Big Ten: Big Ten green day 090317

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Whether you root for the Maize and Blue, the Scarlet and Gray or the Black and Gold, the most important color in college football is ultimately green. Money drives the sport, and every Big Ten team faces key decisions in how to allocate its funds. 

Keeping with our green theme on St. Pat's Day, here's a look at money well spent and not so well spent in the Big Ten. 

GREEN MEANS GO

Mark Dantonio's new contract -- Michigan State needed to give Dantonio a bump after he stabilized the program in his first two seasons as head coach. His revised deal is somewhat of a bargain, at least according to today's salary standards, and should keep Dantonio in East Lansing for a while longer. 

TCF Bank Stadium -- It's a tough economic time to build a new stadium, but Minnesota had to get an on-campus facility after a quarter-century of mediocrity at the Metrodome. TCF Bank Stadium is a truly unique venue that will give Minnesota a much needed campus presence and validate the $288.5 million price tag. 

Illinois' stadium renovation -- Illinois wants to raise its profile in football, and the renovation of a stadium that had charm, but frankly looked very old, was an essential move. The architects maintained the integrity of Memorial Stadium but made overdue upgrades in several areas, namely the student section in the north end zone and, ahem, the press box. 

FEELING GREEN

Guarantee games -- The Big Ten isn't the only league guilty of scheduling too many of these, but it doesn't do much to fix the problem. Big stadiums and the reluctance to part with home games leaves many Big Ten teams with watered-down nonconference schedules that might make athletic departments money but costs the teams on the field and the fans in the stands. 

Bonuses for Wisconsin coaches -- This isn't a knock on the Badgers coaches as much as it is an indictment of the low benchmarks in Wisconsin's Exceptional Achievement Award Policy. Wisconsin's football coaches received more than $250,000 in bonuses -- head coach Bret Bielema pocketed $100,000 -- after the team finished an extremely disappointing 2008 season by reaching a lower-tier bowl game. The explanations behind the policy are downright lame. 

Rich Rodriguez's baggage -- Rodriguez could turn out to be an excellent investment for Michigan, but so far he has been more of a financial burden. Last year, Michigan paid $4.1 million to cover part of Rodriguez's buyout from West Virginia and $2.5 million in salary to the coach. That worked out to $2.2 million per Wolverines win. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

As players filter in and out of football programs, certain position groups become grizzled or green. As the St. Patrick's Day series marches on, it's time to look at the greenest, or least experienced, units on every Big Ten squad heading into 2009.

Illinois' defensive line -- Mainstays Will Davis, Derek Walker and David Lindquist depart, and with Josh Brent's status up in the air, Illinois looks unproven up front.

Indiana's wide receivers -- Leading receiver Ray Fisher switched to cornerback and Andrew Means bolted early for the NFL draft, leaving sophomores and juniors to handle the pass-catching duties this fall.

Iowa's defensive tackles -- Mitch King and Matt Kroul locked down the starting interior line spots for the last four years, and their backups didn't have many opportunities to develop in games.

Michigan's quarterbacks -- Nick Sheridan started four games last fall, but once again the most important position on the field will be one of the greenest for Michigan, as two true freshmen (Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson) vie for the starting job.

Michigan State's running backs -- National carries leader Javon Ringer is gone, and it's likely that a redshirt sophomore (Andre Anderson, Ashton Leggett) or a true freshman (Edwin Baker, Larry Caper) will take his place in the backfield.

Minnesota's running backs -- The Gophers return practically everyone but remain young and unproven after finishing last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (103.8 ypg) last fall.

Northwestern's wide receivers -- Three starters graduate and junior Andrew Brewer hasn't quite settled in at wideout after switching from quarterback, so there are some legit questions here.

Ohio State's offensive line -- Don't be shocked if Ohio State enters 2009 with three sophomores (Mike Brewster, Mike Adams, J.B. Shugarts) and a transfer (Justin Boren) on its starting line.

Penn State's defensive ends -- Jerome Hayes should be back from another knee injury, but Penn State will be on the lookout for a proven pass rusher after losing Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans and Josh Gaines.

Purdue's wide receivers -- New coach Danny Hope made wide receiver a peak priority in his first recruiting class after losing Greg Orton and Desmond Tardy, who combined for 136 receptions and 1,596 yards last year.

Wisconsin's defensive line -- The Badgers lose three multiyear starters (Matt Shaughnessy, Mike Newkirk and Jason Chapman) and don't return many proven players aside from ends O'Brien Schofield and Dan Moore.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Who's getting lucky on St. Patrick's Day? Get your mind out of the gutter for a minute.

As our green-themed blogging continues, it's time to distribute four-leaf clovers to five Big Ten teams, players or coaches who could use a little luck heading into the 2009 season.

Minnesota linebacker Sam Maresh -- Arguably no player in the country deserves a dose of good fortune as much as Maresh, whose career was put on hold by heart surgery last summer. After he made a quick recovery to prepare for 2009, Maresh discovered a non-cancerous tumor in his left leg. The heralded recruit hopes to practice this spring, and it will be pretty special when he steps on the field again.

Indiana coach Bill Lynch -- Lynch needs better luck on the health front after the Hoosiers' injury report resembled a Russian novel last season. Injuries wiped out Indiana's starting secondary, nagged at quarterback Kellen Lewis and struck an already suspect offensive line. Here's to better health in '09.

Michigan -- The Wolverines endured the worst season in team history last fall and remain extremely young at several key positions. They could use a break or two early on this season to gain some confidence, and it wouldn't hurt if freshman quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson blossomed quickly.

Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki -- Moeaki hasn't been able to stay on the field and could really use a senior season without any injury setbacks. A dislocated elbow and broken hand cost him most of the 2007 season, and he battled a leg injury and a concussion last fall. Moeaki has all the tools to be one of the league's top tight ends, but he needs some better luck this fall.

Ohio State defensive end Lawrence Wilson -- Pegged to succeed Vernon Gholston as the Buckeyes' primary pass rusher, Wilson has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons. He broke his leg in the 2007 opener against Northern Illinois and tore his ACL in Week 7 last fall against Purdue. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The river in my city has turned green, which can only mean one thing: St. Patrick's Day is here! I got a head start on the holiday by making my first trip to the famous South Side Irish Parade on Sunday afternoon. Good times.

The celebration continues all day long on the blog network, so sit back, grab a beverage and enjoy our salute to St. Pat's Day. If you don't like the color green, too bad. It's sort of our theme for the day. 

Every college football team has some degree of envy. Some want better coaches or players. Others want better facilities or larger fan bases. Some simply want more wins.

So what makes Big Ten teams green with envy? Here's a look:

Illinois envies Wisconsin's sustained success -- Since Barry Alvarez won his first Big Ten title in 1993, Wisconsin has endured only two losing seasons and won eight or more games 11 times. Illinois went to the Rose Bowl in 2007 and the Sugar Bowl in 2001, but the Illini followed both breakthroughs with 5-7 breakdowns. They have posted only three winning seasons since 1995. 

Indiana envies Penn State's coaching longevity -- Joe Paterno will enter his 44th season as Penn State's head coach this fall after taking over the job in 1966. During the same span, Indiana has shuffled through eight head coaches, including four since 2001. The turnover at the top spot has hamstrung the Hoosiers from becoming a consistent program. 

Iowa envies Ohio State's recruiting base -- Recruiting is an ongoing challenge for Iowa, based on geography. According to a recent SI.com analysis, Iowa produced fewer BCS recruits than any other Big Ten state besides Wisconsin from 2004-08. Ohio, meanwhile, produced the fifth most BCS recruits, which bodes well for national powerhouse Ohio State. 

Michigan envies the Sweater Vest and his 21st century dominance -- OK, maybe not the sweater vest part, but it's got to be killing Michigan how Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten since Jim Tressel's arrival in 2001. Under Tressel, the Buckeyes have won a national title and five Big Ten championships, and own a 52-12 record in league play. More damaging, Tressel is 7-1 against Michigan, including a current five-game win streak. 

Michigan State envies Michigan's national profile -- Little brother they are no more, but the Spartans still get overlooked in the state that houses college football's all-time winningest program. Michigan State seems to have the ingredients to become a factor on the national stage, but it is known as a perennial underachiever that can't crack the top tier, where Michigan usually resides.

Minnesota envies Iowa's and Wisconsin's recent Big Ten titles -- The Gophers' top two rivals both have enjoyed revivals in the last two decades, while Minnesota's Big Ten title drought has reached 42 years. Minnesota has won more than eight games just once since the 1967 league title, a troubling trend of mediocrity for a former national powerhouse. At least Minnesota won't envy Iowa's and Wisconsin's on-campus venues after TCF Bank Stadium opens this fall. 

Northwestern envies Iowa's fan base -- Northwestern has been a competitive team since 1995, but the Wildcats still struggle to fill their home stadium and sell their program to bowl representatives. Only Penn State has fewer alumni in Chicago than Northwestern, which is located just miles from the city limits. Iowa and its sizable fan base leapfrogged Northwestern for the Outback Bowl last season even though Northwestern beat the Hawkeyes in Iowa City during the season.

Ohio State envies Michigan's Rose Bowl tradition -- The Buckeyes don't envy much in the Big Ten these days, but they wouldn't mind a trip to Pasadena every now and then. Ohio State hasn't been to the Rose Bowl since 1997, an amazing drought considering the team's success in Big Ten play. Michigan, meanwhile, is a regular at the Rose Bowl. Since the 1980 season, Michigan has made 11 Rose Bowl appearances; Ohio State has gone just twice. 

Penn State envies Ohio State's seven Heisman Trophy winners -- Despite its storied tradition, Penn State has produced just one Heisman winner, John Cappelletti in 1973. The Lions' inability to earn college football's top individual honor more often is somewhat troubling. Ohio State, meanwhile, is tied with Notre Dame and USC for the most Heisman winners with seven, most recently quarterback Troy Smith in 2006.

Purdue envies Michigan's intangibles -- Joe Tiller made a Purdue a consistent winner and an annual bowl participant, but the Boilermakers always seemed to have a ceiling. They couldn't get over the hump against the league's elite, particularly a Michigan team that handed them heartbreaking losses in 2004, 2002 and 2001. Teams like Michigan and Ohio State always appear to have the mental edge against Purdue, though the Boilers usually play hard. 

Wisconsin envies Ohio State's BCS appearances -- The Badgers are the last Big Ten team to win a Rose Bowl, but they haven't been back to a BCS bowl since the first day of the new millennium. Ohio State has replaced Wisconsin as the Big Ten's dominant team this decade, and the Buckeyes have reached six BCS bowls, including three national title games.

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