Big Ten: Mack Brown

Maryland and Rutgers are to officially join the Big Ten on July 1 and, until their first seasons are in the books, plenty of questions will swirl around just how they will perform.

So, we decided to take a look at how past teams did in similar situations. Did new conferences help or hinder the programs? How did those first seasons go? And just how quickly did the teams assimilate?

We looked at teams that moved into new BCS conferences (outside of the Big Ten) prior to the 2012 season. Obviously, there are plenty of variables at play, but here is a look at nine programs that transitioned -- and how they fared:




Boston College, Big East to ACC, 2005

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 9-3 (SOS – 74), won 2004 Big East title. Beat North Carolina in Continental Tire Bowl, 37-24

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 9-3 (SOS – 22), won 2005 ACC Atlantic Division. Beat Boise State in MPC Computers Bowl, 27-21

Synopsis: The Eagles didn’t skip a beat in the first season with the ACC, and they actually ended up winning three division titles in their first four years in the conference. The wheels only started to come off for Boston College once it fired Jeff Jagodzinski for interviewing with the New York Jets following the 2008 season. The 2009 season was the last time Boston College had a winning conference record.




Colorado, Big 12 to Pac-12, 2011

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 5-7 (SOS – 33), finished fifth in Big 12’s North Division. No bowl berth

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 3-10 (SOS – 21), tied for last in Pac-12’s South Division. No bowl berth

Synopsis: The Buffaloes haven’t had a winning season since Gary Barnett coached the team in 2005, so the move to the Pac-12 really only saw Colorado go from bad to slightly worse. In its first three seasons with the Pac-12, Colorado won three, one and four games, respectively.




Miami (Fla.), Big East to ACC, 2004

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 11-2 (SOS – 40), shared 2003 Big East title. Beat Florida State in Orange Bowl, 16-14

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 9-3 (SOS – 9), tied for third in ACC. Beat Florida in Peach Bowl, 27-10

Synopsis: The Hurricanes rolled into the ACC as a great team, but the conference has been relatively harsh on them. After making four straight BCS bowls in the Big East, Miami hasn’t made a single one in the 10 seasons since joining the ACC. On the plus side, they have had winning records in eight of those past 10 seasons -- but they have never had double-digit wins during that span.




Missouri, Big 12 to SEC, 2012

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 8-5 (SOS – 13), finished fifth in Big 12. Beat North Carolina in Independence Bowl, 41-24

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 5-7 (SOS – 1), finished fifth in SEC East Division. No bowl berth

Synopsis: Lingering injuries to quarterback James Franklin didn’t do Missouri any favors in that first season, as Missouri’s pass efficiency dropped from No. 30 in 2011 to No. 103 in 2012. The Tigers bounced back in their second year in the SEC, however, and finished first in the SEC East Division with a 12-2 record.




TCU, Mountain West to Big 12, 2012

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 11-2 (SOS – 86), won 2011 Mountain West title. Beat Louisiana Tech in Poinsettia Bowl, 31-24

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 7-6 (SOS – 16), tied for fifth in Big 12. Lost to Michigan State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, 17-16

Synopsis: In TCU’s seven seasons in the Mountain West, it finished with within the top 25 a total of six times -- and came away with four conference titles. In the Big 12, so far, it has underachieved by quite a bit. Part of the reason for the drop-off in Year 1 was that quarterback Casey Pachall withdrew in October to enter inpatient rehab. But even with Pachall back in 2013, TCU fared even worse at 4-8, the first time it didn’t make a bowl since 2004.




Texas A&M, Big 12 to SEC, 2012

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 7-6 (SOS – 4), tied for sixth in Big 12. Beat Northwestern in Meineke Car Care Bowl, 33-22

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 11-2, (SOS – 6), tied for second in SEC Western Division. Beat Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13

Synopsis: A new head coach like Kevin Sumlin and a freshman like Johnny Manziel are enough to ease any transition. The Aggies finished with 11 wins during their first season in the SEC, which also happened to be the first time they broke double-digit victories since 1998. With Mack Brown leaving Texas, A&M is a team whose stock is certainly on the rise now. A move to the SEC only helped.




Utah, Mountain West to Pac-12, 2011

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 10-3 (SOS – 50), finished second in Mountain West. Lost to Boise State in Maaco Bowl, 26-3

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 8-5 (SOS – 49), tied for third in Pac-12’s South Division. Beat Georgia Tech in Sun Bowl, 30-27 OT

Synopsis: Utah fared extremely well in the Mountain West -- finishing with double-digit wins in five of its last eight seasons there -- and did pretty well in its first season in the Pac-12. But, in the past two seasons, the Utes twice finished 5-7 in part because their passing game has been grounded. Still, if quarterback Travis Wilson is healthy this season, some are expecting Utah to return to the postseason.




Virginia Tech, Big East to ACC, 2004

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 8-5 (SOS – 60), finished fourth in Big East. Lost to Cal in the Insight Bowl, 52-49

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 10-3 (SOS – 42), won 2004 ACC title. Lost to Auburn in the Sugar Bowl, 16-13

Synopsis: The move appears to be a great one for the Hokies. From 1991 to 2003, Frank Beamer came away with just three Big East titles. From 2004 to the present, he has won four ACC championships. Although the past two seasons have been a step back, Virginia Tech finished with double-digit wins during its first eight seasons in the ACC.




West Virginia, Big East to Big 12, 2012

Record prior to move (Strength of schedule rank): 10-3 (SOS – 57), won share of Big East title. Beat Clemson in Orange Bowl, 70-33

Record in first year of move (Strength of schedule rank): 7-6 (SOS – 29), tied for fifth in Big 12. Lost to Syracuse in Pinstripe Bowl, 38-14

Synopsis: In WVU’s past 10 seasons in the Big East, it made 10 straight bowls and won at least eight games every year. But Year 1 in the Big 12 was a defensive disaster and a step backward. The Mountaineers allowed more than 45 points in six of their first seven conference games and, the next season, had to replace a lot of starters and finished No. 100 in the nation by allowing 33.3 points per game. West Virginia missed the postseason last season, the first time since 1999.

Big Ten Tuesday mailblog

June, 10, 2014
Jun 10
5:00
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Questions, answers and Twitter. What could possibly be better on a Tuesday in June?

Let's begin ...

Virgel from Valdosta, Ga., writes: Adam, do you think that if this season ends the Tim Beckman era at Illinois, they would go after a high-profile coach on the bench right now, like a Mack Brown? Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Interesting thought, Virgel, as it's hard to know where athletic director Mike Thomas would turn. He has a track record of hiring MAC coaches -- Butch Jones, Brian Kelly, Beckman -- but I'd be shocked if he went that route again. Brown will be 62 in August, has a ton of money and likely a lengthy TV career ahead, so I'm not sure how much he would want to coach again. And if he did, for how long?

Illinois doesn't want to keep changing coaches. But thinking outside the box could be a good approach. Or Thomas could hire a guy like Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who is ready to lead a major-conference program.




Kyle from Hamilton, Ontario, writes: We all have heard how "weak" Iowa's schedule is. It has even been rumoured that they could be favoured in every game. Given the fact they don't play Ohio State, a scenario exists that they both could go undefeated. That could have happened in 2002 if Iowa didn't blow the lead against Iowa State that year. My question is this: If both Ohio State and Iowa go undefeated do both teams make the playoffs?

Adam Rittenberg: Man, I love that Canadian spelling. This would be a fascinating scenario, Kyle. A lot depends on what happens in other conferences and how the Big Ten performs in marquee nonleague games. But I don't think Iowa makes the playoff with a loss in the league championship game, primarily because of the seemingly soft regular-season schedule.

In this scenario, Ohio State would have a road win against a preseason top-10 team in Michigan State. The Buckeyes also play Virginia Tech in nonleague play. Will the Michigan home win help or hurt Ohio State? How much credit will Iowa get for beating Wisconsin and Nebraska at home? All these questions factor into the playoff decision. Ultimately, I doubt the Big Ten gets two teams into the initial playoff. Fairly or unfairly, the league will pay for its recent shortcomings. But Ohio State has a better chance as a one-loss team than Iowa.




Dave from Marietta, Ohio, writes: The Big Ten should've gone to North-South divisions instead of East-West. I'm not sure about the exact locations of the schools, but a North-South alignment could look something like this ... North -- Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, Purdue, Iowa. South -- Maryland, Rutgers, Penn State, Ohio State, Indiana, Illinois, Nebraska.

Adam Rittenberg: Interesting idea, Dave, as this proposal appears to create more historical balance than the current East-West alignment. But if you look at the Big Ten's recent expansion, the idea is to live in a second region along the East Coast. It's not a northern expansion but an eastern one. Another factor to consider is geography. Nebraska would be a major outlier in the South division -- nearly an eight-hour drive from its closest division competitor (Illinois) and a loooong way from Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland and Rutgers. Would Husker fans care? Maybe, maybe not. They would get annual games with both Penn State and Ohio State.

I like how your proposal satisfies the Iowa-Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry triangle/dilemma, but it also would require at least one extra protected crossover, Ohio State-Michigan, which would reduce the overall schedule rotation for two of the league's marquee programs. I definitely see value in the North-South model, but East-West is here, at least for now.




[+] EnlargeBraxton Miller
AP Photo/Paul VernonOhio State's Braxton Miller is one of just two early enrollees to be Big Ten Freshman of the Year in the last seven years.
Dave from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I wondered if you've seen any data comparing early enrollees and players who enroll in the fall. Do early enrollees start sooner, play in more games, have better drafts or have better graduation rates than players who enroll in the summer/fall? My thought is if the player works hard enough to graduate high school early, maybe there's a bit of a better work ethic.

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, David, and there's not a great answer yet as this trend remains somewhat new. The number of early enrollees really spiked in the 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes. Not surprisingly, there is some evidence that early enrollees are contributing faster in their careers than those who arrive in the summer. We've seen examples in the Big Ten such as Wisconsin cornerback Sojourn Shelton, who earned a starting job as a true freshman. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller enrolled early and has started since the middle of his freshman season.

Then again, a 2009 ranking of top early enrollee groups Insider showed more misses (Tate Forcier, Kevin Newsome, Will Campbell) than hits (Gerald Hodges) in the Big Ten. Penn State had seven early enrollees in 2010 but only one, running back Silas Redd, became a star for the Lions.

Of the Big Ten's last seven Freshman of the Year recipients, just two -- Ohio State's Miller and Illinois' Arrelious Benn -- were early enrollees. So it's hard to draw clear conclusions.




Peter from Boston writes: Would be interested to hear your thoughts on a recent article by John U. Bacon about attendance issues at Michigan (Ivan Maisel referenced it in his latest 3-Point Stance). Personally, I think you could insert any major program in the country (including my alma mater Penn State) and write roughly the same article. ADs constantly point the finger at high-definition TV and other tech as the reason for slipping attendance, and it's definitely a factor, but Bacon makes some very good points about the in-game experience and costs of attending a game at a major university. What do you think?

Adam Rittenberg: There are some very valid points in Bacon's story, especially about rising ticket prices. As Ohio State AD Gene Smith recently told me, "The reality is a lot of our ticket pricing, some of us are at the top of the pyramid." And it seems like the branding push, especially in the Big Ten, is turning off some fans. Has the sport sold its soul in some ways? No doubt. Is branding too much of a priority in the Big Ten, which makes a lot of money but doesn't really win anything? There's a case to be made. ADs are devoting a lot of energy to improving the gameday experience, but two solutions are pretty simple: scheduling better opponents and charging less for tickets.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The rumors, conversation and speculation might ultimately include his name, but Urban Meyer has preemptively doused the flame.

The Ohio State coach is happy where he is, and if Texas comes calling, he doesn't appear to have any interest.

Surrounded by the media after practice on Wednesday for the Discover Orange Bowl, Meyer quickly dismissed any potential link between him and the job his friend Mack Brown just stepped down from with the Longhorns, making it clear his focus is on the elite job he already has with the No. 7 Buckeyes and not the one that just came open.

"There’s no take," Meyer said. "I’m here. I’m the coach at Ohio State."

That simple, strong message still might not be enough to silence whispers that Meyer could be a target for the Longhorns given how high they are likely to be aiming to replace Brown. Their sights were obviously on guys already at the top of the profession to begin with based on the reported pursuit of Alabama's Nick Saban, which is barely in the rearview mirror now and started well before the gig was even officially available.

If Texas does wind up chasing decorated coaches with experience at marquee programs, Meyer would clearly fit the bill and would almost certainly appear on a short-list of candidates for a school with deep pockets and sky-high expectations given his reputation as a motivator and proven winner with a pair of national titles on his resume.

But Ohio State has a strong recruiting base and Meyer is already having success expanding it nationally. The Big Ten might have been relatively down the last couple years, but the competition is still strong enough to keep the Buckeyes in position to qualify for the upcoming College Football Playoff. And, perhaps most important, Meyer has relished the opportunity to return to his home state and build the Buckeyes back into annual contenders for the national title, and he's also already quite well compensated for that work.

Those factors are likely enough on their own to keep Meyer from having much interest in any potential opening, even one that comes with as much prestige as Texas. But like Saban, he also considers Brown a close friend, and that might provide yet another discouragement from even thinking about leaving Ohio State after two seasons.

"Really good friends -- [but] we don’t talk much about jobs," Meyer said. "I’m very close with his wife, Sally, and they’re great friends with Shelley, so it’s more about our children, lives, wives -- we don’t talk much about [jobs]. ... I care about Mack. I don’t look at Mack as a football coach, I look at him as a friend."

"I really love the guy, he’s a great friend of mine and we’ll talk in the offseason a little bit."

That conversation won't be between the former coach at Texas and the next one. Meyer already had a cold bucket of water ready to pour out on that flame even before there was smoke.
Two winters ago, the Big Ten had an unprecedented 40 coaching changes. Three teams replaced their head coaches, and three others replaced three or more assistants.

Last year's coaching carousel wasn't quite as packed, although eight of the 12 teams made at least one change, and Purdue had a complete staff overhaul. There were 32 changes in all, including nine at the coordinator level.

It's still early in the so-called silly season, and a big coaching domino just fell in Austin, Texas, but the Big Ten coaching realm has been relatively quiet so far (operative phrase: so far). The departures of Penn State assistants Charlie Fisher and Ron Vanderlinden are the only confirmed coaching changes in the league.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsNFL teams have their eyes on coach Bill O'Brien, but it's tough to say if he is ready or willing to leave Penn State just yet.
The Big Ten could avoid a head-coaching change for the first time since after the 2009 season. Athletic directors Mike Thomas (Illinois), Shawn Eichorst (Nebraska) and Dave Brandon (Michigan) have affirmed support for their head coaches. Eichorst's statement released Nov. 30 didn't explicitly say coach Bo Pelini would return for the 2014 season, but it suggested as much.

Eichorst also shot down the claim from Mack Brown's attorney that a Nebraska representative had contacted him about Brown's services.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio, who is 41-12 in the past four seasons, has been mentioned as a fringe candidate for the Texas job. But Dantonio, who was born in Texas but grew up in Ohio, seems unlikely to leave a great situation at MSU, especially with a sizable raise coming his way. His boss, athletic director Mark Hollis, said Monday that he has "every reason to believe" Dantonio and defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi both will return in 2014.

Potentially the only head-coaching drama in the Big Ten surrounds Penn State's Bill O'Brien, who last month completed his second winning season at the school despite heavy NCAA sanctions. O'Brien, who came to Penn State from the NFL's New England Patriots, talked with several NFL teams about coaching vacancies after the 2012 season but opted to stay put.

CBSsports.com's Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that the Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans are interested in O'Brien -- the Washington Redskins soon could be, too -- and that O'Brien is ready to return to the NFL.

It's the belief here and elsewhere that O'Brien will head to the NFL, but potentially not right away. He has one of the nation's top young quarterbacks at Penn State in Christian Hackenberg, the Big Ten freshman of the year, and likes having his family in Happy Valley. The NCAA reduced some of its scholarship sanctions against Penn State in September, and it's possible the final two years of the postseason ban will be eliminated. Wouldn't O'Brien like to compete for a Big Ten title with Hackenberg before returning to the NFL? Stay tuned.

Many assistant coach changes take place after the bowl season, but early indications are the Big Ten will remain relatively stable. After replacing two-thirds of his staff last winter, Illinois' Tim Beckman is expected to keep the same group of assistants for a make-or-break run in 2014. Northwestern was the Big Ten's biggest disappointment this season, but Pat Fitzgerald intends to keep his staff intact for the fourth straight year.

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has yet to make any staff changes despite another horrific season on defense, although some still could be coming. Michigan’s Brady Hoke doesn't anticipate making changes despite increased criticism for offensive coordinator Al Borges and line coach Darrell Funk. Pelini has been extremely loyal to his staff, and it's unlikely we'll see much movement at Iowa, Purdue and Wisconsin.

Even some of the Big Ten's top assistants might not be going anywhere. Narduzzi, who reportedly declined the head-coaching job at Connecticut, could remain at Michigan State for another year as more attractive jobs likely will open next year both regionally and nationally. Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, who masterfully led the team during Jerry Kill's health-related absence, has received interest elsewhere but doesn't sound like he's ready to leave Kill after two decades on his staff.

Anyone who follows the silly season knows there's a long way to go. We even saw a coaching change after spring practice began, as Jim Bridge went from Illinois to Purdue. It's naive to think more aren't coming around the Big Ten.

Several Ohio State assistants have been mentioned for other jobs, although two landing spots -- Miami (Ohio) and Florida Atlantic -- are off the board. Buckeyes offensive line coach Ed Warinner, the team's best assistant in my view, has been mentioned as a potential candidate at Army, where he spent 13 seasons.

Expect some shuffling in the coming weeks and months, but the Big Ten likely won't approach the big numbers of the past two winters. It'll be interesting to see how the relative stability impacts the on-field results in 2014.

Big Ten lunch links

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
12:00
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Big Ten bowl season is less than two weeks away.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Why Rutgers should be more than able to hold its own recruiting in the Big Ten, how we should look for even more Class of 2016 commitments, and when one of the nation’s top running backs will make his selection.

Rutgers reeling them in
Rutgers likely won’t dethrone Michigan and Ohio State from the top of the Big Ten recruiting rankings when its move is official, but the way the Scarlet Knights have been recruiting for the Class of 2014 certainly has to give fans reason for excitement.

When Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema posed behind the Big Ten trophy a day before the inaugural football championship, they didn't only represent two of college football's blossoming coaches.

They also represented two of the sport's better bargains.

Bielema and Dantonio are ranked No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in salary among Big Ten coaches in 2011. Both men have since been bumped down a notch after Ohio State hired Urban Meyer at $4 million per season.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio and Bret Bielema
AP Photo/Michael ConroyMichigan State's Mark Dantonio and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema are Big Ten bargains.
Dantonio received a new contract in October that included a slight increase in his annual compensation ($1.83 million). He still makes less than the average salary for a coach from a major conference ($2.125 million in 2011, according to USA Today).

Dantonio has won 22 games the past two seasons, translating to $165,000 per victory. Texas' Mack Brown, meanwhile, the nation's highest-paid coach at $5.2 million per year, earned $800,000 per victory during the past two seasons.

Bielema commands a slightly higher salary (approximately $2.5 million), although he has earned his keep at Wisconsin, averaging 10 wins per season during his six-year tenure as Badgers coach. Bielema boasts four seasons of 10 or more wins.

A similar track record in the SEC almost certainly would result in a salary of more than $3 million annually.

Speaking of the SEC, nine of the league's 12 coaches earned $2.5 million or more in 2011. Bielema's salary would rank 10th in the expanded 14-team SEC, while Dantonio's would rank above only Kentucky's Joker Phillips.

When it comes to coaches who bring the biggest bang for the buck, Dantonio and Bielema top the chart in the Big Ten.

Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald also has been a coaching bargain so far. A first-time head coach who took over after the sudden death of Randy Walker in 2006, Fitzgerald has guided Northwestern to a record four consecutive bowl appearances and 7.2 wins per season during the past five years. Fitzgerald received a new contract last spring that reportedly puts his salary at $1.8 million annually (Northwestern doesn't release salary figures). Before the extension, Fitzgerald made in the neighborhood of $1.2 million, putting him near the bottom of the Big Ten.

Who else fits the description? Keep an eye on Michigan's Brady Hoke. The former Wolverines assistant took his dream job in Ann Arbor without signing a contract, and when one was finalized months later, it showed Hoke earning just $2 million in his first year. While Hoke's six-year deal goes up in compensation -- he'll average $3.25 million if he completes the contract -- it still puts him below some of the coaches at name-brand programs in the SEC and the Big 12.

Several other Big Ten coaches could turn out to be bargains, including new Penn State boss Bill O'Brien, another first-time head coach who agreed to a five-year contract that pays him $2.3 million annually. Minnesota's Jerry Kill, Indiana's Tim Beckman, Indiana's Kevin Wilson and Purdue's Danny Hope are also among the lower-earning major-conference coaches.

But when it comes to best bang for the buck, Dantonio and Bielema are at the top of the list.

Don't be surprised if they're taking a similar picture in December.

Big Ten mailblog

April, 3, 2012
4/03/12
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Husker Country today, Hawkeye Country tomorrow. Wonder if I'll get stopped at customs.

Nate from Easley, S.C., writes: I really like the idea of a spring scrimmage but, other than injuries, I have one major concern. The current system is slanted towards benefitting those with a good pre-season ranking, so, if voters took the results of a glorified scrimmage into account, wouldn't it further skew the pre-season rankings? (Granted, voters pre-season ranking are already perception-based and not entirely accurate.) Said another way, do you think a scrimmage "Win" would take on more value than player development? Would two highly perceived teams want to to scrimmage if it hurt their stock going into the season?

Adam Rittenberg: Nate, this is a good question. Let me first say I despise preseason rankings. As much fun as is it to see where teams that haven't played games for nine months are subjectively rated in August, it really hurts a sport where there's such limited access to the national title game. My solution is to release the first polls about Oct. 15, but I don't know if it'll ever happen. That said, my hope is that spring scrimmages wouldn't have an overly significant impact on perception. Most teams aren't going to scrimmage their top players for very long, or risk injury to their starting quarterbacks. You can glean a few things about depth, potential breakout players, etc., but how a team performs in these scrimmages wouldn't be a great indicator of how good they'd be in the fall. So my hope is that the perception factor wouldn't be there, and it wouldn't affect whether teams scrimmage or how the polls turn out.


A.J. from Madison, Wis., writes: I agree that Wisconsin needs someone to step up on the defensive line, as well as more speed in general on defense, but I'm not sure I understand the criticism of the lack of receivers. Last year, did the Badgers have anybody we knew about other than Nick Toon? The fact is they almost never run formations with more than two receivers, and I don't think it will be hard to find one player to fill that role between Jeff Duckworth, Kenzel Doe, A.J. Jordan, or anybody else that could potentially step up.

Adam Rittenberg: A.J., I agree that Toon was the big name entering 2011, but Jared Abbrederis also had shown promise after recording 20 receptions in 2010. Wisconsin felt pretty good about Abby, and while some might not have expected him to match Toon's production, he and Toon looked like a solid 1-2 punch. You're right that Wisconsin rarely uses more than three wideouts at once, and with tight end Jacob Pedersen back, along with Abbrederis, the Badgers should be OK. But if either guy gets hurt, I'd be very concerned. Duckworth made a great catch in the Big Ten title game, and he could be that next man in. Yet he and the others have a lot to prove. Mannaseh Garner is another intriguing player. Ideally, Wisconsin wants to be able to go four or five deep at receiver, so it'll have insurance if there are injuries.


Ryan from Lincoln, Neb., writes: In every practice update I read the players talk about the attitude or "swag" this team is carrying with them this spring. Is that something you can sense with them? Also, how big do you think the strides Taylor Martinez has taken actually are? Thanks Adam!

Adam Rittenberg: Definitely, Ryan. I felt Nebraska was a confident team last spring, particularly on defense, but the Huskers' swagger seems to be reaching another level this year. They feel they have greater chemistry and camaraderie now, and it can't hurt that Bo Pelini and his staff have recruited everyone in the program. They also feel they'll be able to execute their schemes a lot better on both sides of the ball. Nebraska talked a lot last season about how different its two-gap defense is from what we see in the Big Ten. But for various reasons, including the first go-round through a new league, the advantages within the scheme didn't surface as often as most folks thought. There's a much greater comfort level on offense, as Nebraska is not only in Year 2 as a Big Ten member, but Year 2 of coordinator Tim Beck's scheme. Spring is always a time to be hopeful and optimistic, and you should want your team to have high expectations. Will Nebraska be projected as a national title contender outside Lincoln? No. But the players and coaches are shooting for that goal, and if a few things fall right, you never know.


Jon from Murfreesboro, Tenn., writes: I'm not an Iowa fan, but if I was, I would be expecting more from the program. With the amount of money Ferentz is getting paid and the minimal success he has had there, I just don't get it. Is there a coach in the Big Ten who is getting paid so handsomely for doing less than Ferentz? In 13 years in Iowa City he's had 4 ten win seasons and 2 conference titles, not exactly killing it. Outsider looking in, it sure seems like Iowa is just throwing cash at him and accept his mediocrity in the hopes that he stays and doesn't bolt for one of NFL jobs his name gets rumored about every year.

Adam Rittenberg: Jon, this is one of the topics I want to address when I'm in Iowa City this week. The thing that jumps out to everyone nationally about Iowa is Ferentz's salary. People acknowledge the wins totals, which are pretty respectable, but wonder why Iowa can't get more despite paying its coach top-10 money. With Iowa, you have to look at the bigger picture. There are some inherent disadvantages there, namely location for recruiting, that will always make it tough to be consistently elite. Iowa has some tradition, but it doesn't have the national allure of Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska. What Ferentz can sell is the ability to get players to the NFL. The pro personnel evaluators love Iowa, and if you're a good recruit with the potential to get a lot better in college, Iowa isn't a bad place to go. But it's certainly fair to expect more from Ferentz, especially at a time when Wisconsin, a comparable program, has reached back-to-back Rose Bowls. As for the constant NFL buzz, it has worked in Ferentz's favor with the school. But Iowa also doesn't want to become a North Carolina or a Washington State, programs that backslide after losing successful coaches (Mack Brown, Mike Price).


Andrew from Harrisonville, Mo., writes: I love the blog Adam, especially your coverage of the Huskers. And when I was watching your video with Ben Cotton, I noticed how much bigger he was then you. Do you feel small when your in a room full of football players?

Adam Rittenberg: No doubt, Andrew. Clearly bad genetics. It's especially tough with offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends and wide receivers. It's why I'll miss guys like Edwin Baker and Jay Valai -- I was at eye-level with them. If your team has a lineman or a tight end who looks about my height on the videos, you might want to get worried.


Chris from Chicago writes: Given the relative depth/speed at linebacker and the trouble developing a consistent pass-rush with the D-line, did you get any indication during your visits to Evanston that Northwestern might be shifting to a 3-4? Seems like it might be well employed there....

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, it's interesting. When Pat Fitzgerald first became head coach, he mentioned several times on record that the 3-4 was the team's future on defense. But the plans have changed, and I don't see the 3-4 on the horizon in Evanston. Although the coaches feel they've upgraded the athleticism at the linebacker spot, there aren't many proven players aside from the three returning starters (David Nwabuisi, Damien Proby and Collin Ellis). Although the defensive line has some major question marks after recording a league-low 17 sacks in 2011, I get the sense the coaches like their depth there and expect better things this fall. The fact is Northwestern's linebacker play has dropped off a bit after a nice run in the first part of the last decade. I don't know if this is the time to make a switch to the 3-4.


Goldy Gopher from the Frozen Four writes: Do you see Optimus Prime (Rasheed Hageman) having a breakout season making the Gopher run defense respectable?

Adam Rittenberg: Ah, Ra'Shede Hageman. How long have we been hearing he's on the verge of stardom? I remember former Minnesota coach Tim Brewster raving about Hageman a few years ago. Perhaps this is the year he turns the corner, and Minnesota could really use a dominant pass-rusher to emerge. He's a specimen at 6-foot-6, 300 pounds, and he delivered a big hit at a recent practice, but he has only 18 career tackles in 20 career games. So he's still very much unproven in my eyes. But he's only a redshirt junior, so he has time to make strides, and should be better off in the second year under coordinator Tracy Claeys. Minnesota should be OK at linebacker, but it needs several players to make big strides up front and in the secondary. Hageman could be a building block for the Gophers.


Zac from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam, when will ESPN choose the B1G night games?

Adam Rittenberg: It varies each season, Zac, but the primetime schedule usually comes out in late April or early May. Last year, it came out on May 19, a little later than usual. But there's a larger demand for night games now, and the Big Ten is dealing with ABC/ESPN and the Big Ten Network making picks. I'll bug my pal Mark Rudner in the Big Ten office and see if I can get him moving. So many great choices this year!


Bryan from Michigan writes: Adam,What are the odds of Michigan beating Alabama the first game on the year and then going undefeated for the next 11 games and then wining the big ten championship game and then playing for the national title.

Adam Rittenberg: The Alabama game provides an excellent barometer for Michigan. Are the Wolverines on the cusp of being elite again, or were they a good team with a great record in 2011? We should find out a lot at JerryWorld. People can talk all day about the players Alabama has lost, but any time you beat the Crimson Tide under Nick Saban, it's a signature win in my book. I regard Saban as by far the best coach in the nation, and the Alabama program as a notch above the rest. Looking for an elite program in a competitive environment? Look at the Tide. So if Michigan can beat Alabama, the sky's the limit, although the Wolverines' road doesn't get easier with trips to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State. It'll be tough to go undefeated with this schedule.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
4:00
PM ET
Championship game around the corner. Let's do this.

Alden from Chicago writes: Adam, Do you see potential for a budding rivalry between Michigan State and Wisconsin? As a huge Michigan State fan, I'm starting to feel it a bit. I see it possibly as a third obviously behind Michigan and Notre Dame. But perhaps it'd be more from Wisconsin fans at this point. Things are kind of building between the programs and we've clashed on several occasions. In recent history: Michigan State beats Wisconsin in 2010, but Wisconsin finishes ahead of Michigan State in the BCS and steals the Rose Bowl berth. Michigan State beats Wisconsin on a game ending (rocket) pass for a touchdown. Now, the rematch game in the first B1G Championship, and if this is as tough and close a game as we all expect, I can see some real animosity between the schools over it. If Michigan State loses and falls all the way down to the Outback bowl, I'll hate Wisconsin for beating us just as much as I'll hate Michigan for getting a BCS spot ahead of us. If Michigan State wins, I would expect them to hate us for stealing what was supposed to be their special season. Especially after Russell Wilson was draft... I mean, went to Wisconsin after his time at NC State. Countning down the hours to kickoff!!!

Adam Rittenberg: Bring it, Alden! Love the new rivalries that are building in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin-Michigan State certainly fits into the category. Michigan State always will hate Michigan, and Notre Dame is a great rivalry, but to have another true rival within the Big Ten would benefit the Spartans, who won't ever be Michigan's No. 1 rival. Wisconsin, meanwhile, has the rivalry with Minnesota, but the Gophers' struggles have taken the edge off of the game in my view. The Badgers have a more competitive rivalry with Iowa, but Michigan State certainly has to be rising to that level after the close games between Mark Dantonio and Bret Bielema.

Dan from Omaha writes: Can you imagine Bo Pelini and Mike Stoops on the same sideline?!? Refs will be bringing earplugs to every game! In all seriousness, I like the idea of Stoops, but if not him, who else would you potentially see filling this position?

Adam Rittenberg: It would be rather awesome, Dan. Most intense sideline in America, at least when the defense is on the field. Bo should make a play for Stoops, but it will be interesting to see who else he pursues to fill his big brother's shoes. Would Pelini try to get Mike Ekeler back? Ekeler left for a co-coordinator post at Indiana, and the Hoosiers' defense really struggled this year (110th nationally), but he did a nice job as a position coach with the Huskers and seems like a coach on the rise. There also could be some very good defensive coaches available from Penn State (Tom Bradley, Larry Johnson, Ron Vanderlinden) or Ohio State (Jim Heacock).

A-Duke from Waterloo, Wis., writes: Based on what metrics is Trent Richardson having a better year than Montee Ball?

Adam Rittenberg: Really none, Duke. Richardson's receiving numbers are a bit better than Ball's. But the eye test comes into play when voters are evaluating both backs, and Richardson plays in a league viewed as better than the Big Ten. His performance against LSU, even in a losing effort, strengthened his case immensely for the Heisman. But it would be a travesty if Ball didn't at least get an invitation to New York. He'll be on my Heisman ballot. Where he is depends a lot on how he performs Saturday night.

David from Wilmette, Ill., writes: Adam, with the bowl selection coming up shouldn't the NCAA rule on the OSU sanctions before the selections so that if they do a bowl ban for this year it will not mess up the fans travel plans as well as negativity impact the Bowl the Buckeyes are chosen to? If they do not rule until after is that a sign of no bowl ban?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, David. With the process taking so long, it appears any bowl ban handed down would apply to future seasons rather than this one. Ohio State has said all along it doesn't expect a bowl ban, but you can bet the Buckeyes would rather accept one for this year than in future seasons. I can't imagine the NCAA would hand down a bowl ban for this season after Sunday's selections for the reasons you outline.

John from Pasadena, Md., writes: I thought only 2 teams from any one conference can be eligible to play in BCS bowl games? If Georgia beats LSU, they win the automatic berth from the SEC. How could Alabama and LSU still play for a national title in this case?

Adam Rittenberg: John, first of all, I didn't know there was a Pasadena in Maryland. Think I'd rather spend New Year's Day at the other one, but thanks for your note. Here's the deal: if LSU and Alabama finish 1-2 in the final BCS standings, no matter what LSU does Saturday, those two teams go to the title game. Georgia would gain the SEC's automatic berth to the Sugar Bowl, but LSU and Alabama would head to the championship if they're 1-2 in the BCS standings.

Jason from Dallas writes: Illinois, Texas A&M, Ohio State and others have realized that 6-6 is not acceptable (despite bowl bids) and have fired their coaches. Any chance Purdue does the right thing and fires Danny Hope and goes after Purdue Alumn Kevin Sumlin? Purdue at 6-6, not having beat anyone with a winning record, should not be acceptable either, even if they get to go to a bowl.

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, I'm stunned you're writing to me rather than gearing up to see the Boilers play in your home city, as they're looking likely for the TicketCity Bowl. Listen, I understand your frustration about Hope, and you're not alone. But the team did take a step forward this year, albeit a small step, and became bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. This is a team that also lost its starting quarterback (Rob Henry) weeks before the opener. Purdue fans should expect more and Hope will need to produce next year, but this isn't the time to make a change. Hope has had no luck on the injury front and has only been in this position for three seasons. As for Sumlin, while he's an alum, I'd be surprised if he chose Purdue over some of the other options he'll have.

Jim from Cape Giradeau, Mo., writes: Adam, I can't believe that coverage of Saturday's game hasn't included one of the most obvious storylines -- Keshawn Martin is kryptonite to the Badgers. Jet sweep/double reverse -- touchdown; drag route over the middle -- touchdown; punt return -- touchdown; 85 yard pass -- touchdown. Maybe you could correct me if I missed a few. I expect the national media to be unawares, but I thought you would have been all over this. Please comment.

Adam Rittenberg: Jim, I touched on this a bit with discussing how Wisconsin has to avoid a special teams breakdown (citing Martin's TD return from last year), but you bring up a great point about how much No. 82 has tormented the Badgers. He's one of the fastest and most dangerous offensive weapons in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin has to make sure Martin doesn't enter the open field. Almost impossible to catch him. Wisconsin ranks 58th nationally in punt return yards defense (7.63 ypr).

Herky from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Adam, If you take out the 2009 season which appears to be a flash in the pan, Kirk Ferentz is a very average 36-27 overall. If you take into a consideration a generally fluffy non-conference schedule each year, then I'm sure he's closer to .500 in the last 6 years or so. Before Urban Meyer joined the league, Kirk was the highest paid coach in the B1G. Is his seat getting warmer and warmer by the year? As a Hawks fan I love Kirk as a coach, but I also love being nationally relevant and beating teams that we should beat. Is Kirk's Iowa career winding down or is he safe for awhile given the amount of support he has from Hawkeye faithful? Can he get us over the hump to be a B1G contender every year?

Adam Rittenberg: Herky, you're overlooking the stretch from 2002-04, when Ferentz's Iowa's teams averaged 10.3 wins. But I totally see your point, and you're not the only Iowa fan who feels this way. A lot of people struggle to see why Iowa pays its coach like a top 10 program but doesn't get the top 10 results on the field that often. I've supported Ferentz and his salary, as I think Iowa could become like Washington State (Mike Price) or North Carolina (Mack Brown) if it doesn't pay its coach top dollar. But Iowa fans also deserve more 9- or 10-win seasons than they're getting. Does Ferentz wield too much power at that university? Probably. Has he upgraded the program? Without a doubt. But there should be more pressure to produce because a lot of coaches could win 6-8 games a year at Iowa for less money.

Adam from Atlanta writes: Hey Adam,Quick question PSU stated they want the next coach to be a man of integrity...how about Mike Sherman? He turned A&M around and had a top 10 recruiting class coming in...plus he has some ties to the Midwest coaching in Green Bay.

Adam Rittenberg: Sherman hasn't coached college football in the Midwest for a very long time -- he was a GA at Pitt and also coached at Holy Cross. No direct ties to Penn State. I wasn't very excited when Texas A&M hired Sherman, and while I agree with others that he got a raw deal in College Station, his team really didn't impress this season after all the hype. He certainly is an accomplished coach, but I don't see this happening. We'll see.
We know Wisconsin is losing quarterback Scott Tolzien, left tackle Gabe Carimi and several other standout offensive players to graduation.

Will the Badgers also lose the architect of their dominant offense?

We should find out soon. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst returned to Madison on Tuesday after interviewing with Texas about its offensive coordinator vacancy in Austin. He hasn't said anything yet about his intentions.

From the Wisconsin State Journal:
It’s almost certain Chryst had an offer in hand before departing. Given the way Texas coach Mack Brown has hired coaches in the past, it’s unlikely Chryst and his family would have been flown down without an offer being made.

Given Chryst’s track record and his contentment with his current job, it seems likely he would give UW coach Bret Bielema the chance for a counter offer. Whether the Badgers could do enough to convince Chryst to stay remains to be seen.

It is believed the Longhorns will pay up to $1 million for the right offensive coordinator. Chryst has a compensation package worth $361,094 for the current school year but Bielema and athletic director Barry Alvarez are working on a new deal.

Chryst will get a nice raise if he stays at Wisconsin, but there's no way UW will pay a coordinator $1 million. I can't fault a guy for getting paid, and we know Texas can pay big bucks. Then again, Chryst and his family are in a good situation at Wisconsin, his alma mater.

Chryst didn't have a great Rose Bowl as a play-caller, but he was outstanding for much of the season as Wisconsin put up historic offensive numbers. Although the Badgers don't run a flashy offense, they run a very good one with a very good coach calling the plays.

It would be a big loss if Bielema has to replace Chryst.
LOS ANGELES -- Wisconsin safety Aaron Henry has had a very Good week in California.

That's Good with a capital 'G.'

Celebrity sightings are part of the deal out here, and Henry's pre-bowl highlight came when he met actress Meagan Good.

"You guys probably don't know her, but in the African-American community, she's very, very popular," Henry told reporters Wednesday. "And this young lady is as good as advertised."

"It was definitely an honor to meet her," Henry added. "She actually gave me a hug as well, so that was pretty nice."

Henry's story prompted a media member to do some research.

Reporter: Aaron, I just Googled Meagan Good, so I can understand your excitement.

Henry: Yes, sir.

Henry and fellow Badgers safety Jay Valai provided plenty of entertainment in Wednesday morning's media session.

Valai, a 5-9, 205-pound sound bite, weighed in on several topics.

Here are a few of Valai's pearls of wisdom:

On leaving his home state of Texas for Wisconsin: "No. 1 party school, No. 1 college sports town and No. 9 education. I said, 'Hey, you live once, why not Wisconsin?' It's been a great move, except dealing with that cold, cold weather. Not good for my African blood. Besides that, it's all good."

On Texans vs. Sconnies: "Wisconsin people, they're pretty strong no matter what's going on. They have your back and stuff like that. Being a [Dallas Cowboys] fan, I've done this up and down, I get upset real quick. We're used to winning so much, we get angry real quick after one game, one loss and they'll be all over you. But Badger fans, they're Packer fans, they're not going to kill you, they'll still support you. Texas people, we're a little more hot blooded."

On Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema: "He's the man around Madison. You see him out, he's all dressed up. He's a good dude. Sometimes it's better to be a bachelor in your life. ... Only reason he gave me a scholarship is because I had long arms after he saw how tall I was."

On whether he would have gone to Texas if offered: "Yeah, probably so, I'm not going to lie to you. Texas is done recruiting their junior year and then everybody else is left for the pickings. Coach [Mack] Brown picks his, and the rest of us mortals got to go to other schools, simple as that."

On the Wisconsin weather: "I remember this: They said we'll never go outside and practice if it's below 40. 40 degrees and lower we'll never be outside. Yeah, about 17 degrees and we were outside. I felt like a bunch of knives were being stabbed in my hands."

On whether Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien is unathletic: "I think he doubled his career yards in rushing the other day in practice. He had a little 15-yard scamper. He would have slid, too, but I think he wanted to dive for it again."

Good times with Wisconsin's safeties.

Big Red update: Week 8

October, 20, 2010
10/20/10
1:08
PM ET
Sorry this is coming a little late, but it's time for our weekly peek at future Big Ten member Nebraska. Big Red is feeling a little blue right now.

Record: 5-1 (1-1 Big 12)

National rank: No. 16 in BCS standings, No. 14 in AP poll, No. 13 in coaches' poll

Last result: Lost 20-13 to Texas at home

News to know: Last Saturday's matchup lost it edge with Texas' early-season struggles, and apparently Nebraska lost its edge, too. After annihilating Kansas State, Nebraska stumbled against the hated Longhorns, who jumped out to a 20-3 lead and handed Husker Nation another dose of disappointment. Redshirt freshman quarterback Taylor Martinez saw his stock drop as he completed only 4 of 12 passes and racked up only 21 rush yards on 13 carries against Will Muschamp's defense. Then again, T-Magic got no help from receiver Niles Paul, who was heckled after dropping two touchdown passes, or Rex Burkhead, who also dropped a TD. "They had more pressure on them today than us, and that's unusual," Texas coach Mack Brown said after the game. "I thought their fans hung in there with them. But I could feel some of their fans, when we got up 10-0 thinking, 'You've got to be kidding, not again.'" Ouch. Texas might get the last laugh in this tense rivalry. Nebraska looked rattled and came down to earth a little bit, although the Huskers still seem like a good bet to reach the Big 12 championship game. They face another big test this week against undefeated Oklahoma State.

Up next: Saturday at No. 14 Oklahoma State
Tim Brewster came to Minnesota talking big and dreaming bigger.

I can't remember how many times I heard Brewster mention Minnesota's 18 Big Ten championships and six national championships, never mind the fact that neither event had happened since 1967.

Brewster knew the bar needed to be raised in Minneapolis. You couldn't blame him for aiming high. Why else would the school fire a coach (Glen Mason) who consistently made bowl games?

[+] EnlargeBrewster
Bruce Kluckhohn/US PresswireTim Brewster went 15-30 as Minnesota's head coach.
But Brewster couldn't make Minnesota into a championship program. In fact, he couldn't get the Gophers to the level Mason had them at the time of his termination following the 2006 Insight Bowl. Brewster never won a trophy game and went 1-9 in November games, with his lone win coming against FCS South Dakota State. His teams have been outscored 67-0 in their past two meetings with rival Iowa.

When he stopped winning in September and October this season, his days became numbered. And after Minnesota lost its sixth consecutive game Saturday at Purdue, dropping to 1-6 on the season, the school pulled the plug on the Brewster era.

Brewster went 15-30 at Minnesota and 7-18 since November 2008.
"While I appreciate the passion and commitment that Coach Brewster has shown, it is clear that a change in the leadership of Gopher football is necessary," athletic director Joel Maturi said in a prepared statement. "We have high aspirations for our football program and we are not satisfied with its current direction. The results so far this season have been unacceptable and the program has simply not shown enough improvement over the past three and a half years to continue with the status quo."

Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Horton will take over for Brewster on an interim basis. I hate to see lame-duck coaches in college sports, so this seems like the right move.

Firing Brewster only cost Minnesota $600,000, a buyout lowered in his recent contract extension.

Brewster never lacked passion, and his recruiting abilities as a former Mack Brown assistant showed at Minnesota. I loved the way he upgraded Minnesota's schedule, which had been a joke during the Mason era, and added showcase nonconference games against teams like USC.

But he also showed too many signs of a first-time college head coach.

His decision to replace veteran offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar and switch from the spread to a pro-style offense didn't pay off. He replaced Dunbar with an NFL assistant in Jedd Fisch whose complex concepts flew over the players' heads. Brewster kept shuffling his staff, a formula that rarely works in a sport where sticking to your guns usually is the way to go.

Minnesota is the first FBS program to make a coaching change in 2010, and the school now begins what could be an extensive coaching search. There are some dream candidates Minnesota can pursue (alum Tony Dungy, former assistant Kevin Sumlin, Mike Leach) and some more realistic ones (Montreal Alouettes coach Marc Trestman, former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney).

It will be interesting to see how much control Maturi has in the search since he was the one who hired Brewster.

Minnesota is a challenging job, but it's a better job now with a beautiful on-campus stadium to sell.

There are no excuses why Minnesota shouldn't be a middle-of-the-pack Big Ten team, building toward the high bar Brewster set but never could reach.
The jury is still out on Tim Brewster at Minnesota, but the fourth-year coach already has made an extremely positive impact in one area: scheduling.

Minnesota has significantly upgraded its nonconference schedule during Brewster's tenure, adding the likes of California, USC, North Carolina and Oregon State. The Gophers no longer live in Cupcake City in September like they did under Glen Mason.

That's why it was disappointing to see Minnesota's two-game series against Texas canceled Wednesday. The Gophers had been scheduled to host Texas on Sept. 19, 2015, and visit Austin on Sept. 17, 2016. Minnesota attributed the cancellation to "a contract impasse concerning video rights," which relates in part to Minnesota's commitment to the Big Ten Network.

School officials didn't hide where they think the blame lies.

Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi told the Associated Press, "It’s extremely disappointing. The kind of agreement we could not come to is the same agreement every other school on our schedule agreed to. Every other school in the Big 12 agreed to this."

Maturi added: "We have a signed agreement. If we wanted to go to court, we’d win. But that’s not our style."

"I'm extremely disappointed that Texas has chosen not to play us," Brewster, a former Texas assistant who cut his teeth under Longhorns head coach Mack Brown, said in a prepared statement. "This was very unexpected, considering we had an agreement in principal. Our fans and our team were excited to play Texas. Obviously, they weren't as excited about playing us. We plan to fill that slot in our upcoming schedule with a quality BCS opponent."



Minnesota has a bit of a cushion to fill the vacancies, and here's hoping Maturi and Brewster add a solid team from a major conference. I doubt the replacement will carry the prestige of Texas, but Minnesota should continue its aggressive approach to scheduling as it tries to enhance its national profile.
Last week's NFL draft rekindled a hot topic on this blog -- the 2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year race between Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Ohio State's Jim Tressel.

As we all know, Ferentz won the award, his third after claiming the honor in both 2002 and 2004. Tressel amazingly has never won the award despite leading Ohio State to six Big Ten titles, a national title, seven BCS bowl appearances and a 59-13 mark in conference games since he took over as head coach in 2001.

Let the record show that I endorsed Ferentz for the 2009 award, though I wouldn't have made a fuss if it had gone to Tressel. I cited Iowa's ability to overcome a brutal road schedule and several key injuries as primary reasons why the award should go to Ferentz. Plus, Ferentz and his assistants regularly take average recruits and turn them into All-Big Ten performers.

"Ferentz had so many things working against him this season, namely a brutal road schedule and several unfortunate injuries. ... Ferentz readily admits Iowa isn't the most talented or deepest team in the Big Ten, but he and his assistants got the most out of the Hawkeyes this fall. ... Tressel deserves to win this award one of these seasons, and he did a great job turning things around after Purdue and worked his November magic yet again. I'd be happy for Tressel if he got the nod tonight, but the honor should go to Ferentz."



So how does the NFL draft change this, if at all?

Well, Iowa had six players drafted, including a first-round pick in left tackle Bryan Bulaga, a second-round pick in linebacker Pat Angerer, two third-round picks in cornerback Amari Spievey and tight end Tony Moeaki, and a fourth-round pick in linebacker A.J. Edds.

Ohio State, meanwhile, had its weakest draft in recent memory. The Buckeyes had no players drafted in the first three rounds and only one, outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, drafted before the seventh round.

The draft also mirrored the 2009 All-Big Ten selections, which included only two first-team selections from Ohio State (safety Kurt Coleman and guard Justin Boren) and five first-team selections from Iowa (Bulaga, Spievey, Angerer, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and safety Tyler Sash).

Despite having a weak senior class, at least according to NFL potential, and one of his least decorated teams at Ohio State, Tressel won another Big Ten title, not to mention a Rose Bowl championship.

Did he deserve the Coach of the Year Award over Ferentz?

I've heard plenty from both fan bases on this topic, and I'll attempt to summarize the viewpoints.

Ohio State fan argument: It's ridiculous Tressel has never won the award despite dominating the Big Ten since his arrival. Why should he get penalized for Ohio State recruiting well and being the preseason favorite all the time? Look at the 2009 season. Iowa had more than twice as many first-team All-Big Ten selections, and a much stronger NFL draft class. And Ohio State still beat the Hawkeyes head-to-head to win the Big Ten championship and then the Rose Bowl. This was one of Tressel's best coaching jobs, and if he can't win the award in a year like this one, he'll never get it. O-H!

Iowa fan argument: It's ridiculous that Tressel has never won Big Ten Coach of the Year, but Ferentz deserved the award in 2009, just like he did in 2002 and 2004. Look at where Iowa's recruiting classes rank next to Ohio State's year after year. Ferentz consistently does more with less talent, while Tressel wins the league because he has the most gifted recruits. It goes back to recruiting and player development, and a coach should be judged by what he does with players after they come under his watch.

Both sides bring up great points, and both coaches certainly did enough to deserve the award last fall.

I took a look at who was winning Coach of the Year in other conferences. Specifically, I wanted to see how often the award went to the coach from the dominant team, or the team that recruited the best.

  • Pete Carroll won Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors three times during his dominant USC tenure. He claimed the award outright in 2006 and shared it with Washington State's Bill Doba in 2003 and UCLA's Karl Dorrell in 2005.
  • Oklahoma's Bob Stoops has won Big 12 Coach of the Year four times, while Texas' Mack Brown won his second award last season. The Sooners and Longhorns have dominated the league in the last decade.
  • Florida's Urban Meyer has never won SEC Coach of the Year, making him the closest parallel to Tressel. Nick Saban has won or shared the award three times, once with LSU and twice with Alabama.
  • Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer won back-to-back ACC Coach of the Year awards in 2004 and 2005. Beamer and the Hokies have been the league's dominant team since moving over from the Big East.

This shows that dominant head coaches can win Coach of the Year awards in their leagues, although Tressel and Meyer both have been passed over.

Pretty much everyone agrees that Tressel deserves this award, but unless Ohio State takes a nosedive on the field or in recruiting, his drought likely will continue.

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