Big Ten: A.J. Barker

After a brief break for signing day, the postseason position rankings return with the wide receivers and tight ends. The Big Ten had only one team (Indiana) rank in the top 30 nationally in pass offense, and the league's overall depth at receiver and tight end wasn't good at all, but a few groups of pass-catchers stood out.

As a reminder, these rankings are based solely on performance during the 2012 season and factor in both star power and depth. Here's a look at our preseason rundown.

There's clear separation with the top three groups, while the bottom four could be rearranged just about any way you want (if you enjoy that sort of thing).

Now let's get started ...

[+] EnlargeCody Latimer
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Cody Latimer should have a productive season in Indiana's pass-oriented system.
1. Indiana (Preseason ranking: 8): The Hoosiers attempted 58 more passes than any other Big Ten team, but they had plenty of reasons to do so and merit top billing here. Speedster Shane Wynn led the squad in receptions with 68, but Cody Latimer emerged into the star of the group, recording 51 receptions for 806 yards and six touchdowns. Like Latimer, Kofi Hughes stretched the field and averaged nearly 15 yards per reception. Tight end Ted Bolser also made nice contributions (41 catches, 445 yards). IU had five receivers or tight ends finish with at least 23 receptions.

2. Nebraska (Preseason ranking: 2): The Huskers' multitude of big-play threats nearly put them in the top spot, as they helped Nebraska finish with the Big Ten's top offense (460.8 ypg). Wideout Kenny Bell led the way with 863 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 50 receptions (17.3-yard average). Receiver Jamal Turner and tight ends Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton all averaged at least 13 yards per reception. Quincy Enunwa became a nice No. 2 target with 42 receptions for 470 yards.

3. Penn State (Preseason ranking: 7): Few saw this coming before the season, and our preseason capsule about the Nittany Lions began with, "Justin Brown gives the Nittany Lions a solid top option." Whoops. Even though Brown transferred in the wake of the NCAA sanctions, Penn State found surprise stars in wide receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Kyle Carter. Robinson won the Big Ten's Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year Award after leading the league in receptions (77), receiving yards (1,013) and touchdown catches (11). Carter (36 catches for 453 yards) might have been the league's top tight end, a position where Penn State had unparalleled depth. Players like wideout Brandon Moseby-Felder and tight end Matt Lehman emerged later in the season.

4. Purdue (Preseason ranking: 5): There's definitely a drop-off after the top three groups, but Purdue had a nice crop of receivers who likely would have put up bigger numbers if quarterback Robert Marve had stayed healthy all season. Wideouts O.J. Ross (56 receptions, 454 yards) and Antavian Edison (58 receptions, 682 yards) both finished in the league's top five in receptions, while Gary Bush also eclipsed the 40-catch mark. Young wideout Dolapo Macarthy showed promise, and tight ends Gabe Holmes and Crosby Wright combined for 47 receptions.

5. Michigan (Preseason ranking: 6): No offense to Denard Robinson, but Michigan's receiving corps truly got its chance to shine once Devin Gardner took control at quarterback. Michigan became a much more pass-oriented offense and stretched the field with several players. Jeremy Gallon turned in a very solid junior season with 49 receptions for 829 yards and four touchdowns (16.9-yard average). Roy Roundtree came on strong late in the season and made the catch of the year in the league against Northwestern to force overtime. Michigan received nice contributions from wideout Drew Dileo and young tight end Devin Funchess (five touchdowns), and Gardner himself made some plays early on before switching permanently to QB.

6. Ohio State (Preseason ranking: 9): Coach Urban Meyer is looking for much more from Ohio State's perimeter players, but in a pass-challenged league like the Big Ten, Ohio State's receivers and tight ends finish in the middle of the pack. Corey Brown quietly produced a 60-catch season, finishing fourth in the league in receptions (5 rpg). Devin Smith had half as many receptions as Brown but finished with nearly the same yardage total (669-618) as he became Braxton Miller's top deep threat. Jake Stoneburner had four touchdown catches, while sophomore tight end Jeff Heuerman showed some promise.

7. Northwestern (Preseason ranking: 1): Thanks to the emergence of Venric Mark, Northwestern became a much more run-driven offense than we anticipated before the season, although the receiving corps underachieved a bit. The Wildcats had no true stars, although they boasted some nice balance as four players recorded at least 29 receptions. The big bright spot late in the season came from freshman tight end Dan Vitale, who recorded 28 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns. USC transfer Kyle Prater wasn't much of a factor (10 catches, 54 yards). Quarterback Kain Colter might have provided the best performance from a Northwestern receiver when he moved there against Indiana and recorded career highs for both receptions (9) and receiving yards (131).

8. Michigan State (Preseason ranking: 11): It says something about the Big Ten when Michigan State's receivers, who received heavy criticism for much of the season, finish in the top two-thirds of the rankings. But the Spartans simply produced a lot more than the groups below them. They had arguably the league's top tight end in Dion Sims, who recorded 36 receptions for 475 yards before opting to skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft. Freshman Aaron Burbridge emerged at receiver during Big Ten play (29 receptions, 364), and the Spartans had three receivers record at least 36 receptions and two -- Keith Mumphery and Bennie Fowler -- with more than 500 receiving yards.

9. Wisconsin (Preseason ranking: 3): Wisconsin had a major shortage of depth, which hurt during a season where three different players started at quarterback. The Badgers had one of the league's best wide receivers in Jared Abbrederis (49 receptions, 837 yards, 5 TDs), and Jacob Pedersen won the Big Ten's Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award, albeit in surprising fashion. But no other players recorded 20 receptions and Wisconsin ended up finishing last in the Big Ten and 111th nationally in passing.

10. Iowa (Preseason rank: 4): The Hawkeyes struggled to consistently pass the ball, and getting into the end zone proved to be nearly impossible as they finished with just seven receiving touchdowns. Kevonte Martin-Manley, the group's bright spot with 52 catches for 571 yards, was the lone Hawkeye with multiple scoring receptions in 2012. Keenan Davis fell short of expectations and while C.J. Fiedorowicz put up nice numbers for a tight end (45 receptions, 433 yards), many expected more from him as well. Like several Big Ten squads, Iowa struggled with depth at receiver.

11. Illinois (Preseason ranking: 10): We had concerns about Illinois' skill-position talent and depth before the season, and it proved true. Although the Illini had four players record at least 25 receptions, two of them -- receptions leader Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson -- play running back. Ryan Lankford was the team's top wideout with 469 receiving yards and five touchdowns, while Darius Millines once again struggled to stay healthy. Spencer Harris contributed 21 catches for 252 yards and two scores, but Illinois needed much more to spark the league's worst offense.

12. Minnesota (Preseason ranking: 12): Like many of their Big Ten brethren, the Gophers lacked playmakers on the edge to provide balance on offense. Their best threat, A.J. Barker, left the program in not-so-quiet fashion after a spat with head coach Jerry Kill. Barker appeared in only eight games but still had 11 more receptions than any other Minnesota player. Receivers like Isaac Fruechte, Derrick Engel and Devin Crawford-Tufts showed flashes, and tight end John Rabe had four touchdown grabs, but Minnesota needs a lot more from this group going forward.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 17, 2013
1/17/13
12:00
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I'm gonna fight him. I'm gonna fight him up real nice.

Pregame: Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

December, 28, 2012
12/28/12
1:05
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Minnesota (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) vs. Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5 Big 12)

WHO TO WATCH: Texas Tech receivers Eric Ward and Darrin Moore. They are big targets in the red zone and caught 24 of quarterback Seth Doege's 38 touchdowns this season. Only two other teams have two receivers with double-digit touchdown catches. Tech's offense runs as Doege, Ward and Moore run. Additionally, tight end Jace Amaro has been cleared to play after missing the final six games of the season with a rib injury. He adds another dangerous asset to Texas Tech's offense, which ranked 12th nationally this year. West Virginia's Geno Smith is the only quarterback with more touchdown passes than Doege.

WHAT TO WATCH: Can Minnesota compete? The two-touchdown line is one of the largest of the bowl season, but the Golden Gophers will have an opportunity to log their best win of the season since knocking off 7-5 Syracuse back on Sept. 22. The Golden Gophers lost three of their final four games of the season -- all by at least 16 points -- but all three losses came to bowl teams. Also, how will both teams handle the loss of big contributors -- wide receiver A.J. Barker (transfer) for Minnesota and cornerback Cornelius Douglas (suspension) for Texas Tech?

WHY TO WATCH: You might find a piece of the answer to the eternal question of how important quarterback play is. Tech's Doege has had his share of struggles, but he has been the guy all season for the Red Raiders and racked up 3,934 passing yards and is 12th nationally in passer rating. Minnesota, meanwhile, has played musical chairs with its quarterbacks all season long and sophomore Max Shortell was frustrated enough to transfer. Philip Nelson will get the start for Minnesota, but will he stay there? Texas Tech fans also can tune in to see how much screen time new coach Kliff Kingsbury gets during the game.

PREDICTION: Texas Tech 34, Minnesota 17. I don't think the Gophers can keep up with the speed and efficiency of Texas Tech's offense. The Red Raiders will have some defensive issues of their own, too, even though Minnesota ranks 111th nationally in total offense. Too much Red Raiders, though. Amaro returns in a big way, and Moore is a pest in the red zone for the Golden Gophers.

Bonus picks! Here's what Big Ten colleagues Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett have to say by way of a prediction:

Brian Bennett: The Red Raiders have an interim coach, and Minnesota has had a month to heal the many injuries that ravaged its offense late in the season, both of which are positives for the Gophers. I think Matt Limegrover will find some creative ways to use MarQueis Gray. Still, Minnesota lacks the weapons to go up and down the field against a high-scoring Big 12 team. Michael Carter and the Gophers' secondary will make some plays but not enough to stop Texas Tech, which pulls away after a close first two-and-half quarters. ...Texas Tech 31, Minnesota 17.

Adam Rittenberg: The Gophers' defense is much improved in Year 2 under Tracy Claeys, but you need a decent amount of offensive firepower to keep pace with Texas Tech. Like you, my concern is the lack of playmakers surrounding Nelson and Gray. Both men will see time at quarterback and help the Gophers take a first-half lead, but a Minnesota turnover changes the game and Texas Tech strikes for two fourth-quarter passing touchdowns to win. ... Texas Tech 34, Minnesota 21

Season report card: Minnesota

December, 27, 2012
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We're back for another round of report cards today as we put every Big Ten team's regular season under the microscope. Minnesota plays its bowl game tomorrow. But first, the Gophers get their grades.

Offense: D

Things looked promising early in the year, as MarQueis Gray began to fulfill his potential as a dual-threat quarterback and some more options emerged in the passing game. But the Gophers' offense quickly crashed back to earth as Gray got hurt, leading to his eventual move to receiver to make way for true freshman quarterback Philip Nelson. Other injuries on the offensive line and particularly at receiver, where leading pass-catcher A.J. Barker quit the team after a dispute over his rehab, left offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover searching for duct tape to hold his group together. Minnesota exploded for 44 points against Purdue on Oct. 27, but that proved to be an aberration; the Gophers averaged a measly 13.3 points per game in their seven other Big Ten contests and failed to score more than 17 points in eight of their final nine games. They finished 111th nationally in total offense. Running back Donnell Kirkwood rushed for 849 yards but was practically invisible in the final two games.

Defense: B-minus

The improvement in Minnesota's defense over 2011 was obvious. The Gophers finished fifth in the league in total defense while allowing fewer than 24 points per game, and they ranked No. 11 nationally in defending the pass. Ra'Shede Hageman became a major impact player at defensive tackle, and end D.L. Wilhite had 8.5 sacks, good for second in the Big Ten. Michael Carter blossomed into one of the league's top cornerbacks as a senior, while safety Derrick Wells played great early in the year. Minnesota was not a dominant defense and gave up too many points to some of the better offenses in the league (Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska). But the unit became more than respectable this season and helped carry the team through its offensive struggles.

Special teams: C-minus

The return of Troy Stoudermire didn't really do much to improve Minnesota's kick return game, which ranked eighth in the Big Ten. The Gophers also didn't fare too well in punting (99th nationally in net punting), and Jordan Wettstein missed eight of his 21 field goal attempts. Without a lot of room for error, this team needs to find more ways to be effective in the kicking game.

Overall: C-plus

After a 4-0 start, Minnesota went just 2-6 and was barely competitive in three of its final four games. Yet this team easily earns a passing grade simply by winning enough games to make it to its first bowl since 2009 in Year 2 under Jerry Kill. There was undeniable progress, and perhaps the Gophers could have done even better than 6-6 with some better health luck on the offensive side. They had to juggle three starting quarterbacks, but getting Nelson starting experience should prove valuable down the road. The second half of the season pointed out a glaring need for more skill position players, but the building process appears to be on schedule in Minneapolis.

Previous report cards:

Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Michigan
Michigan State
Ohio State
Nebraska

Big Ten lunchtime links

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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Congrats to Ron Swanson on his win for "Chair."

A.J. Barker transfers to Houston

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
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Minnesota is going to Houston for its Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas game. Disgruntled former Gophers receiver A.J. Barker is heading to the same destination.

Barker, who quit the team last month and then publicly aired his grievances with coach Jerry Kill and other staffers, will transfer to Houston, according to the Pioneer-Press. Barker was a walk-on at Minnesota but will get a scholarship with the Cougars and will be immediately eligible.

At Houston, he'll play for head coach Tony Levine, who is from St. Paul and who played receiver at Minnesota in the 1990s.

Barker led the team in catches, yards and touchdowns this year but didn't play after an ankle injury on Oct. 27 against Purdue. He later claimed that trainers were keeping him in the dark about his injury and that Kill was verbally abusing and mistreating him. Kill said Barker didn't follow instructions and had problems with discipline.

The saga now comes to a close, with a happy resolution for Barker. But if he happens to run into some of the Gophers in Houston later this month, it might be a little awkward.
The Ohio State Buckeyes have been atop the Big Ten power rankings most of the season. They'll stay there for a very long time.

Ohio State's win against Michigan secured a 12-0 season, just the sixth undefeated, untied campaign in team history. While the Buckeyes won't be in Indianapolis this week for the league championship game, they have proved to be the class of the conference after beating every top team in the league except Northwestern.

Nebraska retains the No. 2 spot, and most of the rankings remain the same after Week 13. Our toughest decision came at No. 3, between Michigan and Penn State. If only the teams had played each other this season.

To the rundown ...

1. Ohio State (12-0, 8-0 Big Ten, last week: 1): Sure, the Big Ten is down and Ohio State has its flaws, but any team that runs the table in any season deserves a ton of credit. Urban Meyer took a seven-loss team with significant depth issues and ran the table in his first year. Braxton Miller and the offense carried the Buckeyes early this season, but the defense stepped in the second half of Big Ten play. Ryan Shazier, Johnathan Hankins and others blanked Michigan in the second half to win The Game and ensure perfection.

2. Nebraska (10-2, 7-1, last week: 2): Most of us thought Bo Pelini was crazy when he talked about winning out moments after his team had been beaten 63-38 at Ohio State. Bo might have thought so, too. But his players believed and found a way to claim the Legends Division title and a spot in Indianapolis. Nebraska needed its defense in a big way at Iowa and received huge performances from defensive end Eric Martin and others. And with Rex Burkhead back in the fold at running back, the Huskers will be even better the rest of the way.

3. Michigan (8-4, 6-2, last week: 3): We gave Michigan a slight edge against Penn State because the Wolverines had no bad losses and gave Ohio State a tougher test. The Wolverines' defense did a nice job keeping Ohio State out of the end zone Saturday, but the offense disappeared in the second half, recording just 60 total yards and four first downs. Offensive coordinator Al Borges got predictable and must iron out the game plan before a tough bowl matchup against an SEC opponent.

4. Penn State (8-4, 6-2, last week: 4): Bill O'Brien described his team as resilient all season, and Penn State once again showed why in Saturday's overtime win against Wisconsin. Playing without star linebacker Michael Mauti, the Lions' defense shut down Wisconsin for most of the game, receiving a huge performance from defensive tackle Jordan Hill. Zach Zwinak stepped up at running back and kicker Sam Ficken, who took so much abuse earlier in the season, went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts and hit the game winner in overtime. What a satisfying way to end the season for O'Brien and his crew.

5. Northwestern (9-3, 5-3, last week: 5): If you're searching for good stories amid the Big Ten morass this season, look no further than Pat Fitzgerald's Wildcats. A young team exceeded all expectations during the regular season and was a play or two away from going to the Big Ten title game. Northwestern steamrolled Illinois with its dynamic rushing attack led by quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark. Fitzgerald tied Lynn Waldorf for the school's all-time coaching wins list with his 49th. An opportunistic defense stepped up, too, as Northwestern secured a spot in a Florida bowl (most likely Outback).

6. Wisconsin (7-5, 4-4, last week: 6): Another close loss for the Badgers, who had an offensive spark early and late but disappeared in between. Wisconsin's defense has made strides during the Big Ten season, but the offense simply lacks consistency, especially up front. It has proved costly in three overtime defeats this year. The Badgers are the third-best team in the Leaders Division but will go to the Big Ten title game, where they'll try to finish a bit better against Nebraska. Quarterback Curt Phillips has shown poise late in games.

7. Michigan State (6-6, 3-5, last week: 7): The Spartans went to their bread and butter -- defense and Le'Veon Bell -- to get past Minnesota and reach the six-win plateau. Michigan State's defense was simply dominant at TCF Bank Stadium, holding the Gophers to four net rush yards and three points on offense. Bell racked up a career-high 266 rush yards and a touchdown, his third 200-yard effort of the season. Michigan State didn't have the season it envisioned, but at least it has a chance to get better during bowl practices before a potential springboard for 2013.

8. Purdue (6-6, 3-5, last week: 9): Like Michigan State, Purdue underachieved this season but found a way to squeak into a bowl game. Credit quarterback Robert Marve, running back Akeem Shavers and the rest of Purdue's seniors for refusing to let the season go down the drain after an 0-5 start to Big Ten play. Shavers and Marve were brilliant against Indiana, and Frankie Williams and the Purdue secondary stepped up as well. It wasn't enough to save coach Danny Hope, but Purdue can win its second straight bowl and end a turbulent season on a good note.

9. Minnesota (6-6, 2-6, last week: 8): Big Ten play was no picnic for the Gophers, who endured numerous injuries, quarterback changes, the A.J. Barker turmoil this week and back-to-back losses to finish the regular season. Minnesota should get healthier before its bowl game, but it has a long way to go on the offensive side after rushing for four net yards Saturday against Michigan State. The next few weeks are big for freshman quarterback Philip Nelson, who struggled in his last two games.

10. Indiana (4-8, 2-6, last week: 10): The past three weeks showed that Indiana still has a long way to go to legitimize itself in the Big Ten. A defense that has struggled for more than a decade surrendered 163 points in losses to Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue. After taking great care of the ball, quarterback Cameron Coffman had seven interceptions in his final three contests. Indiana made progress in Kevin Wilson's second season, and a big opportunity awaits in 2013 with eight home games. But there's a lot of work ahead in the offseason.

11. Iowa (4-8, 2-6, last week: 11): The defense came to play on Black Friday, but an offense that had sputtered all season went out with a whimper. Iowa failed to convert two more turnovers into points, and coordinator Greg Davis once again left Hawkeye fans pulling out their hair with his perplexing play calls. What looked like an eight- or nine-win season in September turned into a complete mess for Kirk Ferentz's crew. The Legends Division will be loaded again in 2013, so Iowa faces a critical offseason.

12. Illinois (2-10, 0-8, last week: 12): There are really bad teams, and then there's Illinois. Tim Beckman's first season mercifully ended Saturday, but not before another embarrassing road loss, this time at the hands of a rival. The Illini's offense actually showed up early, but eight first-half penalties, four turnovers and a defensive front seven that had no answer for Northwestern's run game ensured the Orange and Blue would end the Big Ten season winless for the fourth time since 1997. Beckman, who earned a penalty by accidentally contacting an official during a Northwestern interception, has a lot to fix.

Previewing the Big Ten 3:30 p.m games

November, 24, 2012
11/24/12
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Two more games remain on the Big Ten's last full Saturday. Here is what is on tap for the 3:30 p.m. ET games:

Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3) at Penn State (7-4, 5-2): We know Penn State will be fired up and emotional on senior day. What about Wisconsin? The Badgers don't need this win and are going to the Big Ten title game regardless. Watch how the game starts, as Penn State is a fast-starting team anyway, and whether the Nittany Lions can sustain their energy throughout, unlike some previous emotional games for them this season. Wisconsin's Montee Ball needs one more touchdown to break a tie with Travis Prentice for the NCAA career record. How much running room will he find against a terrific Lions front seven?

Michigan State (5-6, 2-5) at Minnesota (6-5, 2-5): Spartans coach Mark Dantonio issued a non-guarantee guarantee this week and wants his team thinking positively as it heads into a do-or-die situation for a bowl. Minnesota is already guaranteed a bowl spot, but would like to end its regular season on a high note. But the Gophers are dealing with a bunch of injuries and will have to match Michigan State's physicality. Will the A.J. Barker controversy prove a distraction? Players and coaches said no this week. Andrew Maxwell will need to have a big game for the Spartans; D.L. Wilhite and Ra'Shede Hageman will be coming after him.

Big Ten lunchtime links

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
12:00
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The only expansion I want to hear about tomorrow is the expansion of my belly.

Big Ten mailblog

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
5:15
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Nice, slow week in the Big Ten. Let's get to your questions. Expansion, anyone?

Matt from Wisconsin writes: Hey Adam: I hope the Big 10 and Jim Delany get the division model correct his time. Scrap the Mix of geography that makes absolutely no sense in the Leaders and Legends Divisions and just make it a Simple East West. Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in the East (one of them is usually down every year anyway). and then The Powers of Wisconsin, Nebraska, and mixed in with Iowa or Illinois who usually come up and have a really good team one out of every four years to challenge for a title. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I liked the Big Ten's original division alignment because it created seemingly good competitive balance and divided the four major brands (Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Nebraska). But with the recent expansion, some of the rising programs on the western side of the conference -- Wisconsin, Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa until recently -- and the potential decline of a power program (Penn State), it might be wise to follow your model. Although Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema likes being in the Ohio State/Penn State division, the Badgers would have annual series with both Nebraska and Iowa on the other side. You would avoid the potential of a Michigan-Ohio State rematch in the title game the week after The Game, and the final Saturday of the regular season could feature more division games. It's something for the ADs to consider.




Dan from Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam,Love the blog. If the BIG tries to go to 16 who do you see as the most logical fits for the conference? I know Virginia, UNC, G. Tech are on the radar as potential candidates. All are in the AAU but none of the potential targets really brings in much to the table for football sake. One that no one is talking about is Vanderbuilt. I think Vandy is a better fit than Maryland and Rutgers, still adds a TV market (Nashville/Tenn.) and none of the schools would have to travel as far = win win. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, this is clearly all about demographics, so I see the Big Ten looking to the southeast next. Vanderbilt certainly fits academically, and the Nashville market is decent. But I think the other schools you mention, particularly North Carolina, would be more attractive to the Big Ten. North Carolina is a strong academic school with great basketball tradition and some tradition in football, and the location in a growing area is a big plus. It doesn't hurt that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany played hoops for the Tar Heels. Virginia would strengthen the Big Ten in the Mid-Atlantic region and help build the "bridge" from Penn State, as Delany has discussed. And Virginia's academic reputation would make the Big Ten presidents drool.




Philip from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Huge Husker fan here, I need help. My good friend is a die hard Maize & Blue fan and I need an honest, professional opinion. Overall who is a better coach; Brady Hoke or Bo Pelini? I really need to silence this angry fan of Michigan!

Adam Rittenberg: Philip, it's probably not the answer you want, but they're both good coaches. Hoke has been a head coach longer, while Pelini has had more successful seasons. Both helped turn around traditional power programs that had fallen on hard times under their predecessors (Bill Callahan and Rich Rodriguez). I rate them similarly right now as neither has won a league title, both have led teams to division titles (Pelini at Nebraska, Hoke at Ball State), and both served as assistants on national title-winning teams. The two coaches have split their matchups in the Big Ten the past two seasons. Right now, I'd call it a push.




John from Cleveland writes: Adam, It's good timing that the coaching salaries came out the same time as the B1G money/demographics grab with Maryland and Rutgers. With all this new money, can the schools in the conference shell out a few bucks to upgrade the coaching staffs? My assumption is that a good coach will attract better athletes and produce a better football team. Right now, 8 schools (including the two additions) pay their coach less than $2 million. I'd love to see the B1G top that chart and bring in the country's best coaches and build the best conference.

Adam Rittenberg: John, you'll definitely see Big Ten coaching salaries -- and those around the nation -- continue to climb. We can certainly debate whether all these salaries are out of control, but that's the market and the Big Ten must stay competitive. One thing to remember, though, is that the Big Ten is full of broad-based athletic programs, and most schools sponsor far more sports than, say, their counterparts in the SEC. You have to spread the money out a bit, although football obviously takes the biggest piece of the pie. But if the projected revenues come in, I would expect Big Ten head coach salaries -- and, just as important, assistant coach salaries -- to escalate.




B1G fan stuck in Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan: Thanks for taking a question from a stranded Airman 10000 miles away from home. Am I in the minority for siding with Coach Kill about the Barker situation? In my opinion, who cares if your coach called you out in front of your peers. His job is not to be your friend. His job is to be your mentor, and if that means calling you out for something you did, then so be it. Today's mentality of if your supervisor is being a meanie, that means it's wrong is bull. If my supervisor was nice to me no matter how much I messed up, nothing would get done here.

Adam Rittenberg: First off, thanks for writing in, and thanks for everything you do. Coaches aren't saints, and they will challenge their players, Jerry Kill being no exception. Barker contends he wasn't given all the information about his injury up front, and had his work ethic questioned by Kill and the training staff. That's a pretty powerful accusation, and we'll never fully know the truth. He also makes strong accusations about Kill threatening to not award a scholarship. Kill defended himself Monday by saying Barker confronted the training staff, disrupting a practice, and needed to be disciplined. If that's the truth, I don't blame Kill. But it comes down to who you believe. For the most part, players should respect their coaches and understand the nature of the relationship. Most of Kill's players at Minnesota love him. He's extremely well respected in the profession. But coaches can cross the line at times, and questioning a player's toughness following an injury would be doing it, if that's what actually happened. The bottom line is it's a very unfortunate situation all around.




Grant from Detroit writes: I might be the only one who thinks the Maryland/Rutgers move is absolute genius. It is the first step in the next B1G acquisition: Notre Dame. Am I off-base in the following thinking? As conferences begin to expand, they will all opt for the 9-game conference schedule. This will eliminate one of the preseasons, and teams will want to win all of those to remain bowl eligible with potentially harder conference schedules. This will make Notre Dame fall off of many ranked teams' out-of-conference schedules, and ND will have a difficult time finding quality opponents willing to use one of their preseason games on a tough matchup. Without a conference, or strength of schedule, it will become extremely difficult for ND to make the playoffs in the new NC format. They will be forced to join a conference if they want to regularly be in the NC hunt. With the added profitability of TV demos that MD and Rutgers bring, the B1G would offer Notre Dame the most profitable (and winnable) conference option, and it would also maintain several of its current rivalries. ND will end up being forced to join the B1G in ALL sports because the SEC is too tough for them to compete, the Big12 is not a good cultural fit, the Big East and ACC are dissolving, and the Pac12 is too far away. This addition of Maryland and Rutgers will spark another round of conference expansion and will put many teams in panic mode. Though I think that ND will be the last major team to join a conference, I think they will be a member of the B1G within 6 years, along with Pitt. What are your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Grant, unless the ACC completely falls apart, I don't see this happening. One thing that's clear is Notre Dame would have to fully commit to the Big Ten -- all sports including football -- to be admitted. The Big Ten will never cut the deal the ACC did for Notre Dame, Texas or any other school that thinks it's above the fray. Here's what Delany told ESPN.com and the Chicago Tribune on Monday: "It was pretty clear to me that Notre Dame for a long time wanted to maintain its independence, and as that's a matter of fact, I knew there wasn't a possibility for us to add Notre Dame. I've always respect Notre Dame's history and their vision." The ACC is a good cultural fit for Notre Dame. So unless the ACC falls apart, I think Notre Dame stays put.




Ian from Philly writes: Dear Mr. Rittenberg,Your and Mr. Bennett's lack of coverage (in terms of both quality and quantity) of the Big Ten's expansion beginning this Saturday morning through today is highly disappointing. Outside of Mr. Bennett's lone piece about the lack of short term gain that Maryland and Rutgers provides the conference your blog seemed to serve no greater role than an aggregation of links and tweets.Your readers have come to expect more, much more.

Adam Rittenberg: Ian, we were under direction from Bristol not to address the expansions until they became official Monday. No speculation, no commentary. Since then, we've provided a ton of coverage you can find here. Think it's more than sufficient, especially during a pretty big game week, but you may disagree.

Big Ten lunch links

November, 20, 2012
11/20/12
12:00
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We covered most of the Big Ten expansion reaction today, but in case you need more, go here and here and here and here and here and here. That should tide you over.

Now onto the football-based links ...
Minnesota receiver A.J. Barker stunned a lot of people by announcing Sunday evening that he was quitting the team, then accusing head coach Jerry Kill and other Gophers staffers of mistreatment in a long online letter.

Kill responded to the accusations with a short news conference on Monday. Kill defended the way Barker was treated in his program.

"I feel bad for A.J.," Kill said. "I feel bad that's the way he feels about the situation, and I'll do anything I can to help in the future with whatever he decides to do. ... But I don't treat my players any differently than I treat my own two daughters."

Kill said he didn't really know what brought about Barker's unhappiness and that his attempts to reach the player after reading the letter Sunday were unsuccessful. But he said things came to a head during Thursday's practice, when he said he heard Barker having a "confrontation" with one of the team's trainers.

"It got loud," Kill said. "I called him over to let him know I wasn't very happy. ... You do not talk to an adult or someone of authority in that voice."

Barker accused the training staff of keeping him in the dark about his injury. Kill said Barker had not been following trainers' instructions after injuring his ankle.

As for Barker's accusation that a Gophers staffer had called him an anti-gay slur, Kill said, "Nobody's ever done that. Not to my knowledge. I'm not around every single minute, but as far as when I've been around, there's nobody [that has] ever done that."

Kill also said he did not insult Barker's family, as Barker claimed.

The Minnesota coach said he has a list of rules and procedures that every player must follow and that he's been consistent on those his entire career. Kill said he wishes Barker had handled his concerns differently.

"I wish he had come and seen me," Kill said. "Things are a lot easier that way, to me. You always do things face to face on that nature."

Big Ten Week 13 preview

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It's the last week before the Big Ten championship game, which means this is the last game before bowl season for some teams and the last game until next year for others. Let's look at the story lines for Week 13:

Friday

No. 14 Nebraska (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) at Iowa (4-7, 2-5), Noon, ABC: In the second installment of the Heroes Game, Iowa will need a heroic effort to pull off the upset, even at home. The Hawkeyes have lost five straight, while Nebraska comes in riding a five-game winning streak and just needing to take care of business here to win the Legends Division. It's hard to imagine the Huskers slipping up now, but as we saw this past weekend, sometimes crazy stuff happens.

Saturday

No. 19 Michigan (8-3, 6-1) at Ohio State (11-0, 7-0), Noon, ABC: Perhaps you've heard that these two schools have a little bit of a rivalry going on. The Game is always a big deal, and this year's edition looks like the biggest one since 2006. The Buckeyes are looking to finish off a perfect season, while the Wolverines would not only love to ruin that but need it to stay alive for a division title and for an outside shot at a BCS at-large bid. The Devin Gardner/Denard Robinson combo gives Michigan some crazy explosiveness, while Braxton Miller will try to rebound from his first subpar game of the season at Wisconsin. And it's Urban Meyer's first entry into this rivalry as head coach. Is it Saturday yet?

Wisconsin (7-4, 4-3) at Penn State (7-4, 5-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPN2: This game is meaningless in the big picture, but it won't feel that way for the Nittany Lions' seniors who have created a unique legacy. The Badgers no longer have a division title to play for and are going to Indianapolis regardless. Still, Wisconsin can help its bowl placement with a win and doesn't want to go into the Big Ten title game on a two-game losing streak. Montee Ball needs one more touchdown to break a tie with Travis Prentice for the NCAA career record.

Michigan State (5-6, 2-5) at Minnesota (6-5, 2-5), 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network: It's still a little hard to believe that the Spartans have to win their finale just to go bowling, but that's the predicament they put themselves in. At least they're on the road and not at home, where they went winless in Big Ten play. Will any Michigan State fan even want to travel to watch this team play another game? Minnesota could make that a moot point by winning on senior day and getting to seven wins, which would be a great achievement in Jerry Kill's second year. The Gophers' home finale could be overshadowed by the A.J. Barker controversy this week, however.

Indiana (4-7, 2-5) at Purdue (5-6, 2-5), Noon, BTN: The Old Oaken Bucket game takes on real meaning as Purdue needs to win to reach its second straight bowl. Indiana saw its bowl hopes end last year, but the Hoosiers will be fired up for this rivalry and would love to keep the Boilermakers home. Danny Hope could be coaching for his job. Purdue has won eight of the last 10 meetings between these two, but Indiana came out on top the last time they met in West Lafayette in 2010.

Illinois (2-9, 0-7) at Northwestern (8-3, 4-3), Noon, BTN: Northwestern can wrap up a pretty impressive nine-win season and extend the misery of its top rival. The health of Kain Colter and Venric Mark will be the main angle to watch this week. Illinois coach Tim Beckman hasn't done much if anything to endear himself to Illini fans this season, but a win here could be a small step in that direction. His team is really thin, though, after enduring several more injuries last week. What are the chances Daniel Day-Lewis can show up in character to present the Land of Lincoln Trophy?

Big Ten lunchtime links

November, 19, 2012
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I was all excited to go see "Lincoln," but then some jerk spoiled the ending for me.

Video: A.J. Barker leaves Minnesota

November, 19, 2012
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Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg on Minnesota wide receiver A.J. Barker claiming mistreatment by head coach Jerry Kill and the training staff.

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