Michigan State being sent to Columbus for its first NCAA Tournament assignment –</strong> “I think it will be good. We’ve had a lot of Ohio players. I think the people there will pull for us. I think we have a good relationship with them.”<br /> Jeff Rapp 966fb6b3-f407-4fc4-a1ab-d7b03bcd5dd8 Mon, 12 Mar 2012 16:12:00 GMT Fear The Boilers With March Madness upon us and all the fervor surrounding the Big Ten as a power conference in both men’s and women’s basketball, one member school decided to fire up a little reminder.<br /> <br /> In case you had forgotten, Purdue University knows a thing or two about roundball.<br /> <br /> The men ended up finishing sixth in the league standings and lost their regular-season finale to rival Indiana, which isn’t exactly headline-inducing. However, many believe head coach <strong>Matt Painter</strong> did an admirable job this season.<br /> <br /> In fact, prior to the loss to IU, the Boilermakers won five of six games including an upset of ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor to secure a 20-win season and winning mark in arguably the best conference in the country. That’s pretty good production for a team that lost superstars <strong>JaJuan Johnson</strong> and <strong>E’Twaun Moore</strong> to the NBA and also dealt with the dismissal of junior guard <strong>Kelsey Barlow</strong> due to a violation of team rules.<br /> <br /> Purdue still holds the Big Ten standard with 22 league titles and has the only men’s basketball program in the conference that owns a break-even or winning mark against every other member school.<br /> <br /> The women, meanwhile, also came to the forefront on Sunday when they cut down the nets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis after triumphing at the Big Ten Tournament in thrilling fashion.<br /> <br /> Rranked No. 21 coming into the week, PU got 19 points from <strong>KK Houser</strong> and hung on to defeat No. 24 Nebraska 74-70 in two overtimes in the tourney final.<br /> <br /> Houser, ironically who hails from Lincoln, Neb., also had five steals against her hometown team. <strong>Chantel Poston</strong> had 10 points and 11 rebounds, and <strong>Sam Ostarello</strong> added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Boilermakers (24-8), who won the tournament for the eighth time in 17 years.<br /> <br /> The win was a bit of a payback as Purdue lost its regular-season matchup with the Cornhuskers, 93-89 in triple-overtime.<br /> <br /> Nebraska, which had dumped Ohio State in the semifinals, also left Indy at 24-8. <strong>Lindsey Moore</strong> scored 27 points and <strong>Jordan Hooper</strong> added 25 for the ’Huskers, who caught fire during the week. They had lost four of six heading into the tournament but averaged 82 points in their three wins to reach the final. The Big Ten newbies came up just short in their bid to become the first women’s team to win the conference tournament with four wins in four days.<br /> <br /> At the end of the first overtime, Nebraska’s <strong>Kaitlyn Burke</strong> missed an open three-pointer with fives seconds remaining and the score tied.<br /> <br /> Purdue entered the postseason as the 4-seed for the conference tournament. In the semifinals on Saturday, the Boilermakers eliminated top-seeded Penn State. <strong>Brittany Rayburn</strong>, who scored nine points and hit the game winner against the Nittany Lions, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.<br /> <br /> Penn State earned the top seed for the fifth time in program history after winning the outright regular-season crown with a 13-3 mark in conference play. The Lady Lions will head to the NCAA Tournament with an overall mark of 24-6<br /> <br /> Iowa, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue all put together 11-5 conference records, creating a four-way tie for second place. The Buckeyes earned the 2-seed by virtue of their 3-0 combined record against the other three teams. However, OSU could not add to its run of three consecutive tournament titles after losing grip of a double-digit lead in the first half against Nebraska.<br /> <br /> Six conference teams have taken home the Big Ten Tournament title since the event’s inception in 1995, led by Purdue’s record seven titles (1998-99-00-03-04-07-08). Ohio State is next with four tournament titles (2006-09-10-11) while Iowa (1997-01) and Penn State (1995-96) have each won the title twice. Indiana earned the crown in 2002 and Michigan State took home the title in 2005.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten sold all-session passes for $70 and single-session tickets were either $10 or $16 depending upon seat location.<br /> <br /> Located in downtown Indianapolis – and formerly known as Conseco Fieldhouse – Bankers Life Fieldhouse also will host the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament March 8-11 with an unprecedented four games on the first day and four more for the Friday quarterfinals. CBS will nationally televise the Saturday semifinals beginning at 1:40 p.m. Eastern and the Sunday championship game beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.<br /> <br /> Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster at or by calling (800) 745-3000, and through the Bankers Life Fieldhouse box office.<br /> <br /> Stay tuned to for a preview of the men’s tournament including predictions for each game.<br /> <br /> For a look at postseason awards for Big Ten men’s basketball, click <a href="">here</a>.<br /> <br /> <strong>Bucks And Wolves Tops Again</strong><br /> <br /> After <strong>Urban Meyer</strong> was hired as Ohio State’s new football coach and <strong>Brady Hoke</strong> was a smashing success in his first year heading up the program at Michigan, Big Ten fans had reason to believe that the rivalry between the two schools and their level of play would soon be on the rise and back to an elite level.<br /> <br /> If the results of 2012 recruiting are any indication, The Game is about to be loaded with quality players on both sides once again. In fact, according to, only two Big Ten schools closed on classes that ranked among the top 25 in the country – Ohio State at No. 6 and Michigan at No. 7.<br /> <br /> Rivals, like many sites that analyze football recruiting, tabbed Alabama’s class as tops in the country followed by Florida State, Texas, Florida, and Georgia. Joining Ohio State and Michigan in the top 10 were Miami (Fla.), Clemson, and Notre Dame.<br /> <br /> The rest of the Rivals top 25 is as follows: 11) Oklahoma, 12) Stanford, 13) Southern Cal, 14) LSU, 15) Texas A&amp;M, 16) South Carolina, 17) Auburn, 18) Oregon, 19) UCLA, 20) Texas Tech, 21) Tennessee, 22) California, 23) Washington, 24) Rutgers, and 25) Virginia Tech.<br /> <br /> Meyer’s initial OSU class was headlined by bookend defensive ends <strong>Noah Spence</strong> and <strong>Adolphus Washington</strong>, each considered five-star talents. Analysts were amazed that he was able to land the top haul in the Big Ten considering Ohio State’s current plight with NCAA sanctions including a postseason ban that goes into effect this year.<br /> <br /> Conversely, Hoke and his staff pinned down 20 of their commitments in the spring and summer prior to the 2011 season, although four-star running back <strong>Dennis Norfleet</strong> was added on National Signing Day. The class is balanced and loaded. Defensive tackle <strong>Ondre Pipkins</strong> is among those expected to make an immediate impact.<br /> <br /> The remainder of the Big Ten was ranked thusly by 3) Nebraska, 4) Purdue, 5) Michigan State, 6) Iowa, 7) Penn State, 8) Northwestern, 9) Illinois, 10) Wisconsin, 11) Minnesota, 12) Indiana.<br /> <br /> The Hoosiers not only ranked last compared to their league brethren, they also were left to lament the loss of in-state quarterback <strong>Gunner Kiel</strong>, a five-star talent who originally committed to IU. However, Indiana was put in topflight company when LSU also was spurned by Kiel, who finally signed with Notre Dame.<br /> <br /> <strong>Recruiting Tension</strong><br /> <br /> Indiana coach <strong>Kevin Wilson</strong>, who lost grip of Kiel, wasn’t the only Big Ten coach who came away less than elated from the entire experience.<br /> <br /> New Penn State coach <strong>Bill O’Brien</strong> – who left his post as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots to help guide the Lions through troubled waters – blasted critics of the PSU class.<br /> <br /> “I could care less about player rankings,” O’Brien said on conference call from the Patriots team hotel in Indianapolis the week of the Super Bowl. “What I care about is that we found the right fit for Penn State with all these prospects.”<br /> <br /> has Penn State’s class ranked No. 49 nationally and No. 6 in the Big Ten, while ranks the group No. 50 nationally and, as previously mentioned, No. 7 in the conference.<br /> <br /> Rivals only ranks two prospects in the class, wide receiver <strong>Eugene Lewis</strong> and defensive tackle <strong>Jamil Pollard</strong>, as recruits worthy of at least four stars. Scout had only Lewis attaining a four-star rating and everyone else falling in line as a three-star or lower.<br /> <br /> But O’Brien’s testy response was nothing compared to the firestorm that surrounded Meyer’s recruiting tactics. The former Florida coach, who cited the dog-eat-dog approach of the SEC as a concern when he took time away from coaching, came out guns a-blazin’ on the recruiting trail and actually flipped no less than seven prospects who previously had committed elsewhere.<br /> <br /> The two that caused the most reaction were offensive lineman <strong>Kyle Dodson</strong> – an original Wisconsin commitment who ended up announcing a change of heart and inking a letter-of-intent with OSU on signing day – and defensive end&nbsp; <strong>Se’Von Pittman</strong> of Canton McKinley, who appeared to be a solid verbal to Michigan State for months but changed his mind and opted for the homestate Buckeyes.<br /> <br /> “Se’Von Pittman had a relationship with <strong>Luke Fickell</strong>,” Meyer explained as the keynote speaker of the Ohio High School Football Coaches Association clinic in February. “I think we helped it when I made that phone call. He recruited us after a little bit. The phone call went something like this: ‘Are you interested?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Come on down for a visit.’<br /> <br /> “I get a phone call the next few days. ‘Come on up, we’ve got good news for you.’ Can’t say I had a lot to do with that other than, Hey, let’s go. He always wanted to be an Ohio State Buckeye.<br /> <br /> In response to comments by Wisconsin head coach <strong>Bret Bielema</strong>, Michigan State head coach <strong>Mark Dantonio</strong> and MSU defensive coordinator <strong>Pat Narduzzi</strong>, Meyer also reportedly said, “You’re pissed because we went after a committed guy? Guess what, we’ve got nine guys who better go do it again. Do it a little harder next time.”<br /> <br /> Bielema made pointed remarks after signing his class, which forced Big Ten commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong> to bring up the issue while meeting with the football coaches in Chicago days later and asking them to play nice.<br /> <br /> That discussion was somewhat productive.<br /> <br /> “There are a few things that happened early on that I made people aware of that I didn’t want to see in this league,” Bielema said, “that I had seen take place in other leagues, other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices that are illegal.”<br /> <br /> Bielema went on to mention Meyer specifically.<br /> <br /> “I was very up front and was very pointed to the fact, actually reached out to Coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him,” Bielema said. “The situation got rectified.”<br /> <br /> Meyer, though, doesn’t sound like someone who is backing down.<br /> <br /> “We’re hired to go after recruits as hard as we can,” Meyer said. “I mean as hard as we can.”<br /> <br /> OSU also received signatures from two players who originally committed to Notre Dame – including well-rated OL <strong>Taylor Decker</strong> – and three who once had pegged Penn State. It’s long been suggested that there’s an unwritten agreement within the Big Ten that once a recruit commits to a school, all other Big Ten coaches will leave the player alone.<br /> <br /> Two coaches who steadfastly adhered to that policy, Dantonio and former Ohio State coach <strong>Jim Tressel</strong>, were especially careful about how they contacted prospects that were committed to MSU and OSU.<br /> <br /> “(The agreement) has been between the coaches,” Narduzzi said while speaking at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club in Canton, Ohio, according to the Canton Repository. “Jim Tressel and Mark Dantonio would never call or talk to each other’s commitments. People coach Dantonio knows well don’t come in and take players away. When you do, you lose friendships over that.<br /> <br /> “It sets a tone and starts a recruiting rivalry. I guess it’s fair game. You don’t want it to be that way, but that’s how it is.”<br /> <br /> Meyer intimated that he believes there is an ethical way to recruit committed players.<br /> <br /> “There are some people that say, ‘How can you go and recruit a young guy that’s committed to another school?’ ” he said. “You ask a question, ‘Are you interested?’ If they say no, you move on. If they say, ‘Yes, very interested,’ then you throw that hook out there. If they’re interested, absolutely, especially if they are from your home state.<br /> <br /> “Is it gratifying to go a take a guy from another school? Not at all. Is it gratifying to know that we got the two offensive tackles that we went out (for) from day one? That amazes me.”<br /> <br /> Furthering his point, Meyer added, “We went after a young guy in Cleveland, Ohio. I asked him if he was interested in Ohio State. He said no. I wished him the best of luck, do well in school, move on. If a kid isn’t interested, we’re done. We move on.”<br /> <br /> Meyer likely was referring to five-star OL <strong>Kyle Kalis</strong> of Lakewood (Ohio) St. Edward, who signed with and pledges his allegiance to Michigan.<br /> <br /> Meyer did receive some support during the controversy, including a comment from, of all people, Wisconsin athletic director <strong>Barry Alvarez</strong>.<br /> <br /> “Recruiting is recruiting until they sign,” the AD said. “If we had somebody who changed their mind and came to us, that’s OK.”<br /> <br /> Ohio State AD Gene Smith also had his coach’s back.<br /> <br /> “I am disappointed that negative references have been made about our football coaches, and particularly head coach Urban Meyer regarding recruiting,” Smith said in a statement. “In our league appropriate protocol, if you have concerns, is to share those concerns with your athletic director. Then your AD will make the determination on the appropriate communication from that point forward. The ADs in our league are professionals and communicate with each other extremely well. Urban Meyer and his staff have had a compliance conscience since they have arrived.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Hot Streaks</strong><br /> <br /> Northwestern forward <strong>John Shurna</strong>, the Big Ten’s leading scorer this season, was particularly warm in wins over Nebraska and Illinois at the outset of the Wildcats’ February schedule.<br /> <br /> He played all but two minutes in those victories and scored 52 points on 20-of-28 shooting (71.4 percent). He also was 5 of 10 from three-point range in the two contests.<br /> <br /> Penn State leading scorer <strong>Tim Frazier</strong> had a four-game blitz this year in which he scored 81 points, which is 37.2 percent of the Nittany Lions’ total points in that span. The junior guard also added 17 assists in the four games.<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s <strong>Deshaun Thomas</strong> was held under double digits in a home loss to Michigan State on Feb. 11 but caught fire after that in the Buckeyes’ remaining six league games. He scored 12 points in a win at Minnesota on Feb. 14 then followed that up with 25 points – and a career-high 13 rebounds – against Michigan on Feb. 18. He closed out the regular season with 19 points, 23, 19 and 12 to give him a scoring average of 18.3 ppg in those final six games.<br /> <br /> In those game, the 6-7 left forward hit 41 of 76 shots, good for 53.9 percent from the field.<br /> <br /> <strong>Quick Hitters</strong><br /> <br /> * Ohio State’s victory at Wisconsin was the Buckeyes’ 20th of the season, giving <strong>Thad Matta</strong>’s Buckeyes their eighth consecutive 20-win season. That is the longest active streak in the Big Ten and also the second-longest in conference history, trailing only Illinois, which did it nine times (1983-91).<br /> <br /> * On Feb. 17, Painter announced that Barlow had been dismissed from the program and that junior guard/forward <strong>D.J. Byrd</strong> had been suspended for the team’s subsequent game against Michigan State. Both actions were a result of violation of team rules.<br /> <br /> “This is an unfortunate situation, but we will move forward as a program,” Painter said. “We expect our student-athletes to live up to a high standard, and when their actions become detrimental to the program, there are consequences.”<br /> <br /> The West Lafayette Police Department is investigating allegations that Byrd assaulted a bouncer at Where Else bar near campus. Byrd, 21, was under suspicion of public intoxication at the time of the incident.<br /> <br /> A spokesperson for local police said Barlow had been at Where Else earlier but either left or got kicked out of the establishment. Barlow then came back, believing he left his wallet there. Where Else, however, refused to let him back in.<br /> <br /> Barlow left and returned later accompanied by Byrd, teammate <strong>Robbie Hummel</strong> and other members of the basketball team. This resulted in some type of confrontation, during which Byrd is suspected of assaulting a bouncer.<br /> <br /> Byrd was booked into the Tippecanoe County Jail and released five hours later.<br /> <br /> * Several Big Ten players were named as members of the United States Basketball Writers Association All-District team for District V, which includes student-athletes in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The USBWA unveiled all of the all-district coaches and players on March 6.<br /> <br /> The District V winners were as follows:<br /> <br /> <strong>PLAYER OF THE YEAR</strong><br /> Draymond Green, Michigan State<br /> <br /> <strong>COACH OF THE YEAR</strong><br /> Tom Izzo, Michigan State<br /> <br /> <strong>ALL-DISTRICT TEAM</strong><br /> William Buford, Ohio State<br /> Trey Burke, Michigan<br /> Jae Crowder, Marquette<br /> Draymond Green, Michigan State<br /> Robbie Hummel, Purdue<br /> Darius Johnson-Odom, Marquette<br /> John Shurna, Northwestern<br /> Jared Sullinger, Ohio State<br /> Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin<br /> Cody Zeller, Indiana<br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp 244c8642-fbb3-4194-a0fa-09122be28d31 Thu, 08 Mar 2012 15:00:36 GMT Record 10 B1G Teams Go Bowling Most observers labeled Big Ten football as “down” again this season, and it would be hard to argue the point given the hardship beset on marquee programs Ohio State and Penn State and the disappointment in Illinois that led to the ouster of head coach <strong>Ron Zook</strong>.<br /> <br /> Plus, just when it looked like Wisconsin was a legitimate national championship contender, the Badgers lost consecutive games in the final minute on desperation touchdown passes by Michigan State’s <strong>Kirk Cousins</strong> and Ohio State’s <strong>Braxton Miller</strong>.<br /> <br /> And when the Spartans went to the head of the class and provided the conference with a team that looked ready for the top 10, they also faltered, losing in grand fashion at Nebraska.<br /> <br /> Still, MSU held onto the lead in the Legends Division and Wisconsin emerged from the rubble in the Leaders Division, setting up a rather tasty rematch in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.<br /> <br /> Many followers of the league were just hoping for a competitive and entertaining tilt with the two teams battling in prime time on FOX on Dec. 3. They got it – and then some.<br /> <br /> In a highly dramatic affair in which the Badgers battled from behind, fell in another hole, took a late lead and then held on thanks in large part to a horribly ill-timed MSU penalty, UW managed to produce a 42-39 Rose Bowl-clinching victory. Perhaps the last time two conference teams were on such a high stage was when No. 1 Ohio State held off rival and No. 2 Michigan in 2006. The score of that game – 42-39.<br /> <br /> Despite the turmoil surrounding some of the top programs, commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong> at least could hang his hat on a record 10 conference teams advancing to bowl games, including troubled Ohio State and Illinois, and doubly troubled Penn State.<br /> <br /> The previous Big Ten record for bowl teams was eight in 2003 and 2007. The 2011-12 bowl season marks the seventh straight season that seven or more Big Ten programs have earned postseason berths, continuing the longest streak in conference history.<br /> <br /> Including the coming bowl season, conference programs will have made 74 bowl appearances over a 10-year span (2002-11) and 266 appearances all-time.<br /> <br /> And even though no Big Ten teams were able to remain in national championship contention, two of them – Wisconsin, which is headed to the Rose Bowl, and Michigan, which will play in the Sugar Bowl – will be showcased in BCS bowls. That marks the 10th time in the 14-year history of the BCS that two Big Ten teams have participated in a top-five postseason game.<br /> <br /> Other current conference institutions to play in BCS games are Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Purdue. The Big Ten’s total of eight BCS participants ranks second only to the Pac-12, which added Colorado and Utah this season and now has nine different schools with BCS appearances.<br /> <br /> The only other conferences with six or more current schools boasting at least one BCS berth are the ACC and SEC with seven teams each and the Big 12 and Big East with six participants each.<br /> <br /> For the seventh consecutive season, at least two of the Big Ten bowl matchups will be virtual road games, with conference teams facing schools from the state in which the bowl will be played.<br /> <br /> One such matchup, of course, pits Ohio State against Florida in the Gator Bowl. EverBank Field is located in Jacksonville, Fla., just a short drive away from UF’s Gainesville campus.<br /> <br /> Also, Penn State will be facing a highly successful Houston squad in the TicketCity Bowl the same afternoon. That contest will be staged at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.<br /> <br /> The nation, no doubt, will be interested to see how interim head coaches <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> of Ohio State and <strong>Tom Bradley</strong> of Penn State fare, and Michigan State and Nebraska also will be on display on Jan. 2. However, the biggest stage for a Big Ten team will be the Rose Bowl.<br /> <br /> The Badgers lost to TCU in Pasadena last January and they are the underdog once again as they face Pac-12 champ Oregon this time. However, UW will have <strong>Russell Wilson</strong> at the controls of one of the nation’s top offenses and can’t be taken lightly.<br /> <br /> “They do a good job with play-action and protecting their quarterback,” Fickell said of Wilson back in October. “Ultimately it comes down to that with the quarterback. You have to find ways to get to him, whether it’s picking a ball off, sacking him, getting hits on him, getting guys in front of his face. There’s all different kind of ways, but most importantly you have to be able to affect the quarterback.”<br /> <br /> Can a sometimes soft Oregon defense rattle Wilson or can the Ducks survive the more comfortable way – in a shootout?<br /> <br /> We shall see.<br /> <br /> The following is a sneak peek at all 10 bowl games involving Big Ten teams, starting with Tuesday night’s matchup between Purdue and MAC counterpart Western Michigan:<br /> <br /> <strong>Little Caesars Pizza Bowl<br /> Purdue (6-6) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Tuesday, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN2)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> Ford Field; Detroit<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Purdue by 2½<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Both teams unranked<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> Purdue will play in its 16th bowl game in history but first since 2007, when the Boilermakers defeated Central Michigan in the Motor City Bowl, where it defeated Central Michigan in a wild 51-48 party. Top tackler <strong>Dwayne Beckford</strong> (suspension after drunken driving arrest) and top runner <strong>Ralph Bolden</strong> (injured) will not play for PU, which will make matters tougher. Plus, the Boilers will try to slow down Western QB <strong>Alex Carder</strong>, who threw for 3,434 yards and 28 touchdowns this season. Western was eighth nationally in passing yards per game.<br /> <br /> <strong>Insight Bowl<br /> Oklahoma (9-3) vs. Iowa (7-5)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Friday, 10 p.m. (ESPN)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> Sun Devil Stadium; Tempe, Ariz.<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Oklahoma by 14<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Oklahoma, 19th; Iowa, unranked<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> The Hawkeyes, who had a break-even mark of 4-4 in the Big Ten this season, have been rewarded by having to face the nation’s preseason No. 1 team. Also, Oklahoma head coach <strong>Bob Stoops</strong> will want to take down his alma mater and post another 10-win season. Iowa, though, has played admirably in the postseason and owns an overall mark of 14-10-1 in bowls. The Hawkeyes were 27-24 winners over Missouri in last year’s Insight Bowl. The Big Ten is 3-4 in the Insight. Oklahoma hasn’t quite reached its potential offensively, mostly because of the loss of star receiver <strong>Ryan Broyles</strong>, but QB <strong>Landry Jones</strong> still managed to compile 4,302 passing yards and 28 touchdowns. Plus top Iowa rusher <strong>Marcus Coker</strong> has been suspended.<br /> <br /> <strong>Meinke Car Care Bowl<br /> Texas A&amp;M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Saturday, noon (ESPN)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> Reliant Stadium; Houston<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Texas A&amp;M by 10<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Both teams unranked<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> The Wildcats actually will appear in their fourth straight bowl game for the first time in program history. It’s NU’s 10th bowl game overall. Illinois won the TicketCity last year by knocking off Baylor. A&amp;M is about to head off to the SEC and would like to do so on a good note. Houston’s <strong>Kevin Sumlin</strong> has been tabbed to replace the fired <strong>Mike Sherman</strong> but defensive coordinator <strong>Tim DeRuyter</strong> will handle the head coaching duties for the bowl game. The Aggies come into the postseason with four losses in the their last five games while Northwestern has won four of its last five. NU’s lone loss since a 2-5 start was a hardfought 31-17 setback vs. Michigan State.<br /> <br /> <strong>Fight Hunger Bowl<br /> UCLA (6-7) vs. Illinois (6-6)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Saturday, 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> AT&amp;T Park; San Francisco<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Illinois by 2½<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Both teams unranked<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> Even though this was not a season of notable success for the Illini, they will be compete in a bowl game for the second straight year for the first time since 1991-92. Like UI, the Bruins let go of their head coach as <strong>Rick Neuheisel</strong> wasn’t about to survive a 50-0 lashing at the hands of rival USC. The last time a Big Ten team played in a bowl game in the state of California that was not the Rose Bowl Game was when Michigan State competed in the Silicon Valley Classic in 2001. The Illini are 7-9 in bowl games all-time. UCLA leads the series between the two schools, 6-5. Illinois became the first team in I-A history to open 6-0 and finish 6-6. UCLA is the first-ever 6-7 team to make a bowl.<br /> <br /> <strong>TicketCity Bowl<br /> Penn State (9-3) vs. Houston (12-1)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Mon. Jan. 2; noon (ESPNU)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> Cotton Bowl Stadium; Dallas<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Houston by 6½ <br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Penn State, 24th; Houston, 20th<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> Penn State is bowl-bound for the 44th time in program history, the eighth most in college football history, but this probably won’t feel like a celebration. Scandal dating back more than a decade of alleged hideous acts by former defensive coordinator <strong>Jerry Sandusky</strong> has rocked Happy Valley and cost legendary coach <strong>Joe Paterno</strong> and others their jobs. After that story unfolded, the Nittany Lions lost grip of first place in the Leaders Division with losses to Nebraska and Wisconsin. Now they are the proverbial underdogs with record-setting QB <strong>Case Keenum</strong>&nbsp; (5,099 yards, 45 TDs) leading the Cougars. Penn State returns to the Lone Star State for a postseason game for the first time since 2007, when it defeated Texas A&amp;M in the Alamo Bowl. In its history, Penn State is undefeated in bowl games in Texas with a 4-0-1 mark. Houston was dumped by Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game, missing out on a chance at an undefeated season.<br /> <br /> <strong>Gator Bowl<br /> Florida (6-6) vs. Ohio State (6-6)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Mon., Jan. 2; 1 p.m. (ESPN2)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> EverBank Field; Jacksonville, Fla.<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Florida by 2½<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Both teams unranked<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> The last time the Buckeyes played in the Gator Bowl it signaled an inglorious ending to the career of 28-year head coach <strong>Woody Hayes</strong>, who infamously punched Clemson linebacker <strong>Charlie Bauman</strong> after a late interception. This time, OSU is not itself once again as the program has been hit with a multitude of NCAA sanctions and won’t usher in new head coach <strong>Urban Meyer</strong>, UF’s six-year coach, until after the game. Florida, meanwhile, will have the homefield advantage. Still, we’re talking about Ohio State here. Buckeye fans will travel just as they have for the school’s previous 41 bowl appearances. Plus, the offense finally some teeth in the loss at Michigan in late November, putting 34 points on the board and showing that freshman QB Miller and senior wideout <strong>DeVier Posey</strong> can be a lethal combination. Florida won the only previous meeting between the two schools on the gridiron, a dominant 41-14 decision in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game. The winner of the “Urban Bowl” will go out with a 7-6 record; the loser will suffer the ignominy of a 6-7 mark.<br /> <br /> <strong>Outback Bowl<br /> Georgia (10-3) vs. Michigan State (10-3)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Mon., Jan. 2; 1 p.m. (ABC)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, Fla.<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Georgia by 3½<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Georgia, 18th; Michigan State, 12th<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> The Spartans are going to have to get over their disappointment of a near-miss in the Big Ten title game or they could suffer a similar fate, or worse, in Tampa. Georgia comes into this matchup as one of the nation’s hottest teams and leads the series 2-0, including a 24-12 win over MSU in the Jan. 1, 2009 Capital One Bowl. The Bulldogs own a sterling mark 26-17-3 in bowl games while MSU is just 7-14. Still, Sparty has a chance to do well here and may want to prove a point considering it took down Michigan in the regular season and the Wolverines are the ones going to a BCS game. Seniors Cousins and WR <strong>B.J. Cunningham</strong> might be able to exploit Georgia with big plays the way LSU did in the SEC championship.<br /> <br /> <strong>Capital One Bowl<br /> Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Mon., Jan. 2; 1 p.m. (ESPN)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium; Orlando, Fla.<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> South Carolina by 2½<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Nebraska, 21st; South Carolina, 10th<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> Nebraska will make its 48th bowl appearance but first as a member of the Big Ten. The Cornhuskers certainly have a rough assignment as South Carolina, but the Big Ten actually holds a slight edge of 11-10 at the Capital One. Plus, the ’Huskers lead the all-time series 3-0, though the two teams haven’t met since 1987. The Gamecocks’ two defeats were against Auburn (16-13) and Arkansas (44-28) this season. They have won just four bowl games in 16 tries, two of them coming in back-to-back years at the expense of Ohio State following the 2000 and ’01 seasons. Nebraska will rely on the option running attack of QB <strong>Taylor Martinez</strong> and RB <strong>Rex Burkhead</strong> as well as the defensive prowess of star LB <strong>Lavonte David</strong>.<br /> <br /> <strong>Rose Bowl<br /> Oregon (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (11-2)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Mon., Jan. 2; 5 p.m. (ESPN)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> Rose Bowl; Pasadena, Calif.<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Oregon by 6<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Oregon, 6th; Wisconsin, 9th<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> Even with the two hard-to-swallow defeats, the Badgers are confident if not cocky and shouldn’t intimidated to face Oregon’s high-octane attack, even on Pac-12 turf. UW has earned a bowl berth for the 10th consecutive year and will be on display in the Rose Bowl for the eighth time. UW is 3-4 in the game and the Big Ten is 30-34. Oregon is 9-15 in bowl games including as loss to Auburn in last season’s BCS title game. Oregon will enter town averaging 46.2 ppg, just ahead of Wisconsin’s 44.6 ppg average. It’s a perfect setting for Wisconsin running back <strong>Montee Ball</strong> to set NCAA history. He’s just one touchdown away from equaling <strong>Barry Sanders</strong>’ NCAA single-season mark of 39 TDs.<br /> <br /> <strong>Sugar Bowl<br /> Michigan (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)</strong><br /> <strong>Date, Time (TV):</strong> Tues., Jan. 3; 8 p.m. (ESPN)<br /> <strong>Location:</strong> Mercedes-Benz Superdome; New Orleans, La.<br /> <strong>Line:</strong> Michigan by 2½<br /> <strong>AP Rankings:</strong> Michigan, 13th; Virginia Tech, 17th<br /> <strong>Outlook:</strong> Some have questioned Michigan’s inclusion in this game but the Hokies also have looked pretty mortal at times. Plus, the Wolverines are entertaining if nothing else with <strong>Denard Robinson</strong> under center. With Robinson a dual threat at QB and <strong>Fitzgerald Toussaint</strong> adding into the mix, UM ended up 12th nationally in rushing yards per game (235.7). Michigan is 19-21 in bowl games while Tech has struggled with a 9-15 showing. The Hokies can run it, too, with RB <strong>David Wilson</strong> (1,627 yards, nine TDs) while QB <strong>Logan Thomas</strong> (2,799 passing yards, 19 TDs) also can make plays. Tech came on if late but had a preconference schedule that included games with Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall. The Hokies were bombed by Clemson.<br /> <br /> <strong>Football Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * Zook was fired after Illinois’ second-half collapse but took the high road. Despite a sometimes tumultuous relationship with the media and fans, he thanked both factions for their support in his seven years in Champaign. The university tabbed Toledo head coach <strong>Tim Beckman</strong> as his replacement.<br /> <br /> * Michigan State senior offensive lineman <strong>Arthur Ray Jr.</strong> was named the winner of the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award. Ray, who hails from Chicago, returned to football this season four years after bone cancer derailed his career and caused him to undergo nine surgeries.<br /> <br /> The award will be presented Jan. 3, 2012, at the AVMed Orange Bowl Coaches Luncheon in Miami. Ray will be honored again Jan. 4 on the field during the Discover Orange Bowl.<br /> <br /> “This is a tremendous award for a young man who has conquered all of the odds up against him,” Michigan State coach <strong>Mark Dantonio</strong> said.<br /> <br /> Ray had been given a medical waiver but remained on scholarship with Michigan State. Last April, doctors cleared him to resume football.<br /> <br /> “I was in class, and I just cried tears of joy,” Ray told the Associated Press.<br /> <br /> * The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) put out a statement in early December with regard to the recent developments at Penn State matter:<br /> <br /> “The Big Ten Presidents and Chancellors express their sincere concern for any harm done to innocent young victims and their families. Protection of our children is one of society’s most central responsibilities and institutions of higher education should be particularly vigilant. We are committed to examining our own institutions to assure that effective measures are taken to assure the safety of children on our campuses.”<br /> <br /> The COP/C also determined it will work in coordination with the state grand jury, but “will reserve the right to impose sanctions, corrective or other disciplinary measures in the event that adverse findings are made in the areas of institutional control, ethical conduct and/or other conference-related matters.”<br /> <br /> * Michigan State defensive coordinator <strong>Pat Narduzzi</strong> was expected to receive overtures for a head-coaching job after a very impressive season guiding the Spartan defense. Sure enough, Akron came calling with an offer. Narduzzi reportedly met with Akron officials and had a contract in hand to sign but decided to stay on Dantonio’s staff. Jeff Rapp f90454fd-7fab-45f2-8270-f5526500d2a5 Tue, 27 Dec 2011 20:40:00 GMT UW-MSU Thriller Shapes Race Michigan State’s last-second, Hail Mary upset of previously undefeated Wisconsin has created quite a buzz in and outside of the Big Ten. Some are even calling it the game of the year in college football so far.<br /> <br /> But it’s a good bet that the 37-31 outcome didn’t plant a smile on the face of Big Ten commissioner <strong>Jim Delany</strong>.<br /> <br /> Oh, sure, Delany is happy with the exposure for the conference after the two teams battled so valiantly in prime time on Saturday. And MSU’s win on the last play sets up the potential for a very juicy rematch in Indianapolis in the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game on Dec. 3. But Wisconsin appeared to be on a course that might have landed the Badgers in the BCS title game.<br /> <br /> Now, the Big Ten is without a team in the top 10 of the BCS standings, which is a rarity.<br /> <br /> Michigan State (6-1) moved up to 11th but Wisconsin (6-1) fell to 15th, one spot below Nebraska (6-1), a team the Badgers dusted 48-17 at the beginning of October. Michigan (6-1) and Penn State (7-1) also are putting together noteworthy seasons but can’t be considered real contenders for the BCS prize.<br /> <br /> However, the possibilities are still vast in terms of the Big Ten race at the virtual halfway point. One of four teams to already have four league games under its belt, Penn State is the only 4-0 conference member heading to the last weekend in October. However, the Nittany Lions face Illinois next and then are looking at a November closing stretch of Nebraska, at Ohio State, at Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> PSU is atop the Leaders Division, followed by Wisconsin (2-1), Purdue (2-1), Illinois (2-2), Ohio State (1-2) and Indiana (0-4). The only other unscathed team in league play, Michigan State (3-0), currently commands the Legends Division, but Nebraska, Michigan and Iowa are all a game behind at 2-1. Minnesota (0-3) and Northwestern (0-4) are yet to capture a league win and are mired at the bottom of the Legends pile.<br /> <br /> Michigan State has to travel to Nebraska Oct. 29 and also has a trip to Iowa No. 12. However, MSU’s other remaining games are against league doormats Minnesota, Indiana and Northwestern.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin looks to bounce back at Ohio State on Oct. 29 and a win there could propel the Badgers right back into the picture, especially considering the remaining ledger reads thusly: Purdue (Nov. 5), at Minnesota (Nov. 12), at Illinois (Nov. 19) and Penn State (Nov. 26).<br /> <br /> It’s very likely UW players and coaches are going to spend the rest of the season and possibly beyond wondering “what if” when thinking about their last play in Spartan Stadium.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin stormed from behind and hit the 30-point mark for the 14th straight time in regular-season play to tie the game at 31 and head coach <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> even called three timeouts in the final minute in hopes of getting the ball back from the Spartans. Instead, Michigan State maneuvered past midfield and had time for one last heave. That’s when lightning struck down the Badgers.<br /> <br /> MSU quarterback <strong>Kirk Cousins</strong> lofted a deep ball in the direction of his star receiver <strong>B.J. Cunningham</strong>, and the aerial bounced off of Cunningham’s helmet and into the hands of teammate <strong>Keith Nichol</strong>.<br /> <br /> Officials on the field originally ruled Nichol down at the Wisconsin 1-yard line, meaning the game was tied and heading to overtime. Replay officials, however, overruled the call and said Nichol had crossed the goal line – barely.<br /> <br /> The play was so close that broadcasters <strong>Brent Musburger</strong> and <strong>Kirk Herbstreit</strong> didn’t seem to offer much opinion on the ruling.<br /> <br /> Since the booth review occurred with no time left on the clock, the announcement came from the public address announcer, sending the crowd of 76,405 to turn Spartan Stadium into an instant party.<br /> <br /> The Badgers, of course, had a different reaction.<br /> <br /> “You definitely don’t want to lose like that,” Wisconsin cornerback <strong>Antonio Fenelus</strong> said. “You’d rather get blown out than let a team win on a last-second play.”<br /> <br /> “I’ve never been a part of something like that,” Bielema said afterward.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin rallied from a 31-17 deficit in the final nine minutes and did so with its top weapons. Quarterback <strong>Russell Wilson</strong>, who was picked off twice, ripped off a 22-yard scoring run to bring UW back within a score and hit running back <strong>Montee Ball</strong> with a 2-yard TD toss with 1:26 remaining. The extra point tied the score and gave the appearance that both teams headed to overtime.<br /> <br /> Prior to the final play, Wilson was understandably confident.<br /> <br /> “I was just trying to figure out what play we were going to run once we got the ball back,” he said during a teleconference Tuesday. “It was a pretty miraculous, incredible play.”<br /> <br /> Added Bielema, “I felt confident … that if we took it into overtime, we’d roll.”<br /> <br /> MSU drove 78 yards for the winning score thanks in large part to Bielema’s decision to burn timeouts with 42, 30 and 4 seconds remaining.<br /> <br /> “We wanted to get the ball back,” he said. “We were going for the win.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Richmond Can’t Get It Together</strong><br /> <br /> Former Illinois forward <strong>Jereme Richmond</strong> has gone from disappointment to early defector to possibly jailbird.<br /> <br /> Still only 19, Richmond twice was kicked off his high school team because of off-court trouble but still earned a scholarship to UI and put in a rather promising freshman season for coach <strong>Bruce Weber</strong> despite also serving a suspension during the 2010-11 campaign.<br /> <br /> He left the program after just one year, declared early entry into the NBA draft and went unselected. It didn’t help that he reportedly was late for several predraft workouts and that his father claimed his son wasn’t chosen because every league team was unwilling to recognize his talents.<br /> <br /> And all of that is insignificant compared with what he faces now.<br /> <br /> That’s because Richmond was arrested in August amid allegations that he punched his ex-girlfriend and threatened her family, charges that if proved could put him behind bars for up to five years. Complicating that serious matter, the 6-7 wing was jailed Friday for allegedly failing a drug test imposed as a condition of his bond.<br /> <br /> Despite his current situation, Richmond recently told the Chicago Tribune that he still expects to make it in the NBA very soon.<br /> <br /> “I will be on somebody’s roster,” he told the newspaper. “I believe it will happen for me.”<br /> <br /> Richmond, though, has serious issues to address. He allegedly punched and spat on his former girlfriend, a 17-year-old from Waukegan, Ill., and also allegedly got into an altercation with the girl’s father the following day. The man said Richmond pointed a gun at him and threatened to kill him.<br /> <br /> Richmond, who was charged with marijuana possession in February 2006, tested positive for the substance in an Oct. 5 drug test administered by the Lake County courts.<br /> <br /> On Friday, Judge <strong>Theodore Potkonjak</strong> raised Richmond’s bond from $65,000 to $100,000 and had him returned into custody.<br /> <br /> Richmond’s eyes brimmed with tears as he was cuffed and taken from the courtroom, according to a report.<br /> <br /> <strong>Cousins, McNutt Share Offensive POW Honors</strong><br /> <br /> The Big Ten player of the week awards for games on Oct. 22 were announced recently and Iowa wide receiver <strong>Marvin McNutt</strong> and Cousins shared the offensive mention.<br /> <br /> A senior from St. Louis, McNutt set the Iowa career record for touchdown receptions as part of a three-touchdown performance against Indiana. He hauled in scoring passes of 80, 28 and 24 yards, bringing his career total to 24. That passed the school record of 21 set by former Hawkeyes <strong>Tim Dwight</strong> (1994-97) and <strong>Danan Hughes</strong> (1989-92).<br /> <br /> McNutt finished the game with six receptions for a career-high 184 yards.<br /> <br /> Cousins, a senior from Holland, Mich., threw three TD passes in the upset of Wisconsin, including, of course, the bomb to Nichol as time expired.<br /> <br /> He completed 22 of 31 passes for 290 yards and won his 22nd game as Michigan State’s quarterback, becoming the program’s all-time wins leader at the position.<br /> <br /> Cousins also had been named Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 25, 2010.<br /> <br /> Junior linebacker <strong>Gerald Hodges</strong> of Penn State and junior defensive end <strong>Kawann Short</strong> of Purdue were named co-Defensive Players of the Week.<br /> <br /> Hodges recorded a career-high 14 tackles and added 1.5 sacks in Penn State’s win over Northwestern. He also had a 63-yard interception return to set up PSU’s clinching score in a 34-24 win.<br /> <br /> Short logged career-bests with 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in Purdue’s 21-14 upset of Illinois. He finished with with six total tackles.<br /> <br /> Michigan State linebacker <strong>Kyler Elsworth</strong> was named the league’s Special Teams Player of the Week after blocking a punt in the final minute of the first half. The play led directly to a recovery in the end zone for an MSU touchdown.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Indiana QB <strong>Tre Roberson</strong> was honored as the Freshman of the Week. Roberson became the first true freshman in Hoosier history to start at quarterback. He accounted for nearly 300 yards of total offense – completing 16 of 24 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 84 yards on 16 carries – during IU’s 45-24 loss to Iowa.<br /> <br /> <strong>B1G Tourney Tix Now On Sale</strong><br /> <br /> All-session tickets for the 2012 Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments went on sale to the general public on Oct. 22 and some seats are still available.<br /> <br /> Tickets can be purchased at the&nbsp; Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office, Ticketmaster outlets, or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.<br /> <br /> Conseco Fieldhouse is the site of the women’s tournament March 1-4 and the men’s tournament from March 8-11, featuring 22 games over eight days.<br /> <br /> Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament all-session tickets for the lower and club levels are available for $325 through Big Ten university ticket offices only. All-session tickets for the upper levels are available for $240 or $175 (depending on seat location) through Ticketmaster or the Conseco Fieldhouse Box Office only. Orders will be limited to eight all-session tickets.<br /> <br /> Women’s tournament all-session tickets are available for $50 through Jan. 31, which marks a 30 percent discount off the regular price of $70. Fans wishing to purchase all-session tickets within their university’s fan block for their respective team’s games are encouraged to contact their school’s ticket office. The women’s tournament will feature general admission seating, allowing fans to witness the action from the best available seats in Conseco Fieldhouse.<br /> <br /> In addition, the men’s tournament will continue to feature a special discounted rate of $50 for all-session tickets available only to students of Big Ten universities. All students must have a valid student ID for entry. Student section seating will be available in eight balcony sections and orders will be limited to one all-session ticket.<br /> <br /> <strong>League Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * Penn State coach <strong>Joe Paterno</strong> racked up career win No. 408 on Oct. 22 with the Lions’ defeat of Northwestern. That tied the legendary leader for the NCAA Division I record, previously held solely by Grambling State’s <strong>Eddie Robinson</strong>. Paterno is in his 46th year at PSU; Robinson spent 55 at Grambling. Paterno can set the all-time record Oct. 29 as No. 19 Penn State hosts Illinois.<br /> <br /> * Ohio State’s <strong>Jake Stoneburner</strong> recently was added to the watch list for the John Mackey Award, which annually recognizes the nation’s best tight end. Stoneburner is one of 25 candidates for the award and one of four from the Big Ten. The others are Northwestern’s <strong>Drake Dunsmore</strong>, Wisconsin’s <strong>Jacob Pedersen</strong> and Nebraska’s <strong>Kyler Reed</strong>. <br /> <br /> A junior from nearby Dublin, Stoneburner leads the Buckeyes with 12 receptions (for 150 yards) and six touchdowns. He caught OSU’s only completed pass at Illinois – and the reception resulted in a 17-yard, win-clinching TD. In the team’s season-opening win over Akron, Stoneburner became the first tight end in modern Ohio State history to catch three touchdowns in a game.<br /> <br /> * The Big Ten leads all conferences with six bowl-eligible teams. Along with 7-1 Penn State, five conference teams already have six victories. Illinois is 6-2 with four regular-season games remaining while four teams – Michigan State, Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin – are 6-1.<br /> <br /> * Times and television designations have been set for games scheduled for Nov. 5. They are as follows:<br /> Michigan at Iowa (noon Eastern, ESPN)<br /> Minnesota at Michigan State (noon Eastern, BTN)<br /> Indiana at Ohio State (noon Eastern, BTN)<br /> Northwestern at Nebraska (3:30 p.m. Eastern, BTN)<br /> Purdue at Wisconsin (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC/ESPN2) Jeff Rapp f83f3b29-ffb7-498a-8240-2aeb91218f4b Tue, 25 Oct 2011 20:18:23 GMT Divisional Play Arrives When the calendar flips to October on Saturday and a decided chill will be in the air throughout the Midwest, the Big Ten football season, appropriately, will begin.<br /> <br /> But this fall will be unlike the previous 115 that have involved league play. That’s because there are now two divisions – the Legends and Leaders – and the winners from those six-team alignments will meet in the first-ever Big Ten Football Championship Game in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium on Dec. 3 (8:17 p.m. Eastern, FOX).<br /> <br /> Since 2000, nine different teams have earned at least a share of the Big Ten title, a group that includes Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, though, have dominated the conference of late and claimed at least a piece of the last six titles under head coach <strong>Jim Tressel</strong>. A lengthy NCAA probe and Tressel’s admission that he knew of the potential ineligibility of several key players last season and did not forward the information cost him his job and cost the program its 12-1 2010 season, league co-championship and Sugar Bowl win. Now 38-year-old <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> is charged with reclaiming OSU’s glory.<br /> <br /> But Ohio State, like everyone else, will have to earn its way to Indy and win a December game to be called a Big Ten champion. The winner of that game would move on to either represent the conference in the Rose Bowl or play for it all in the BCS National Championship Game.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the top candidate for that achievement is Wisconsin. The seventh ranked Badgers (4-0) are averaging 48.5 points per game and are allowing just 8.5 ppg, both Big Ten bests, and have a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback <strong>Russell Wilson</strong>, an N.C. State transfer who leads the conference with 311.0 yards of total offense per game. Wilson also leads the league in pass efficiency and passing yards per game (284.0) and is getting plenty of help on the ground from running back <strong>Montee Ball</strong>, who already has compiled 360 yards rushing and a league-best 10 touchdowns in four games.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin, though, has a major test right out of the Big Ten gate in the form of league newcomer Nebraska. The eighth-ranked Cornhuskers (4-0) will play in their first-ever Big Ten game in prime time on Saturday (8 p.m. Eastern, ABC) at Wisconsin. Nebraska leads the Big 10 in rushing offense at 272.5 yards per game with 105.2 of it coming from quarterback <strong>Taylor Martinez</strong> and an almost identical figure (105.0) the result of the churning legs of runner <strong>Rex Burkhead</strong>.<br /> <br /> Those two players rank second and third in the league in rushing but are still well behind Michigan QB <strong>Denard Robinson</strong>, who leads the nation with 138.0 ypg. Robinson, though, has struggled throwing the ball for new coach <strong>Brady Hoke</strong>. He is slightly under 50 percent in terms of pass completions (35 of 72, 48.6 percent) for 624 yards, six TDs and a like number of interceptions.<br /> <br /> No. 19 Michigan (4-0) could get the elixir it needs, however, this week when Minnesota comes to town, “armed” with a pass defense that ranks 108th among FBS schools. The Golden Gophers and Indiana Hoosiers, who host Penn State Saturday, each are just 1-3 and are decided underdogs in their Big Ten openers.<br /> <br /> While Michigan and Nebraska are the two 4-0 teams in Legends Division, Leaders Division kingpin Wisconsin is joined by a surprise fourth undefeated squad – Illinois. The No. 24 Illini have shut down the run better than anybody, allowing just 56.5 yards per game on the ground, good for fifth in the nation. That is especially impressive considering Illinois has had tough battles with Arizona State and Western Michigan the past two weeks, winning each game by a field goal. Sophomore QB <strong>Nathan Scheelhaase</strong> has blossomed. So far he has completed 47 of 66 passes (71.2 percent) for 637 yards and four TDs compared to just two interceptions.<br /> <br /> The following is a sneak peek at the six games involving Big Ten teams for the first weekend of the league season (Purdue is facing FBS independent Notre Dame and Iowa has an open week):<br /> <br /> <strong>Penn State (3-1) at Indiana (1-3)<br /> Sat., noon Eastern (ESPN)</strong><br /> The Nittany Lions have had trouble getting their running game in gear and also can’t seem to settle on a quarterback as coach <strong>Joe Paterno</strong> has pegged <strong>Matt McGloin</strong> and <strong>Rob Bolden</strong> to share the role for now. Still, tailback <strong>Silas Redd</strong> and wideout <strong>Derek Moye</strong> should be a handful for an IU defense that ranks second-to-last in the Big Ten in terms of yards allowed per game (386.8). The Hoosiers will try to expose the middle of the field with linebacker <strong>Michael Mauti</strong> out for the year with a knee injury and Indiana could manage to stay in the game via the air. QB <strong>Ed Wright-Baker</strong> already has amassed 925 passing yards. Still, IU is facing an uphill battle, especially considering the early struggled on special teams and the fact that the Hoosiers have drawn the most penalties of any Big Ten team – 35 for 277 yards.<br /> <br /> <strong>Minnesota (1-3) at No. 19 Michigan (4-0)<br /> Sat., noon Eastern (Big Ten Network)</strong><br /> The Wolverines are staring at a 5-0 start if they don’t slip up in this battle for the Little Brown Jug. Hoke improved his career coaching mark to 51-50 last week and is hoping Michigan can turn the corner at the start of Big Ten play. Even though Michigan’s passing game is spotty, receiver <strong>Junior Hemingway</strong> has 211 receiving yards on just five receptions and is clearly a big-play threat when Robinson actually looks to throw. Like Robinson, Minnesota’s <strong>MarQueis Gray</strong> carries the offense. The nimble QB is the team’s leading passer (521 yards) and rusher (351) and can make plays out of small openings. Defensive back <strong>Kim Royston</strong> leads the Gophers defense – and the Big Ten – with 41 tackles. Coach <strong>Jerry Kill</strong> has suffered from seizures during the season and was hospitalized recently but returned to practice Wednesday and has vowed to be on the sideline at Michigan Stadium. “I’m in a position where right now I can’t take two weeks off,” Kill said.<br /> <br /> <strong>Northwestern (2-1) at No. 24 Illinois (4-0)<br /> Sat., noon Eastern (ESPN2)</strong><br /> This could prove to be a highly entertaining conference game, even on a day when Michigan State is visiting the Horseshoe and Nebraska is awaiting battle with Wisconsin. The Illini rolled up more than 500 yards rushing in last year’s encounter at Soldier Field and some UI players proclaimed Chicago as their town. The Wildcats, of course, didn’t like that and the bad blood that rivalries produce might rise in temperature in this one. NU is coming off an open week and claims it can again rely on QB <strong>Dan Persa</strong>, who was a preseason All-Big Ten candidate until being slowed down by a still-sore Achilles tendon that he ruptured at the end of last season. If Persa stumbles, coach <strong>Pat Fitzgerald</strong> will call on dual threat <strong>Kain Colter</strong>. Illinois is reaping the rewards of a hot start by Scheelhaase and a potent rushing attack led by <strong>Troy Pollard</strong>. Northwestern ranks dead-last in the league in both rushing defense (205.7 ypg) and total defense (394.3 ypg), which doesn’t help the cause.<br /> <br /> <strong>Michigan State (3-1) at Ohio State (3-1)<br /> Sat., 3:30 p.m. Eastern (ABC or ESPN)</strong><br /> It’s hard to believe neither of these teams is ranked in The Associated Press poll, although the Spartans are 25th in the USA Today coaches poll. They looked mortal in a lopsided 31-13 loss at Notre Dame and the Buckeyes struggled the same evening at Miami (Fla.) to the tune of 24-6. Still, this should be a rock’em, sock’em affair with the team that can unleash its running game standing the best chance. MSU has been stingy in terms of points allowed (11.0) and total defense, allowing a nation-best 172.3 yards per game. The Spartans are sure to present different blitzes and looks for <strong>Braxton Miller</strong> in an attempt to confuse the freshman QB. <strong>Jordan Hall</strong> will look to provide another spark to the OSU run game but Michigan State has shown better offensive balance and has a senior signal caller who has seen it all in <strong>Kirk Cousins</strong>. Wideout <strong>B.J. Cunningham</strong> of nearby Westerville, Ohio, already MSU’s all-time leading pass receiver, is on pace for a big senior year with 26 catches for 428 yards. The Buckeyes, though, might be able to change matters in their favor on special teams, where Sparty has sputtered.<br /> <br /> <strong>Notre Dame (2-2) at Purdue (2-1)<br /> Sat., 8 p.m. Eastern (ESPN)</strong><br /> The Fighting Irish have been an enigma thus far, producing moments of high-level football and also unexplained ineptitude. After a home defeat to South Florida and last-minute meltdown at Michigan they put it together against Michigan State and managed to escape Pittsburgh with a three-point victory. Still, head coach <strong>Brian Kelly</strong> is searching for elusive consistency. <strong>Tommy Rees</strong> looks to be the answer at QB. He’s thrown for 988 yards and seven TDs in four games and has one of the nation’s best weapons at his disposal in wide receiver <strong>Michael Floyd</strong> (35 catches for 424 yards and two TDs). Purdue is trying to keep it together after losing QB <strong>Robert Marve</strong> to a season-ending knee injury in the season opener and losing in Week 2 at Rice, of all places. The Boilermakers will try to run clock by keeping the ball on the ground as much as possible, and they rank second in the Big Ten in rushing yards per game (258.7), Leading the way are running backs <strong>Ralph Bolden</strong> and <strong>Akeem Shavers</strong>.<br /> <br /> <strong>No. 8 Nebraska (4-0) at No. 7 Wisconsin (4-0)<br /> Sat., 8 p.m. Eastern (ABC)</strong><br /> This is the biggee of the week. The Cornhuskers have overwhelmed foes with their uptempo offense and varied rushing attack with Martinez at the epicenter of it all. Wisconsin, meanwhile, has been downright dominant on both sides of the ball and UW has been especially adept at finishing off drives, converting a gaudy 23 of 24 trips to the red zone, 21 of them resulting in a touchdown. Wisconsin also leads the league in third-down conversions (28 of 46, 60.9 percent). Wilson has been the key, seemingly making all the right decisions and plays. Linebacker <strong>Chris Borland</strong> has led the Badgers’ charge on defense with 35 tackles, including five for loss, and defensive end <strong>David Gilbert</strong> has added three sacks. Nebraska, though could counter some of that star power with special teams weapon <strong>Ameer Abdullah</strong>, who leads the Big Ten in both punt returns (12.0 yards per attempt) and kickoff returns (42.5). The ’Huskers also have a terrorizer of their own on defense in the form of senior linebacker <strong>David Lavonte</strong> (38 tackles).<br /> <br /> <strong>B1G Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * Paterno, Penn State’s legendary coach, of course, leads all Big Ten coaches in most league wins with 90, reaching that mark in 144 conference games. <strong>Kirk Ferentz</strong> of Iowa (53-43) is next, followed by Wisconsin’s <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> (27-13). No other head coach has more than 20 Big Ten wins and five of them – including Nebraska’s veteran boss, <strong>Bo Pelini</strong>&nbsp;– are set to coach in their first conference game. Along with Fickell and Hoke are newcomers Kill at Minnesota and <strong>Kevin Wilson</strong> at Indiana.<br /> <br /> * With the beginning of divisional play, the Big Ten has instituted a new tiebreaker to determine the Big Ten Football Championship Game participants, if necessary. After head-to-head matchups, the next tiebreaker is records within the division, which makes winning divisional games an important part of the Big Ten title chase. There are only two divisional games this week: a Legends Division matchup between Michigan and Minnesota and a Leaders Division clash between Indiana and Penn State.<br /> <br /> * The Big Tenn announced Co-Offensive Players of the Week for games of Sept. 24: junior quarterbacks Robinson and McGloin. A product of Deerfield Beach, Fla., Robinson rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns in Michigan’s win over San Diego State. McGloin, who hails from Scranton, Pa., completed 14 of 17 passes for 220 yards and three TDs in PSU’s win over Eastern Michigan. The Defensive Player of the Week was Iowa lineman <strong>Tom Nardo</strong>, a senior from Lancaster, Pa. He logged a career-high 12 tackles in helping Iowa defeat visiting Louisiana-Monroe. Jeff Rapp 6441132c-2340-41bb-86c5-2ef8a76de204 Fri, 30 Sep 2011 04:50:44 GMT Colorful Two Days In Chicago The Windy City is known for its popular and colorful Chicago-based ball teams – Cubs blue, Bulls red and the familiar black worn by the Bears.<br /> <br /> On Thursday and Friday the town was painted scarlet and gray in that the discussions during the 2011 Big Ten Football Media Days there always seemed to circle back to Ohio State.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, of course, are the perennial power team of the conference after winning six straight league crowns. However, head coach <strong>Jim Tressel</strong> and quarterback <strong>Terrelle Pryor</strong> are gone because of scandal while several other key players have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.<br /> <br /> And new coach <strong>Luke Fickell</strong> inherits a team that needs to rebuild its core on defense and will have to deal with varying expectations and distractions throughout the fall.<br /> <br /> So as the 12 coaches took the podium individually on Thursday and delved into their team outlook, the questions still managed to pertain to OSU.<br /> <br /> Perhaps most interesting were the comments by Michigan’s <strong>Brady Hoke</strong>, who, like Fickell, enters the rivalry for the first time as a head coach.<br /> <br /> A former UM assistant who opened eyes heading up the programs at Ball State and San Diego State, Hoke already has Wolverine fans fired up and Buckeye fans disliking the portly new head coach. In <strong>Woody Hayes</strong>-like fashion, Hoke has showed extra attention to the rivalry by referring to the enemy with a slighted title. But in this case, instead of Hayes calling Michigan “that school up north” Hoke simply refers to OSU as “Ohio.”<br /> <br /> He did it repeatedly in Chicago.<br /> <br /> “You know, we're really fortunate at Michigan,” Hoke said at the mic. “We have a national rivalry. We play Notre Dame. We have an in-state rivalry with Michigan State, obviously. Then the rivalry with Ohio is as big a rivalry as there is in sport.”<br /> <br /> Fickell didn’t react to Hoke’s reference to the Buckeyes but he made sure to tell reporters in Chicago that he doesn’t intend to let UM suddenly get the upper hand in The Game.<br /> <br /> “Nobody will overlook that,” Fickell said. “I know that's not something that will ever be overlooked at Ohio State. Obviously (we) look forward to that rivalry, continuing that great tradition.”<br /> <br /> Hoke also admitted he has a special feeling for the late November matchup.<br /> <br /> “It’s fun,” said Hoke, who last participated in the rivalry as an assistant at Michigan in 2002.<br /> <br /> “I mean, if you can’t get geared up for that and get goosebumps and all those things for that game, then you may not be human.”<br /> <br /> Hoke grew up in the Dayton area but claims he rooted for Michigan as a kid. His father, <strong>John Hoke</strong>, played for Hayes and Bo <strong>Schembechler</strong> at Miami (Ohio).<br /> <br /> Hoke eventually found himself on the sidelines for the rivalry but doesn’t expect to be part of the spotlight when the series is renewed this fall.<br /> <br /> “It never has been who the coach is,” he said. “It’s always about those two great institutions.<br /> <br /> “Playing at the end of November is tradition and some traditions you don’t mess with,” Hoke added.<br /> <br /> And some you start yourself – like calling your bitter rival by its first name.<br /> <br /> Similarly, Wisconsin coach <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> seemed to both crack Ohio State and show the program major respect throughout his two-day appearance in Chicago.<br /> <br /> Bielema, who was selected by the media as the conference’s best coach in a preseason poll, has made no bones about putting Ohio State in his gun scope and he sounded like a man hell-bent on the opportunity to catch the Buckeyes during his media address. He also reminded reporters that the Badgers ruined OSU’s otherwise perfect season – even if sanctions take away the 12 wins.<br /> <br /> “We’ve been knocking on the door of Ohio State for a couple of years, but to finally go through last year in the way that we did, there wasn’t any question about who won that football game,” he said of the 31-18 upset of No. 1 OSU last October.<br /> <br /> “The only bad part about Terrelle leaving was he said the week after it was a fluke, that they’d beat us nine out of 10 times. So to me, we really wanted to play that game against him, but unfortunately we won’t.”<br /> <br /> The two teams will meet again in Columbus this year – a Halloween (Oct. 29) treat that is sure to stir up more emotion. The Buckeyes are expected to wear replica uniforms for that contest and the national spotlight will shine brightly. Considering Bielema’s obsession with surpassing OSU in the conference race, that some consider the Badgers as Ohio State’s biggest rival, and that the two teams are now in opposing divisions, setting up a possibly December rematch in the conference’s first-ever championship game, Bielema was asked to respond to the Buckeyes’ recent NCAA hot water.<br /> <br /> “I understand why you ask the question, but I don’t spend one day at the University of Wisconsin worrying about what’s going on at Ohio State,” he said.<br /> <br /> Sure you don’t, Coach.<br /> <br /> “Ohio State still has a lot of real good football players,” he continued. “Luke (Fickell) is a very good football coach. He’s a great assistant coach and my guess is he’s going to be a good head coach, but it doesn’t change what we do at Wisconsin.”<br /> <br /> Bielema also seemed to reference Tressel, saying, “If you’re trying to be competitive, you’re trying to win a football game, all those things, maximize all your opportunities, do what you have to do,” he said at the podium.<br /> <br /> “But when you consciously break an NCAA rule, to me the only way to deter that is to get rid of people, or seriously hold programs accountable. That’s probably the number one thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.”<br /> <br /> However, a gaggle of reporters grabbed Bielema in thw hallway and he tried to clarify his statement.<br /> <br /> “You know what, those comments weren’t directed toward Ohio State,” he said.<br /> <br /> “I don’t know exactly what went on. More to those comments that I was referring to was recruiting. When you have people who knowingly are breaking rules or doing things that aren’t over the table, that is very frustrating. It’s very hard to trace. It’s just very, very upsetting when the people who are involved aren’t hammered the way they should be.”<br /> <br /> Bielema went on to say that Tressel was highly supportive of him and did admit regret that he is no longer in the conference.<br /> <br /> “Unfortunately, the situation arose there, but it doesn’t change my opinion about who he is or what he is or the program he built,” he said. “To win six Big Ten championships (in a row), that doesn’t just happen. You have a lot of good coaches and a lot of good football players that were able to do that, and he’s responsible for all of that.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Veteran Presence –</strong> Just prior to the Big Ten Football Media Days, the conference compiled a list of the top players and called it the league’s inaugural Preseason Players To Watch List. The intent was to honor five student-athletes each from the Legends Division and Leaders Division. The 2011 list was selected by a media panel and features additional honorees due to a tie.<br /> <br /> Representing the Legends Division are Michigan quarterback <strong>Denard Robinson</strong>, Michigan State quarterback <strong>Kirk Cousins</strong>, Nebraska defensive tackle <strong>Jared Crick</strong> and linebacker <strong>Lavonte David</strong>, and Northwestern quarterback <strong>Dan Persa</strong>.<br /> <br /> The Leaders Division honorees are Illinois quarterback <strong>Nathan Scheelhaase</strong>, Indiana wide receiver <strong>Damarlo Belcher</strong>, Ohio State center <strong>Mike Brewster</strong> and defensive tackle <strong>John Simon</strong>, Penn State linebacker <strong>Michael Mauti</strong> and Wisconsin running backs <strong>Montee Ball</strong> and <strong>James White</strong>.<br /> <br /> All five Legends Division players received postseason recognition in 2010, with Robinson, Crick and David earning All-America honors and first-team All-Conference accolades. Robinson was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year while David was tabbed the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Persa was also named first-team All-Big Ten while Cousins was an honorable mention All-Conference choice.<br /> <br /> The group of Leaders Division standouts includes five All-Conference selections from 2010. Brewster earned All-America accolades and first-team All-Big Ten honors. White was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a second-team All-Conference selection. Belcher, Simon and Ball were each All-Big Ten honorable mention selections.<br /> <br /> <strong>Hot Ticket –</strong> The conference opened up ticket sales for the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game to the general public on July 30 and the ducats reportedly sold out within a few hours. Tickets ranged from $50 to $125. Orders were limited to eight tickets.<br /> <br /> The championship game is slated to begin at 8:17 p.m. Eastern on Sat., Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and will be televised by FOX Sports.<br /> <br /> Those individuals who purchased tickets through Ticketmaster or the Lucas Oil Stadium ticket office for the 2011 Big Ten Football Championship Game will have the opportunity at a later date to purchase tickets in a comparable location for the 2012 game. In addition, every Big Ten Football Championship Game ticket will include a ticket to Big Ten Fan Fest, to be held at the Indiana Convention Center from 10 a.m. Eastern until kickoff.<br /> <br /> The championship game will feature the champion of the Legends Division facing the champion of the Leaders Division, with the winner earning the Big Ten Championship and a chance to play in either the Rose Bowl Game or Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten Conference and Indiana Sports Corporation have entered into an agreement to host Big Ten Football Championship Games at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis through 2015. FOX Sports will serve as the official broadcast partner of the Big Ten Football Championship Games through 2016.<br /> <br /> <strong>Looking Back –</strong> Just one year ago, Nebraska was not a part of the conference and the fraternity of Big Ten head coaches included the likes of Tressel, <strong>Rich Rodriguez</strong>, <strong>Tim Brewster</strong> and <strong>Bill Lynch</strong>.<br /> <br /> In fact, just last summer Lynch was talking about the strides his staff was making at Indiana and raving about the Hoosiers’ renovated stadium.<br /> <br /> “One, it shows a commitment to football at Indiana, and I think that’s really big,” he said at the time. “And then I think it’s more fun. There’s no question it’s more fun to play in a lively atmosphere. That’s why when you talk to our kids they talk about playing at Penn State or playing at Iowa, those places where it’s alive from the time you take the field to the time the game’s over.”<br /> <br /> Lynch, of course, wasn’t around long enough to see the full effect. But he was prophetic when he said the following: “Everybody can say what they want but I don’t care where they’re at, they don’t want to line up and play Ohio State.”<br /> <br /> A year ago, the league also had different players in starring roles, most notably defensive end. Sure enough, Ohio State’s <strong>Cameron Heyward</strong>, Iowa’s <strong>Adrian Clayborn</strong> and Purdue’s <strong>Ryan Kerrigan</strong> all had big senior seasons and became top draft choices.<br /> <br /> “Those are good ones right there,” Tressel said of that trio last year. “When you have edge guys like that, those guys disrupt what you do. All of a sudden you’ve got to send your backs out to chip them, you get them out in routes and your quarterback’s timing is off because he’s used to the check-down being there with that coverage. I don’t think it’s a secret whether it’s our league or the league above us, D-linemen are impactful.”<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, a few tables away, Rodriguez was telling reporters that UM football was on the brink of returning to glory despite fan unrest.<br /> <br /> “We’re at a place where they care,” Rodriguez said last August. “You want to coach and play at a place like that. I don’t know if you ever have 100 percent of the people happy no matter where you’re at. When we were having our good runs at West Virginia at the end there, when we lost two games it was tragic. But you build up to that point.<br /> <br /> “There’s nothing wrong with that. I want to get to that point. I want to get to that point where, boy, one or two losses is a bad, bad thing – and we can get there. It’s taken us longer than we wanted, that’s for sure, but we can get there.<br /> <br /> “We’re getting there. We wanted to have a fast team. It starts off with recruiting fast players. Now we’ve got to get them to play fast all the time, and that’s our job as coaches. We’ve got to put them in that position. We’ve got to teach them, educate them. And on both sides of the ball. Some people talk about the offense, but it’s defensively, too. We’ve got to play faster defensively. And in a couple years those fast guys playing fast will be juniors and seniors.”<br /> <br /> Michigan defensive back <strong>Troy Woolfolk</strong> also was talking about a turnaround – including Michigan’s results against Ohio State.<br /> <br /> “For us (the hatred of OSU) has been as high as it’s ever been because they’ve kind of dominated the last few years. I think it’s that time to finally get over the hill and end that winning streak. Everyone on the team, I can just see it in their eyes when everyone is telling them about Ohio State. Or even just on TV or even just an O-shaped figure I just get instantly angry. Cheerios, Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, none of that.”<br /> <br /> For the record, Woolfolk ended up suffering a season-ending injury and his Wolverines were bombed at Ohio State in November.<br /> <br /> <strong>Coachspeak –</strong> The Big Ten coaches checked in on a number of topics at the Media Days. Here are some of the more noteworthy comments:<br /> <br /> <strong>Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio on the demise of Tressel, his former boss and mentor –</strong> “To me, it’s tragic. He becomes a tragic hero in my respect, in my view. Usually tragic heroes have the ability to rise above it all in the end and that’s what I’ll look for in the end. It is very heart-wrenching for me and my family because we’re close to Coach Tress. He’s had a lot to do with my life as a mentor really since 1983, and that’s a long time. That’s a tough situation.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Illinois’ Ron Zook on Ohio State’s NCAA predicament –</strong> “You hate to see those things happen. Obviously it’s lessons that we as all coaches have to look at, maybe rethink, obviously help your players in education, learning what’s right and what’s wrong from that standpoint as well.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Zook on hanging onto his job –</strong> “Well, it’s hard to believe going into my seventh year and I’m actually third in seniority. Actually kind of mind-boggling.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Indiana’s Kevin Wilson on making the Hoosiers a contender –</strong> “If you talk to our three guys representing us today, we’re not trying to be good four, five, six years from now. The expectation, I think every game is going to be exciting, competitive, challenging in the Big Ten. That’s the niche in college football these days. That’s the beauty of BCS, fighting every week in your bowl situation.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz on Nebraska being added to the league –</strong> “First and foremost, I think it’s a fantastic thing for the conference. I was in the league for nine years back in the ’80s, gone for nine, now I’ve been back again. I was not here when Penn State joined the league. I think we’d agree that’s been a tremendous thing overall. I think this is a move that balances that out, if you will. In our case we have a border that we share. It’s certainly something that is going to be something very much of interest for the fans.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Nebraska’s Bo Pelini on QB Taylor Martinez –</strong> “We feel really good about where Taylor is. He’s had a great offseason. He had a tremendous spring. He’s had a phenomenal summer. I think he’s more engaged as a leader. I think he’s really taken it<br /> upon himself to grow in that area. I think he’s becoming a tremendous leader on our football team, holding his teammates accountable, holding himself accountable. I think he’s poised to have a great year.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Pelini, a former Buckeye, on how the Big Ten compares to the Big 12 –</strong> “When I think of the Big Ten, I think of class, I think of tremendous tradition. Like I said, I think of integrity. I think that’s what the Big Ten has represented for a very long time. You look a the academic accomplishments throughout the conference. To me it serves as a model, and it’s why I feel so great about us being a part of the conference. I think it serves as a model for the rest of college football. That’s why it’s such an honor for us as an institution for us to become a part of it.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald on Ohio State’s troubles –</strong> “There’s a lot that’s going on right now in college football that I think we need to wrap our arms around as a complete and total body. We will. We’ll make it better. There are going to need to be changes, tweaks, adjustments, to bylaws and rules, I would think so based on what we’ve seen in the last off-season. I don’t think there’s a coach or administrator in the country that doesn’t want to be a part of that solution.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Penn State octogenarian Joe Paterno on his health –</strong> “I feel a lot better than I did a year ago. I had two tough years physically. The kid from Wisconsin running into me in the sideline, when I broke my knee that time. Then I threw my hip out showing off, trying to show the kids how to kick a football. I couldn’t kick when I was healthy. I sure as hell couldn’t kick with a broken knee.”<br /> Jeff Rapp 6fb029f3-28c8-42ed-949d-d9a58ccd3dcc Mon, 01 Aug 2011 16:05:15 GMT BKB Races, Pre-Spring FB Outlook And down the stretch they come.<br /> <br /> It’s a three-horse race for the Big Ten men’s basketball crown – and Ohio State is in the lead by a full head – but there is still a lot of jockeying for position going on, especially in the middle of the pack.<br /> <br /> After the first-place Buckeyes took down Illinois on Tuesday night at the Schottenstein Center, Minnesota was trying to take down suddenly feisty Michigan State later that evening. A win by the Gophers would have created a five-team tie for fifth place as MSU and Minnesota would have joined Illinois, Penn State and Michigan with 7-8 conference records.<br /> <br /> That didn’t happen as Minnesota lost grip of a six-point lead and was outscored 12-1 in the final minutes of a 53-48 loss to the Spartans. That damaging defeat at Williams Arena dropped the Gophers to 17-10 overall and 6-9 in league play. Meanwhile, Michigan State (16-11, 8-7) inched up to fourth place.<br /> <br /> The following night, Wisconsin edged Michigan 53-52 as <strong>Josh Gasser</strong> banked in a three at the buzzer to turn Crisler Arena into a funeral home.<br /> <br /> The win kept faint hopes alive for the Badgers (21-6, 11-4) to grab a share of the Big Ten prize. Wisconsin needs to beat Northwestern at home on Sunday, take down Indiana in Bloomington on March 3 – and get some help from either IU or Penn State against Ohio State – to set up a showdown with OSU (26-2, 13-2) in Columbus on March 6.<br /> <br /> Ohio State, meanwhile, could secure a co-championship as soon as this weekend if Purdue (23-5, 12-3) loses at Michigan State on Sunday afternoon and the Buckeyes take care of Indiana, which hasn’t won a league road game all season, in a home game later that afternoon.<br /> <br /> The Boilermakers (23-5, 12-3), though, are still very much alive at the moment. They took down the rival Hoosiers (12-16, 3-12) on Wednesday night, 72-61, and can keep a lot of pressure on OSU with wins down the stretch at MSU Sunday and at home against Illinois (March 1) and Iowa (March 5).<br /> <br /> At this writing, though, no one team has locked down a particular spot in the standings, which, of course, corresponds to seeding in the Big Ten Tournament. Even Indiana and Iowa (10-17, 3-12) are in a battle to avoid last place.<br /> <br /> If Ohio State wins the regular-season title, either outright or shared, it would mark the fourth Big Ten championship for the program in six years. Only three conference teams have won as many titles in as sort a span: Ohio State (1960-64), Indiana (1973-76) and Michigan State (1998-2001).<br /> <br /> <strong>Paint By Numbers</strong><br /> <br /> Also taking shape are some very interesting team and individual races for leadership in statistical categories for men’s basketball.<br /> <br /> For example, heading into Thursday night’s game between Penn State and Northwestern, PSU senior guard <strong>Talor Battle</strong> had a slight lead in scoring among Big Ten players at 20.8 points per game compared to Purdue center <strong>JaJuan Johnson</strong>’s average of 20.4 ppg. In the mix behind those players were Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer (19.1 ppg), Purdue guard <strong>E’Twaun Moore</strong> (18.6), Wisconsin guard <strong>Jordan Taylor</strong> (17.9), Ohio State post man <strong>Jared Sullinger</strong> (17.8) and Northwestern forward <strong>John Shurna</strong> (17.3).<br /> <br /> In the rebounding department heading into the penultimate weekend of the regular season, Minnesota big man <strong>Trevor Mbakwe</strong> was the only Big Ten player in double figures (10.4 per game), but Sullinger was right behind at 9.9 rpg. Michigan State’s <strong>Draymond Green</strong> was third at 8.4 rpg.<br /> <br /> Michigan had some league leaders as well with center <strong>Jordan Morgan</strong> atop the conference in field-goal percentage (63.2) and point guard <strong>Darius Morris</strong> ranking first in assists per game (6.8).<br /> <br /> The battle for top free-throw percentage (minimum 2.0 made per game) was tight with Iowa swingman <strong>Matt Gatens</strong> in first at 87.5 but Leuer (86.3) and Penn State’s <strong>David Jackson</strong> (86.2) within striking distance.<br /> <br /> Interestingly, with three regular-season games to go teammates <strong>Aaron Craft</strong> and <strong>David Lighty</strong> of Ohio State ranked 1-2 in the league in steals per game, 1.89 to 1.82. Green was a hair behind at 1.81. Johnson appears on pace to lead the league in blocked shots per game (2.25) but Minnesota’s <strong>Ralph Sampson III</strong> is not far behind (2.07).<br /> <br /> Shurna was the only Big Ten player to that point making at least half his three-point attempts – he was a league-leading 56 of 112 for a percentage of 50.0 – but Illinois guard <strong>Demetri McCamey</strong> (61 of 127, 48.0), OSU’s <strong>Jon Diebler</strong> (76 of 159, 47.8) and Wisconsin forward <strong>Keaton Nankivil</strong> (48 of 101, 47.5) also were above 45 percent.<br /> <br /> As a team, Ohio is on pace to shoot right around 40 percent from long range. The Buckeyes lead the league at 202 of 506 for a mark of 39.9 percent. OSU also leads the league in overall field-goal percentage at 49.3 as a team. Minnesota was the only league team holding foes below 40 percent from the field (39.5) and Illinois was the only Big Ten squad holding teams under 30 percent from long range (29.7).<br /> <br /> Not surprisingly, Ohio State has led the conference in scoring (77.1 ppg) and scoring margin (+17.6) while Wisconsin was tops in scoring defense (57.4 ppg) and Minnesota, which has the biggest front line in the league, was best in rebounding margin (+5.4) and blocked shots (5.6).<br /> <br /> <strong>Spartan Women Claim Title</strong><br /> <br /> The Michigan State women lost for the first time at home all season on Thursday night as the Spartans were nipped 54-53 at the Breslin Center, but there was still reason to celebrate that evening.<br /> <br /> By virtue of Penn State’s home loss to Purdue, 51-49, Michigan State had secured the outright Big Ten regular-season championship. It was the first such title for MSU, which shared the conference crown in 1997 and 2005.<br /> <br /> MSU clinched at least a co-championship with a win over Illinois on Sunday. The Spartans (24-4, 12-3) had a chance to win the league in style but missed a last-second shot against the Buckeyes (18-9, 9-6). Ohio State had its string of six straight league titles snapped but moved into a tie in the standing with Iowa (21-7, 9-6) and Michigan (16-11, 9-6), one game behind second-place teams Penn State (21-8, 10-5) and Wisconsin (15-12, 10-5).<br /> <br /> Purdue (19-10, 9-7) also has a winning record in league play, leaving just Northwestern (17-11, 6-9), Minnesota (12-16, 4-11), Indiana (9-18, 3-12) and Illinois (7-21, 2-13) on the wrong side of .500 in conference play.<br /> <br /> Michigan State advanced all the way to the NCAA title game in 2005 under head coach <strong>Joanne P. McCallie</strong>, who left in 2007 to take over the controls at Duke. The Spartans have found recent success under her replacement, fourth-year head coach <strong>Suzy Merchant</strong>.<br /> <br /> This season marked the eighth straight the Spartans have won 20 or more games and&nbsp; it is also the ninth straight year they have won 10 or more conference games. The 24 wins are a program high under Merchant.<br /> <br /> The Spartans look to become the sixth No. 1 seed to win the Big Ten Tournament, which begins March 3.<br /> <br /> <strong>Football Fever</strong><br /> <br /> Snow and freezing temperatures still blanket most of the Midwest, but that hasn’t quelled optimism for 2011 football across the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> Several programs will start their spring practice sessions in less than five weeks, including defending Big Ten co-champion Ohio State. The Buckeyes begin their 15-practice spring season on March 31 and have scheduled their annual Scarlet and Gray Game for April 23 in the Horseshoe. That is the Saturday of Easter weekend.<br /> <br /> Ohio State (12-1, 7-1 last season) has won at least a piece of the conference crown for a record six straight years and came through with a gutty 31-26 win over Arkansas in the Jan. 4 Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.<br /> <br /> Still, the Big Ten finished just 3-5 in bowl games thanks to a rough New Year’s Day. League co-champion Wisconsin was nipped by TCU in the Rose Bowl while the other title sharer, Michigan State, was massacred by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl. Likewise, Penn State and Michigan lost to SEC teams Florida and Mississippi State and Northwestern couldn’t get past Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl.<br /> <br /> The league, however, should be noticeably stronger in the game of pigskin with Nebraska now set to join the conference. The arrival of the Cornhuskers swells the conference to 12 teams, which will now be split into two divisions. The new divisions will be The Leaders (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin) and The Legends (Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern).<br /> <br /> The new format brings a new outlook and hopes suddenly are high again at Indiana, Minnesota and Michigan with newly hired coaches in place. Minnesota canned <strong>Tim Brewster</strong> in October and after the season filled the void by hiring Northern Illinois’ <strong>Jerry Kill</strong>. Indiana ousted <strong>Bill Lynch</strong> in November and tabbed Oklahoma offensive coordinator <strong>Kevin Wilson</strong> as his replacement.<br /> <br /> Michigan waited until January, after the Wolverines were bombed 52-14 in the Gator Bowl and were still smarting from a seventh straight loss to Ohio State, to fire embattled head coach <strong>Rich Rodriguez</strong>. After a very unsuccessful three-year run under RichRod, UM is now putting its trust on former assistant <strong>Brady Hoke</strong>, who ushered turnarounds at Ball State and San Diego State.<br /> <br /> Also looking to turn their fortunes are the Iowa Hawkeyes. Head coach <strong>Kirk Ferentz</strong> thought he had a title contender but instead endured a disappointing 8-5 season that included losses in the final three games of the regular season. That includes a defeat at the hands of lowly Minnesota.<br /> <br /> After that, Iowa’s top receiver (<strong>Derrell Johnson-Koulianos</strong>) and running back (<strong>Adam Robinson</strong>) were suspended for off-field issues, although the Hawkeyes did rally to upset No. 12 Missouri in the Insight Bowl, 27-24. Still, the bad news continued in the off-season as 13 Iowa players were hospitalized in January with a rare muscle disorder.<br /> <br /> Iowa will try to stay with Nebraska, Michigan State and Michigan in The Legends division with the loss of several key players including defensive lineman <strong>Adrian Clayborn</strong> and quarterback <strong>Ricky Stanzi</strong>. <strong>James Vandenberg</strong> will be under the microscope at QB with Stanzi departed.<br /> <br /> Ohio State also lost a slew of starters on defense and some offensive linemen but the Buckeyes did not have a junior leave the program early to head off to the NFL for the first time in the Tressel era.<br /> <br /> Key underclassmen from the Big Ten who are now at the NFL combine or planning a professional career include Wisconsin running back <strong>John Clay</strong>, Indiana wide receiver <strong>Tandon Doss</strong>, Wisconsin defensive end <strong>J.J. Watt</strong>, and three standouts from Illinois – running back <strong>Mikel Leshoure</strong>, defensive tackle <strong>Corey Liuget</strong> and linebacker <strong>Martez Wilson</strong>.<br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp a1f96972-be42-43f3-8bc0-53dcddb9e7c8 Fri, 25 Feb 2011 15:04:30 GMT JoePa, A Big Ten Shootout & Hoops It was another momentous week for the Big Ten with men’s and women’s basketball teams unveiling themselves in exhibition action, several fall sports nearing the stretch run and member football teams nearing an exciting conclusion to the regular season.<br /> <br /> But the headliner from recent days can be extolled in just five letters: JoePa.<br /> <br /> Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno captured his 400th career win Nov. 6 before a soldout crowd at Beaver Stadium but not before the Nittany Lions staged a furious comeback against pesky competitor Northwestern.<br /> <br /> The Lions (6-3, 3-2) became bowl eligible by storming back from a 21-0 deficit to post a 35-21 victory, which was aided in large part by former walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin and his four touchdown tosses.<br /> <br /> Paterno, who has headed up the PSU program since 1966, became the first Football Bowl Subdivision head coach to record 400 career victories. He has amassed a mark of 400-132-3 in his 45 years as head coach at PSU and will take that ridiculous achievement into Columbus this weekend for a nationally televised showdown with No. 8 Ohio State on Saturday (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC).<br /> <br /> His total of 535 games coached is second all-time in FBS history behind only the 578 games for Chicago’s Amos Alonzo Stagg. In comparison, the 10 other current Big Ten coaches have been on the sidelines for a combined 610 games at conference schools with 367 triumphs.<br /> <br /> Counting all 120 FBS schools’ current coaches, Ohio State’s Jim Tressel ranks second behind Paterno in career wins with 237.<br /> <br /> Paterno joins current St. John’s (Minn.) coach John Gagliardi (477) and former Grambling boss Eddie Robinson (408) as the only coaches in NCAA history with 400 victories.<br /> <br /> Paterno also won his 100th, 200th and 300th games at Beaver Stadium and passed Paul “Bear” Bryant as the all-time winningest coach in Division I history in PSU’s 29-27 come-from behind win there over OSU and Tressel in 2001.<br /> <br /> <strong>Pinball Wizards</strong><br /> <br /> Before the season, the conference boasted the return of several noteworthy skill players and yet they weren’t expected to breeze into the end zone and put up astronomical yardage totals – at least not against Big Ten foes.<br /> <br /> “Our defenses in this league are so talented and so sound, you’re not going to have crazy numbers like you have in some conferences,” Tressel said. “It’s not going to happen. You’re going to earn every dime you get here. People don’t blow coverages and stuff like that.”<br /> <br /> Well, OSU’s coach probably didn’t foresee the offensive explosion Illinois and Michigan staged Nov. 6 at Michigan Stadium.<br /> <br /> The game went triple-overtime but even before that drama the Wolverines rallied to tie the score at 45 at the end of regulation. They would go on to register a 67-65 victory to become bowl eligible at 6-3 overall and 2-3 in league play.<br /> <br /> The Illini were forced to go for a two-point conversion at the end of the third extra session but QB Nathan Scheelhaasse couldn’t set and throw and was forced into a blind flip of the football with defenders draped on him.<br /> <br /> Before that ending, Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez appeared to mouth the words “one play” and he got it, albeit one of the very rare defensive stops of the entire afternoon.<br /> <br /> The 132 total points shattered the conference record and the two teams combined for 1,237 yards of total offense – 665 passing and another 572 rushing. There were a whopping 58 first downs in the game.<br /> <br /> The previous Big Ten record for combined scoring in a conference game was 115 points when Minnesota defeated Purdue, 59-56, on Oct. 9, 1993. The last time two Big Ten teams combined for 105 or more points was on Nov. 4, 2000, when Northwestern defeated Michigan, 54-51.<br /> <br /> The last college football game to feature more points occurred on Nov. 10, 2007, when Navy defeated North Texas, 72-64. The last game with two teams each scoring at least 65 points was Oct. 14, 2007, when Boise State edged Nevada, 69-67.<br /> <br /> <strong>Title Up For Grabs</strong><br /> <br /> With just a handful of games remaining, four Big Ten football teams were still eyeing the regular-season crown as Michigan State stood at 5-1 with Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa all 4-1. The Buckeyes and Hawkeyes meet Nov. 20 in Iowa City so no more than three teams figure to share the title unless they also stumble and Penn State continues its surge.<br /> <br /> Among the top four teams in the standings, Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin face only one more road game, while Iowa must hit the road for two of its final three contests. The Spartans have a bye Nov. 13 then finish with a home contest against Purdue and a trip to Penn State. Wisconsin also was in good position heading into the stretch run with home games against Indiana and Northwestern sandwiched around an important Nov. 20 trip to Michigan. Iowa’s ledger reads at Northwestern, vs. Ohio State, at Minnesota.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes have the most challenging closing slate as their final three opponents have a combined mark of 9-6 (.600) in Big Ten play, including the huge roadie at Iowa.<br /> <br /> The conference would recognize co-champions but in case of a logjam at the top of the standings the league’s automatic qualifier goes to the winner of a tiebreaking procedure of head-to-head, combined record against the other school(s) involved and highest BCS ranking. That puts Wisconsin in the best position at the moment since the Badgers already have defeated OSU and Iowa.<br /> <br /> Michigan State beat Wisconsin but lost to Iowa and doesn’t play Ohio State. The Buckeyes need to win out and hope someone bumps off the Badgers.<br /> <br /> <strong>Feet Of Clay</strong><br /> <br /> With Wisconsin seemingly in the driver’s seat for the Rose Bowl, running back John Clay may now be the odds-on favorite to win the coveted Silver Football as the Big Ten’s most outstanding player.<br /> <br /> Through nine games the bruising tailback already had amassed 929 yards rushing, second only to Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. He also was leading the conference in scoring with 13 touchdowns.<br /> <br /> Clay told prior to the season that he was driven throughout the summer by a key fumble he committed last season against Northwestern.<br /> <br /> “That has motivated me because in my eyes I felt that I lost that game for our team,” he said.<br /> <br /> Clay is a punishing runner who is listed at 255 pounds and looks even bigger. He said he played at 248 pounds last year but used to embellish that figure since everyone else did.<br /> <br /> “I find it hilarious,” he said. “Sitting down talking with Coach (offensive coordinator Paul) Chryst, he just told me to make up a whole bunch of numbers. He told me to tell people, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve lost like 5 or 10 pounds and now I’m at a solid 285.’ It gets so ridiculous to have people keep talking about it.”<br /> <br /> Clay said he tries to stay somewhere around 250.<br /> <br /> “I feel good at that weight but with another 5 pounds lost I can have more speed, too, along with my power,” he said.<br /> <br /> <strong>Hoops Are Here</strong><br /> <br /> The Big Ten is looking like an elite conference on paper when it comes to men’s basketball.<br /> <br /> The league welcomes back 17 players who graced last season’s All-Big Ten teams, including five players that have earned first-team honors over the last two seasons and a previous Player of the Year.<br /> <br /> Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas was the Big Ten Player of the Year in 2009 and the point guard is considered the top player once again now that he’s healthy and Evan Turner has departed Ohio State for the NBA. Lucas was named the Preseason Player of the Year at the Big Ten basketball media conference in Chicago and is joined on the preseason first team by Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey, Purdue guard E’Twaun Moore, Wisconsin forward Jon Leuer and Purdue center JaJuan Johnson.<br /> <br /> Also returning from last year’s All-Big Ten teams are Illinois’ Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale; Indiana’s Verdell Jones; Iowa’s Matt Gatens; Michigan State’s Draymond Green; Northwestern’s Drew Crawford, John Shurna and Michael Thompson; Ohio State’s William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty; and Penn State’s Talor Battle.<br /> <br /> The conference placed four teams in the preseason top 25 as voted on by The Associated Press: No. 2 Michigan State, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 13 Illinois and No. 14 Purdue. Wisconsin and Minnesota also received votes.<br /> <br /> A voting panel at the conference in Chicago hailed Michigan State as the team to beat this season followed by Ohio State and Purdue, which has lost star forward Robbie Hummel for the season with a torn ACL.<br /> <br /> <strong>Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * During his time as Penn State’s head coach, Paterno has had 1,050 players letter for him and there have been 863 coaching changes at the Division I level.<br /> <br /> * With just three weekends left in the women’s volleyball regular season, the Big Ten was showing more balance than ever.<br /> <br /> Illinois (12-2) was just ahead of traditional power Penn State (11-3) with Michigan (10-4) also lingering. The Nittany Lions still had hope to reclaim their crown as they were preparing to host UI in a key match.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, the latest AVCA Division I Coaches Poll included five Big Ten teams – No. 8 Penn State, No. 9 Illinois, No. 16 Michigan, No. 22 Minnesota and No. 24 Northwestern. Indiana, Ohio State and Purdue were among the other teams receiving votes.<br /> <br /> * The Big Ten wrestling season is underway and nine of the squads earned recognition in the InterMat and National Wrestling Coaches Association/USA Today preseason polls that were released in late October. The conference also placed 54 wrestlers in InterMat’s individual top-20 rankings across the 10 weight classes.<br /> <br /> Wisconsin leads the way in the InterMat poll at No. 4 with No. 5 Minnesota, No. 7 Penn State, No. 8 Iowa and No. 10 Illinois rounding out the top 10. Michigan checks in at No. 13, while Ohio State debuts at No. 14, Northwestern begins the season at No. 17 and Purdue enters the poll at No. 23.<br /> <br /> Minnesota takes the top spot among Big Ten teams in the NWCA rankings at No. 4 followed by Wisconsin at No. 5, Penn State at No. 6, Iowa at No. 7, Illinois at No. 10 and Ohio State at No. 12. Michigan debuts at No. 18 in the poll with No. 19 Northwestern and No. 20 Purdue following closely behind. Indiana is also receiving votes in the inaugural poll of 2010.<br /> <br /> * Illinois was the first Big Ten men’s basketball squad to get on the board with a win as the 13th-ranked Illini took down UC-Irvine Nov. 9 in Champaign, 79-65. Sophomore guard Brandon Paul led the way with 18 points, all of his baskets coming from behind the arc. Paul, in fact, only shot from deep and was 6 of 8 from there. Illinois improved to 41-7 in home openers at Assembly Hall.<br /> <br /> * Four Big Ten women’s basketball standouts were named to the 2010-11 Preseason Naismith Award watch list including Ohio State teammates Jantel Lavender and Samantha Prahalis.<br /> <br /> A preseason All-American, Lavender is a 6-4 senior center who is threatening to become the conference’s only four-time Player of the Year. Prahalis is a 5-7 junior point guard and perhaps the Big Ten’s most exciting player.<br /> <br /> The other two league members named to the Naismith watch list are Iowa’s Kachine Alexander and Northwestern’s Amy Jaeschke. The list will be narrowed to 30 by the end of February. Four finalists will be selected in March, with the award being presented at the Final Four.<br /> <br /> * Michigan State has advanced to the last two men’s Final Fours and is looking to become the first program since UCLA in 2006-08 to make three consecutive Final Four appearances. The Spartans had a three-year run that deep in the tournament from 1999 to 2001 and won the 2000 national championship.<br /> <br /> * ESPN’s “College GameDay” has tabbed two Big Ten games for all-day on-site coverage.<br /> <br /> The show will feature the Jan. 22 matchup between MSU and Purdue at West Lafayette and the Feb. 19 contest between the Spartans and Illinois in East Lansing. Both games will tip at 9 p.m. Eastern.<br /> <br /> * It turns out the Dallas Football Classic wasn’t much of a classic at all. The fledgling Texas-based bowl game, which has a Big Ten tie-in, has found full sponsorship and has changed its name to the TicketCity Bowl.<br /> <br /> The inaugural bowl with pit a Big 12 team against a Big Ten participant and will be played on New Year’s Day with a noon Eastern kickoff. The host site for the game is a familiar one of college football fans: the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.<br /> <br /> “We’re thrilled to be able to play a part in bringing a bowl game back to a venue so rich in history and tradition as the Cotton Bowl,” said Randy Cohen, founder and CEO of TicketCity.<br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp 71312c57-b4b1-4f24-9a93-f7ee18d60b14 Wed, 10 Nov 2010 14:51:20 GMT Conference Endures Rough Mid-October With tons of fall sports in high gear, basketball practice underway and the conference receiving daily exposure on the Big Ten Network, which is growing in popularity, it’s probably not entirely fair to say the Big Ten Conference just had a bad weekend.<br /> <br /> Well, we’re going to say it anyway: The Big Ten Conference just had a bad weekend.<br /> <br /> Ohio State’s reign as the nation’s No. 1 team lasted only a week, Minnesota decided to wait no longer and sacked Minnesota head coach <strong>Tim Brewster</strong> and even Nebraska, which will join forces with the conference next year, suffered its first loss and plummeted in the polls.<br /> <br /> And that’s just the football-related news.<br /> <br /> One of the league’s power teams in men’s basketball, Purdue, lost the services of star forward <strong>Robbie Hummel</strong>, effectively turning what appeared to be a three-horse race into a two-horse race between Michigan State and Ohio State.<br /> <br /> We delve into two of those developments and a few other Big Ten-related notes below:<br /> <br /> <strong>Hummel To Miss Entire 2010-11 Season</strong><br /> <br /> Hummel re-tore his ACL in practice the morning of Oct. 16 and will miss the entire 2010-11 season, the university said. It’s the same ligament that snapped on him late last season on Feb. 24 vs. Minnesota, causing him to miss the Boilermakers’ final eight games.<br /> <br /> In the 27 games Hummel played last season, he again proved he is one of the most versatile and effective wings in college basketball. He averaged 15.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game and earned All-Big Ten and honorable mention All-America honors.<br /> <br /> “This is obviously disappointing for Robbie, as well as our team, since he worked so hard to return from the tear he suffered in February,” Purdue coach <strong>Matt Painter</strong> said in a statement. “As he begins his rehab and recovery, we’ll persevere together and provide Robbie with all the support possible. I have no doubt he’ll continue to play a pivotal role for this season as a leader for our team.”<br /> <br /> Because Hummel never redshirted, he will be eligible for a fifth year and would be able to rejoin the Boilermakers next season.<br /> <br /> Without him Purdue still could be a team to watch this season with <strong>JaJuan Johnson</strong> manning the middle and <strong>E’Twuan Moore</strong> again ready to take the big shots and make key stops in the backcourt.<br /> <br /> In fact, even after news of Hummel’s injury, Purdue still checked in at No. 8 in the initial USA Today/ESPN coaches poll.<br /> <br /> Purdue rallied without Hummel to make the Sweet 16 in March before losing to eventual national champion Duke and finishing 29-6. But Painter is now left wondering how to attack teams without his 6-8 forward. He hinted recently he might go to a four-guard lineup to surround Johnson.<br /> <br /> Graduation already has cost Purdue two longtime starters in <strong>Keaton Grant</strong> and <strong>Chris Kramer</strong>.<br /> <br /> Hummel also missed significant time his sophomore year with a back injury.<br /> <br /> <strong>Brewster Gets Pink Slip</strong><br /> <br /> Moments after Minnesota’s 41-23 loss to Wisconsin on Oct. 9, Brewster was incensed that UW coach <strong>Bret Bielema</strong> ordered a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter with his team already owning a 41-16 lead. He shook out of a postgame handshake with Bielema and blasted the coach in his postgame address.<br /> <br /> A week later, the Golden Gophers fell to 1-6 overall and 0-3 in the Big Ten with a 28-17 setback at Purdue. That spelled the end for the fourth-year UM coach, who was fired on Sunday.<br /> <br /> “While I appreciate the passion and commitment that Coach Brewster has shown, it is clear that a change in the leadership of Gopher football is necessary,” athletic director <strong>Joel Maturi</strong> said in a statement. “We have high aspirations for our football program and we are not satisfied with its current direction. The results so far this season have been unacceptable and the program has simply not shown enough improvement over the past three and a half years to continue with the status quo.”<br /> <br /> Co-offensive coordinator <strong>Jeff Horton</strong> takes over as the interim coach for Minnesota’s final five games. After beating Middle Tennessee in the opener, the Gophers have dropped six consecutive games, including home losses South Dakota and Northern Illinois.<br /> <br /> Brewster was just 1-11 in 2007, his first on the job, but the Gophers advanced to the Insight Bowl at the end of the past two seasons.<br /> <br /> He finishes his tenure in Minneapolis at 16-30, including a 6-21 record in the Big Ten.<br /> <br /> Among the names that have surfaced as possible replacements is that of <strong>Tony Dungy</strong>, a Minnesota alum and Super Bowl-winning coach, as well as Houston coach <strong>Kevin Sumlin</strong>, who is a former Minnesota assistant, and former Gophers quarterback <strong>Marc Trestman</strong>, who is coaching the Montreal Alouettes after a long career as a NFL assistant.<br /> <br /> <strong>Q&amp;A</strong><br /> <br /> When he represented his school, Iowa, at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon in Chicago late this summer, defensive end Adrian Clayborn was asked to provide some quick answers to a few football-related questions.<br /> <br /> Here are the replies Clayborn provided:<br /> <br /> <strong>Best defensive player in the conference:</strong> Greg Jones (Michigan State’s middle linebacker)<br /> <strong>Best rivalry game you’re not involved in:</strong> Michigan-Ohio State<br /> <strong>Best venue in the conference:</strong> Penn State<br /> <strong>What do you enjoy most about playing in the Big Ten?:</strong> Just that game in and game out every week you have to bring your ‘A’ game every week.<br /> <strong>When you hear the words “Wisconsin football,” what is the first thing that comes to mind?:</strong> Hard-nose running attack.<br /> <strong>What it means to be considered the best defensive player in the conference, especially from your peers:</strong> It’s an honor to hear people say that.<br /> <br /> By the way, Clayborn will get to tangle with that Wisconsin running game and red-hot tailback John Clay this Saturday as the No. 13 Hawkeyes will host No. 10 UW (3:30 p.m. Eastern, ABC or ESPN) in a highly important league showdown.<br /> <br /> <strong>League Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * In other Big Ten matchups on Oct. 23, No. 11 Ohio State hosts Purdue and Illinois hosts Indiana (noon Eastern, Big Ten Network), No. 8 Michigan State is at Northwestern (noon Eastern, ESPN) and Penn State is at Minnesota (noon Eastern, ESPNU). Michigan has an open week.<br /> <br /> * The Big Ten actually is the only conference in the country that has four member schools in the top 15 of the initial BCS standings that were released Oct. 17. Undefeated Michigan State debuted at No. 7, Ohio State is at No. 10, Wisconsin is No. 13 and Iowa is No. 15.<br /> <br /> * After seven weeks of college football, only 10 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs remain undefeated, including Michigan State. The Spartans are one of only four teams standing at 7-0, a group that includes Auburn, LSU and TCU. Six programs are off to 6-0 starts, including Boise State, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Utah.<br /> <br /> * Indiana’s <strong>Bill Lynch</strong> and Iowa’s <strong>Kirk Ferentz</strong> are both nearing the 100-victory mark for their coaching careers. Lynch improved to 99-92-3 last week as he led the Hoosiers to a 36-34 win over Arkansas State. Ferentz currently holds a career mark of 98-77 and is looking for win No. 99 against the Badgers.<br /> <br /> * Wisconsin wide receiver <strong>David Gilreath</strong> returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against Ohio State, his first career kickoff return score, and shattered a Big Ten career record in the process. Gilreath now has amassed 2,677 career kickoff return yards. That ranks first all-time among conference performers and just ahead of Michigan State’s <strong>Derrick Mason</strong>, who had 2,575 yards from 1993-96.<br /> <br /> * Penn State head coach <strong>Joe Paterno</strong>, who is closing in on his 400th win, will be coaching in the 65th different facility of his illustrious career when he leads the Nittany Lions into TCF Bank Stadium for the first time Saturday.<br /> <br /> Jeff Rapp d62c13e4-6c76-4d19-a5ef-56c8afef784f Sat, 23 Oct 2010 00:12:44 GMT Conference Expands Its Mind To expand or not to expand. That, apparently, is not the question.<br /> <br /> Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has thrown enough hints out there to drown Heloise.<br /> <br /> The conference clearly wants to grow from its current 11 member institutions. The only questions remaining are who and when – and how if any of the candidate universities end up dragging out the process through involved meetings by their boards of trustees.<br /> <br /> For now, though, the Big Ten is in the denial business. In fact, Delany e-mailed conference officials May 11 to quash a rumor that four schools had already been offered a chance to join the league. The communication was reported by the Columbus-based Associated Press and confirmed by Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith.<br /> <br /> A Kansas City, Mo., radio station went so far as to report that Delany already had made at least an informal offer to officials at Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Rutgers, but Smith told AP, “There’s no truth to it whatsoever. Actually, Jim sent us all an e-mail telling us there’s no truth to that, which we knew. There’s no extensions of offers that have been made, so that’s not true.”<br /> <br /> Still, speculation remains strong that Big 12 participants Missouri and Nebraska are being courted. The Big Ten’s infatuation with adding Notre Dame was been ongoing basically throughout Delany’s tenure as league commissioner and it’s no longer a secret that the conference would love the panache and potential television ratings bonanza Notre Dame would bring.<br /> <br /> But what has changed in recent years – partly because of the success of Big Ten Network as a viable sports cable television station – is that the conference appears very interested in upping the ante to 14 or even 16 teams instead of following the old superconference model of 12.<br /> <br /> One report suggested that Rutgers, currently a Big East member, is backup plan number one in case Notre Dame opts to stay independent. Other reports claim that Missouri, which would strengthen the Big Ten’s tie to the St. Louis market, and Nebraska, which boasts outstanding tradition in football and a few other sports, are already prepared to accept.<br /> <br /> Rutgers, meanwhile, would enhance the conference’s academic profile and bring in the New York City market.<br /> <br /> Other schools that have been mentioned as possible targets include Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia of the Big East, Vanderbilt of the SEC and, believe it or not, Maryland and Georgia Tech of the ACC.<br /> <br /> Originally, even Big 12 power Texas appeared to be in the discussion but those rumors have died off of late.<br /> <br /> Still, the league’s attempts to branch out could be far-reaching.<br /> <br /> “We have a little bit of a central location,” OSU football coach Jim Tressel said recently. “There’s people to our west and people to our south and people to our east that might have interest in being part of this group. It’s, in my mind, the finest group of academic institutions in the country. I think it’s (also) the fact that we have the Big Ten Network, which has proved to be so successful. I think that’s obviously something that someone would want to be a part of.<br /> <br /> “If it makes sense, let’s go. I’m sure whatever rationale they come up with, we’ll be on board and we’ll be excited to be a part of it.”<br /> <br /> Tressel said it’s his understanding and that of the Big Ten’s other football coaches that expansion would be beneficial to their sport and others.<br /> <br /> One of the allures, of course, would be to use BTN to televise a championship game in football, which alone would net the Big Ten millions of dollars a year in advertising revenue.<br /> <br /> “I assume if we expand we would end up with a championship game,” Tressel said.<br /> <br /> But the OSU coach said he is not privy to all the behind-the-scenes involvements by the conference and isn’t sure what the future will bring.<br /> <br /> “Coaches aren’t really in that level or echelon that gets involved in many of those discussions at the conference level, so I’ve been in no discussions with anyone, whether it be my AD or with the commissioner’s office or anything in terms of expansion,” he said.<br /> <br /> “What do I sense? I sense in collegiate athletics as in most things the status quo does not last forever, and there’s constantly change, there’s constantly tweaking to find out what would be a better way to do things. The minute you think, ‘Oh, everything’s fine, it’s going to be that way forever,’ is just when someone else passes you by. So I would expect there will be significant discussion about expansion and I think the Big Ten sits in an enviable position, honestly.”<br /> <br /> The Big Ten athletic directors are scheduled to meet May 17-19 in downtown Chicago. Also on hand will be several faculty representatives, senior women’s administrators and the head coaches in football and men’s and women's basketball. However, Smith said the meetings were routine and nothing would be decided in terms of expansion.<br /> <br /> “This is our normal meetings, the ones we have every year,” Smith said. “Jim (Delany) will probably give us an update on what the consultant has shared, and I don’t even know if the consultant report is done. He’ll give us an update and then move on doing what he’s been doing.<br /> <br /> “I think they meet with the (university) presidents in June or something like that. So the timeline hasn’t changed, but there won’t be any action next week.”<br /> <br /> <strong>Hoops Hysteria Underway</strong><br /> <br /> The 2009-10 NCAA Tournament just ended a few weeks ago but already there is great excitement for what the Big Ten could showcase in men’s basketball next season.<br /> <br /> All six teams that made the Big Dance have reasonable hope to repeat the feat next spring, especially defending regular-season co-champs Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes lost the services of national player of the year Evan Turner, a 6-7 do-it-all performer, but Ohio State still projects as a power team in 2010-11 with the return of the team’s other four starters and the arrival of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Michigan State superstar point guard Kalin Lucas, who injured during the team’s NCAA tourney march to the Final Four, has announced he will return for his senior season, which makes Tom Izzo’s Spartans look very dangerous on paper once again.<br /> <br /> And then there is the very encouraging news in West Lafayette, Ind., and Champaign, Ill., as top players yanked their names from the NBA early entry list and also are set to return to their teams.<br /> <br /> At Purdue, seniors E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson withdrew from draft consideration in time, meaning they will make another run at a title with forward Robbie Hummel and the Boilermakers, who tied the school mark with 29 wins last season.<br /> <br /> “We’re obviously happy to have two players of the caliber of E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson returning to our team,” Purdue head coach Matt Painter said in a statement. “Their dedication, leadership and work ethic are key components of our team, and we’re looking forward to helping them develop as both people and basketball players over the next year.”<br /> <br /> A 6-3 guard, Moore was an honorable mention Associated Press All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten selection after leading Purdue in scoring (16.4 points per game) and assists (2.7). He was the definition of tough and consistent, scoring in double figures 32 times last season including 28 in a row at one point.<br /> <br /> “I can’t wait to get back and start preparing for a great senior season at Purdue,” Moore said.<br /> <br /> Johnson enjoyed a highly productive junior season 15.5 ppg and 7.1 rebounds per game, which led PU. He also bested the conference in blocked shots (2.0 per league game), which earned him election to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team for the second straight year.<br /> <br /> The 6-10 Johnson is one of just 20 Boilermakers with 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in his career and he has a chance to move up significantly on the school’s all-time list in those categories.<br /> <br /> “We have a chance to be very successful this season at Purdue, and I’m excited to be a part of that,” Johnson said. “Being able to play one more year with E’Twaun and Rob (Hummel) will be special because we came in together, and hopefully we can make the most out of the opportunity we have.”<br /> <br /> Similarly, Illinois coach Bruce Weber welcomed back 6-3 point guard Demetri McCamey and 6-9 power forward Mike Davis after that duo pulled out of the draft just before the May 8 deadline. They also will be seniors.<br /> <br /> Turner’s former high school teammates, McCamey also is coming off an All-Big Teb season. He led the Illini in scoring (15.1) and assists (7.1), the latter figure tops in the Big Ten and second-best in the nation. He also added 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.<br /> <br /> McCamey is the only player in Illinois history to reach career milestones of 1,200 points as well as 500 assists in three seasons of competition. But he decided not to try to join his buddy Turner at the professional level – at least not yet.<br /> <br /> “This was a great experience, a blessing for me to follow my dream of playing in the NBA,” McCamey said. “After going through workouts and talking with my family and Coach Weber, I feel that it’s in my best interest to return to school for my senior season. Point guards are judged on victories. I think our team can do big things next year so I’m coming back to help us compete for championships and at the same time keep getting better so I can challenge for a first-round spot in next year’s draft.”<br /> <br /> Davis was the Big Ten’s top rebounder at 9.2 boards per game. He also averaged 10.7 ppg and logged 15 double-doubles on the season. Only Turner had more.<br /> <br /> “I put my name in to hear from NBA personnel which areas of my game I need to make improvement,” Davis said. “Deep down I knew another year of school was best for me, but having the chance to workout and get that feedback were helpful so I’m thankful for that opportunity. Now I’m motivated to work harder than ever so that we can have a great year next year, get back to the NCAA Tournament and make a run.”<br /> <br /> Also, it is worth noting that point guard Talor Battle also pulled out of the draft and will return to Penn State. The Nittany Lions finished in last place in the Big Ten but Battle was a bright star, averaging 18.5 ppg. He will rejoin a PSU squad that features four returning starters.<br /> <br /> With so many key players returning to top teams, the Big Ten figures to be be on prominent display in the national rankings next season. In fact, FOX Sports recently came out with a preseason top 25 and it featured Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State in the 2-4 slots behind defending national champion Duke. Also in that projection was Illinois at No. 15 and Minnesota at No. 25 while Wisconsin and Northwestern were on the “Twenty More To Watch” list.<br /> <br /> <strong>ACC/Big Ten Challenge Field Set</strong><br /> <br /> It looks like Michigan State one-upped Ohio State again in men’s basketball.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, defending Big Ten co-champs and the winner of the 2010 conference tournament, had reason to believe they would be paired with reigning NCAA champion Duke in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge later this year. Instead, organizers opted to send MSU, fresh off yet another Final Four run, to Durham, N.C.<br /> <br /> Ohio State will rematch Florida State on Nov. 30 in Tallahassee while the Spartans will face Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Dec. 1 in what undoubtedly will be billed the marquee matchup of the 11-game competition.<br /> <br /> The Big Ten won last year’s Challenge for the first time, 6-5, thanks in large part to OSU’s win over Florida State and Wisconsin’s upset of Duke on the final evening of play.<br /> <br /> For the sixth-consecutive year, the Challenge will feature 11 games and include two telecasts on ESPNU with ESPN and ESPN2 combining to televise the remaining nine games., the broadband sports television network from ESPN, will simulcast the ESPN and ESPN2 telecasts.<br /> <br /> Minnesota hosts Virginia to open the Challenge on Nov. 29.<br /> <br /> The Nov. 30 games are as follows: Iowa at Wake Forest, Michigan at Clemson, Ohio State at Florida State, North Carolina at Illinois and Georgia Tech at Northwestern.<br /> <br /> The following night, Dec. 1, five more games will commence: Indiana at Boston College, Purdue at Virginia Tech, Michigan State at Duke, North Carolina State at Wisconsin and Maryland at Penn State<br /> <br /> <strong>QB Controversy?</strong><br /> <br /> Michigan fans obviously have been in agony of late and waiting for something positive heading into the college football season.<br /> <br /> According to reports, many in the spring game crowd of approximately 35,000 who endured wind and cold in the Big House on April 17 had reason to be somewhat encouraged.<br /> <br /> “There was a lot to like and some not to like,” UM coach Rich Rodriguez told reporters afterward.<br /> <br /> Rodriguez and his staff used a complex scoring system for the game, which ended with the Blue defeating the Maize, 49-37.<br /> <br /> What many fans may not have expected to see but got instead was reason to believe that sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson is now just as worthy of the starting spot as incumbent Tate Forcier, also a soph.<br /> <br /> Forcier started every game last season and was electrifying early in the season. However, his play dropped off significantly in November and Robinson, tabbed as an athletic changeup to the position, appears to have closed the gap.<br /> <br /> Robinson wasn’t considered much of a throwing threat last season but he connected with receiver Roy Roundtree for a 97-yard touchdown in the spring game on a perfectly lofted pass that carried about 30 yards in the air.<br /> <br /> Robinson also led the offense to two other TD drives, running for one and throwing for another to Roundtree.<br /> <br /> “He’s really improved from last year,” Roundtree said. “Last year he tried to throw everything too hard. Now, he has better touch on the ball and he’s really working hard.”<br /> <br /> Forcier had a solid performance and threw a touchdown pass but he also lost a fumble.<br /> <br /> Rodriguez did not make any of his quarterbacks available for interviews after the game. Instead, he fueled a possible QB controversy for the fall by saying, “I’ve played with two No. 1 starters in the past and I could do it again.”<br /> <br /> The spring game raised $300,00 for Mott Children’s Hospital.<br /> <br /> <strong>Hoops Helping Hands</strong><br /> <br /> Ohio State head coach Thad Matta had to deal with a the loss of a topflight assistant coach for the second straight year but once again came up with a renowned addition.<br /> <br /> Last offseason, longtime Matta aide John Groce left the program to become the head coach at Ohio University and Matta quickly moved in to swoop up well-regarded Akron assistant Jeff Boals, ironically a former Ohio U. player.<br /> <br /> Recently, another coach who had been with Matta since his Xavier days, Alan Major, accepted the head coaching position at Charlotte. Matta’s response was to hire Dave Dickerson, once considered one of the elite assistant coaches in the country.<br /> <br /> Dickerson built a stellar reputation as a recruiter and right-hand man during his nine years as an assistant to Gary Williams at Maryland. He left to take the head coaching spot at Tulane in 2005 but was relieved from that post this spring.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Major already is looking to turn a corner at Charlotte and wants to up the ante on the 49ers preconference schedule. One potential matchup of note in the near future would be with Ohio State.<br /> <br /> “Coach Matta and I have actually talked about that because it could be very possible,” Major said. “Here’s the thing: You only know how good you are until you play the high-level people. You also want to be smart enough to have balance in your schedule and I don’t know a lot about the schedule right now to make a comment. You need to know what you are made of and you need to schedule some games once in a while to find out what you are made of. There’s a very good possibility that could happen.<br /> <br /> <strong>Miscellaneous Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * New Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffrey brought aboard a couple of his assistants from Siena soon after accepting the job in Iowa City. The question about his third assistant lingered, though, and produced a plea from former Iowa point guard Andre Woolridge, a Hawkeye star of the mid-’90s.<br /> <br /> Woolridge, though, did not get his wish as McCaffrey went in a different direction.<br /> <br /> On May 12 it was announced McCaffery completed his staff by hiring former Indiana State and James Madison head coach Sherman Dillard.<br /> <br /> A former standout guard at James Madison, Dillard was a head coach at his alma mater from 1997-2004 after serving in the same capacity for three years at ISU. He also has been an assistant at Maryland, California and Georgia Tech.<br /> <br /> * ESPN/ABC-TV recently selected six Big Ten games for the 2010 season and three of them are marquee matchups involving defending conference champion Ohio State. More such telecasts will be announced at a later date.<br /> <br /> The games already tabbed follow (all times are Eastern):<br /> Sept. 11, 3:40 p.m. – No. 13 Miami at No. 2 Ohio State (ESPN)<br /> Sept. 18, 8 p.m. – Notre Dame at Michigan State (ABC)<br /> Oct. 2, 8 p.m. – No. 19 Penn State at No. 8 Iowa (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2)<br /> Oct. 16, 7 p.m. – No. 2 Ohio State at No. 11 Wisconsin (ESPN or ESPN2)<br /> Oct. 30, 8 p.m. – No. 2 Ohio State at Minnesota (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Michigan at No. 19 Penn State (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2)<br /> <br /> * The Chris Allen transfer rumors are swirling.<br /> <br /> The future of the Michigan State guard has been in question for months and speculation that he might leave the program gained steam in early May when Izzo addressed the transfer of backup center Tom Herzog to Central Florida.<br /> <br /> “There is still one other player that’s up in the air and I have to make some tough decisions – and I will – and he’s got to make some tough decisions,” Izzo said. “So there might be one more coming or going. But to honest with you, that’s just the way it is right now. We should be able to make that decision in the next couple of days because we’ll do it before he leaves.<br /> <br /> Izzo made that comment on May 5 but still there is no word on Allen, who would be a senior if he returns to play for the Spartans.<br /> <br /> Allen came through at times in the wake of Lucas’ Achilles’ tendon injury and started 27 of 36 games last season, averaging 8.2 ppg. He also led the team in three-point percentage at 39.8 and showed the capability of being a top perimeter defender.<br /> <br /> However, the Lawrenceville, Ga., native, caught Izzo’s ire several times during the season and he was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules in Indianapolis before the Spartans’ Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal loss to Minnesota.<br /> <br /> Allen also dealt with an injury at the end of the season – a torn arch ligament he suffered in the NCAA Tournament opener with New Mexico State.<br /> <br /> Izzo said he likely would not pursue more immediate help if another scholarship opens up/<br /> <br /> “I don’t think we’d do that unless there’s some phenom out there,” he said. “I’ve never been really big on transfers unless it’s for the right reason.”<br /> <br /> * Single-game tickets are now on sale for the Big Ten Baseball Tournament.<br /> <br /> The tournament, set for May 26-29, will be held at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.<br /> <br /> There was interest in returning it to Huntington Park downtown but the regular inhabitants, the Columbus Clippers of Triple-A, have a homestand that begins May 27 and runs through to June 2. <br /> <br /> Tickets to individual games for this year’s event are $10 apiece, plus service charges, and are available at All single-game tickets are general admission.<br /> <br /> All-Tournament passes are $100 each. Group tickets (minimum 20) are available for $7 per ticket. All-Tournament and group tickets are available at or<br /> Jeff Rapp 35ddfdd0-aa42-4bcd-b652-a8245922d63c Sat, 15 May 2010 16:50:52 GMT Be Careful What You Wish For <p class="MsoNormal">They call it the Sweet 16 but the experience of participating in regional action of the 2010 NCAA Tournament left a bitter taste in the mouth of one Big Ten combatant – Ohio State – and the reason, in a sense, was the success of another league member.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes won a share of the Big Ten regular-season in part because Michigan State took advantage of a late-season ACL injury to star Purdue forward Robbie Hummel and won a huge contest at Mackey Arena. Other than that, the Ohio State players didn’t have much reason to care about MSU’s fortunes.<br /> <br /> OSU won the only matchup between the schools in a 74-67 win in East Lansing on Feb. 21. Their paths did not cross during the Big Ten Tournament as the third-seeded Spartans were bounced from quarterfinal action in a loss to Minnesota while the top-seeded Buckeyes won the prize.<br /> <br /> But in St. Louis March 26-28, after Michigan State squeaked by New Mexico State and Maryland in the first two rounds and OSU bester Cal-Santa Barbara and Georgia Tech, it was Sparty who stole the show.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes, who earned the 2-seed in the Midwest Region, were sent home after a 76-73 loss to Tennessee in the first regionals semifinal at the Edward Jones Dome. Fifth-seeded Michigan State slid by Northern Iowa in the second contest on Friday night and the Spartans then nipped UT on Sunday to return to the Final Four.<br /> <br /> It had to be a bitter pill to swallow for the Buckeyes, who had every reason to claim their superiority over MSU until the near-miss against Tennessee.<br /> <br /> Interestingly, the OSU players seemed genuinely happy to hear the weekend prior that the Spartans had advanced. In fact, this reporter told several of them in the Bradley Center locker room in Milwaukee. Moments after Ohio State took down Georgia Tech, Michigan State eked by Maryland 85-83 on a lat-second three-pointer in Spokane, Wash.<br /> <br /> “Who hit the shot?” asked OSU’s Evan Turner. “Korie Lucious? That’s great for them. That’s great for the Big Ten. What did Wisconsin and Purdue do?”<br /> <br /> Wisconsin lost that same day to Cornell and Purdue, at the time, was entrenched in battle with Texas A&amp;M. So at the moment the Buckeyes knew that at least Michigan State would join them in the Sweet 16.<br /> <br /> “That’s great,” Turner said. “If they take care of business maybe we’ll see them again. Don’t get me wrong, though. We still want to beat them. I’m sure they’re nice guys, but … ”<br /> <br /> Buckeye forward David Lighty also was glad to hear about the Lucious heroics.<br /> <br /> “Whoa. That’s crazy,” he said. “They’re representing the Big Ten, so I’m excited for them.”<br /> <br /> “Obviously you want to root for the Big Ten and Michigan State is a good basketball team,” added OSU guard Jon Diebler. “They’ve got one of the better coaches in the county in Coach (Tom) Izzo and he does a great job of getting his players ready to play. A lot of people were questioning, I think, whether they were playing their best basketball, but they’ve been there.<br /> <br /> “They made it to the championship game a year ago, they’ve got most of their team back and you can’t beat experience. It really helps at this time of year, and I think their players understand what it takes to win.”<br /> <br /> Will Buford also was all for seeing the Spartans advance, no knowing, of course, they would steal OSU’s thunder in St. Louis.<br /> <br /> “That’s good if they can come out,” said the Ohio State sophomore. “It shows what the Big Ten is capable of. I just wish them good luck, but we’ve got to worry about our game.”<br /> <br /> Diebler was asked if Michigan State’s presence in the bracket added to the excitement.<br /> <br /> “Absolutely. I think it’s exciting because of how we played each other. We only played each other once this year but I’m sure they’d like to play us again.”<br /> <br /> <strong>McCaffrey Era Begins In Iowa City</strong><br /> <br /> Iowa, of course, was nowhere near the NCAA Tournament and the program’s bottom-feeder status caused the higher-ups to let go of coach Todd Lickliter.<br /> <br /> The likable Lickliter left a successful stint at Butler three years ago to take the job but was just 38-57 at Iowa including a mark of 15-39 in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes won just 10 games this season and played a very deliberate, yawn-inducing style.<br /> <br /> That prompted newly named coach Fran McCaffrey to blare a different tune when he was introduced at a press conference on March 28.<br /> <br /> “Our players are going to have fun, they’re going to enjoy what they do on the floor,” said McCaffery, who brought Siena back into prominence. “This place is going to be rocking again.”<br /> <br /> McCaffrey has some work to do. Iowa not only was bad last season, the team seemed to lose its homecourt advantage and also was pummeled by rivals Wisconsin and Minnesota. Attendance slumped to just 9,550 per home game.<br /> <br /> Iowa fans have been hearkening back to the days of Dr. Tom Davis for a while now, especially as Steve Alford and Lickliter struggled to add to the program’s winning tradition. Davis coached in Iowa City for 11 years and advanced the Hawkeyes to nine NCAA Tournament appearances in that time with a pressing, uptempo style.<br /> <br /> Big Ten fans may already know McCaffrey considering Siena knocked off Ohio State in last year’s NCAA tourney and battled Purdue to the wire in the first round this March.<br /> <br /> <strong>’Backing Their Reputation</strong><br /> <br /> Like every football team in the Big Ten, Penn State enters the spring practice session looking to fill openings and begin to answer offseason questions. However, what is unusual is that Linebacker U. goes into the offseason with no sureties at that sacred position.<br /> <br /> Along with classic names such as Matt Millen and Jack Ham, Penn State has produced lots of very productive LBs in recent years. In fact, five of the top 12 single-season tackle performances at Penn State have occurred over the past half-dozen seasons. They are as follows: Dan Connor, No. 2 all-time with 145 tackles in 2007; Sean Lee (fifth, 138, 2007); Paul Posluszny (10th, 116, both 2005 and 2006); and Josh Hull (10th, 116, 2009).<br /> <br /> Heading into this season, though, it’s hard to know who is capable of logging a 100-tackle season. In 2009, Lee, Hull and Navorro Bowman, who was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten performer, had almost exactly a third of Penn State’s tackles (33.7 percent) and tackles for a loss (34.8 percent).<br /> <br /> Not surprisingly, though, the Nittany Lions have some capable replacement candidates, four to be exact.<br /> <br /> The most experienced is senior Bani Gbadyu (6-1, 231 pounds). He started five games last season as Lee nursed injuries and ranked sixth on the team in tackles with 37.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, redshirt senior Nathan Stupar (6-1, 236) had a pair of starts and logged 31 stops. Most likely to join them in the starting lineup this fall is senior Chris Colasanti (6-2, 238), an Austin Spitler type who could make a big jump.<br /> <br /> And the Lions also have another ’backer with major potential to breakout in redshirt sophomore Michael Mauti (6-2, 231), who missed last season after suffering a torn ACL in preseason practice in August. Mauti was well on his way to significant time before the injury. He played in every game as a freshman in 2008 and had 26 tackles.<br /> <br /> Mauti, though, is still rehabbing and may have to ease his way into a role.<br /> <br /> <strong>Big Ten Notes</strong><br /> <br /> * With Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State making it through the first weekend, the Big Ten had more teams advance to this year’s Sweet 16 than any other conference. In fact, only the Big 12, Big East and SEC had two member schools make it that far.<br /> <br /> The other conferences represented in the Sweet 16 were the Missouri Valley, Horizon League, Ivy League, Atlantic 10, ACC, Pac-10 and West Coast.<br /> <br /> * Few pundits seemed to believe the Big Ten was as good as any conference this season even after the league finally won the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Instead, the plaudits tended to land on the Big East and Big 12.<br /> <br /> But the NCAA Tournament showed the Big Ten deserved to be in the discussion.<br /> <br /> “We’ve got some pretty good teams,” Turner said. “For one, I think a lot of teams in the Big Ten have been together for a while. We preach defense. Every single game in the Big Ten, pretty much, is close. Playing against a Big Ten and then an out-of-conference team you feel like there is not as much defensive pressure on you. You’re kind of up a little bit as far as the mental part.”<br /> <br /> * Izzo continues his mastery of the NCAA format. He has led the Spartans to six Final Fours and a like number of Big Ten championships since he took over at Michigan State for mentor Jud Heathcote in 1995.<br /> <br /> MSU made it all the way to the title game last year. The school last won the national championship in 2000 with Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and company. Ohio State actually shared the regular-season Big Ten crown with MSU that year.<br /> <br /> * One men’s basketball coaching change already has occurred in the league and another is being rumored.<br /> <br /> Minnesota boss Tubby Smith continues to be linked to the opening at Oregon and some reports claim he is the top candidate for the job. However, Smith is denying reports he has been offered the head coaching or even had contact with the school.<br /> <br /> The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Monday that Oregon was getting ready to offer Smith a contract worth $2 million per year. The Press also is reporting that Minnesota is working on an extension with Smith, who has three years remaining on his current contract. Smith is making $1.8 million annually.<br /> <br /> * Manny Harris didn’t wait too long after Michigan’s season ended with Turner’s 37-foot shot in the Big Ten Tournament to decide he is jumping to the NBA.<br /> <br /> The 6-2 junior guard held a press conference to announce his decision and become one of the first underclassmen to gain early entry into the draft. Harris does not yet have an agent but plans to hire one soon. He leaves UM after leading the Wolverines in scoring the last three seasons.<br /> <br /> “After long discussions with the U-M staff and my family and friends, I have decided to pursue my dream of professional basketball and leave U-M early for the NBA,” said Harris. “It is important for me to thank the University of Michigan, Coach (John) Beilein and his staff, my teammates, my professors, as well as all those in the athletic department who have helped me over the last three years. My growth as a person and player wouldn’t have been possible without them.”<br /> <br /> “Manny believes it is his time to move on to the NBA and we fully support him,” Beilein said. “It was a tough decision for him and we are prepared to assist him in every way we can as he begins this new chapter in his life. Manny has assured us he plans on successfully finishing this semester, which would put him in a position to graduate from Michigan with just one more academic year.”<br /> <br /> Draft Express has Harris projected as a late second round pick but has him going undrafted.<br /> <br /> * Ohio State played three of the Final Four teams during the regular season, tangling with Butler, West Virginia and Michigan State. All three contests were on the road.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes lost 74-66 at Butler on Dec. 12 without Turner, who suffered a broken back in OSU’s previous game. Ohio State lost 71-65 at WVU on Jan. 23. The win at Michigan State put the Buckeyes back in the Big Ten race.<span style="font-size: 16pt;"><!--[endif]--><o:p></o:p></span></p> <!--EndFragment--> Jeff Rapp 77794c25-077d-40c6-883b-65967d4655de Thu, 01 Apr 2010 15:53:15 GMT Buckeyes Best The Rest In Indy <p>Apparently all the Big Ten Tournament needed was a shot for the ages.</p> It was provided by none other than Evan Turner, Ohio State's 6-7 point guard deluxe who had just been named the conference's 2010 Player of the Year.<br /> <br /> In the first a loaded slate of quarterfinal games on Friday - the day the tournament always seems to come alive - the top-seeded Buckeyes were facing a head-scratching two-point deficit. The crowd at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis was buzzing after Michigan guard Manny Harris made a high-arcing pull-up over the freakishly long arms of OSU center Dallas Lauderdale with just 2.2 seconds to play.<br /> <br /> That's when Turner launched a 37-foot jumper just before the horn and drilled a heart-ripping three, a play that was shown over and over on various sports networks throughout the weekend.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes survived 69-68 and ended Michigan's season of disappointment with a losing record (15-17).<br /> <br /> "I knew I only had two dribbles and I knew the whole thing was about staying calm and not rushing anything," Turner told "A lot of times you see some players just shoot a floater or something crazy."<br /> <br /> Michigan coach John Beileien was skewered afterward by analysts and UM fans for not directing more pressure to be placed on Turner. The OSU junior caught David Lighty's inbound pass just beyond the deep foul line and was able to get well across half court with two bounces of the ball.<br /> <br /> Turner was among the stupefied.<br /> <br /> "That was crazy," he said. "All day they were trapping me and double-teaming me and all this nonsense. I don't know why they did that."<br /> <br /> "I'm sure Coach Beilein is going to be living that one for many, many years (and) wake up with nightmares about that thing," Illinois coach Bruce Weber said hours later with Turner's shot still the national topic du jour.<br /> <br /> Weber, it turned out, would suffer his own nightmare the next day in the semifinals as the Illini fell victim to more Buckeye heroics in an 88-81 loss in double overtime.<br /> <br /> Ohio State advanced to the Sunday championship game for the fourth time in five years but, again, it wasn't easy. William Buford (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Lighty (12 points, four assists, three steals) played all 50 minutes and offered much-needed support to Turner, who logged 31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.<br /> <br /> Turner scored with 11 seconds left in regulation to send the gave to extra sessions and scored his team's last six points in OT to tie the score at 75. Jon Diebler nailed a three on the first possession of the second overtime and the Buckeyes never looked back.<br /> <br /> The unsung hero was key reserve - OK, Ohio State only regular bench player - Kyle Madsen. The 6-9 senior played a career-high 32 minutes in relief of the sluggish Lauderdale and made several key plays duirng a four-point, seven-rebound performance.<br /> <br /> "Kyle was tremendous and I couldn't be happier," OSU head coach Thad Matta said. "He really picked up what we were doing defensively. I thought he went to the boards harder than he's ever gone. I was very excited to see him play that way."<br /> <br /> Sixth-seeded Minnesota, which logged wins over Penn State (11-20) and Michigan State (24-8) earlier in the tourney, shook down a hapless-looking Purdue squad (27-5) in the other semi, 69-42. The intent Golden Gophers opened up a 26-4 lead and cruised home. However, playing a fourth game in four days proved too taxing, especially as the Buckeyes began to open up a sizable lead in the second half of the championship.<br /> <br /> The Buckeyes led just 42-40 with 13 minutes to play when they put together a decisive 23-5 run. Lighty was unstoppable in the sequence with nine points, Diebler banged in a pair of threes and Turner was his usual brilliant self on both ends of the court in an eventual 90-61 blowout.<br /> <br /> Ohio State (27-7), which shared the regular-season crown with Purdue and Michigan State, won its third Big Ten Tournament title in convincing fashion after a palpitating buildup.<br /> <br /> "I think it puts some closure to a lot of things," Matta said. "As I told these guys tonight after the game, Dec. 26 when we came back (from break) I said, 'Look, we've got 19 battles and whatever the conference tournament brings.' Today, after 22 straight battles, a war was decided and we won the war.<br /> <br /> "I couldn't be prouder of them. I think given some of the tests we had over here in Indianapolis the guys did a great job of playing through adversity, and coming out playing the second half the way we did today I couldn't prouder of them."<br /> <br /> Turner had a nearly identical line in the championship as he did after the semifinal thriller, finishing with 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Surprisingly, he took five three-point shots and hit four of them.<br /> <br /> "I was just trying to take what the defense gave me," he said. "The first couple days they were trying to lock up my drives."<br /> <br /> Turner became the only player to score 30 or more points twice in one tournament and was the runaway choice for Most Outstanding Player. He was the fifth player to be voted Big Ten POY for the regular season and MOP of the tournament, joining Devin Harris of Wisconsin in 2004, Brian Cook of Illinois in 2003, Morris Peterson of Michigan State in 2000 and Mateen Cleaves of Michigan State in 1999.<br /> <br /> "He's incredible and he did some special things out there for us - all weekend," Matta said.<br /> <br /> Turner was joined on the 2010 all-tournament squad by teammates Lighty and Buford, Illinois guard Demetri McCamey and Minnesota guard Devoe Joseph.<br /> <br /> There were no surprises on the first day of the event as Minnesota routed 11th-seeded Penn State, and Indiana (10-21) and Iowa (10-22) mercifully closed 10-win seasons with defeats at the hands of Northwestern and Michigan, respectively.<br /> <br /> Northwestern bowed out to Purdue but still finished with 20 wins at 20-13. Illinois took out fourth-seeded Wisconsin (23-8).<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong>Bubble Watch</strong><br /> <br /> Even with the dust cleared and the net on the north goal cut down by the Buckeyes, there was still an important league matter at hand: namely, the postseason fate of bubble teams Minnesota and Illinois.<br /> <br /> It turned out that the NCAA selection committee put a lot of stock in the semifinal results from Saturday.<br /> <br /> After his Illini dumped Wisconsin in the quarters, coach Bruce Weber began to make what became a weekend-long pitch for his team.<br /> <br /> "We have, I believe, the fourth-most top-RPI wins in the country," he said. "We have proven all year we can beat people."<br /> <br /> About 23 hours later, he knew UI was in limbo with a mark of 19-14.<br /> <br /> "I don't know what's going to happen," Weber said after the OSU game. "Obviously I think we had a good showing here, but that doesn't mean anything. Hopefully it'll work out because I think we're one of the top 65 teams in the country, and if we get in the tournament I think we can do some damage."<br /> <br /> Illinois only heard its name called during Sunday's Selection Show on CBS in reference to teams that had their bubble burst.<br /> <br /> Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers, meanwhile, were more fortunate. With a record of 21-13 and wins over MSU and Purdue in Indy, they rejoiced at the announcement of being an 11-seed in the NCAA Tournament less than an hour after being drubbed by 29 points in the final.<br /> <br /> "We got hot at the right time, these last few games," Smith said after the game and before the brackets were unveiled. "I think it's a great story line, guys that have had to overcome adversity this year. But I think the most important thing is I do think we're one of the best 65 teams in the country."<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong>Tourney Notes</strong><br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Ohio State's 90 points and 57.6 field-goal percentage in the win over Minnesota are championship game bests.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Minnesota guard Blake Hoffarber set the school record for career three-pointers in the March 11 win over Penn State. The smooth-stroking lefty passed Michael Bauer's total of 191 treys with his first made bomb against PSU.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Wisconsin entered the tournament a perfect 22-0 on the season when leading or tied with 4:00 remaining in regulation. The Badgers never flirted with extending that string, though, trailing Illinois in the entire second half of a quarterfinal loss.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Northwestern forward John Shurna set his school's all-time single-season scoring mark. He arrived to Indianapolis third on that list but passed Dale Kelley (582, 1972) and Evan Eschmeyer (585, 1998) in a 14-point outing against Penn State.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Illinois improved to a healthy 12-1 in Big Ten quarterfinal games after a 58-54 win over Wisconsin.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Lauderdale entered the postseason as the Big Ten's leader in field goal percentage at, get this, 77.1. Illinois big man Mike Tisdale was a very distant second at 57.0 during the regular season. Lauderdale needed to average three made field goals per game to qualify and was 91 of 118 in OSU's 30-game regular season.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Diebler made four threes in the win over Illinois to run his career total to a school-best 243. Jamar Butler was the previous record-holder with 242. A 6-6 sharpshooter, Diebler moved to the top of the list with a straight-on trey at the outset of the second overtime. He made a pair of free throws with 8:10 remaining in regulation to give him exactly 1,000 points in his career. He is the 45th Buckeye player to reach that plateau.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Purdue is 42-1 in the Matt Painter era when it wins the rebounding and turnover battles. Not surprisingly, the embarrassing 69-42 loss to Minnesota can be equated to being battered on the boards by the Gophers to the tune of 50-26. PU also had 16 miscues to Minnesota's 10.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Iowa guard Devan Bawinkel was 0 of 1 from the field in with his only attempt coming from behind the arc. Why is that significant? Bawinkel shot only three-balls for the entire season, faring 32 of 84 in 32 games.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The championship game marked the first time Ohio State and Minnesota had ever met in the 13-year history of the tournament.<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong>The Good</strong><br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Minnesota's first-day performance. The league's most schizophrenic team took down Penn State in the 6-11 game, blowing to a 26-11 lead and cruising to a 76-55 win over a PSU team that had been competitive down the stretch of the regular season. The Gophers didn't dilly-dally. They shot 58.0 percent from the field, 47.4 from three-point range and committed just eight turnovers compared to a like number of steals. The blowout marked just the fifth game in tournament history decided by 20 points or more.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Northwestern hit 18 of 20 free throws in its first-round win over Indiana.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Michigan's second-half comeback against Ohio State. The Wolverines trailed by 10 at the break and by 13 midway through the second stanza when they began to earn their way to the free-throw line and bottom long-range jumpers. Then there was this matter of not guarding the Player of the Year well enough in the final seconds ...<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Harris' 22-point explosion in the second half of the battle with rival OSU. The Michigan guard hit an array of tough pull-ups and bombs in charging his team back.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The Purdue pep band's bellowing version of "Livin' On A Prayer" and "Sweet Caroline."<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Iowa freshman point guard Cully Payne in the Hawkeyes' first-day loss to Michigan. The crafty lefty scored 25 of his team's 52 points and cashed 5 of 10 three-point attempts. Unfortunately, his teammates were a combined 0 of 10 from long range.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The semifinal between Ohio State and Illinois, especially the two overtimes. It was the first double-OT contest in the tourney and the highest-scoring game in the event since the Buckeyes downed Illinois 94-88 in the 2002 semis.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Minnesota big men Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III, who rebounded, defended well and hurt teams with high-low play. Iverson finished the tournament 18 of 24 from the field.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Purdue coach Matt Painter's more-than-deserved, animated tirade while he dressed down his team during a timeout trailing Minnesota 37-9. It worked. The Boilermakers moved into double digits as center JaJuan Johnson rolled in a floater at the halftime buzzer. Hooray!<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong>The Bad</strong><br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Indiana's collapse in a 73-58 loss to Northwestern on the first day. The Hoosiers led by as many as eight points and built up a six-point lead (45-39) with 12 minutes to play when the wheels fell off. NU rattled off a 10-0 run to gain control thanks to 5:44 spell in which the Hoosiers missed five consecutive shots and lost the ball on six other possessions. Indiana ended up committing 19 turnovers on the evening.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The officiating in the OSU-Michigan game. In the first 13:47 of the game each team had accumulated just two team fouls, but the zebras made up for it with eight foul calls in the first seven minutes of the second half. The Buckeyes were dinged for four fouls in the first half and 11 in the suddenly tighter second.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Beilein's decision to have just one player, Stu Douglass, pressuring in the backcourt on the fateful Turner heave play. William Buford was able to pick Douglass on the inbounds and not a single UM player stepped up to distract Turner.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Illinois being unable to get off a shot at the end of regulation and overtime in the heartbreaking setback against Ohio State.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;The conference's promotion of "Big Ten Icons," which entailed people with giant head-likenesses of former conference hoop stars. Frightening.<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong>The Ugly</strong><br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Purdue's entire first-half performance in a semifinal loss to Minnesota was, in a word, dreadful. The Boilers made just five of 27 shots (18.5 percent) and were stuck on four points<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Penn State "improved" to 0-6 as a No. 11 seed. The real shame of that, of course, is the six opportunities as a league doormat.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Trevon Hughes of Wisconsin was prominent on All-Big Ten lists but he probably would have jumped into a trap door if he could have found one in the Conseco hardwood. He missed his first 11 shots in the loss to Illinois and committed a key turnover with his team trying to rally. Meanwhile, his backcourt mate, Jason Bohannon, was a woeful 1 of 10 from the floor.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Illinois' end-of-game management against Wisconsin. The Illini led from their opening possession, opened up an advantage of 16 with 6:45 to play and still led by 10 at the 1:41 mark. However, Bohannon actually was able to fire off a potential game-tying three with 18 seconds to play and UI clinging to a tenuous 57-54 lead.<br /> <br /> •&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Michigan State's effort at the free-throw line in a 72-67 overtime loss to Minnesota - 18 of 34. That's just 52.9 percent.<br /> <br /> <br /> <strong> Quips &amp; Quotes</strong><br /> <br /> Smith on the idea of expanding the NCAA Tournament field from 65 teams to 96 - "I think it would be a great idea. When I first got in the business in 1978, '79, there might have been 100 Division I teams. Now there's 347. Just like football. When they increased, they increased the number of bowl games. So why not increase the opportunities for these student-athletes to participate and enjoy and be a part of March Madness? I think it's long overdue, to be honest with you."<br /> <br /> Beilein on the same topic - "I've never been in favor of that. Being a guy who was in the low majors to mid-majors and the high-majors. I just think it's really a great tournament right now. Now, they may know more than I know. I think it's really nice and tight right now and we probably should keep it that way. But I'll do whatever people say. And if we're the 96th team in sometime, I'll be happy about it."<br /> <br /> Northwestern coach Bill Carmody after his team made just 7 of 31 three-point attempts at Conseco Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers - "I was just thinking about Reggie Miller. I was thinking, 'How does he make all those shots?' It's unbelievable. That's why I always voted for Chicago, keeping the Big Ten Tournament there, because I just hate the rims. Nothing about the city. It's closer, collegiate, all that stuff. I just hate the rims."<br /> <br /> Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo on his team's lousy free-throw shooting vs. Minnesota - "That's never happened, and it's my fault because I ran these guys into the ground. We don't do what Ohio State does. I played Kalin (Lucas) and these guys stretches that they were so tired by the end that they missed free throws."<br /> <br /> Matta on Beilein's decision to allow Turner to dribble across half court - "John Beilein has won more games than I'll ever win, so I'm never going to try to think of what he's thinking. I'm not that smart."<br /> <br /> Turner on staring at the crowd with frozen body language after nailing his 37-foot game-winner against Michigan - "You definitely have to have a little swag after you do something like that. It wasn't anything like LeBron James but I was trying to stop myself from running around and screaming like a girl."<br /> <br /> OSU's David Lighty on Illinois' chatty approach to the semifinals - "They had a reason to talk. They were winning. But when we went on a 20-0 run that stopped real quick."<br /> <br /> Matta on Jon Diebler setting a new school career record for made three-pointers during the win over Illinois - "I think it speaks volumes. If he had made a couple as a freshman he would have passed it a year ago. But I'm happy for Jon. Jon flies under the radar screen for his career here, but I know how important he is, I know how good he is and I love the kid to death."<br /> <br /> Lighty, who checked guards and even the 6-11 Sampson during the tournament, on not being named to the conference's all-defensive team - "My mom was more mad about it than I was. She was angry, but I told her, 'You can't vote on it, I can't vote on it, don't worry about it.' "<span style="font-size: 16pt;"> <br /> </span> Jeff Rapp 3a8d067d-ed03-4724-89cb-564691710f6e Fri, 12 Mar 2010 09:45:10 GMT