Big Ten: Beaver Stadium
Although fairly new, Penn State's coordination of fan attire for the big-ticket matchup at Beaver Stadium creates visual images like this and this, which are impossible to forget. The White House asks all Penn State fans to wear white for a game, differentiating it from a whiteout (just students). Last September's White House game against Iowa in a steady downpour served as my favorite game setting of the 2009 Big Ten season.
After dropping the 2009 White House game to Iowa, Penn State will have to wait for 2011 to seek redemption before 110,000 white-clad fans, Paternoville President Alex Cohen said. Cohen, citing a high-ranking official within the athletic department, confirmed in a text message that the next White House game will be Sept. 10, 2011, against Alabama.
There had been some confusion about the White House situation after tickets for this season's matchup against Temple suggested the game would serve as a White House. The Temple game tickets included the words "Whitehouse, All-University, and Varsity 'S' Day" and encouraged all fans to wear white. But it was a misprint.
Good thing, too.
The opponent and the significance of a game play major roles in when the White House should be scheduled. These are not just games, but events, and they need to be special.
A late September matchup against Temple doesn't move the needle. To be honest, none of Penn State's home matchups this fall get me too jazzed, which is why postponing the White House until 2011 is the right call.
"The game has to have significance and the date has to work," [associate athletic director Greg] Myford said. "There's a number of factors that go into it."
Penn State's home slate consists of games against Youngstown State (Sept. 4), Kent State (Sept. 18), Temple (Sept. 25), Illinois (Oct. 9), Michigan (Oct. 30), Northwestern (Nov. 6) and Michigan State (Nov. 27). The Michigan game jumps out as a potential candidate for the White House, especially since an 8 p.m. ET kickoff on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 already has been announced.
But Michigan's recent slide has decreased the buzz around such a matchup, as Jared Shanker writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News:
The Penn State Athletic Department is making the right move by refusing to designate any of the 2010 home games as a "White House" game. A quick glance at the schedule and it becomes clear there isn't a team worthy of earning the distinction of the "White House" opponent. Before Rich Rodriguez took over the Michigan program, it would have been an easy choice to promote a "White House" for the night game against the Wolverines on Oct. 30. But with the Wolverines struggling mightily (8-16 since 2008), Penn State would really be stretching the boundaries of what should be considered a "White House" game.
That's a knock against Michigan, but it's hard to argue right now. While I wouldn't mind seeing the White House policy re-examined in early October -- say, if both Penn State and Michigan are ranked and undefeated -- I understand the logistical issues of making a decision so close to kickoff.
The Alabama game at Beaver Stadium seems a long way away, but I have a feeling the White House will be worth the wait.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
You didn't think I'd forget to get the mail, did you?
Matt from Pensacola, Fla., writes: Hey Adam, I was reading the article on the Elite 11 and noticed that Daryll Clark has bulked up to 240 with 3% body fat. I no longer live in PA and haven't seen much of PSU for a while, especially any of the players. Have you seen him recently? If so, does he look like he bulked up? Do you think that the increase in body mass will effect the way PSU runs the Spread HD? I know it could help him power the ball more, but as a QB, should that be the route he should be looking at, especially with the lack of experience at backup? If he gets injured, the season could be over. Great job on the blog by the way.
Adam Rittenberg: I haven't seen Daryll for a while, Matt, but he'll be at Big Ten media days next week. I'll definitely let you know how he looks, but I know colleague Bruce Feldman was blown away by how massive Clark has gotten during the offseason. That's a pretty amazing physique, and Penn State will need it to hold up given its lack of depth behind Clark. Some might say 240 is too big, but Terrelle Pryor is 238 and I don't hear any complaints there. I like what Clark has done during the offseason. Penn State should still be very careful with how much they run him this fall, but he can definitely take a beating with that body.
Cory from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I would like to see a schedule of when each school begins their summer practices (and the more details for each school's camp that can be included, so much the better)Perhaps I have not been looking in the right place or not looking hard enough, but I have yet to see such a list.If such a list can be made, I think many would appreciate it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
I will be in a Big Ten state this weekend, and it's not Illinois. Can you name it? If so, I have no prizes to offer, just my salute to you.
T.J. from State College, Pa., writes: El Duderino, I?m glad you ranked the toughest places to play in the Big Ten; I enjoyed reading your explanations. I have always thought of Beaver Stadium followed by Camp Randal as the toughest places to play with Ohio Stadium in a distant third. The atmosphere at the PSU-OSU game this past fall was pathetic for a night game. Anyway, I would like to propose a quantitative way of ranking the toughest places to play. If you take each team?s last ten losses (not played on a neutral site) and count how many occurred at home, you have a pretty good indicator of the strength of a particular venue. Here is how it came out when I added them up: 1.Penn State-(2) 2.Wisconsin, Iowa-(3) 3.Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue-(4) 4.Indiana-(5) 5.Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota-(6)
Adam Rittenberg: First off, I think the nature of the Ohio State-Penn State game -- only 19 points scored -- probably took the edge off the Ohio Stadium crowd. It's still a very tough environment for road teams. Moving on, I like your formula. It's interesting how Ohio State has struggled a bit at home in recent years, but been flat-out dominant on the road in league games. Keep in mind that Penn State and Wisconsin also didn't face Texas at home, though Penn State deserved more credit than it received for beating up on Oregon State last fall.
Jordan from Jackson, Mich., writes: Adam, I know this is a little late, but I was thinking of rivalry games on unique fields and I was wondering what you would think of these scenerios. First Notre Dame and Michigan playing at Wrigley Field. One of the most popular places and sports along with the two winningest teams in college football history. And in a few years have the Michigan Ohio State rivalry played at a home n home at Ford Field and one at Clevland Browns Stadium, just for a nice change of pace. Go Blue!
Adam Rittenberg: Love the Wrigley Field idea, Jordan, and I'm sure a lot of fans would love to see this, too. The problem is the athletic directors from those schools would never give up those home games to play at a neutral site. The Wrigley Field game between Notre Dame and Michigan would be a true throwback, but a major issue is the size of the field. Northwestern wants to play a game there in the next few years, but there are some concerns that the field footprint isn't large enough. I really couldn't see Ohio State or Michigan giving up a home game to play at a smaller NFL stadium (with less character).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten has released its 2009 TV schedule for prime-time football games, which features 14 contests during the first eight weeks of the season. As stated last week, the Big Ten has a policy preventing conference games from being played at night in November unless they take place indoors.
Here's the full rundown with TV for the games:
Sept. 3 (Thursday)Eastern Kentucky at Indiana, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Missouri vs. Illinois, 3:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
Northern Illinois at Wisconsin, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Illinois State at Illinois, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Air Force at Minnesota, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
USC at Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Iowa at Penn State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Notre Dame at Purdue, 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Ohio State at Indiana, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Michigan at Iowa, 8 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN
Illinois at Indiana, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Iowa at Michigan State, 7 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Michigan State at Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Penn State at Northwestern, 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN2
My quick thoughts on the schedule:
- Penn State fans undoubtedly will be disappointed with only one night game, as Beaver Stadium under the lights is one of the top home-field advantages in college football. The Lions will have several other games finish under darkness, including a road game at Northwestern and, most probably, a Nov. 7 home game against Ohio State.
- Indiana has to be pleased with three prime-time TV games, including two at home, coming off a 3-9 season.
- Iowa and Indiana have the most night-time appearances with three. Illinois plays two true night games and opens with an afternoon contest against Missouri on Sept. 5. Kinnick Stadium will be LOUD on Oct. 10.
- Minnesota gets the benefit of two prime-time games at the new TCF Bank Stadium, but the opener against Air Force falls at the same time as Ohio State-USC. That's a bit of a tough break for the Gophers.
- My favorite night games on this list are USC-Ohio State (duh), Iowa-Penn State, Michigan-Iowa, Iowa-Michigan State (brrr) and Michigan State-Minnesota (really brrr).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Love and hate are the themes of the day around these parts, so I figured I'd chime in about the Big Ten. There are many reasons why I love covering football in this conference, and a few things I'm not so crazy about.
Let's begin with five good things.Big stadiums -- Size matters in the Big Ten, which boasts three of the nation's four largest stadiums at Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State. Ohio Stadium, Beaver Stadium and Camp Randall Stadium are on the short list of toughest places to play, and other Big Ten venues (Kinnick Stadium, Spartan Stadium) add their own charm. The game-day experience is truly captured where Big Ten teams call home.
The Game (and other rivalries) -- The Big Ten lays claim to quite possibly the greatest rivalry in all of sports, between Ohio State and Michigan. No series has produced more colorful figures and memorable moments. The league also features exciting annual matchups like Michigan-Michigan State, Penn State-Ohio State and Minnesota-Wisconsin. At stake are coveted items like a bronzed pig, a giant ax, a brown jug and an ancient bucket.
Regent Street and the Beaver Stadium grounds -- They are two of the nation's prime tailgating spots, and they both belong to the Big Ten. Tailgating at Wisconsin or Penn State is an experience every college football fan should enjoy. You get beer and brats in Madison, and elaborate set-ups and daylong debauchery in State College. As a college football fan, you can't go wrong at either place.
Legendary coaches -- The Big Ten has produced legendary coaches through the decades. From Fielding Yost and Bob Zuppke to Bernie Bierman and Fritz Crisler to Woody and Bo to Hayden Fry and Duffy Daugherty to Barry Alvarez and Jim Tressel, the Big Ten has been at the top of the coaching ranks. The arrival of Penn State's Joe Paterno in 1993 has only added to the league's rich coaching tradition.
Night games in Columbus, Madison and State College -- Noon kickoffs are generally the norm in the Big Ten, which sort of blows but makes the rare night game all the more special. Ohio State will host only the ninth night game in team history this fall against USC, and the atmosphere will undoubtedly be electric. Same goes for any game under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium -- there were two last year -- and at Penn State, which thankfully welcomes night football more than any other Big Ten team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
In what has become a trend, Ohio State once again will play the Big Ten's premier nonconference game this season as USC visits Columbus on Sept. 12. Here's a look at the Buckeyes' full 2009 slate.
Sept. 5 Navy
Sept. 12 USC
Sept. 19 Toledo (at Cleveland)
Oct. 31 New Mexico State
My take: The Buckeyes' philosophy of scheduling one national showcase game and three revenue-generating contests holds true again this season. USC provides an excellent barometer for a young Ohio State team trying to regain its swagger in big games. A win against the Trojans could put the Buckeyes in the BCS title mix. A home loss, and especially a lopsided one, would reinforce the perception about Ohio State and the Big Ten. So there's definitely risks and rewards with the game, which makes it more exciting for players, coaches and fans. Navy is a well-respected team that should provide Ohio State a nice Week 1 test. The Buckeyes won't have any trouble with Toledo or New Mexico State.
BIG TEN SCHEDULE
Sept. 26 Illinois
Oct. 3 at Indiana
Oct. 10 Wisconsin
Oct. 17 at Purdue
Oct. 24 Minnesota
Nov. 7 at Penn State
Nov. 14 Iowa
Nov. 21 at Michigan
Byes: Michigan State, Northwestern
My take: Aside from the trip to Beaver Stadium -- the last place Ohio State lost a Big Ten road game (2005) -- the schedule favors Jim Tressel's squad. The Buckeyes open with three of five at home and make trips to arguably the league's two worst teams in Indiana and Purdue. Should Ohio State knock off USC, it could be 8-0 heading to Happy Valley. November won't be easy with games against Penn State, Iowa and archrival Michigan, which should be much improved by the time Ohio State visits the Big House. So it's important the Buckeyes avoid October stumbles. Though the Buckeyes have dominated Michigan State this decade and Northwestern for several decades, they won't mind having two teams that finished in the league's upper half off of the 2009 slate.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Ten things you don't want to miss this weekend in the Big Ten.
1. Javon vs. Beanie -- We're on a first-name basis with these two superstar running backs, who match up Saturday at Spartan Stadium (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Michigan State's Javon Ringer remains in the Heisman mix and can help his cause with a big game in the national spotlight. Chris "Beanie" Wells has been solid since his return from injury, but with Ohio State's passing game struggling, his workload likely will increase. Wells has been at his best in big games, and he needs another strong effort against the Spartans.
2. The scoreboard at Beaver Stadium -- How bad will it get for Michigan? No. 3 Penn State enters Saturday's game (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET) on a nine-game losing streak to the Wolverines, and the Lions undoubtedly have the ability to run up the score. Michigan's defense needs a big performance to keep things close, but the Lions could be looking for revenge. Wolverines quarterback Steven Threet could be limited with a bruised elbow, and the offense likely will struggle against the league's top defense.
3. The man taking snaps for Wisconsin -- Badgers head coach Bret Bielema opened up the competition at quarterback this week, and it seems likely that junior Dustin Sherer will replace Allan Evridge against Iowa. The Hawkeyes allow fewer than 100 rushing yards a game, and Wisconsin will need its quarterback to make some plays. Bielema and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst liked the spark Sherer provided in mop-up time against Penn State. They might make a switch after seeing too many mistakes from the quarterback spot.
4. Terrelle Pryor and the passing game -- There was some grumbling this week in Columbus about a punch-less passing attack, and it will be interesting to see how Pryor responds against Michigan State. Pryor has taken too many sacks in recent weeks, and he needs to make some quicker decisions and get wideouts Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline more involved. Ohio State has slipped to 108th nationally in pass offense (143.6 ypg).
5. C.J. Bacher vs. Curtis Painter -- Both senior quarterbacks have struggled this season, ranking eighth and ninth in the league in pass efficiency. Northwestern is 10-0 in games when Bacher starts and throws fewer than two interceptions and 3-10 when he throws two or more picks. Painter hasn't thrown a touchdown pass this month and needs to inspire confidence in his teammates with a strong performance at Ryan Field.
6. Juice and the record books -- Illinois quarterback Juice Williams has set stadium records for total offense in each of his last two games. That's 934 yards of offense in eight quarters. Mercy. He now takes aim on an Indiana defense that has allowed 42 points or more in three of its last four games. Williams already has eight completions for 50 yards or more this season -- the most for any FBS quarterback -- and Indiana's secondary is susceptible to the big play.
7. Jim Tressel vs. Mark Dantonio -- Tressel and his former defensive coordinator square off for the third consecutive season, and though their teams are the bigger story this time, it will be interesting to see the two coaches match wits. Both men admit they don't enjoy facing one another, but Dantonio and Michigan State can take a major step forward by beating Tressel and the three-time defending Big Ten champions. "I sort of enjoy playing Ohio State," Dantonio said. "I always did when I was here before. I don't enjoy playing people that are close friends, I guess, but I enjoy playing against a football team that is from where I grew up."
8. Indiana's quarterback situation -- Kellen Lewis sat out practice this week and is listed as questionable for the Illinois game with a high ankle sprain. Indiana trusts sophomore Ben Chappell, who has shared the field with Lewis at times this season. But Lewis remains Indiana's biggest threat, and the Hoosiers will need more playmakers to develop if the junior is limited or unavailable against the high-powered Illini.
9. Penn State and the trap game -- Lions players insist they're not concerned about the losing streak to Michigan or the psychological effect such a slide could have on Saturday. But if Michigan somehow jumps ahead, it will be interesting to see how Penn State responds. These teams aren't comparable on paper, but college football always has some surprises and Penn State has a huge game next week at Ohio State. As Penn State coach Joe Paterno said recently, "I don't know what an upset is any more."
10. Do-it-all backs in Evanston -- Tyrell Sutton and Kory Sheets don't get the same attention as Ringer, Wells, Shonn Greene and Evan Royster, but there aren't two more versatile running backs in the conference. Sutton is quietly averaging 100.5 rush yards per game and ranks third on the team with 24 receptions. Sheets ranks second in the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (156 ypg), accounting for 34 first downs (29 rushing, 5 receiving) this season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
When the forefathers of tailgating conceived the great American pastime, they had Big Ten football in mind. The cool autumn weather, the country's three biggest stadiums and the Midwestern cultural pillars of beer and meat have made tailgating a natural fit from State College to Iowa City.
Big Ten fans don't let those pesky noon or 11 a.m. kickoff times get in their way of grilling, eating, drinking and socializing. And while each Big Ten fan base puts its own flavor on the tailgate, two stand out.
When Penn State plays a home football game, State College turns into the third-largest city in Pennsylvania. The grounds outside Beaver Stadium fill with RVs, TVs and tens of thousands of fans, many of whom remain there while the game is being played. The sheer size of the stadium and the tailgating territory make Penn State a tailgater's paradise. As for food, one Penn State tailgating Web site includes recipes for something called sub slop and a snack mix nicknamed heart attack in a blue bowl. Good stuff.
Not far behind Penn State is Wisconsin, which never lets the weather get in the way of brats and beers. Madison is a metropolitan city, so tailgating becomes a bit cozier, but Badger fans don't mind. Walk along Regent Street before a game and you'll find full bars, brats, cheese and plenty of Badgers having a blast.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
I'm heading out to fly to Indianapolis at an extremely early hour Wednesday, so the morning briefing will have to become an afternoon briefing or something. But don't fret, my friends, as I have several mailbag items to address.
First, my upcoming plans. I'll be spending today with the Indiana Hoosiers, talking to players around lunchtime before attending practice in the afternoon. The quarterbacks top my to-see list, as Ben Chappell and Kellen Lewis continue to compete for the starting job. I'm also interested in scouting the new cornerbacks, the running backs (especially freshman Darius Willis) and linebacker Matt Mayberry, a favorite among many readers of the blog.
The next mailbag will come to you Friday morning from Columbus as I get ready to check in with the Ohio State Buckeyes. So send in your questions soon.
Ben in Des Moines, Iowa, writes: Adam, What do you think Iowa needs to do to right the ship? The past few debacles called "seasons" in Iowa City have been well documented with off the field issues and injuries, however this year Iowa returns a ton of experience and the injury bug has stayed away through most of the pre-season except two key players (Tony Moeaki and Trey Stross). Saturday's scrimmage was less then stellar from the offensive side, but let's face it... these open practices are almost always dominated by the defensive units simply from a familiarity stand point. Do we see some great things out of the offense this year, or is the sky really falling like many Iowa fans think?
Adam Rittenberg writes: It starts on offense and like you mentioned, the scrimmage didn't go well at all on that side of the ball. My biggest concern isn't necessarily Jake Christensen or the passing game, which should be fine as long as Andy Brodell stays healthy. Iowa needs to get back to the type of offensive line play that defined the glory years under Kirk Ferentz. I never thought I'd see a Ferentz line rank last in the Big Ten in sacks, but it happened in 2007 -- and it wasn't close. If they don't get significantly better play from the line -- and they should -- the issues at running back and quarterback will become magnified. Shonn Greene looks like the man to step in at running back, but he's had a lengthy layoff and could struggle early. The more I look at Iowa's defense, the more I like it. But the offensive line is the key.
Kevin from Lima, Ohio writes: With the season coming up and Ohio State being the overwhelming favorite to win the Big Ten, I feel that Michigan State is our biggest threat. Give me your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg writes: Not to take anything away from the Spartans, who could do some damage in the league, but I wouldn't list them as Ohio State's biggest obstacle to an unprecedented third consecutive outright Big Ten title. The Buckeyes travel to Wisconsin, where they haven't been since 2003 (a 17-10 loss). They also go to Illinois, a team that has given them trouble the last two years. And an improved Penn State team comes to Columbus. The Ohio State-Michigan State game on Oct. 18 in East Lansing could be big if both teams start strong, but until the Spartans prove themselves in close games, they won't be considered a league title contender.
Kenny from State College, Pa., writes: I read the MSN top 25 poll, and it said Wisconsin's offensive line was one of there strength's. I think the only reason they said that was because they are returning most of there O-line starters. Honestly, last year they had arguably the worst offensive line I have ever seen. Do you think there O-line is actually a strength? Or is that just bad analasyis?
Adam Rittenberg writes: If you're a Penn State fan, you saw Wisconsin at its worst last year at Beaver Stadium. Penn State dominated the line of scrimmage, racking up five sacks and holding the Badgers to 87 rushing yards. But that performance wasn't the norm for Wisconsin, which ranked second in the league in rushing (200.8 ypg). I still believe the line is a major strength, especially at the guard spots with Kraig Urbik and Andy Kemp. The group certainly will be tested with a new starting quarterback to protect, but my guess is they'll perform a bit better against a solid Penn State defensive front when the teams meet at Camp Randall Stadium.
Joe in Minneapolis writes: Would you be surprised to see the Gophers go .500 or better and get a bowl game this year?
Adam Rittenberg: The schedule gives the Gophers a chance, as all four nonconference games are winnable (three are at home). My main concerns are the offensive line, which was actually pretty solid last season but must replace three starters, and of course the secondary. These junior-college guys should help and Marcus Sherels has really impressed the coaches at cornerback, but it will take a big jump just to be respectable again. Having seen Mike Dunbar's offense first-hand at Northwestern, I can say Adam Weber is a perfect fit at quarterback. He could definitely get Minnesota to 6-7 wins and a bowl berth.
Doug from Delray Beach, Fla., writes: Is [Justin] Feagin still in the mix?
Adam Rittenberg writes: Feagin has a sore shoulder and is still adjusting to the college game, which is typical for a true freshman. He's no longer in the mix to start the season opener against Utah. It'll be either Steve Threet or Nick Sheridan taking the snaps against the Utes. But it doesn't mean that Feagin won't be a factor later in the season, especially if both Threet and Sheridan struggle. It's impossible to deny the fact that Feagin's skills best fit the offense Rich Rodriguez has run in the past, but he's just not ready yet.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue's media day begins later Thursday morning, and I'll be there to check in with Heisman candidate Curtis Painter, coach-in-waiting Danny Hope and the rest of the Boilers.
First, I give you the links on the other 10 teams.
- My appearance at Camp Rantoul made Bob Asmussen's daily practice recap in The [Champaign, Ill.] News-Gazette. Thanks, Bob. Much more newsworthy items include a note on Illinois center Ryan McDonald and the fact several projected starters will appear on special teams this fall. Zook's best recruits at Illinois have come from the Washington, D.C., area, but he's also going back to his Ohio roots for talent. No big secret here, but the 2008 season hinges heavily on quarterback Juice Williams.
- Forget about Iowa's history of bouncing back from bad seasons on and off the field. Want a reason to be optimistic about the Hawkeyes? Wide receiver Andy Brodell is back in the fold, Susan Harman writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Brodell is a difference-maker. Forbes magazine calls Iowa's Kirk Ferentz the worst value in college football, given his salary. I still think Iowa had to finalize Ferentz's contract at the time.
"The most overpaid coach is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who made $3.4 million last year despite lackluster results on the field, for a score of 71. Just how lopsided is Ferentz's deal? During the last three years he's pocketed $10 million, including a record $4.7 million in 2006, but has led the Hawkeyes to just a 19-18 record."
- Mitchell Evans came to Indiana with an open-minded attitude about where he'd play. The Hoosiers are putting that approach to the test by moving Evans to wide receiver, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star. A couple of more previews on Indiana, which wants to get back to a bowl game and win it this time.
- Rich Rodriguez might not be beloved on the practice field, but he also keeps his door open for his new players, the AP's Larry Lage writes. Nebraska's Bo Pelini isn't the only big-time coach looking to rebuild the walk-on program at his school. RichRod wants all the help he can get, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News.
- Michigan State running back A.J. Jimmerson is no stranger to competition at his position, Chris Solari writes in the Lansing State Journal. A nationally televised opener at Cal gives the Spartans a chance to make an early statement, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Running back is a big concern at Minnesota, but a healthy Jay Thomas should help matters, Myron Medcalf writes in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. Two years ago, Jeff Tow-Arnett and Adam Weber worked on the quarterback-center exchange as young scout teamers at Minnesota. Now they're in the spotlight as starters, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- The Chicago Sun-Times' Jim O'Donnell checks in from Camp Kenosha, where Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald sees his defense improving and his new-look offensive line coming together. The Wildcats' bowl hopes hinge heavily on senior quarterback C.J. Bacher, Jay Taft writes in the Rockford Register Star.
- Despite two national title misses, Ohio State's coaches aren't concerning themselves with the past, Rob Oller writes in the Columbus Dispatch. Probably a good thing. Defensive tackle could be a weak spot for the Buckeyes, but defensive coordinator Jim Heacock likes what he has, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises writes in his blog. Buckeyes center Jim Cordle could fool defenders at the line by snapping the ball with both hands, Ken Gordon writes in the Columbus Dispatch.
- Tyrell Sales is filling some big shoes as Penn State's linebacker leader, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The starters look set in Penn State's secondary, but watch out for reserve safety Drew Astorino, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' Bob Flounders writes in his blog. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane has a rundown of the improvements at Beaver Stadium this fall.
- Wisconsin cornerbacks Allen Langford and Aaron Henry have walked parallel paths following ACL surgery. Both men are back in the mix for starting jobs, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Defensive end O'Brien Schofield, a projected starter opposite Matt Shaughnessy, will miss 1-2 weeks of practice after suffering an ankle injury. End Kirk DeCremer remained out of both Wednesday practices, while quarterback Allan Evridge could return today, Potrykus writes in the Badgers Blog.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
By now you know that Ohio State tops the list, but which Big Ten team comes next? Here's a look at the league's most hated to least hated teams and some of the reasons why (or why not). Honestly, after the top two or three, it gets a bit fuzzy. But keep in mind, being on the bottom isn't necessarily a good thing.
1. Ohio State -- Several factors fuel the Buckeye hate, including lots of winning, the Sweater Vest, Maurice Clarett, some riotous fans, the "dotting the i" tradition, an inhospitable home field and the team's recent BCS flops.
2. Michigan -- The Wolverines remain college football's winningest program (869 victories), a source of pride for a fan base often branded as arrogant. The Michigan Man ideal reinforces the perception, and Michigan's constant TV exposure annoys many. Former coach Lloyd Carr was viewed as a complainer and a curmudgeon, and new coach Rich Rodriguez arrives amid some bad p.r.
3. Penn State -- People are sick of the constant attention on Joe Paterno, but there are other reasons for the Penn State hate. As a longtime independent with a national following, the school suffers from a milder case of Notre Dame syndrome. The "We Are, Penn State" chant and the roaring Nittany Lion at Beaver Stadium don't help matters.
4. Iowa -- The program's recent decline had tapered the hate, but all the off-field problems since April 2007 might have triggered it again. Some Iowa fans are seen as obnoxious, and the pink visitors' locker room at Kinnick Stadium still gets attention.
5. Wisconsin -- The team's success after the arrival of Barry Alvarez moved it up the list. Camp Randall Stadium is one of the league's most raucous environments, and some Wisconsin fans aren't overly popular around the league.
6. Illinois -- Ron Zook's arrival and the recent recruiting surge move Illinois up the list. Zook remains somewhat of a lightning rod, and Illinois is quickly forming a rivalry with Ohio State.
7. Michigan State -- Several cocky players and a memorable post-game celebration at Notre Dame in 2005 heightened the hate for Michigan State. But the program's string of traumatic losses has inspired more sympathy than bile.
8. Minnesota --The Gophers have the potential to be higher, with a loud and inhospitable home stadium and fans who have rioted before (2003 Frozen Four). But it's hard to hate a team that hasn't won a Big Ten title since 1967.
9. Purdue -- There's not much to hate other than the pioneering spread offense Joe Tiller implemented in 1997. Boilers fans are generally harmless, and Ross-Ade Stadium isn't overly intimidating.
10. Northwestern -- A snooty fan base and cut-blocking lineman can be irritating, but the team's losing history (pre-1995) and half-full home field doesn't spark much hate.
11. Indiana -- The Hoosiers soon could climb the list after their first bowl appearance since 1993, but the program usually isn't relevant enough to be hated.
|Ohio Stadium is the toughest place to play in the Big Ten.|
It has been a year since Minnesota held its construction kickoff for TCF Bank Stadium, the 50,000-seat facility scheduled to open for the 2009 season. Of all the ongoing stadium projects in the Big Ten, Minnesota's will undoubtedly have the greatest impact on the program.
For all of coach Tim Brewster's effervescence and glass-half-full attitude, Minnesota was never going to get back to the glory days without its own on-campus facility. Athletic director Joel Maturi puts Minnesota near the bottom of the Big Ten in football income, Sid Hartman writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
"Ohio State's number one at $59 million and Northwestern is at the bottom at $15.5 million, and we're not far from the bottom. We're a little over $17 million," Maturi said.
That will change soon enough.
Which stadiums made the list? The usual suspects. Ohio Stadium came in at No. 3, followed by Beaver Stadium at No. 4, Camp Randall Stadium at No. 8 and Michigan Stadium at No. 13.
Here's my list of the league's toughest venues.
1. Ohio Stadium: The shoe has been filled in, but it only makes this place louder and meaner. Definitely the most intimidating Big Ten stadium for a road team.
2 . (tie) Beaver Stadium: Gotta admit, I haven't been to State College in a while, but I remember this place being loud. From talking to my colleagues who attended last year's game against Notre Dame, night games at Beaver Stadium are raucous.
2. (tie) Camp Randall Stadium: I've almost upchucked my bratwurst sitting in the press box at the end of the third quarter, when House of Pain's "Jump Around" starts blaring and the stadium shakes. (By the way, what ever happened to House of Pain?) Possibly my favorite place to watch a game in the Midwest: great tailgating, rowdy fans and not a lot of fun for the road team.
4. Kinnick Stadium: The pink visitor's locker room only enhances a very hostile experience for road teams. That Hayden Fry guy was a genius.
5. Michigan Stadium: In this case, size doesn't matter. The Big House is, well, big, but it's a shallow bowl that doesn't hold sound as well as other venues.
6. Spartan Stadium: Seems like a much more hostile place to play at night than during the day, but there's a sizable student section in the southwest corner.
7. Ross-Ade Stadium: Fans are generally nice and the place doesn't get too loud. Then again, where else can you ride the elevator with Purdue alum Neil Armstrong like I did last year before the Northwestern game. Very cool.
8. H.H.H. Metrodome: The Hump has grown a bit dumpy, but it still gets very loud when the Gophers are rollin'.
9. Memorial Stadium (Illinois): The massive facelift combined with an exciting team will make this relic a feared destination again. But at the moment, it's not.
10. Ryan Field: The fact that visiting fans usually outnumber Wildcats backers for Big Ten games doesn't help much, but at night, Ryan Field rocks.
11. Memorial Stadium (Indiana): The renovations should help, as will a better team, but there's not a lot of atmosphere here. Visiting teams won't shudder stepping onto the field.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Delayed Utah Michigan 11:38 4th Qtr San Jose State 7 Minnesota 17 Halftime Texas State 21 Illinois 13 0:06 4th Qtr Indiana 31 18 Missouri 27 8:00 PM ET Miami (FL) 24 Nebraska Final Iowa 24 Pittsburgh 20 Final Eastern Michigan 14 11 Michigan State 73 Final Western Illinois 7 Northwestern 24 Final Southern Illinois 13 Purdue 35 Final Bowling Green 17 19 Wisconsin 68 Final Maryland 34 Syracuse 20 Final Rutgers 31 Navy 24 Final Massachusetts 7 Penn State 48