Tag:Purdue
Posted on: September 17, 2011 11:41 am
 

Big Ten Bullet Points, Week 3

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's a quick rundown on what every Big Ten team should be focusing on in today's action.

ILLINOIS: Consistency. Ron Zook-coached teams and mental toughness don't often go hand-in-hand, but that's a trait the Illini will need when No. 22 Arizona State comes to town. With QB Brock Osweiler, WR Aaron Pflugrand, and LB Vontaze Burfict, ASU has a plethora of playmakers. And yet, Missouri nearly pulled off a fourth quarter comeback win on ASU last week by staying focused and taking advantage of the Sun Devils' mistakes. Illinois will likely need to do both to pull the upset today.

INDIANA: Just get the win. Indiana's had two games and two disappointing close losses to start the year, and now South Carolina State comes to town. The Hoosiers should be easily capable of defeating the Bulldogs here, and only a continued mental letdown from the first two losses can or should stand in Indiana's way.

IOWA: Avenge Jake Christensen! In 2008, Iowa travelled to Pitt with embattled QB Jake Christensen starting under center. Iowa lost a 21-20 heartbreaker, Christensen was benched for Ricky Stanzi, and that was that. Now, Pitt comes to Iowa City with junior QB Tino Sunseri struggling mightily. Can Iowa bury Sunseri and the Panthers? 

MICHIGAN: That's enough drama for one month, thanks. The Notre Dame comeback was one for the ages, but Michigan's got Eastern Michigan and San Diego State to close out the month of September. Brady Hoke's got to be looking for safe, low-blood-pressure wins tomorrow and next week before Big Ten season begins.

MICHIGAN STATE: Score points (because Notre Dame sure will). Unless Notre Dame has one of the worst cases of the yips in football history, it won't turn the ball over five times again, which means that potent offense is going to put up points -- even against MSU's underrated defense. But Michigan State has major-league talent at every skill position, and that talent's going to have to pay off early and often today.

MINNESOTA: Jerry Kill wants you to kill. We're continually buoyed by the good news coming out of Minneapolis about Kill's improving condition, but meanwhile there is a game to be played, and as head coach, Kill must want nothing more than to see his players take the fight to Miami University -- and take the spotlight off him and his seizure condition.

NEBRASKA: So what's Taylor Martinez here to do? Nebraska has looked unstoppable on the ground at times this season, but good heavens is Taylor Martinez hit-and-miss when he throws the ball. Today's a good day to show the coaches he's been watching game film -- and to make better reads and passes against Washington's sturdy secondary as a result. Otherwise he's a glorified tailback running the wildcat.

NORTHWESTERN: The Kain mutiny. This is likely Kain Colter's third straight start under center for Northwestern, and since there's a bye week coming up and Dan Persa's at least suiting up for today's game against Army, it's also likely Colter's last start. His last, that is, unless he earns the spot over Persa with play on the field. What I'm saying is, he should aim for at least eight touchdowns today against our troops. It's not patriotic, but neither is any team that beats Army, so what're you gonna do.  

OHIO STATE: Win the aerial battle. Both Ohio State and Miami have somewhat suspect situations at quarterback, with Joe Bauserman and Jacory Harris both seemingly one or two bad weeks away from a spot on the bench. OSU's got the better secondary, but not by much, so execution on both ends of the passing game is going to be critical in this night game.

PENN STATE: Don't sleep on Temple. The Alabama nightmare is gone and done, and Penn State can get back on track this week. Except... Temple's off to a hellacious start. It beat FCS powerhouse Villanova 42-7, then stomped MAC rival Akron 41-3. The line on this game is seven points. SEVEN! Temple RB Bernard Pierce vs. Penn State's front seven should be great fun to watch.

PURDUE: A new peace at quarterback? Purdue fans are probably eager for a familiar face under center against Southeast Missouri State, and to that end, Robert Marve appears to be ready to take snaps today. Caleb TerBush is still the starter, but it's generally accepted that he was just placeholding until Marve's rehab from last year's ACL injury; he wasn't even expected to play much this year, but putative starter Rob Henry tore an ACL before Week 1. Sophomore Sean Robinson has had his expected redshirt burnt for the second straight season, and has struggled in his limited opportunities. Sound like a mess? It is. So if Marve looks good today coming into next Saturday's bye week, expect him to be written into the starting role for Week 5.

WISCONSIN: No alarms and no surprises. Wisconsin is headed for a classic "trap game" at Northern Illinois this weekend, and Northern Illinois is better than you think. The Badgers have the horses to win handily, but they're on the road and facing former defensive coordinator Dave Doeren, who's now helming NIU. A fast start and a minimum of mistakes will help put this game away early -- and keep blood pressures down back home in Madison.

Posted on: September 6, 2011 5:25 pm
 

A Big 10 team in SEC country is not quite as rare

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Yesterday, my colleague Bryan Fischer posted the last time each of the SEC teams had made a trip to Big Ten country for a road game. The results, while not surprising, were still pretty brutal: six had never faced a Big Ten team as an active member of the SEC, and of the three programs that had made the trip in the last 30 years, two are perennial doormats Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and the last is LSU -- a 36-33 loser to Ohio State in 1988. Not a good look for the mighty SEC powerhouses, but such is their strategy, and it's hard to argue with results: avoiding the Big Ten hasn't stopped the SEC from winning championship after championship, so who's the real sucker here?

Still, some fans wanted to know the other side of the story, namely, whether the Big Ten was also filled with scaredy-cats who are afraid to face the SEC on its own turf. Clearly, this hypothesis is false, as the Big Ten plays multiple bowl games a year against the SEC in the SEC footprint, and has done so for decades. On the other hand, the SEC does not go to any bowl games within the Big Ten footprint, though I've lived in the Midwest for 30 winters now, and I do not blame the SEC for staying down there come December and January. It sucks up here.

However, there is still the question of regular season scheduling and whether the Big Ten does any of that, since we're talking about true road games in the regular season. So here's the breakdown, and while it's more ambitious than the SEC's m.o., that's not saying a whole lot.

 Illinois

at Florida, September 23, 1967, lost 14-0

 Indiana

at Kentucky, September 18, 2004, lost 32-51

 Iowa

Never played at an SEC school.

 Michigan

Never played at an SEC school (did play at Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina prior to each's SEC affiliation).

 Michigan State

at Kentucky, November 2, 1946, lost 14-39 (Michigan State did not join the Big Ten until 1953)

 Minnesota

Never played at an SEC school.

 Nebraska

at Auburn, October 2, 1982, won 41-7 (Nebraska did not join the Big Ten until this year, obviously)

 Northwestern

at Vanderbilt, September 4, 2010, won 23-21

 Ohio State

at LSU, September 26, 1987, tied 13-13

 Penn State

at Alabama, September 11, 2010, lost 3-24

 Purdue

at Vanderbilt, October 3, 1942, lost 26-0

 Wisconsin

at LSU, September 30, 1972, lost 27-7

Obviously Iowa and Minnesota have some 'splainin' to do, but by and large we see a somewhat greater -- or at least more recent -- willingness from the Big Ten to travel down south for a non-conference game. The average year of the SEC's last games at Big Ten schools is 1963 (not including Tennessee), while the Big Ten's is 1980 (again, not including nonparticipants Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota). That's still an average layoff of 31 years, which is way too long -- or at least it would be without the several bowl games between the two conferences -- but the SEC is the clear conference of wimps and shrinking violets when it comes to scheduling.

But again, that all said, it doesn't matter. the SEC doesn't need road games with the Big Ten to win championships; if anything, the elite of the conference have figured out that it's not worth their time to risk early losses in the non-conference schedule. Voters don't really care about strength of schedule next to good old wins and losses -- if they did, LSU wouldn't still be ranked behind Alabama (victors over Kent State) and Oklahoma (who really took it to Tulsa, which, yeah) even after pantsing Oregon as badly as it did. See? Huge win, barely made a difference. Win go up, lose go down. That's all polling boils down to, the SEC knows it, and the SEC gets its wins however it can. They know the system. You can't blame them for that.

Of course, it's nothing to be really proud of either, you wimps, but as long as the SEC keeps winning championships, the means are secondary to the ends. 
Posted on: August 29, 2011 7:01 pm
 

Notre Dame will say no to the Big 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Big 12 has thrown out some big names for potential replacements, with perhaps none being bigger than the old conference expansion standby, Notre Dame. Unfortunately for the Big 12, if Notre Dame is the conference's Plan A for replacing Texas A&M, then it's already time to move on to Plan B.

In a talk with the American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick repeated the same party line he's been repeating for years now. Notre Dame isn't interested in your conference.

“Our priority — and our clear priority — is maintaining our football independence and continuing to build our relationship with the Big East with our other sports,” said Swarbrick.

Sorry, Big 12, but it's not going to happen, and if you ever felt otherwise, you were just being foolish.

If Notre Dame was to ever decide that it wanted to join a conference, the Big Ten would be it's first destination. Not only has the Big Ten invited the school numerous times, but tradition wise, it just makes a lot more sense. The school has longstanding rivalries against three Big Ten schools already in Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, so the transition wouldn't be that difficult to make.

Plus, even if Notre Dame wanted to join the Big 12, would it even make sense for the Big 12 to want Notre Dame in the fold? Think about it, one of the main reasons there is such unrest in the Big 12 in the first place is the preferential treatment many in the conference feel Texas gets, particularly with the new arrival of the Longhorn Network.

Well guess what Notre Dame has hopes of launching in the future? That's right, it's own network. So how would adding a second school that gets to play by its own rules help matters any? 
Posted on: August 24, 2011 5:15 pm
Edited on: August 24, 2011 5:45 pm
 

Starting Purdue QB Henry tears ACL

Posted by Adam Jacobi

No program in the Big Ten has been hampered worse by ACL injuries over the last couple seasons than Purdue, so it stands to reason that head coach Danny Hope would be hoping to have a normal, healthy set of practices before the season this year.

Clearly, whatever cruel football deity is taking residence in West Lafayette has other ideas.

Purdue announced Wednesday that starting quarterback and co-captain Rob Henry tore his right ACL in a non-contact injury during Tuesday's practice. The extent of Henry's injury isn't yet known, but a torn ACL should be enough to end Henry's season before it starts; the real question is how quickly in the offseason he can get back to work.

“Rob Henry is a huge part of our football program, our heart goes out to him,” Hope said in a statement. “He was voted a captain by the team in the spring, and I know he will continue to inspire and push Robert (Marve), Caleb (TerBush), Sean (Robinson) and all of his teammates forward.” Marve, TerBush, and Robinson are all fellow quarterbacks.

The specter of ACL injuries haunts the Boilermakers' quarterback situation even past Henry's injury, though. One of the injured players last season was Marve, who began the season starting at QB before his knee gave way against Toledo early in the year. So while Marve would ostensibly be the new starter in Henry's stead, he's still dealing with soreness in his own surgically repaired knee, and told reporters yesterday he's trying to get his knee ready for conference play -- which, for Purdue, starts October 1.

That's not good news for a Purdue team that needs a quarterback a little sooner than that, so TerBush -- who missed last season to academics but is eligible and ready to roll this season -- is probably first in line for Week 1. Past TerBush, Robinson played in emergency duty as a true freshman last year, and he was planning to redshirt this season as the presumptive fourth-string QB. That plan, clearly, might need to be revised yet again.

The Boilermakers also still have Justin Siller, a senior wide receiver who was a converted quarterback, and who made one start against Michigan last season before (yikes) being lost for the rest of the season with a foot injury on the first play from scrimmage. At this point, Siller's not part of the QB conversation, but there's no telling whether the Boilermakers might need him or not again.

It's, to say the least, too bad that these injuries continue to plague Purdue. The team showed a great deal of competitiveness last season, even with backups (and their backups) all over the place on offense. With any luck, the injury spree will stop here, and the Boilers can get something approximating their best eleven on the field this season.
Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 4:57 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big Ten team

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here are one writer's choices for the preseason All-Big Ten team. 

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Kirk Cousins, Senior, Michigan State

For as many high-level quarterbacks as there are in the Big Ten, it looks as if the stars have aligned the best for Kirk Cousins this year. Cousins returns his stable of running backs, two of his top three wideouts (and experienced senior backups at the third receiver and starting tight end), and his same offense from 2010. Cousins also didn't suffer a catastrophic injury last year. Oh, and Cousins is a very, very good passer. There isn't another quarterback in the conference that can make all of those claims, so while the MSU schedule is just brutal this year, if any losses occur, it's unlikely that a healthy Cousins will be to blame for any of them.

Also watch for: Even without Terrelle Pryor lining up under center, this is a loaded position in the conference. Denard Robinson and Dan Persa can also make legitimate claims as the top quarterback in the conference, and Wisconsin newcomer Russell Wilson might get there by the end of the year. This is a conference where Nathan Scheelhaase and Taylor Martinez are competing to even be mentioned in the top five quarterbacks. Big Ten secondaries, beware.

RUNNING BACK

Edwin Baker, Junior, Michigan State

In a Spartan backfield loaded with depth, Baker is the best of the bunch, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs in his sophomore campaign. Baker is a low, powerful rusher with some of the best instincts in the conference, and he’ll be counted on to produce even more -- provided he can keep his talented teammates from stealing even more carries in 2011.

Montee Ball, Junior, Wisconsin

Ball gets the nod here just for being a year ahead of his teammate listed below, but the truth is both are going to be major weapons for the Badgers this year. Ball was a hair away from hitting 1,000 yards rushing last year, but his nose for the end zone is impeccable; he scored 18 rushing touchdowns last year, which is even more ridiculous considering half-man, half-truck John Clay was also a Badger last year and scored 14 TDs of his own. 20 touchdowns is totally in play for Ball this year.

Also watch for: All the true sophomores. There's a lot of them. First of all, both Baker and Bell have superlatively talented teammates in their backfields; Ball's partner in crime is reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White, who racked up 1,057 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman. Meanwhile, the Spartans have true sophomore big back Le'Veon Bell, who rushed for 605 yards at 5.7 yards a carry last year. Iowa boasted its own a true freshman breakout star in Marcus Coker, who scorched Missouri for 219 yards and two scores in the Insight Bowl. Penn State's starting tailback Silas Redd was also a true freshman in 2010, looking impressive as he tallied 437 yards (5.7 yards per carry) in relief of since-departed Evan Royster. Ohio State has a trio of workhorses in its backfield in Rod Smith, Jaamal Berry (8.3 ypc as, yep, a true freshman in 2010), and suspended starter Boom Herron. Meanwhile, junior Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) and senior Jason Ford (Illinois) have been significant contributors in the backfield for years, and both have opportunities to put forward a big year.

WIDE RECEIVER

Derek Moye, Senior, Penn State

Penn State may not have its quarterback situation shored up just yet, but one thing for sure is that whoever steps forward will have the conference's best target to aim at. Moye is 6'5" and fast, and he led the Nittany Lions' receiving corps with 53 catches, 885 yards, and eight TDs -- all team highs last year. Ostensibly, both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin (PSU's dueling QBs) have an even better rapport with Moye than they did last year, so don't be surprised to see all three of Moye's stats rise in his senior campaign.

Marvin McNutt, Senior, Iowa

McNutt first came onto the scene in 2009, when he was listed ahead of returning starter (and future Iowa record-holder in career receptions and receiving yards) Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on Iowa's depth chart coming out of camp. McNutt and Johnson-Koulianos eventually played their way into starting roles alongside each other, but the more surprising aspect was that McNutt -- recruited as a quarterback out of high school, and the Hawkeyes' 3rd stringer under center the year prior -- could work his way into the starting lineup that easily. McNutt quickly emerged as the surest catcher on the team, and his big play ability has put the Hawkeyes' career touchdown reception record in dire jeopardy (he needs just five scores to match Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes at 21).

Also watch for: Jeremy Ebert of Northwestern has a record of production that's as good as just about anybody else in the conference, and his familiarity with Dan Persa is going to be key as Persa continues to work his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. Ohio State wideout DeVier Posey was a favorite target -- by a pretty wide margin -- of Terrelle Pryor, and it's hardly a stretch to think that whoever OSU's new QB might be will depend on Posey often (once Posey comes back from suspension, anyway). 6'5" Indiana WR Damarlo Belcher would probably be in the NFL today if he had held onto a game-winning 4th down pass against Iowa last season. He didn't, the Hawkeyes won, new Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson convinced Belcher to stay, and here we are. Keshawn Martin and BJ Cunningham should both put up big numbers for Kirk Cousins at MSU.  

TIGHT END

Drake Dunsmore, Senior, Northwestern

From a purist's standpoint, Dunsmore is not technically a tight end; he's classified by Northwestern as a "superback," which means he can be found all over the place in the Wildcats' different offensive sets. He fits the same role that a tight end usually does, however, mixing a healthy amount of both blocking and receiving. Think of Dunsmore as Northwestern's Frank Wycheck. Also, think of him as Dan Persa's safety valve, being the second-leading receiver returning to the Wildcats and by far the leader among Big Ten tight ends with 40 receptions in 2010.

Also watch for: If Dunsmore's role as "superback" is too much of a departure from tight end for comfort, Nebraska TE Kyler Reed could easily take Dunsmore's place on this list. Reed's athleticism makes him one of the toughest tight ends to cover in the league, and at 18 yards per reception in 2010, he's proven the ability to move chains as well as any end in the conference. His eight touchdowns (tops among Big Ten TEs) don't hurt either.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Center Mike Brewster, Senior, Ohio State

Forget the Big Ten, Mike Brewster might well be the best center in the nation. In a position that usually attracts shorter linemen, Brewster stands tall at 6'5" 305 and still boasts elite technique. The four-year starter has become something of a folk hero in Columbus, and for good reason: he's probably going to be an All-Pro at the next level.

Guard Kevin Zeitler, Senior, Wisconsin

Now that First Team All-Americans Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt are gone to the NFL, the Wisconsin offensive line needs a new anchor, and Zeitler likely fits that bill. Zeitler is the most experienced offensive lineman on the Badgers, with 22 starts to his name, and his senior season should be his best.

Guard Joel Foreman, Senior, Michigan State

Foreman worked his way into the starting lineup early in his redshirt freshman season, and never relinquished the role. 36 starts later, he's the premier guard in the Big Ten, and his ability to get to the second level has been critical to Michigan State's considerable success rushing the ball. Foreman's pass protection skills are also stellar; it's no accident that Kirk Cousins has flourished as a passer over the last few years.

Tackle Mike Adams, Senior, Ohio State

Mike Adams shouldn't be on this list. He should be in the NFL, because he likely would have been a first-round pick last year. His role in the tattoo scandal and subsequent NCAA investigation led Jim Tressel to demand Adams return for his suspension-shortened senior season, and here we are. With the aforementioned Carimi off in the NFL, Adams takes over the mantle as the best tackle in college football, and his return to the Buckeyes' lineup after his five-game suspension is going to be a major factor in the Buckeyes' fight to stay atop the conference.

Tackle Riley Reiff, Junior, Iowa

As Iowa's left tackle, there's no denying Reiff has big shoes to fill; his recent predecessors include former All-Americans (and first-round NFL draft picks) Robert Gallery and Bryan Bulaga. Reiff could soon fit that bill himself; he's a big, mean masher who excels in downfield blocking and at the point of attack. Reiff's pass protection isn't as impressive quite yet, but he's still got two seasons left at Iowa to take that next step. He may not need two before the NFL comes calling.

Also watch for: Michigan center David Molk would probably be first-team in just about any other conference, but with Brewster manning the role for OSU, Molk is relegated to second-team status here. RT J.B. Shugarts is a third senior starter on the line for the Buckeyes, and if his foot injury is healed, he'll likely have a big year. Wisconsin RT Josh Oglesby is back from an injury that robbed him of all but two games in 2010, and he could easily play his way into all-conference consideration.  

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Cameron Meredith, Junior, Nebraska

In Meredith’s first year starting in 2010, he racked up 10 quarterback hurries and 6.5 TFLs. That would be disconcerting enough by itself, but with the bevy of talent in the front seven, most of the help blocking will have to be devoted to other defenders -- meaning Meredith will likely be on an island with his opposing tackles, terrorizing them and opposing quarterbacks all season long. Look for his sack numbers to go way up in 2011.

DE Vince Browne, Senior, Northwestern

One of the most underappreciated players in the Big Ten is probably Vince Browne, who registered seven sacks and 15.5 TFL in relative obscurity last year. The spotlight's on Browne now as a consensus preseason first-team all-Big Ten player, and his production continues to improve, he'll quickly make Wildcats fans forget about former all-conference DE Corey Wootton.

DT Jared Crick, Senior, Nebraska

It's slightly unfair to Crick (pictured above right) that he shared a defensive front with former Heisman candidate DT Ndamukong Suh, because it only invites comparisons between the two rather than letting Crick define his own legacy at Nebraska. On the other hand, earning comparisons to Suh is fantastic news for Nebraska, because it means Crick's incredible. Crick is a likely All-American at DT, with 32 TFLs to his name over the last two seasons and the potential to pass 20 TFLs this year. He's big, strong, and disruptive, which probably means instant double-teams on the majority of snaps in 2011. That still might not be enough to slow Crick down.

DT Mike Martin, Senior, Michigan

Last year, Mike Martin faced the same challenge that former teammate Brandon Graham did in 2009: being the best defensive lineman on a truly terrible defense. At the very least, Martin gets another crack at helping the Wolverines turn their defense around, and with the arrival of Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator, that looks to be a real possibility. Martin wasn't at 100% very often last year, but he's healthy right now, and that plus the move back to a 4-3 lineup (with space eater William Campbell next to him at NT) should be enough to propel Martin and the Wolverines DL to a much-improved season.

Also watch for: Jerel Worthy is a monster on the interior for Michigan State and may supplant Martin as a first-team DT by season's end; Worthy's production needs to improve, though. Iowa DT Mike Daniels is in his second year of starting, and the aggressive senior showed flashes of potential last season. He's going from the "fifth starter" in 2010 to the leader of the retooling Iowa defensive line. Ohio State DE Nathan Williams is in his second year starting for the Buckeyes, and he's expected to put together a solid senior year.

LINEBACKER

Michael Mauti, Junior, Penn State

When healthy, Mauti is one of the most fearsome linebackers in the Big Ten. It's that health that poses a bit of an issue. Mauti missed all of 2009 with an ACL injury, then struggled through various maladies last season -- including a shoulder injury suffered against Ohio State. Sheer probability suggests Mauti will have better luck with injuries this year, and he's manning the inside linebacker spot in a defense that puts the ILB in the best position to make plays. Tackles will be plentiful for the talented junior this year.

Lavonte David, Senior, Nebraska

It's bad enough for Nebraska's opposing offensive linemen that they have to deal with Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler at defensive tackle at the same time. It's worse that behind them lurks All-American candidate MLB Lavonte David. With needing three blockers to engage Crick and Steinkuhler a near-certainty, Davis will be free to get to the edges and and hit the point of attack, both things the speedy linebacker can do extremely well. Look for unholy amounts of production from David in 2011.

Chris Borland, Sophomore, Wisconsin

Wisconsin's defense wasn't spectacular last year, but with an offense scoring over 30 points in all but one Big Ten game, it didn't need to be. That defense is getting a major boost this year as 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Borland returns after taking a medical redshirt last season. Borland is strong and aggressive, and he represents a significant step up from departing MLB Culmer St. Jean. It wasn't exactly easy to run on Wisconsin last year, but it'll be legitimately tough now.

Also watch for: Andrew Sweat takes over as the leader of Ohio State's defense now, and the rangy OLB is poised for a big year. Iowa MLB James Morris stepped in as a 215-pound true freshman last year, and now that he's bigger, he may never leave the starting lineup; Iowa coaches are especially high on him. Senior Nate Stupar is versatile and productive, and he'll help bolster the Penn State linebacking corps in a big way.

SECONDARY

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Senior, Nebraska

With former teammate and All-American CB Prince Amukamara off to the NFL, it's Dennard's time to shine as Nebraska's lockdown cornerback. He showed all the necessary potential last year as opposing quarterbacks threw for under 50% all season long (tops among BCS teams), and while the loss of Amukamara might push opposing passer ratings up a bit, throwing at Dennard is still going to be a terrible, terrible idea. 

Cornerback Shaun Prater, Senior, Iowa

Prater's interceptions are about to drop precipitously. Not because the returning All-Big Ten cornerback is about to get any worse, but with his accolades and the uncertainty in the rest of the Iowa secondary, there isn't going to be a whole lot of sense in testing Prater anymore.

Safety Aaron Henry, Senior, Wisconsin

Henry, a cornerback for the Badgers until 2010, made a successful transition to safety by registering 58 tackles, seven PBUs, and a pair of interceptions last year. With a year of experience at free safety under his belt and a wealth of athleticism to boot, Henry should be even better in 2011.

Safety Trenton Robinson, Senior, Michigan State

It's hard to argue with results, so it's hard to argue with Trenton Robinson's eight passes broken up and four interceptions; only Northwestern cornerback Jordan Mabin had more passes defended last season, with 14 PBUs and a pick. Robinson is also the leading tackler among returning MSU starters, so look for a big senior year in center field for him.

Also watch for: Iowa CB-turned-safety Micah Hyde might have a case for being on this list after scoring two touchdowns off interceptions last year, but he’ll need to produce at his new position for Iowa before any accolades come his way. True sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen is a rising star in Purdue’s secondary after two defensive scores of his own; he’ll be getting All-American consideration before his career’s over. Also, as mentioned before, Jordan Mabin led the conference in passes broken up by a pretty substantial margin. That's worth something.

Specialists

KICKER

Derek Dimke, Senior, Illinois

Dimke is the returning first-team All-Big Ten kicker, and for good reason; the Lou Groza watch list member was 24-29 on field goals last year, and he's got one of the strongest legs in the conference. Look for another all-conference performance this year.

PUNTER

Brad Nortman, Senior, Wisconsin

Not only is Nortman one of the best (if not often-used) punters in the conference, he also led the Big Ten in rushing average after gaining 17 yards on a fake punt in Wisconsin's 31-30 win over Iowa last year. Sadly, Nortman's one rushing attempt did not qualify him for the official league crown. With the top three punters in the 2010 Big Ten all graduating, Nortman has an opportunity to step up and put together a big senior year.

Posted on: August 4, 2011 8:20 pm
 

Purdue debuts new, slightly different uniforms

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Continuing a rather popular theme from this offseason, the latest team to unveil a new set of uniforms is ... (shakes Magic 8-Ball) ... Purdue! The Boilermakers had their old uniform design for five years, so clearly something had to be done. Ladies, and gentlemen, here is that something:



Yeah, that's the same color scheme, and the helmets are essentially the same (different center stripe) too. There's just three different sets of pants and two jerseys now, and the numbers have a new font. Not to be flip about it all, but that merited a press conference?

In fact, if there's one thing to be celebrating here, it's the otherworldly moustache on display by Chris Carlino, a senior backup linebacker who was almost certainly chosen for this unveiling solely for his soup strainer. That is a top-caliber, grade-A, All-American moustache. Let's see it some more.



And he's only a backup? Well, that's your problem right there, Danny Hope. You've got this moustache for the ages on your team, just waiting to be the keystone of a defense desperately in need of leadership, and it's just sitting on the sideline. Surely a school like Purdue -- one that has employed moustache aficianados as head football coaches for the past 14 years -- can appreciate the power of a well-crafted handlebar like Carlino's, no?

[VIDEO: Carlino "just gonna rock it for a while"]

Anyway, there's a whole set of pictures from the conference on Purdue's Facebook page, though there are so few noteworthy sartorial flourishes that we can't in good conscience say it'd be worth one's time to click through. And sure, when it comes to football, the uniforms pale in importance to the actual play on the field itself, so yes, this is pretty shallow criticism. But Purdue's the one who called a press conference over what amounts to different numbers and more pants, so nobody's really above reproach here.

Except for Chris Carlino, of course. 
Posted on: August 4, 2011 3:52 pm
 

Big Ten moving to nine conference games in 2017

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Big Ten conference season is going to be getting longer in a few years. Jim Delany announced Thursday that in 2017, the Big Ten is moving to a nine-game conference schedule. Yes, that means some teams get five home conference games a year, but fear not: the conference has a plan:

Three teams each from the Legends Division and Leaders Division will feature five conference home games during odd-numbered years, while the other three schools from each division will host five conference contests during even-numbered years. The 2017 schedule will include five conference home outings for Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska from the Legends Division and Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State from the Leaders Division. The 2018 schedule will feature five Big Ten home games for Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern of the Legends Division and Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin of the Leaders Division. 

The upshot of this is that unless there's a 13th regular season game about to be added (which seems unlikely right now), Big Ten teams are going to be left with three non-conference games to be filled. And being that college football programs still covet home games and bowl bids above all other things, those three non-conference games are probably going to be almost exclusively home dates against cupcakes. Those programs with regular non-conference rivalries (namely Iowa-Iowa State and Michigan-Notre Dame) are going to have to coordinate the schedules so that the road games don't come in years with the extra in-conference road game, otherwise that's only six games at home for the season -- a Big Ten athletic director's worst nightmare.

That all said, nine conference games is still nine conference games, and it's going to make the conference even more fiercely competitive. Say what you will about the Big Ten not being the SEC, but there really aren't that many cupcakes to be found. Between the regular season and the conference title game, whoever the Big Ten champion is will have had to face 10 Big Ten opponents to get there, and at least seven of them will have been teams other than Minnesota, Indiana, or Illinois. That's pretty rough. 

All in all, it's a bold move for the Big Ten. and if there's one thing I would change, it's the distribution of home and away games. While it evens out over time, the division races are going to be unfairly tilted toward the three teams given five home games. Penn State probably can't expect to win many division titles in odd-numbered years when it has five road games and Ohio State's over there with five home games. I'd rather see it alternate between entire divisions (Legends host the protected inter-divisional rivalry game in even-numbered years, Leaders host it in the odds), so at the very least divisional crowns are decided on more equal footing.

Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:15 pm
 

'Unofficial' Big Ten poll puts Nebraska at top

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Coming into this year's media gathering, the Big Ten decided not to hold its annual media poll with the usual preseason player of the year, predicted order of finish (heretofore limited to the top three finishers), and all of that. It seemed odd, but from the Big Ten's perspective, it wasn't exactly a vital aspect of the whole operation.

Funny thing, though; just because the Big Ten isn't holding a poll doesn't mean it's not going to happen. So lo and behold, 24 beat writers from around the conference -- two per school -- got together and held their own poll anyway.

Here's the breakdown from the Detroit Free-Press, listed with the total amount of voting points (six for first, five for second, on down the line) with first-place votes in parenthesis.

LEGENDS

1. Nebraska (19) 139
2. Michigan State (4) 118
3. Iowa 82
4. Michigan (1) 71
5. Northwestern 69
6. Minnesota 25

LEADERS

1. Wisconsin (22) 141
2. Ohio State (1) 113
3. Penn State (1) 95
4. Illinois 76
5. Purdue 52
6. Indiana 27

Title game matchups:
Nebraska over Wisconsin (10)
Wisconsin over Nebraska (7)
Wisconsin over Michigan State (3)
Nebraska over Ohio State (1)
Nebraska over Penn State (1)
Wisconsin over Michigan (1)
Michigan State over Wisconsin (1)

First of all, there are scant few surprises herein. Nebraska's the class of the conference, Wisconsin's next, and there's a pretty big dropoff after that. That said, whoever decided Michigan was going to win the Legends Division in Brady Hoke's first year -- the rebuilding period right after another rebuilding period -- should stop sending joke ballots and ruining it for the rest of the readers. Another demerit for whoever decided to put somebody below Minnesota, since the Gophers are just a mess right now.

As for the Leaders Divison, no surprises here, aside from a preposterous first-place vote for Penn State. Ohio State would be worth a look here if Terrelle Pryor were still on the five-game suspension, but with Joe Bauserman (or whoever else) under center, the Buckeyes are decidedly inferior to Wisconsin -- so long as Russell Wilson's healthy, anyway.

Speaking of quarterbacks -- this would be the year to celebrate them. The top three offensive players are all QBs, according to voters, and five of the 10 players who received votes were QBs. Here's the breakdown (again, with first-place votes parenthesized):

1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (14) 52
2. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern (4) 26
3. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (2) 18
4. Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State (1) 16
5. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (1) 14
6. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (2) 9
7. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska 4
8. James White, RB, Wisconsin 2
9. Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State 2
10. Derek Moye, WR, Penn State 1

Yes, that's two different Wisconsin tailbacks on the list, and at least one will likely be in the top five of voting at the end of the season. As for the leading vote-getter, it's worth pointing out that Robinson's most dangerous weapon is still his feet... and Michigan's planning on limiting his carries this season. Yes, that's a wise move for keeping Robinson healthy, but the more he's standing still in the pocket and throwing, the less he's playing to his strengths. He'll still make it work, in all likelihood, since it's Denard flippin' Robinson we're talking about here, but those gaudy numbers we saw last season may be coming down a bit. Just a bit.

In other voting, Jared Crick dominated defensive player of the year voting, and Bret Bielema was named the top coach in the Big Ten over close runners-up Kirk Ferentz, Bo Pelini, and Pat Fitzgerald (in that order). Crick is a fine choice, and the four coaches who led voting deserved to. One could make a good case for Pat Fitzgerald to be higher, but these are small quibbles; we're not talking about Ron Zook ending up in second place or anything.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com