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Big Ten Thursday mailbag

8/7/2014

We're nearing the end of the first week of practice for most Big Ten teams. Before you know it, the time will be here to dissect matchups in the league's opening week of games. Until then, let's keep talking about preseason practice. Here's the latest mailbag:

Mitch Sherman: In order to be underrated, don't you have to be rated first? The Big Ten does not release a preseason poll, but we'll go with the poll of media conducted by Cleveland.com as a guide. It predicts the West in this order: Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Northwestern, Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue. The Badgers and Hawkeyes benefit here from favorable league schedules, especially Iowa, which gets Wisconsin and Nebraska at home in the final two weeks of the regular season. Removing the schedule as a consideration, the Huskers are most underrated. Nebraska's talent compares favorably with the other West Division contenders. I-back Ameer Abdullah and defensive end Randy Gregory are legitimate All-America candidates. But Nebraska plays at Michigan State, at Wisconsin and at Iowa, easily the most unfortunate draw of the top teams in the West. Underrated or not, to reach Indy, the Huskers likely need to be head and shoulders above the rest of the division.



Sherman: You're referencing Detroit King linebacker Tyriq Thompson, and it speaks to neither. Recruiting decisions are specific to the player involved and his family, and they rarely symbolize something about the greater direction of a program. Yes, Thompson's father, Clarence Thompson, earned All-Big Ten honors at Michigan as a safety, and the younger Thompson had offers from the Wolverines in addition to Penn State, Nebraska, Northwestern and others. But Thompson picked MSU because of the relationship he built with Mark Dantonio's staff, not necessarily because the Spartans have defeated Michigan in five of the past six years. Michigan will likely always recruit well, and Michigan State, for now, largely wins because it develops players so well in the program. Thompson is rated as the eighth-best prospect in Michigan State's 13-man 2015 class so far, a class that ranks 28th nationally. The Wolverines' class ranks 21st with 10 commits, including seven in the ESPN 300. Among them is running back Mike Weber, a Detroit prospect who committed this week. Weber picked Michigan over a long list of offers that included Michigan State.



Sherman: See, there it is. I knew it existed - the disdain among some Nebraska fans, far flung to the west on the Big Ten map, toward the new East Coast members. Rutgers and Maryland do not bring the prestige of the league's other most recent entries, Nebraska and Penn State, but who said that was a prerequisite? Rutgers slipped last year but has enjoyed success recently, and Maryland appears on an upward trend under Randy Edsall. What happens if the Scarlet Knights beat Penn State in Week 3 or Michigan in Week 6? Either is a possibility. Or if the Terps finish as an upper-division team in the tradition-rich Big Ten East? League fans who thumb their nose at Rutgers and Maryland need to take stock of what the Big Ten has accomplished nationally in recent years. It's not a lot. These new programs, despite lacking in football pedigree, stand a good chance to fit well in the Big Ten power structure over the next decade.