Big Ten: Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State Nittany Lions season review

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
12:00
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Before we turn our full attention to bowls, we’re taking a look back on the 2014 regular season for each team. Up next: Penn State.

Overview: No team’s expectations might’ve fluctuated more than the Nittany Lions. They opened with four straight victories -- Christian Hackenberg led two game-winning, fourth-quarter drives -- and fans openly wondered about Big Ten title possibilities. At that early point, Hackenberg was on pace to set a Big Ten record in passing and the defense looked like the best in the conference. Only one of those trends would continue, however. Once opponents had some film on the Nittany Lions' offense, those lofty expectations came crashing down. The offensive line was routinely dominated by the opposition, and PSU couldn’t scheme around that glaring weakness. Only six FBS teams allowed more sacks, and only four allowed more tackles for loss. Hackenberg struggled as a result, as the Lions ended the regular season on a 2-6 run. If it wasn’t for the nation’s No. 2 total defense, that record would’ve been even worse. PSU didn’t score 20 points in regulation against a Big Ten team, and its two “trademark” wins -- UCF and Rutgers -- came within the first three weeks of the season.

Offensive MVP: WR DaeSean Hamilton. He was literally the lone consistent bright spot on this offense. He set the school freshman records for both receptions (75) and receiving yards (848), and he was named to the All-B1G second-team. He led the entire conference in receptions and was fifth in receiving yards -- not too shabby for a redshirt freshman who missed all of last season with a wrist injury.

Defensive MVP: LB Mike Hull. As a veteran leader of this defense, a lot was put on his shoulders this season -- but he more than rose to the occasion. He was the heart and soul of the nation’s top rushing defense, as he recorded more than twice as many tackles as the next-best PSU player. Hull boasted a conference-leading 134 stops, while Nyeem Wartman had 64 to place second on the Nittany Lions. He was also named the Big Ten linebacker of the year and was one of the conference’s best defensive players. Maybe the only defender to have a better season was Ohio State's Joey Bosa.

Big Ten morning links

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
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Live football has almost returned. Until it arrives again, take a few spins on the coaching carousel.

The Wisconsin Way: Continuity should be back at Wisconsin, and the program made it clear that it won’t be compromising anything it proudly stands for to keep it. By sticking inside the family on Wednesday and officially bringing Paul Chryst back home, the Badgers have somebody who knows exactly what the job entails and a coach who almost certainly won’t be making a lateral move at any point in the future. Maybe the Badgers will start spending more money on assistants down the road, so there’s some flexibility there in regards to an issue that turned off Bret Bielema. But in terms of knowing the kind of recruits it can expect to land and clearly laying out the academic requirements moving forward, not to mention bringing in an existing relationship with the university and the boss, Chryst couldn’t be any better suited to provide stability for Wisconsin after a rough stretch of losing Bielema and then Gary Andersen after two short years.

Down to one: Wisconsin moving quickly leaves only Michigan active on the job market, and while there’s no telling when that search will end, it is effectively the only one that still has a chance of connecting on a true home-run hire. No offense to Chryst or new Nebraska coach Mike Riley, because those were smart, sensible hires that made perfect sense for each program -- but they certainly don’t qualify as splashy or scream that championships are on the way. If Les Miles is definitively out of the picture, it really seems as though Jim Harbaugh is going to have to come through for the Wolverines once his commitments to San Francisco are over at the end of the NFL season. And it seems like Michigan is fully committed to doing whatever it takes to deliver him. Maybe there’s another huge name secretly looming out there for Michigan, but if there was, wouldn’t there have been some indication of that by now? The Big Ten is down to one job, and there really only seems to be one guy who should claim it.

Coordinator corner: Just below those headline vacancies leading Big Ten programs, the chance to replace Tom Herman as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator will be up there as a highly-coveted position this offseason as the coaching carousel spins. The odds are strong that Ed Warinner will receive something of a promotion from his co-coordinator duties and take on more responsibility as a play-caller, though he was already somewhat active in that regard in his current role. Warinner not only deserves a raise for the incredible job he’s done with the Ohio State offensive line, he has earned more credit than he currently receives for that work, which is perhaps why he hasn’t landed an opportunity to lead his own program yet despite a couple interviews over the last two years. The Buckeyes are actually fortunate that they don’t have to replace both Herman and Warinner simultaneously, but either way there will be no shortage of candidates lining up for the shot to potentially work with J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller at quarterback.

East Division
West Division

Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
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We are almost in the home stretch on our way to signing day, so coaches are pushing it into overdrive to finish out their recruiting classes.

Here is a look at the latest news on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten.

Big Ten morning links

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
8:00
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Good morning, Big Ten fans. Only four more days until college football résumés ...

1. Ohio State OC Tom Herman a good fit for Houston: He's currently in negotiations with Houston to be its next head coach, according to The Associated Press. And, if the Cougars sign him in the end, they're getting a good one. He worked a lot of magic with Ohio State's quarterback situation, and Houston could use a little of that after sophomore John O'Korn took a step back and lost his job after a terrific freshman campaign. Herman would have two young quarterbacks to work with -- O'Korn and Greg Ward Jr. -- and he'd inherit a talented team that simply underperformed this season. Herman has proven enough; he's undoubtedly ready to move up the ranks. Ohio State fans should be sad to see him go but, at the age of 39, you knew he couldn't stay around forever. As the winner of the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant, he was just too talented stay a coordinator much longer.

2. Indiana one of two leading schools for UAB running back: In case you need to catch up here, UAB running back Jordan Howard is looking for a new home after his program folded. And he's quite the coveted sophomore, considering he's No. 7 nationally with 1,587 rushing yards. As ESPN.com's Jeremy Crabtree reported, Howard has Indiana and Notre Dame leading the way right now. He visited both schools, has no other visits planned and wants to decide where to transfer within about the next three weeks. In other words, it sure looks as if Howard is down to the Irish and the Hoosiers.

It's a bit of a surprise the Alabama native is looking to move up North, but it could work out well for Indiana. Tevin Coleman is expected to declare early for the NFL draft, and the Hoosiers are looking for a replacement. Playing time is something IU could offer, and it doesn't hurt that UAB wideout Marqui Hawkins already chose Indiana. Plus, as Howard told me a little over a week ago, he has some family in the Fort Wayne, Indina, area. If IU can reel him in, he would instantly become one of the most intriguing Big Ten running backs of the 2015 season. He's definitely a player you should be keeping an eye on.

3. $12 million worth of football building renovations at Penn State: OK, so $12 million isn't nearly as much of a head-turner as Maryland's $155 million facility. But we're talking about strictly football here, and $8 million is dedicated to just “branding and graphic upgrades.” As StateCollege.com reported, one of the plans is to integrate video, sound and lighting to “create a ‘Wow' factor in all areas of the building.” Among the renovations? An “experience room,” which is supposed to immerse recruits into a digital, first-person view of game day. Digital locker room name plates are among the suggested concepts, as this renovation is trying to take PSU more into the 21st century. The funds aren't as much as other B1G schools' recent renovations, but PSU doesn't need to alter as much, either. The facilities are already pretty good.

East Division
  • The departure of offensive coordinator Tom Herman won't derail Ohio State, writes The Columbus Dispatch's Rob Oller.
  • Five quick talking points on Michigan State, from Baylor fans buying up MSU's Cotton Bowl tickets to the next career move for defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.
  • Rutgers freshman CB Dre Boggs has played in nine games already this season, but he has higher expectations for himself.
West Division
  • Paul Chryst, who's poised to succeed Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, declined to say Monday that he'll remain with Pitt.

Roundtable: Season's best B1G games

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
3:30
PM ET
Every day this week, before the bowl season kicks off, our Big Ten panel of experts will be weighing in on different topics related to the regular season.

Our first question of the week: What was the best game of the season?

Brian Bennett: It didn't have a lot of meaning for the rest of the season, but Northwestern's 43-40 overtime win at Notre Dame was as entertaining a game as you could find. The Wildcats, coming off four straight losses in which they had scored a total of 50 points, somehow rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter on the road in South Bend. Jack Mitchell drilled a 45-yard field goal with 10 seconds left to tie it and then hit a 41-yarder in the first overtime to give Northwestern a win that ranked alongside their 1995 upset of the Irish in terms of pure shock value.

[+] EnlargeEzekiel Elliott, Adrian Amos, Marcus Allen
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarEzekiel Elliott and Ohio State fought past Penn State in double overtime in one of 2014's most memorable Big Ten games.
Austin Ward: Penn State and Ohio State crammed just about every possible kind of intrigue into the double-overtime thriller in October. There was the first stern test on the road for Ohio State freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett against an elite defense and hostile crowd, and on top of that he had to overcome a knee injury in the second half. There were controversial calls, the drama made for compelling action late in regulation, and the Buckeyes would have their College Football Playoff hopes legitimately on the ropes trailing in the first overtime. The win even was clinched with a signature moment, with Joey Bosa bulldozing into the backfield for a walk-off sack that capped a memorable battle that stood out as the most entertaining in the Big Ten this season.

Adam Rittenberg: Neither Minnesota nor Nebraska won the Big Ten West Division this year, but the teams delivered an entertaining game Nov. 22 in Lincoln. The game had a bit of everything: long pass plays, tough running, a key injury to Minnesota's David Cobb and a huge special teams play from Nebraska's Nate Gerry, who returned a blocked field-goal attempt 85 yards for a touchdown. Minnesota hung around and rallied in the second half behind Mitch Leidner, and Nebraska's late push fell short as De'Mornay Pierson-El fumbled near the Gophers goal line. Minnesota held on for a 28-24 win in what proved to be the final home game for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.

Josh Moyer: Indiana's 31-27 upset over eventual SEC-East champ Missouri still resonates the most with me. The Hoosiers came in as a two-touchdown underdog to the then-No. 18 Tigers, and all of us predicted another IU loss. Why wouldn't we? Indiana had lost its last 18 games against ranked opponents (dating to 2006), and it last beat a top-18 opponent on the road in 1941. So all signs pointed to a Mizzou win, especially when it took a 27-24 lead with a little more than two minutes left in the game. But IU quarterback Nate Sudfeld wouldn't be denied; he engineered a six-play, 75-yard game-winning touchdown drive. Just 22 seconds remained following the score. After a rough Week 2 in the Big Ten, no one expected this kind of game in Week 4.

Dan Murphy: Maybe it wasn't the most competitive, but Wisconsin's 59-24 win over Nebraska on Nov. 15 will go down as the most memorable game in the Big Ten this season. That game, a battle for control of the West Division, sent the two teams in opposite directions to finish the year. The Huskers' loss on a big stage probably sealed Pelini's fate in Lincoln and started a domino effect that will significantly shuffle the league's coaches. The record-setting performance by Melvin Gordon punched his ticket to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. His 408-yard mark stood for only one week, but the images of him galloping untouched through Nebraska's defense and the falling snow will have a much longer shelf life.

Mitch Sherman: Let’s not forget the Big Ten newcomers. Maryland and Rutgers largely fared better than expected in challenging situations as they prepared for unfamiliar foes every week. And when they met on Nov. 29 in College Park, the seeds for a new rivalry were planted. Rutgers completed the largest comeback in school history to win 41-38 on Kyle Federico’s 25-yard field goal with six minutes to play. The game featured nearly 1,000 total yards, just five punts and two turnovers, excellent red zone- and third-down efficiency. In other words, it wasn’t a sloppy mess. The Scarlet Knights trailed 35-10 late in the second quarter when a Maryland roughing-the-punter penalty extended a TD drive that sparked the rally. If this was just a start, we’re all excited to see where this series can go.

ESPN's Big Ten all-freshman team

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
10:00
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The Big Ten doesn't put out an all-freshman team. But we do. Here are our picks for the top first-year players in the league in 2014:

Offense

QB: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Well, duh.

RB: Justin Jackson, Northwestern: In the year of the running back in the Big Ten, Jackson somewhat quietly produced 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman.

RB: Curtis Samuel, Ohio State: He added to the Buckeyes' ridiculous array of skill players, running for 386 yards and six scores. Looks like a future star.

WR: Mike Dudek, Illinois: In another season, one in which a guy like Barrett doesn't put up mind-boggling stats, Dudek would have been the freshman of the year in the league. He should surpass 1,000 yards receiving in the Fighting Illini's bowl game.

WR: DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State: Though the Nittany Lions' offense struggled, Hamilton caught more passes (75) than any other Big Ten player and finished with 848 yards in the regular season.

WR/RB: Jalin Marshall, Ohio State: A versatile, speedy weapon who could come out of the backfield or fly into it, Marshall scored seven touchdowns on offense and one on punt returns. He's also the team's backup quarterback right now.

OL: Mason Cole, Michigan: The first Wolverine ever to start the opener at left tackle as a true freshman, Cole stayed there all season and showed a lot of promise with his excellent footwork and instincts.

OL: Brian Allen, Michigan State: The true freshman and brother of All-Big Ten center Jack Allen appeared in all 12 games, with one start at left guard.

OL: Billy Price, Ohio State: The redshirt freshman has started all 13 games as a guard for the Buckeyes.

OL: Andrew Nelson, Penn State: The Nittany Lions had their issues on the offensive line, but Nelson started every game at tackle -- including twice at left tackle -- and has a bright future.

OL: Christian DiLauro, Illinois: He filled in as the starting right tackle in the second half of the season for the Illini and helped them rally their way to a bowl game.

Defense

DL: Kemoko Turay, Rutgers: After a torrid start, the pass rushing specialist finished with 7.5 sacks. He also blocked a field goal against Michigan to preserve that victory.

DL: Malik McDowell, Michigan State: The blue-chip recruit whose signing day saga made headlines showed his talent by playing in all 12 games and recording 3.5 tackles for loss.

DL: Steven Richardson, Minnesota: Thrust into a starting role after the first week because of injuries, the true freshman more than held his own by finishing with 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.

LB: Darron Lee, Ohio State: After taking a medical redshirt last year, Lee emerged as one of the Buckeyes' top defensive playmakers, recording 66 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries, one of which he scored on.

LB: Ja'Whan Bentley, Purdue: The Boilermakers' linebacker position has been a problem for the past few years, but Bentley is part of the solution. He was Purdue's second-leading tackler on the season with 76 stops, adding an interception and three fumble recoveries.

LB: Anthony Walker, Northwestern: In his first start against Penn State, Walker returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown. He also had a pick in the win at Notre Dame and led the Wildcats with nine tackles for loss.

LB: Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State: Playing mostly in a reserve role, McMillan had an immediate impact on the Buckeyes. The former stud recruit recorded 50 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception.

DB: Eli Apple, Ohio State: It's scary how many star freshmen the Buckeyes have. Apple is another, as he had 41 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and a pair of interceptions.

DB: Montae Nicholson, Michigan State: The true freshman played in every game and had three starts in the Spartans' "No Fly Zone." He had 30 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries.

DB: Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern: He made waves in the Wildcats' upset win over Wisconsin by grabbing three interceptions. He started five times at safety and finished with 51 tackles.

DB: Marcus Allen, Penn State: He started Penn State's final six games at safety after Ryan Keiser got hurt, and the Nittany Lions' defense didn't miss a beat. He was third on the team in tackles with 52.

Specialists

K: Rafael Gaglianone, Wisconsin: The effusive Brazilian with the strong leg went 17-for-20 on field goals, including 2-of-3 from beyond 50 yards.

P: Daniel Pasquariello, Penn State: His 37.7-yards per punt average was nothing to write home about -- except the Australian probably does write home a lot. He improved down the stretch to solidify the Nittany Lions' punt team.

Returner: De'Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska: He was third in the FBS in punt-return average (17.8) and scored three touchdowns, including a memorable one in the comeback win at Iowa.

Big Ten morning links

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
8:00
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Miss college football? Bowl games begin this weekend. Giddy up.

1. Wisconsin can't officially offer its vacant head coaching job to anyone until Wednesday, but all signs still point to Paul Chryst being the guy despite chatter about him being interested in staying at Pitt and athletic director Barry Alvarez talking to Greg Schiano.

The focus now is on hiring assistants, and Jeff Potrykus writes that keeping defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is a possibility. If so, that would be a major coup, as Aranda is one of the brightest young defensive minds in the game and is loyal to Gary Andersen. Potrykus also reports that former Wisconsin assistant Joe Rudolph could return to Madison along with Chryst.

2. The Michigan search continues, and the longer this goes on the more you have to think the Wolverines must believe they have a shot at Jim Harbaugh. There's a potential interesting twist to this saga, however, as there are reports the Miami Dolphins could fire coach Joe Philbin and take a run at Harbaugh.

Of course, the Dolphins are owned by Stephen Ross, who is arguably Michigan's most well-known booster. He would naturally be involved in putting together a lucrative package to bring Harbaugh to Ann Arbor. I can't imagine Ross would trap door his alma mater in order to bring Harbaugh to Miami, so if there's more to this pursuit than it indicates that Harbaugh truly is interested in leaving the NFL ranks right now.

3. The Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz reports that the Ohio State parents association has written a letter to the Big Ten asking for financial assistance to travel to the Buckeyes' semifinal game against Alabama in New Orleans.

Each family can be reimbursed $800 out of the school's student-assistance fund, but that's still not enough to cover all the travel costs. And things only get more expensive if Ohio State wins and moves on to the national title game in Texas.

Star defensive tackle Michael Bennett's mother, Connie, called it "reprehensible" that players' families aren't helped more when it comes to traveling to watch their sons play.

"They're making hand-over-fist dollars on our guys, the guys take all of the risk for the entertainment dollars and they ignore their families altogether," she said, according to Dispatch story.

The playoff is a great thing for the sport, but how fans and especially families were going to be able to get to those games has always been a major unanswered question. Neither the Big Ten nor NCAA can change that right now, but given the new autonomy measures the Power 5 conferences have been granted, this needs to become a priority. The playoff will generate an enormous pile of money, and a small part of that should go toward making sure participating players' parents are in the stands.

West Division
East Division

B1G roundtable: Bowl thoughts, Part V

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
3:30
PM ET
All week, our Big Ten panel of experts has been weighing in on topics related to the league's postseason lineup.

Our final question of the week is this: What's your early prediction on the Big Ten's bowl record?

Brian Bennett: I'll go with 4-6. And that's if several things go right, especially in the lower-tier bowls. This is once again a very challenging postseason slate for the Big Ten, which will face some elite offenses in Baylor and Auburn, the No. 1 team in the country in Alabama, a seasoned team playing a virtual home game (Stanford) and an SEC division winner, among others. Regardless, the postseason is already a success for the Big Ten because the league got a team into the playoff.

Josh Moyer: The Big Ten certainly didn’t draw an easy lot with these matchups, so it’s difficult envisioning a scenario where the conference ends the bowl season with a winning record. I waffled between three and four wins, but the Big Ten is an underdog in each of its matchups. That doesn't bode well. On the plus side, it should be easier to steal some wins from the lower-tier games. For example, Illinois’ Tim Beckman is facing a Louisiana Tech team that fell to Northwestern State and Old Dominion. A win is a win, right?

Adam Rittenberg: I'll go 4-6. The underdog thing is nothing new in the league, but several games look like toss-ups to me. Both Ohio State and Michigan State have tough tasks in the big bowls, but there are opportunities for wins near the bottom of the lineup.

Mitch Sherman: With its three traditional SEC matchups in addition to the playoff semifinal in the Sugar Bowl, the Big Ten faces a tough task to get to .500. I think it happens after a strong start that includes at least two wins from the group of Illinois, Rutgers and Penn State. I’ll say 5-5, which -- do the math -- includes an Ohio State loss to Alabama.

Dan Murphy: I'm going with 5-5. The Big Ten shows its teams have, for the most part, improved since the early September disaster by playing competitive games against some quality opponents.

Austin Ward: The most accurate picker on the Big Ten blog this season usually needs a little more time to crack the code and nail down the winners, but initially I would expect the conference to finish with at least 6 wins. Currently that doesn’t include a victory for Ohio State, but Urban Meyer has been masterful as an underdog and I think at a minimum that matchup will be close. I’m reserving the right to change my pick to the Buckeyes later this month.

ESPN.com's All-Big Ten team

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
9:00
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The Big Ten unveiled its official all-league teams last week, but we have our own thoughts and choices. Here is the ESPN.com All-Big Ten team for 2014:

Offense

QB: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Barrett broke the Big Ten single-season record for touchdowns produced with 45. He would have added to that total if not for a broken ankle in the regular-season finale vs. Michigan.

RB: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: All he did was lead the FBS in rushing, break the Big Ten single-season rushing record and earn the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year honors.

RB: Tevin Coleman, Indiana: Coleman joined Gordon as the only other player in the country to top 2,000 yards; he would have been a serious Heisman contender in another year or on a more successful team.

WR: Tony Lippett, Michigan State: The Big Ten’s receiver of the year led the league with 1,124 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.

WR: Leonte Carroo, Rutgers: Carroo joined Lippett at over 1,000 yards and averaged 19.7 yards per catch.

TE: Maxx Williams, Minnesota: A John Mackey Award finalist, Williams was the Golden Gophers’ top receiver and crucial cog in their run game.

OT: Taylor Decker, Ohio State: Anchored a Buckeyes offensive line that developed into one of the league’s best over the course of the season.

OT: Brandon Scherff, Iowa: He was named the Big Ten offensive lineman of the year and is a surefire NFL first-round draft pick.

C: Jack Allen, Michigan State: The Spartans gave up fewer sacks (10) than any Big Ten club and had one of the league’s top offenses with Allen at the point of attack.

G: Kyle Costigan, Wisconsin: An ESPN All-American, Costigan helped pave the way for Gordon’s record-breaking runs.

G: Pat Elflein, Ohio State: He was a sturdy performer all season on the Buckeyes’ line as the offense scored at a rapid pace.

Defense

DE: Joey Bosa, Ohio State: The Big Ten defensive player of the year led the league in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (20) and tied for the lead with four forced fumbles.

DE: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State: After a quiet start, Calhoun got back to his dominating ways and finished with 6.5 sacks.

DT: Anthony Zettel, Penn State: With eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss from the defensive tackle position, Zettel was the most disruptive interior lineman in the conference.

DT: Louis Trinca-Pasat, Iowa: LTP was a pleasant surprise for the Hawkeyes, leading the team with 11 tackles for loss and adding 6.5 sacks.

LB: Mike Hull, Penn State: Hull was the Big Ten linebacker of the year and led the league with 134 tackles.

LB: Jake Ryan, Michigan: Ryan turned in a strong senior season with 112 tackles and 14 tackles for loss.

LB: Derek Landisch, Wisconsin: Any one of the Badgers’ four “Chevy Bad Boys” linebackers could have made the first team, but Landisch led the team with nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss.

DB: William Likely, Maryland: A big-play machine, Likely grabbed six interceptions and scored touchdowns on two of them.

DB: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota: Like Likely, he was always in the middle of the action with four picks and a key strip late to seal the Nebraska win.

DB: Trae Waynes, Michigan State: Probably the best pure cover guy in the league, Waynes is asked to do a whole lot as the point man in the Spartans' "No Fly Zone."

DB: Michael Caputo, Wisconsin: Caputo was the leader from his safety spot for a defense that was the best in the league during the regular season; he finished with 99 tackles.

Specialists

K: Brad Craddock, Maryland: The Big Ten kicker of the year made his first 18 field goals this season, including a 57-yarder and a game-winner at Penn State.

P: Peter Mortell, Minnesota: Mortell was a field-position weapon for the Gophers, leading the league with a 45.5-yard average per attempt

PR: De'Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska: The freshman scored three touchdowns on punt returns and had a preposterous 17.8 yard average for the season.

All-purpose: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: We had to find a spot for Abdullah on the team, and since he returned kicks and was extremely versatile as a running back, this seemed like a good spot.

Big Ten morning links

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
8:00
AM ET
Wisconsin survived its first full day since way back in 2012 without a head coach, though the search to replace Gary Andersen -- set to to be introduced Friday at Oregon State -- appears set end quickly.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Thursday night that the school is prepared to hire Pitt coach Paul Chryst, a former UW quarterback and offensive coordinator.

It’s a delicate situation, of course, for the Badgers, the uprooted assistant coaches and their families -- not to be taken lightly. But perhaps the most interesting byproduct of Andersen’s unexpected departure is the news that Barry Alvarez will coach Wisconsin in its bowl game. Again.

Alvarez, the 67-year-old athletic director and Hall of Fame former coach of 16 years in Madison, led the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl, a six-point loss to Stanford, after Bret Bielema bolted to Arkansas.

Alvarez ought to just coach the Badgers in every bowl game. In fact, other legends should follow suit and rejoin their former programs on the sideline in the postseason. Surely, the NCAA would allow a special 10th coach. If not, just make them interns.

Let’s bring back Bobby Bowden, Lou Holtz, Mack Brown (too soon?), Don Nehlen, Lavell Edwards, Hayden Fry, Barry Switzer and, if Indiana can get to six wins, Bill Mallory.

Yes, I’m joking. Slightly more serious about this, though: Nebraska has an opening on its staff for the Holiday Bowl. How about Tom Osborne? If Alvarez can go from the College Football Playoff selection committee to the sideline, why not Osborne?

Yeah, he’s 77, served three stints in Congress, lost a gubernatorial primary in Nebraska -- did that really happen? -- and spent five years as athletic director since coaching his last game, a resounding win over Peyton Manning and Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl.

But Osborne has perhaps never watched more college football than in this season. He must have some ideas on how the Huskers could surprise USC. One more fumblerooski up his sleeve.

What an experience it would be for Barney Cotton, long loyal to Nebraska, to have the ex-coach at his side. Cotton played under Osborne from 1975-78, then sent his three sons to Nebraska. It could also be a meaningful sendoff for Ron Brown, the Nebraska running backs coach who worked alongside Osborne in the legendary coach’s final 11 seasons.

Might help a bit with ticket sales, too, and inject a little spice into a game that means a great deal to several Huskers who want to honor their former coach, Bo Pelini, but realistically, little to the forward movement of the program.

Alvarez played linebacker for Bob Devaney on Nebraska teams of the 1960s that included Osborne as an offensive assistant. If Barry can do it, so can Tom.

Alas, it’s unrealistic. Osborne would likely never thrust himself into the spotlight in such a way. But just let me dream.

Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida...

Lots of hardware

What a night on the Disney Boardwalk at the College Football Awards Show. The Big Ten had a good showing, as Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff won the Outland Trophy, presented to the nation's top interior lineman; Maryland's Brad Craddock took home the Lou Groza Award as the top place-kicker; and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon beat finalists Tevin Coleman of Indiana and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska for the Doak Walker Award, given to the best running back.

Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright won the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player. Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa was among the finalists.

Also, Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp won a vote for college football's play of the year for his behind-the-back catch in the season opener.

Around the league:

West Division
  • As expected, Gordon plans to leave after this season for the NFL.
  • Some confusion exists over Iowa's starting quarterback for the TaxSlayer Bowl.
  • A meeting with Missouri in the Citrus Bowl is a "big step" for Minnesota, according to coach Jerry Kill.
  • One of Purdue's recent football brings a French flavor, by way of a California junior college.
  • Northwestern needs to make changes, writes Teddy Greenstein, but will it happen?
  • The competition continues at Illinois during bowl practices.
East Division
  • Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have already met once in a playoff. They sat side by side Thursday and recalled the 2009 SEC championship game.
  • No surprise that Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess did not meet his own expectations this year.
  • The explanation of playoff committee chair Jeff Long on Mississippi State's final-week jump over Michigan State does not erase flaws in the process, writes Graham Couch.
  • Indiana lands UAB receiver Marqui Hawkins but misses a juco QB target.
  • Freshman quarterback Michael O'Connor is leaving Penn State.
  • Maryland coach Randy Edsall, in San Francisco on Thursday, to discuss the Terps' matchup with Stanford, says receiver Stefon Diggs will play in the Foster Farms Bowl.
  • The salary pool for Rutgers' assistant coaches ranks eighth in the Big Ten.

Big Ten season recruiting superlatives 

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
9:00
AM ET
While the recruiting season isn't quite finished, we are done with the regular season. It has been a crazy year within the Big Ten with coaching changes, big commits and big decommits as well. Here is a closer look at the Big Ten's recruiting superlatives.


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Big Ten morning links

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
8:00
AM ET
Well, that was sure an unexpected turn of events. Make that three new coaches for the Big Ten next season.

Blindsiding Bucky: As if getting destroyed in the Big Ten championship game hadn’t already made for a miserable week for Wisconsin, it somehow got even worse on Wednesday. Which was more shocking, the 59-0 loss to Ohio State on Saturday or Gary Andersen’s swift departure just a handful of days later? For that matter, who could have envisioned he would leave for Oregon State instead of a more prestigious job like maybe Florida or Michigan? This was truly a shocker, and the Badgers are no doubt reeling. The Beavers had previously kicked the tires on Brady Hoke, and a reasonable case could have been made that what amounted to a trade with Nebraska for Bo Pelini would have qualified as a successful hire given his consistent track record as a winner. But instead of two out-of-work Big Ten coaches, Oregon State landed a current division winner. And that means Wisconsin should take a long, hard look in the mirror at itself and figure out why it is looking for another coach. Awards season: The Big Ten is guaranteed to be stuffing at least one trophy in its luggage tonight at the Home Depot College Football Awards show, with all three finalists for the Doak Walker Award hailing from the conference. But how many more might the league win? There aren’t all that many options, but Joey Bosa is a realistic threat to claim the Bednarik for the defensive player of the year thanks to his breakout season up front for the Buckeyes. Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff may not have had his finest campaign this year, but he remains extremely well regarded as a pro prospect and could walk out with the Outland honoring linemen. But for the most part, aside from the Walker, it doesn’t figure to be an event that does a whole lot of celebrating the Big Ten.

Texas Tom: With a Broyles Award now officially in his trophy case and a cell phone in hand that was already receiving calls about jobs before Tuesday, expect the conversations about Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman as a future head coach to continue to heat up while he tries to focus on preparing for the College Football Playoff. After Houston made its opening official on Monday, that seems like a logical landing spot for Herman and a potentially perfect fit for that program with a rising star in the profession who knows the spread attack and has been masterful in developing quarterbacks. On top of that, Herman has previous ties to the area as a former assistant at Rice, and he’s earned a reputation for recruiting in Texas despite the long distance to Ohio State. He might even be able to bring along a Houston native with him to work with the quarterbacks if his former pupil Kenny Guiton is ready to get into the profession.

East Division
  • The Michigan athletic department has made a hire -- but it's a public relations firm, not a coach.
  • Michigan State has a chance to improve its stature against an opponent that has impressed Mark Dantonio.
  • Can Penn State slow down Boston College dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy?
  • Taking a closer look at what Maryland's assistants are earning.
  • Evaluating Rutgers on offense this year as compared to last season.
  • The price is steep, but that isn't keeping Ohio State fans from snatching up tickets for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
  • Indiana swooped in to pick up a former UAB wide receiver.
West Division
  • The other Wisconsin departure was anticipated all along, and Melvin Gordon isn't keeping it a secret.
  • There's a buzz around the bowl game for Minnesota this postseason.
  • Complete details for Mike Riley's contract at Nebraska have been revealed.
  • A former Purdue running back is carving out a career as a model after winning a reality show.
  • Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff remains a man of few words.
  • Illinois is happy to be heading to a bowl game, but it is aware there is work to be done.

Watch B1G Show replay

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
6:00
PM ET
Join Big Ten reporters Brian Bennett, Josh Moyer, Dan Murphy and Mitch Sherman as they look at Ohio State's playoff chances, awards season, how Nebraska ran the perfect coaching search, the surprising departure of Gary Anderson at Wisconsin and much more.

B1G roundtable: Bowl thoughts, Part III

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
3:30
PM ET
Every day this week, our Big Ten experts are weighing in on a topic related to the league's postseason lineup.

Today's question: Other than Ohio State (for obvious reasons), which Big Ten team would benefit the most from a postseason win?

Josh Moyer: The Spartans are still searching for a marquee win, since the closest they have come is a 27-22 victory against Nebraska. They played just two ranked teams all season -- No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Ohio State -- and lost handily in both games. Michigan State just needs to show it won’t struggle against top competition. The defense allowed only 14.4 points per game against unranked opponents, for example. But against Oregon and Ohio State? Try an average of 47.5 points. Not only does Michigan State need this, but so does the Big Ten. A win here would help quiet the College Football Playoff debate by showing the Big 12 isn’t the better conference.

Brian Bennett: Iowa. There's a lot of negativity -- again -- around Kirk Ferentz's program after the Hawkeyes lost their final two games and finished just 7-5 despite a dream schedule. It didn't help that Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst fired Bo Pelini after the Huskers beat Iowa and said he had to evaluate where the Hawkeyes stood in terms of relevance. Iowa fans are very loyal, but they're getting sick of this mediocrity, and a loss to a middling Tennessee team wouldn't help.

Mitch Sherman: Penn State. The Nittany Lions spiraled after a 4-0 start; there’s no other way to spin it. Playing in New York against Boston College, another regional recruiting rival, PSU needs to show it is trending up with James Franklin, who had such momentum through the summer and into late September. The home loss to Maryland hurt. A win to finish this transitional season can ease some of the pain and push Franklin into another productive offseason.

Dan Murphy: Michigan State's only two losses this season came to Ohio State and Oregon. TCU is the only other school in the country that can say it's undefeated against non-playoff teams. A win against Baylor would show that Michigan State deserves to be considered one of the nation's best.

Austin Ward: The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl might not have the most appealing matchup of bowl season, but Illinois should be watched closely in a game that could help shape the trajectory of the team moving forward. Tim Beckman has already been given the green light for another season with the program, but if he can’t knock off a Group of Five team like Louisiana Tech and the Illini finish below .500, those questions about his hot seat could start right back up again quickly.

Adam Rittenberg: Minnesota. The Gophers have dropped consecutive bowl games under Jerry Kill -- they had no business losing last year to Syracuse. It's important for Minnesota to show it can make strides from the end of the regular season into the postseason.

B1G roundtable: Bowl thoughts, Part II

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
3:30
PM ET
Our Big Ten panel of experts is weighing in each day this week on a topic related to the league's postseason.

The second question in our roundtable series is this: The Big Ten is an underdog in all 10 matchups. Who has the best chance to pull off an upset?

The Big Ten is an underdog in several of these matchups. Who has the best chance for an upset?

Adam Rittenberg: I look at Penn State and Rutgers. Penn State limped down the stretch at the end of the season, but I think bowl practices can be extremely valuable to the offense, especially the line that struggled so much in Big Ten play. Boston College is a physical team but Penn State's defense should be able to limit the Eagles on the scoreboard. If Christian Hackenberg and the offense makes a few more plays, PSU can win. North Carolina has been wildly inconsistent and I like the way Rutgers fought back against Maryland. Rutgers can run on the Heels all day long.

Josh Moyer: Michigan State was an alluring pick, especially because it's only a two-point underdog. But I still think Gary Andersen's squad stands a better chance at the upset against Auburn. Wisconsin is a far better team than the Big Ten championship indicated, and it's difficult to see a repeat performance from a good team with a good coaching staff. Auburn's defense is nothing special, and Melvin Gordon will be running angry on Jan. 1 -- which is bad news for Auburn fans. It's also worth mentioning the Badgers have only once allowed an opponent to score more than 28 points this season. So Dave Aranda's defense should still be one of the best the Tigers have faced.

Brian Bennett: I realize I'm going way out on a limb here, but how about Maryland? Sure, the Terrapins are flying cross-country to play Stanford in a virtual road game. But how motivated will the Cardinal truly be in Santa Clara after they've played in several major bowl games the past few seasons? And other than the rout of UCLA, Stanford wasn't that impressive all season. Maryland is just a crazy enough team to pull it off.

Austin Ward: Perhaps Boston College won't be a significant favorite, but it is absolutely going to have its hands full with Penn State's stonewall defense. And if that's not enough, the Nittany Lions are going to have plenty of motivation and will be thankful for the chance to play thanks to the removal of their NCAA sanctions, their fans will show up in force and James Franklin will have had a month to work out some kinks on that beleaguered offensive line. Penn State is going to be a dangerous opponent in the postseason.

Dan Murphy: Missouri has already set the precedent of being upset by a Big Ten team (Indiana) this season, so it seems logical to believe the Gophers can follow suit. It won't be an easy day for senior David Cobb in his final game as a college running back, but Minnesota should be able to stick with the Tigers in a low-scoring affair.

Mitch Sherman: Sounds crazy after Saturday, but I actually think Wisconsin can rebound and beat Auburn. Everything snowballed on the Badgers in Indianapolis. They're simply not that bad. I realize Wisconsin lost to LSU, which lost 41-7 to Auburn, but bowl games are strange like that. And Auburn, after playing for the title last season, may lack some of its edge. Wisconsin should be out for redemption and to save face. Alabama and Georgia gouged the Tigers on the ground. I think Melvin Gordon can do the same.

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