Big Ten: Matthew McGloin


Penn State has some very big shoes to fill this spring after losing quarterback Matt McGloin and linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges.
Week 9 of our fantasy Big Ten league turned into a low-scoring slog, which seems appropriate at this time of year during conference season. Fortunately for me, Non-Gingervitis wasn't nearly as points-challenged as Rittenberg's Trombone Shorties.

My team scored 94 points -- our second lowest output of the season -- yet easily outpaced the Shorties, who mustered a mere 67 -- 30 points below Adam's previous season-worst total. I was led by Ohio State's Braxton Miller, who scored 34 fantasy points against Penn State, and Northwestern's Venric Mark (17) and waiver-wire pickup Antavian Edison (11) helped make up for Denard Robinson's early exit at Nebraska.

The return of Penn State's Matt McGloin to the roster helped the Shorties (21 points), but Taylor Martinez (15), Allen Robinson (six) and Montee Ball (four) were all held well below their norms. And Adam's Cubs-like work on the waiver wire reached an all-time comedy high, as his pickup of the Purdue defense yielded him -- wait for it -- minus-7 points against Minnesota. That, folks, is hard to do.

With the win, I took a 5-4 lead in the season series. It's a close race with four weeks to go. Here are this week's waiver-wire moves, as some bye weeks are making things interesting:

Adam adds Indiana RB Stephen Houston and drops Wisconsin RB Montee Ball

Rationale:
Ball and the Badgers are off this week, and I need points. Houston provided them last week with three touchdowns, and I've liked what I've seen from him lately. He faces an Iowa defense that had no answer for the run last week, and Indiana is seeking more balance in its offense.

Brian adds Iowa RB Damon Bullock and drops Northwestern RB Venric Mark

Rationale: Mark has been a gem, but Northwestern has a bye this week. Bullock ran well last week while going for more than 100 yards and should get plenty of opportunities this week with Mark Weisman banged up. Indiana's run defense leaves something to be desired.

Adam adds Ohio State's defense and drops Purdue's defense

Rationale: I know this move will shock everyone, as Tim Tibesar's unit really helped my team last week in yet another Rittenberg special on the waiver wire. Anyway, the Buckeyes looked stout defensively against Penn State, and Illinois' offense, while better last week, still has a lot of problems. What could possibly go wrong with this pickup?

Brian adds Ohio State WR/TE Jake Stoneburner and drops Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis

Rationale: Another move necessitated by the bye week. Stoneburner seems to be picking things up and is becoming a go-to target for Braxton Miller. Loading up on Buckeyes this week against Illinois isn't a bad idea.

Adam adds Nebraska's kickers and drops Northwestern's kickers

Rationale: The Wildcats are off this week, and while I don't think we'll see a ton of points in East Lansing, Nebraska's Brett Maher should get some opportunities for field goals. I like what I've seen from Maher in recent weeks -- especially last Saturday against Michigan -- and expect another nice performance from the do-it-all senior specialist.

Brian adds Penn State's defense and drops Wisconsin's defense

Rationale: Once again, the Badgers are off in Week 10. I'll happily sub in the Nittany Lions, especially against a Purdue team that seems out of sync in a lot of ways. It's a road game, but this won't exactly be a hostile environment for the visitors.

Our complete rosters for Week 10:

The Trombone Shorties

Penn State QB Matt McGloin
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez
Indiana RB Stephen Houston
Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell
Penn State WR Allen Robinson
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Ohio State defense
Nebraska kickers

Non-Gingervitis

Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Iowa RB Damon Bullock
Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
Ohio State WR Jake Stoneburner
Purdue WR Antavian Edison
Penn State defense
Iowa kickers

Big Ten awards race tracker: Week 9

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
3:00
PM ET
Last week, we presented our choices for the Big Ten midseason awards. It's time to check back in on the races as the second half is in full swing:

Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year

1. Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: The Buckeyes' season looked to be in danger when Miller was taken away in an ambulance in the fourth quarter last week against Purdue. But Miller appears to be OK for this week's showdown between the top two candidates for the offensive MVP award.

2. Matt McGloin, QB, Penn State: The Nittany Lions have had only one 3,000-yard passer in their history -- Darryl Clark, who threw for 3,003 in 2009. McGloin is currently on pace for 3,065 yards.

3. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska: The Huskers' junior had another huge game last week, leading his team to a comeback victory at Northwestern. Would you have believed before the season that Martinez would lead the Big Ten in pass efficiency and touchdown throws (15) after eight weeks?

4. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin: Ball got off to a slow start this season, but in conference play he leads all players with 155 rushing yards per game and 10 rushing touchdowns. And isn't how you play in league action the most important thing?

5. Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern: Would the Wildcats have held on last week against Nebraska if Mark had not left the game with an injury? We'll never know. But we do know he's been one of the league's most valuable players and that he's still on pace for a 1,000-yard season.

Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year

1. Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State: Mauti has simply been a force of nature for the Nittany Lions, leading them on and off the field. He's among the league leaders in tackles, fumbles forced and interceptions.

2. Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan: Ryan rockets up the list after an outstanding last few weeks. He is giving the Wolverines a much-needed pass-rushing presence and is leading a defense that keeps getting better every week.

3. Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State: The Spartans are just 4-4, but you can't blame the Big Ten's top defense, which didn't allow a touchdown in last week's loss to Michigan. Bullough is the leader of that defense and is having a great year.

4. Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin: Taylor led the league in tackles last year and is up to his old tricks, currently ranking second in the league with 84 stops and topping the Big Ten with 10 tackles for loss on an underrated defense.

5. Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern: The Wildcats' defensive front is much-improved, and a large portion of the credit goes to Scott, who leads the Big Ten in sacks (six) and forced fumbles (three).

Kwalick–Clark Tight End of the Year

1. Dion Sims, Michigan State: Sims was one of the Spartans' top (only?) weapons before he injured his ankle. For the season, he has 24 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns, and his team needs him to get healthy.

2. Kyle Carter, Penn State: The redshirt freshman is coming on, and the Nittany Lions are not surprisingly featuring the tight end under Bill O'Brien. Carter has 29 catches for 364 yards and a score and had a big game at Iowa last week.

3. Devin Funchess, Michigan: Another freshman, Funchess has only 11 receptions, but they have gone for 186 yards and three touchdowns as he has become a big-play weapon.

4. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin: Pedersen struggled early in the season but has come on of late. He's got 15 catches for 199 yards and two scores and is being targeted more often in the passing game.
It's prediction time!

The 2012 season kicks off Thursday night -- in Big Ten country, it means Minnesota-UNLV in Vegas -- and your fearless forecasters are ready for another season of brilliance (or buffoonery). Brian Bennett looked nothing like a Big Ten neophyte in 2011, claiming the regular-season and postseason titles. But a new season brings a new opportunity and a chance for Adam Rittenberg to rebound.

We're raising the stakes this season. The loser buys the winner dinner at St. Elmo in Indianapolis during Big Ten championship weekend. The loser also will post a poem on the blog encapsulating the winner's awesomeness.

All 12 Big Ten squads are in action this weekend, so let's get to the picks ...

Thursday

MINNESOTA at UNLV

Brian Bennett: The Gophers win on 21 in Vegas. MarQueis Gray throws for two scores and runs for another to get Year 2 of the Jerry Kill era off to a lively start. ... Minnesota 21, UNLV 17

Adam Rittenberg: Minnesota flexes its muscles on offense and eclipses 30 points for the first time in the Kill era. Gray and the Gophers hope what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. ... Minnesota 31, UNLV 23

Friday

No. 24 BOISE STATE at No. 13 MICHIGAN STATE

Adam Rittenberg: Both defenses show up to play, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes prevails on a big stage. Andrew Maxwell delivers a strong second-half performance, and Johnny Adams records an interception in the closing minutes to seal a big win for the Spartans. ... Michigan State 20, Boise State 16

Brian Bennett: It's an old-fashioned slugfest as two stout defenses battle it out against offenses led by rookie starters at quarterback. The Spartans' D is just a little better, and a late Dan Conroy field goal makes the difference. ... Michigan State 17, Boise State 14

Saturday

NORTHWESTERN at SYRACUSE

Brian Bennett: In one of the most exciting games of the weekend, the Wildcats survive in overtime when Syracuse misses a field goal. Kain Colter throws three touchdown passes. ... Northwestern 33, Syracuse 30 (OT)

Adam Rittenberg: Tough one to predict as Northwestern hasn't lost an opener under Pat Fitzgerald and typically plays well away from home. But it'll take the Wildcats' young secondary some time to get settled, and Ryan Nassib and his receivers will make enough plays to win a shootout. ... Syracuse 35, Northwestern 31

OHIO at PENN STATE

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State rides the emotion of a historic opener to an early lead and then relies on its defense, led by Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, to stay in front. Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton makes some plays in the second half, but the Lions prevail thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown pass by Matthew McGloin to Allen Robinson. ... Penn State 20, Ohio 13

Brian Bennett: The Nittany Lions trail at halftime, but the defense gets its emotions in check and pitches a shutout in the second half. A late Bill Belton touchdown run seals Bill O'Brien's first victory. ... Penn State 20, Ohio 10

WESTERN MICHIGAN at ILLINOIS

Adam Rittenberg: Illinois' banged-up secondary really concerns me, especially against a good quarterback such as Western Michigan's Alex Carder. But the Illini defensive front seven will do enough to fluster Carder, and running back Josh Ferguson keys a good second-half effort from the offense as Illinois survives. ... Illinois 27, Western Michigan 24

Brian Bennett: Upset special. The Broncos have a star quarterback in Carder and plenty of familiarity with both the Illini -- whom they played tough in Champaign last year -- and former MAC coach Tim Beckman. They spoil Beckman's debut in a shootout. ... Western Michigan 34, Illinois 31

MIAMI (Ohio) at OHIO STATE

Brian Bennett: A dominating defensive performance highlights the first game of the Urban Meyer era. The Buckeyes get a pick-six and a blocked punt to make up for a so-so offensive showing. ... Ohio State 28, Miami (Ohio) 7

Adam Rittenberg: Braxton Miller connects with three receivers for a touchdown, and Johnathan Hankins keys a strong defensive effort as the Buckeyes roll in Meyer's debut. ... Ohio State 34, Miami (Ohio) 10

IOWA vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (at Chicago)

Adam Rittenberg: I'm tempted to pick the Huskies, but James Vandenberg will do enough to get Iowa over the hump in an exciting game along the shores of Lake Michigan. Vandenberg eclipses 300 passing yards as the Hawkeyes rally for a win against the defending MAC champs. ... Iowa 31, Northern Illinois 27

Brian Bennett: The Hawkeyes survive a scare at Soldier Field from a game Northern Illinois team. Rookie Greg Garmon has a breakout performance with 80 yards rushing and a long TD, and Iowa needs every bit of it. ... Iowa 23, Northern Illinois 20

EASTERN KENTUCKY at PURDUE

Brian Bennett: Danny Hope's alma mater is no match for his current team as the Boilers cruise past their Football Championship Subdivision foe. Raheem Mostert returns a kickoff for a touchdown to break the game open. ... Purdue 35, Eastern Kentucky 13

Adam Rittenberg: The Boilers' defense comes out strong as Ryan Russell sparks a big day from the defensive line. Akeem Shavers rushes for 150 yards as Purdue cruises in its opener. ... Purdue 31, Eastern Kentucky 9

SOUTHERN MISS at No. 17 NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: A more composed Taylor Martinez delivers an efficient passing performance and breaks off a 60-yard touchdown run to spark the Huskers in the second half. Ciante Evans records an interception as Nebraska starts slowly but finishes well. ... Nebraska 35, Southern Miss 17

Brian Bennett: The Huskers avoid a repeat of 2004 with encouraging outings by both the defense and an improved Martinez. The latter completes 65 percent of his passes, and Rex Burkhead runs for 150 yards to usher in the revamped Memorial Stadium in style. ... Nebraska 31, Southern Miss 14

NORTHERN IOWA at No. 12 WISCONSIN

Brian Bennett: The Badgers don't lose at Camp Randall and won't need to sweat much against the FCS Panthers. Montee Ball scores three touchdowns before sitting most of the second half, and Danny O'Brien throws only three incompletions in his Wisconsin debut. ... Wisconsin 42, Northern Iowa 10

Adam Rittenberg: The FCS Panthers are no pushover, and they take an early lead at Camp Randall before Wisconsin takes control. O'Brien has a few early hiccups but settles down, and running backs Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon combine for five rushing touchdowns. ... Wisconsin 38, Northern Iowa 17

INDIANA STATE at INDIANA

Adam Rittenberg: The Hoosiers display a more balanced offense as Tre Roberson throws for two touchdowns and rushes for another. The defense has a few breakdowns but finds itself in the second half as IU pulls away from the Sycamores. ... Indiana 34, Indiana State 20

Brian Bennett: The Hoosiers' passing game shows improvement as Roberson connects with Ted Bolser on a pair of scores. Indiana wins its first game since last September. ... Indiana 27, Indiana State 17

No. 8 MICHIGAN vs. No. 2 ALABAMA (at Arlington, Texas)

Brian Bennett: The Wolverines score first on a Denard Robinson big play, but it's pretty much all Tide after that as Alabama's superiority in the trenches takes over. ... Alabama 27, Michigan 14

Adam Rittenberg: Michigan can't match Alabama at the line of scrimmage as Tide running back Eddie Lacy has a big day on the ground. Robinson briefly rallies the Wolverines in the second half before an interception turns the momentum and Alabama pulls away. ... Alabama 30, Michigan 17

Big Ten chat wrap: Aug. 29

August, 29, 2012
8/29/12
5:00
PM ET
Our final preseason Big Ten chat is in the books, and it was a good one. You guys are definitely ready for the games to begin.

In case you missed the hour of fun, I've got you covered with a full transcript.

Some highlights:
Ryan from Indy: Why does the SEC get the free pass for new/young players but the B1G is labeled as weak in those areas? (thinking the criticism in UM's d-line versus AL's defensive backfield)?

Adam Rittenberg: That's a fair question, Ryan. I think it's because SEC teams have shown a better ability to reload than some Big Ten teams over time. Remember that Michigan is just two years removed from 7-6 and three years removed from 5-7. Brady Hoke and his staff must show they can replace great players like Martin, Van Bergen, etc. They certainly have the expertise to do so, but Michigan isn't at the level of an Alabama where you can just assume it will reload. You earn that over time.

Blackhawk from Grand Rapids: Adam, how important are the Legends division team's games with OSU in terms of a potential tiebreaker? Assuming MSU, UM and Nebby split the round-robin, and each have one more loss to tie at 6-2 in the division, would MSU have a significant advantage getting OSU in EL and right at the beginning of conference play? Those three would seem to be poised to run through the rest of the Legends, and OSU is the only common opponent that can affect the tiebreaker.

Adam Rittenberg: Really good question, Blackhawk. It certainly helps Michigan State to get the Buckeyes at home, while both Nebraska and Michigan must travel to Columbus. Still, if you look at the division tiebreakers, division games are more important than cross-division games. So a win against Ohio State might not mean as much as a win against Iowa, Minnesota or Northwestern for any of these teams. Iowa could have more to do with determining the division winner if this scenario plays out. Michigan State and Michigan both get Iowa at home, while Nebraska must travel to Iowa City.

Bryan from Hoboken, N.J.: Adam, which of the following B1G teams has the biggest chance of being upset by its Pac-12 opponent: OSU (vs. Cal), Neb (@ UCLA), or Wisconsin (@ Oregon St.)?

Adam Rittenberg: Wisconsin can't take Oregon State lightly as that's a long trip to a tricky stadium, but I'd have to go with Nebraska. Although UCLA wasn't very good last year, the Bruins have some talent and will be playing at home. While the Huskers should win, they'll need to take control in Pasadena. But quite frankly, I don't see any of the Big Ten teams losing. Maybe if the Ohio State-Cal game was in Berkeley, I'd feel differently, but Cal is on the downswing (saddens me to say having grown up a Bears fan).

Lou from Gaithersburg, Md.: Adam, maybe this is a question for Ivan, since he's in State College, but with Bench being a co #2 on the depth chart, is that an indication of Bench rising that much or Jones underwhelming? Would they burn Bench's redshirt?

Adam Rittenberg: Lou, I think it's a combination of Bench impressing and Jones struggling a bit with the system. The coaches really, really liked Bench from the get-go, and I don't think they'll hesitate to play him if things go south with McGloin. In fact, I'd be shocked if Bench redshirts this season, especially with Hackenberg coming in next year. I think it's important for Penn State to get Bench some experience.

Alex from Anaheim: Who's the best defensive player in the Big Ten?

Adam Rittenberg: It's a tough question, Alex, as I could see at least five players in the race for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Right now, the four at the top of my list are John Simon, Gerald Hodges, William Gholston and Kawann Short. All four are exceptional at their positions, and all four can dominate games at times. I'd lean toward Simon right now, but they're all great players.

Thanks again for participating and for asking good questions. My apologies to those whose questions didn't make the rundown.

Let's do it again next Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET.
Every football game triggers emotion for 18- to 22-year-old players who work year-round for a dozen guaranteed days in the spotlight.

Every season opener heightens the adrenaline after eight months of toil. Factor in what Penn State players have been through over the past eight months, and their emotional roller-coaster will reach its apex shortly after noon Saturday at Beaver Stadium.

[+] EnlargeMichael Mauti
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarLinebacker Michael Mauti expects Saturday to be very emotional for the Nittany Lions.
Among the key events since the Lions last left the game field Jan. 2 at the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas ...

  • Jan. 6: The hiring of new coach Bill O'Brien, the program's first new leader since 1966
  • Jan. 22: The death of former coach Joe Paterno
  • June: The trial and conviction of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky
  • July 12: The release of the university-commissioned Freeh report, which detailed a cover-up at the highest levels of leadership at the school
  • July 23: The NCAA leveling historically severe sanctions against the program, including a four-year postseason ban beginning this fall
  • Late July-early August: The transfers of nine players, including star running back Silas Redd

The scrutiny has been there for months, and all Penn State players have wanted to do is play football. They finally return to the game field Saturday against Ohio University in a season opener unlike any other in the history of the school -- or the sport.

"It's going to be an exciting and very emotional day," Lions senior quarterback Matthew McGloin said last week. "We've been getting pretty anxious. You can't help but think what that's going to be like coming out of the tunnel."

Added senior linebacker Michael Mauti: "It’s going to be very emotional, not only for me but for everybody in the stadium."

Even O'Brien, whose last game was Super Bowl XLVI, admitted he'll have butterflies before kickoff Saturday.

"I'd be crazy to tell you otherwise," he said. "I mean, this is my first football game as a head football coach."

The challenge for Penn State players -- and, to a lesser extent, the coaches -- on Saturday is harnessing their emotions without becoming overwhelmed or reckless. Saturday marks the Lions' first opportunity to "punch back," as O'Brien said in July.

But if the Lions take things too far, they'll be in trouble against a talented Ohio team that comes to town with little to lose.

"It's going to be our job really to handle that and to control that," Mauti said. "After all the things that have gone on this offseason, to finally get back to doing what we love to do, and that's play football on Saturday, it's going to be really exciting. ... Every football game's going to be emotional, it's going to be exciting, but at the end of the day, you've got to read your keys, get off blocks, as a defender you've got to make tackles. You've got to play football.

"So as excited as we get, that's our job to control that."

O'Brien plays a big role as well, despite the opener being his first game as a head coach. He and his staff will emphasize focus and composure throughout the week.

They'll keep players busy Friday with meetings and a walk-through where game situations and special teams will be among the emphasis points.

"These are college guys," O'Brien said, "so when they run out there for the opening kickoff or the opening play on offense or defense, they're going to be excited. We just have to make sure that they understand once the ball is snapped, now we're playing football."
We're plodding our way through the best case/worst case scenarios for each Big Ten team (promise to finish up before the season). Up next: Northwestern.

As a reminder, these pieces are not in any way predictions. They are meant to illustrate the realistic potential highs and lows for a team's season, and any game-by-game breakdowns are more of a means to an end than anything else. And we're trying to have some fun here.

Let's check out the potential highs and lows for the Purple and White.

Best case

The win total begins to climb again as Northwestern makes a serious push for the Legends division title. Kain Colter dazzles, the defense shows a pulse and a pop, attendance soars and the school's trustees wise up and grant coach Pat Fitzgerald his dream lakefront football facility.

It begins with an impressive road win at Syracuse as Northwestern improves to 7-0 in openers under Fitzgerald. Colter passes for two touchdowns and runs for two more, and the defense forces a pair of turnovers in a 31-17 triumph. All Syracuse alumni working at ESPN are forced to wear purple to work.

Northwestern returns home to face Vanderbilt and affirms itself as the better brainier program. After the game, four Vanderbilt recruits switch their commitments to Northwestern. 'Dores coach James Franklin walks past the Northwestern family section, spots some wives of Wildcats assistants and tries to recruit four of Fitzgerald's aides. They all turn him down.

Easy wins follow against Boston College, South Dakota and Indiana.

The squad stays perfect in its Big Ten road opener at Penn State, as USC transfer Kyle Prater hauls in two touchdowns and the defense smothers Wildcat-killer Matt McGloin. Northwestern improves to 7-0 by beating Minnesota, and enters the Top 25.

Chicago is buzzing about Northwestern as the team returns home, while Illinois drops to 1-6 under new coach Tim Beckman. Nebraska comes to town with its enormous traveling party, but Northwestern fans flood the turnstiles and make it a 50-50 split in the the stands. Colter torments the Huskers yet again, and Northwestern stuffs Taylor Martinez at the goal line to prevail 28-24. Chicagoans start to greet one another with, "Go Cats."

Any thought of a letdown the following the week disappears as recent nemesis Iowa visits Evanston. PETA members throw animal blood on James Vandenberg as he gets off the team bus, shattering his confidence. Vandenberg throws three interceptions, and Northwestern cuts through a soft Hawkeyes defense for a 10-point win. In the closing seconds, Wildcats fans unfold a banner reading, "Order restored: just another win against justIowa."

After the game, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel gives Fitzgerald the key to the city. The Illinois' "Our State. Our Team" billboards contain spelling and grammatical errors.

Northwestern's run ends with a road loss at Michigan, followed by another at Michigan State. But the Wildcats take out their anger out on Illinois, thumping the Illini by 35. Beckman weeps in the closing seconds. The Northwestern band plays the entire score from "Chicago" during the second half.

Colter earns Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, while Fitzgerald takes home Coach of the Year and then signs a lifetime contract. Northwestern beats South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl for its first postseason win since 1949. Illinois finishes 2-10, just below Iowa (3-9). The Northwestern trustees approve an on-campus football complex and stadium upgrades.

Worst case

The win total continues to drop and the streak of bowl appearances comes to a crashing halt. The offense stalls, the defense crumbles, the facilities campaign fizzles and Illinois rules the town -- and the state.

The season begins ominously as Syracuse football retires Greg Paulus' number before the opener, thanking him for beating Northwestern in 2009. Syracuse then goes on to a 25-point win, dissecting Northwestern's secondary for 350 yards. Northwestern alums Mike Wilbon and Darren Rovell are forced to sing Syracuse's fight song on ESPN. Vogue magazine declares the Wildcats new uniforms uglier than Maryland's 2011 threads.

Vanderbilt continues the misery the following week with a 10-point in Evanston, leading to numerous stories about how Stanford and Vanderbilt are showing how academically focused schools can still win big in football. Franklin walks past the Wildcats family section and shakes his head. Fitzgerald stews.

The Wildcats win their next three but backslide in State College, as McGloin lights them up for 400 yards and four touchdowns. Fitzgerald spends the second half searching for Rob Bolden. Illinois enters the Top 25.

A heartbreaking loss follows at TCF Bank Stadium, as a Colter fumble in the closing minutes leads to Minnesota's game-winning touchdown. Opposing fans take over Ryan Field the following two weeks as Northwestern is pummeled by Nebraska and then Iowa. Herky puts a Hawkeye helmet on the Wildcat statue in the fourth quarter.

Two more ugly losses follow, and Illinois completes the torture with a 30-point win in the regular-season finale. Beckman and the Illini celebrate a Leaders division title and are greeted after the game by President Obama, Mike Ditka and Oprah.

Miffed by a 3-9 season, the trustees decide to nix the facilities plan. They divert the funds to build a second nano fabrication lab. Illinois and Iowa play for the Big Ten championship. The winner meets Stanford in the national title game.

More Best Case/Worst Case:

Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Nebraska
Penn State players know next Saturday's season opener against Ohio won't resemble a normal football game.

After an offseason filled with change, NCAA sanctions, scandal residue and constant tension around State College, the emotion at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 1 will be like nothing we've seen before. Some think Penn State shouldn't be playing football at all, after everything that has transpired at the school. They think the notion that football can heal the school and the community is not only disrespectful, but reinforcing the culture that led to the heinous crimes committed by former Penn State assistant Jerry Sandusky.

The players, not surprisingly, think otherwise, and they embrace their roles in Penn State's quest to move forward.

"In a lot of ways, people turn to football," quarterback Matt McGloin said Thursday. "This is a football town. You don't get 110,000 fans showing up to games everywhere in the country. With everything that's happened, people want to see how we respond. ... Myself and the rest of this senior class has an opportunity to try to rebuild this program. All we want to do is go out there and play football.

"If that can make a difference, if that can bring this community closer together and change anything that happened, that's all we want to do -- play our part, keep this program together and make it better."

The NCAA sanctions are just beginning for Penn State, which is ineligible for postseason play until 2016 and will deal with significant scholarship losses through the 2017 season. But this season, at least in the eyes of senior fullback Michael Zordich, has "everything" riding on it.

Zordich doesn't minimize the significance of next week's game to the Penn State community.

"We know what we're going through is tough," Zordich said. "But we also know the power football has to bring people together. It lifts spirits. People turn to it. You look at New Orleans back [after Hurricane Katrina] when they were down and out, and the Saints won the Super Bowl and that city's been improving ever since. We know it can't heal everything but we know it can help."

A natural disaster and an institutional disaster aren't remotely the same and shouldn't be compared, but Zordich is right about one thing: as was the case in New Orleans, football will be a welcome sight in State College.

"We definitely have a chance to make history at Penn State," McGloin said. "We have an opportunity to bring this great university back from the bottom. We have an opportunity to bring this community together."

Big Ten lunch links

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
12:00
PM ET
Chris Sale rocks.
Rob Bolden's long, strange journey has led him to the Bayou.

Bolden, Penn State's opening-game starter at quarterback the past two seasons, will officially join LSU's fall camp Wednesday, according to a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Bolden's exit has been in the works for a while. He asked to be released from his scholarship before the NCAA sanctions against Penn State's football program came down, a source tells ESPN. Bolden was removed from Penn State's official roster earlier this week.

[+] EnlargeRob Bolden
Rob Christy/US PresswireRob Bolden reportedly asked to be released from his scholarship before Penn State was sanctioned.
The signal caller had an odd career at Penn State, to say the least. He claimed the starting job in preseason camp two summers ago and became the first true freshman quarterback to start the opener for Penn State in 100 years. He had mixed results in the first half of the 2010 season, but seemed to be improving before suffering a concussion in a win at Minnesota. Bolden recovered, but was bypassed by Matthew McGloin, a decision that didn't sit well with Bolden or his family. Bolden tried to transfer after the 2011 Outback Bowl, but then-coach Joe Paterno refused to grant him his release. He ended up remaining at Penn State and earned the starting nod for the 2011 season but struggled, eventually giving way to McGloin.

Bolden and McGloin competed for the starting job this spring alongside Paul Jones, but Bolden ended up third on the depth chart. He finishes his Penn State career having completed 165 of 328 passes for 2,045 yards with seven touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

Bolden clearly has talent, but he couldn't find the consistency needed to lead a Big Ten offense. It'll be interesting to see how he fares at LSU, which had its own quarterback troubles last season.

While Penn State fans lament Silas Redd's departure to USC, they likely won't miss Bolden too much after his recent struggles. Still, he's another player to capitalize on the liberal transfer policy, joining Redd, tight end Kevin Haplea (Florida State) and safety Tim Buckley (NC State). Linebacker Khairi Fortt could be the next to depart as he recently visited Cal, and offensive lineman Ryan Nowicki will transfer to Illinois, Washington or Arizona State.

McGloin and Jones enter the 2012 season as Penn State's top two quarterbacks.

Team bond galvanizes Penn State players

July, 31, 2012
7/31/12
2:02
PM ET
video
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Paul Jones shook his head Tuesday morning as he recalled the immediate aftermath of the unprecedented sanctions levied against his Nittany Lions. He was confused, hurt, upset -- and undecided about a transfer.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback said he tried to keep busy that first week. When his mind wandered, he'd envision himself in another uniform -- such as Pitt, less than 10 miles from his McKees Rocks home. The same boy who proudly donned a Penn State jersey every Thursday during high school wasn't sure, not at first, whether he would switch schools.

"You kind of let your mind attack you," Jones said. "As a competitor, you'd think it would be nice for a bowl game or a conference championship. But I take the bond I have with my teammates over pretty much everything."

Jones stopped fielding calls from other coaches Friday, after 11 days of wrestling with the idea of suiting up for another team. He decided to remain with the blue and white shortly after listening to three of his teammates' impassioned speeches during the Big Ten's media days.

"If those guys can go through it, I can go through with it," he added. "I wouldn't turn my back on these guys because I know they wouldn't turn their back on me."

Jones' sentiment was echoed by most players Tuesday morning, following a 7 a.m. pep rally that attracted several thousand fans. Players constantly referred to team bonds and fan support as the main reasons for staying put.

Director of strength and conditioning Craig Fitzgerald went so far as to say this team would be "closer than any other team that ever played anywhere."

"They're going to look at each other 20 years from now and say, 'Goddamn, you remember me?' Yeah, we went through that. We helped keep Penn State strong," Fitzgerald said. "That's more important than just going to a damn bowl game."

Despite Tuesday's upbeat environment, several players acknowledged the team initially harbored some doubts after first hearing of the NCAA sanctions: 80 fewer scholarships over four years, a cap of 15 new scholarships each season for the next four years, a four-year bowl ban and a $60 million fine. Sophomore tailback Bill Belton admitted thoughts of transferring ran through most players' heads, and senior quarterback Matt McGloin said nearly everyone received at least one offer from another team.

[+] EnlargeMatt McGloin
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarPenn State QB Matthew McGloin is among the players who pledged loyalty to the program in the wake of NCAA sanctions.
McGloin, a fifth-year senior, said the team stuck together because it didn't want to desert the university at its darkest time. He said transferring was never an option for him.

"That's not the type of person I am, that's not how I was brought up," McGloin said. "I'm going to stay here no matter what happens. I'm going to be true to the program and be loyal to the guys upstairs who are trying to get us prepared for the season. And, most importantly, I'm doing this for my family and the fans. They're going to stay loyal to us, so I'm going to stay loyal to them."

Only one player, walk-on backup safety Tim Buckley, has officially transferred from Penn State so far. Buckley is now on scholarship at N.C. State.

But key players, such as junior running back Silas Redd and linebacker Khairi Fortt, are still pursuing a possible transfer. Redd could announce his decision as early as today, and most players are expected to decide before Aug. 6, the first day of preseason practice.

Fitzgerald, who joined Penn State this year, said he only wants to see committed players when they open camp and hold a players' meeting.

"We want the warriors, that's what we want," he said. "After Aug. 6, we don't want the guys that are on the fence. If you're in, you're in. If you're out, you're out. So, on that meeting Aug. 6, I'm advising that just the warriors be at the meeting. That's all we want."
The NCAA hoped its stern ruling on Penn State's football program Monday would help change the culture in college football.

Opposing coaches staking out Penn State players in the parking lot of the football program? Probably not what NCAA president Mark Emmert had in mind.

Several opposing coaches have been spotted in State College, including a sizable group from Illinois.

From ESPN.com's latest news story:
[Penn State head coach Bill] O'Brien and his colleagues walked past a group of six coaches carrying University of Illinois bags and suitcases. A Penn State official told ESPN.com that no words were exchanged between O'Brien and the Illinois contingent. O'Brien declined to identify the players who have been offered up to 50 scholarships, but Illinois assistant athletic director Kent Brown acknowledged a group of Fighting Illini coaches are on Penn State's campus to recruit "a player or two -- maybe more."

Needless to say, Illinois coach Tim Beckman will be asked about this "strategy" on Thursday at Big Ten football media days. While some will say recruiting is recruiting and Penn State players are all fair game, it doesn't seem right to have opposing coaches staking out Nittany Lions players like this.

An Illinois spokesman told ESPN.com that athletic director Mike Thomas has contacted Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner about the Illini's intentions.

Penn State sophomore cornerback Adrian Amos tweeted this morning, "We have chosen to stay at Penn State and opposing coaches are outside our apartment, was that the intention of the NCAA? #comeonman."

A group of Penn State players, including quarterback Matthew McGloin and linebacker Michael Mauti, reaffirmed their commitment to the program earlier Wednesday. Absent from the group, star running back Silas Redd, who is being targeted by USC as a potential transfer. Redd and two teammates -- defensive tackle Jordan Hill and offensive lineman John Urschel -- were scheduled to travel Wednesday to Chicago for Big Ten football media days, but Penn State said they aren't coming. Only head coach Bill O'Brien will be in attendance Thursday and Friday. Colleague Joe Schad reports Redd is still mulling his decision to stay at Penn State or leave for USC.

The NCAA is making it very easy for Penn State players to transfer, but are opposing teams going too far in their immediate pursuit of the Nittany Lions' talent? Coaches staking out players on campus just feels a lot different than trying to flip recruits at the last minute before national signing day.

How would you feel about your team's coaches staking out the Lasch Building?

Speaking of Penn State recruits, while some already have jumped ship, the team's top verbal commit, quarterback Christian Hackenberg, is taking his time to decide his future. Colleague Mitch Sherman reports that according to Hackenberg's high school coach, Micky Sullivan, Hackenberg will visit State College to get all the facts before making his decision.
Ideally, the coach said, Hackenberg would visit Penn State and reach a decision before Aug. 7, when Fork Union opens fall practice. Fork Union begins the season on Aug. 25 against Richmond (Va.) Hermitage on ESPNU.

The Hackenbergs felt a bit of shock, Sullivan said, after the announcement Monday, which included a four-year postseason ban and the loss of 40 scholarships over four years.

Hackenberg and O'Brien bonded during the recruiting process, but O'Brien needs to make a good pitch to keep arguably the nation's top quarterback recruit on board. It'll be interesting to see how the Hackenberg situation plays out.
Penn State's specific penalties won't be known officially until Monday, but the consensus is that the NCAA will come down hard on the Nittany Lions football program.

As is the case with NCAA penalties, players who had nothing to do with the problems that occurred are the ones most directly impacted. Although most initial media reports, including one from colleague Joe Schad, indicate Penn State won't receive the so-called "death penalty," other penalties such as a postseason ban and scholarship losses are very real. Penn State might be playing football every season, but what the program looks like remains a giant question mark.

There likely will be significant fallout both with the current roster and with recruits, as some players likely will look to play elsewhere.

Several Penn State players have reacted to Sunday's news on Twitter. Not surprisingly, they remain firmly behind their program.

Here are a few tweets:

Quarterback Matthew McGloin:



Offensive tackle Donovan Smith:



Tight end Garry Gilliam:


Linebacker Khairi Fortt tweeted about not talking to the media, while cornerback Adrian Amos added, "I am confused to what lessons we are learning from this."

Lot of confusion in Happy Valley right now. We should get plenty of answers in the coming day.
It's not recklessly hyperbolic to label Adam Gress as the best story of Penn State's offseason.

When you break it down, it actually becomes rather obvious. Many would argue that the hiring of Craig Fitzgerald to revamp and lead Penn State's strength and conditioning program was the single most important move head coach Bill O'Brien has made on the job.

No position group benefited more from Fitzgerald's arrival than the Nittany Lions offensive line, which left O'Brien "pleasantly surprised" in spring practice. And within the offensive line, no player generated more praise this spring than Gress, who went from anonymous special teamer to strong candidate to start at tackle this season. Gress, a 6-6, 310-pound junior, appeared as the team's starting right tackle on the post-spring depth chart, although he played more left tackle as spring practice progressed.

[+] EnlargeAdam Gress
Mark Selders/Penn State Athletic CommunicationsPenn State offensive tackle Adam Gress is expected to have a big season in 2012.
O'Brien and Fitzgerald both praised Gress for his offseason transformation, and Gress gives the credit right back when discussing the progress he has made.

"My leg strength wasn't where it needed to be," Gress told ESPN.com. "But as Coach Fitz came in, clearly that changed a lot. I started putting up a lot more weight on squats and things like that. It transferred over to the field well."

Gress made clear gains in the winter program and felt considerably stronger before spring practice kicked off in March. But the practice sessions truly validated how far he'd come.

"The biggest difference seemed to be in my run blocking," he said. "Whenever I would come off of the ball, I was just more explosive. I was driving through guys instead of to them. Also, in pass protection, my punch improved a lot because a lot of the bench-press and upper-body work we've been doing.

"Once we actually got into pads, it was pretty evident. It felt good to finally feel a little more dominant on the field and feel like I was actually able to move guys around for a change."

Gress has appeared in six games in each of the past two seasons, mostly on the field goal unit. Like many of Penn State's linemen, Gress has the body to do damage, but he hadn't come close to blossoming.

He admits areas of his game weren't maximized before Fitzgerald arrived, and he can't outline specifics of his development because he didn't do Olympic-style lifting in the previous strength program.

"I hadn't really done squats," Gress said. "I don't really have anything to compare it to, but I feel stronger and I've gotten stronger since Coach Fitz came in."

The biggest endorsement for Gress and his line-mates didn't come from O'Brien or Fitzgerald, but from their teammates across the line of scrimmage. Penn State's defensive line typically has been one of the Big Ten's units, while the Lions' offensive line has been regarded as an underachieving group.

"This is unusual, but we've actually gotten a lot of positive comments from the defensive line," Gress said with a laugh. "They tell us we're playing better and we're giving them a little more competition. In previous years, it seemed like there were times when I stumbled against guys a lot. Sometimes on my punch during my pass set or during run blocking, it just seemed like I wasn't really able to finish my blocks."

Gress has carried over his momentum from the winter and spring into summer workouts. He and his fellow linemen work out four days a week and meet separately to discuss blocking schemes.

The complexity and newness of O'Brien's offense will place a heavy burden on top quarterback Matthew McGloin and the receivers and tight ends. A better-than-expected offensive line could help Penn State got a long way in the Leaders division.

"It's hard for me to speak for the other guys, but I know everyone has felt the same differences and same improvement in strength, and in the same areas," Gress said. "When I watch film, I can tell the way we run plays is more explosive. We push the D-line around a lot more than we used to."

Big Ten mailblog

July, 10, 2012
7/10/12
6:00
PM ET
Wrapping up a surprisingly busy day with some questions and answers.

Warning: if you bring it, you better be prepared to receive it, too.

Daniel from Omaha writes: I'm not disputing Nebraska's ranking of #4 in your coaching jobs in B10 but Penn St #3? For the same reason you pointed out for NU, Penn St doesn't take a hit and you point to Bill Obrien's 1 yr of recruiting success? Bill Callahan had a Top Class in 2005, where's he at now? Go back to doing Subway commercials and the media needs to stop coddling OSU, Mich and PSU. How is Madison not better than 2 of those?

Adam Rittenberg: Wisconsin is not a better job than Michigan or Ohio State, Daniel. You won't find anyone credible that tells you otherwise. Maybe when the Badgers upgrade their woeful facilities, they'll be closer. But Wisconsin can never match Ohio State's and Michigan's recruiting clout or tradition. That's why the rankings are the way they are. Regarding Penn State, it's more than just O'Brien's recruiting class. Penn State has superior facilities, more tradition and a fan base that always puts football first. Has Penn State played to its potential as a member of the Big Ten? Absolutely not. But Penn State can be a national power again, and it has an easier path to the top than many schools because of the reasons I've outlined.

By the way, would love to be doing Subway commercials. I'd be ridiculously rich and wouldn't have to deal with The Woefully Uninformed.



Steven from Baltimore writes: I'm sorry Adam, but I'll have to disagree with your recent rankings on the best destinations to be a coach. The fact that you didn't significantly consider fan expectations threw off your rankings from reality. Let's compare two schools. School A's fans live and die for nothing but football, and accordingly complain about their coach's 9-win season. The other school's fans seem to enjoy more the culture of game day (singing a capella Build Me Up Buttercup, for a random example), as opposed to just the win/loss column. Wouldn't you like to write the same high quality articles as you always do, but get less angry fan mail (e.g. the Pac-12 blog)?

Adam Rittenberg: Well, Steven, judging by your email address (@wisc.edu), I'm going to guess you're a Penn State, Nebraska or Iowa fan who now attends Wisconsin. While Badgers fans do love their game-day festivities, they also can be critical. Ask Bret Bielema what it was like for him after the 2008 season. The bigger point, however, is that fan expectations, while important, aren't the overriding factor in determining the quality of a coaching job. Fan expectations don't matter much if you have subpar facilities and are located in an isolated region with few elite prospects. This sport is largely about recruiting, and it's why I played such a great emphasis on facilities and location along with recent success. Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, for example, has done very good work for the most part in a job that has some pluses and minuses. Iowa and Wisconsin are similar jobs with similar challenges, but Wisconsin's track record and ability to attract recruits because of its blossoming brand make it a slightly better job in my view.



Luke from Jessup, Iowa, writes: Adam, I was surprised that you didn't include pay when ranking your B1G coaching jobs. Was that simply an oversight, or do you really feel it's not about the money with these guys? I was looking back at 2011 B1G salaries and, at the time, Ferentz topped the B1G chart. While I'd like to believe he stays for all the right reasons, nearly $4M is better than a poke in the eye, isn't it? Outside of the big 2 (OSU & UM), which, in my humble opinion, are the only 2 true "dream jobs" in the conference, I think any one of those other coaches would at least take a hard look at moving for $4M. No? By the way, I'm not trying to be a homer here; I'm using Iowa as an example only because of Ferentz hefty salary.

Adam Rittenberg: Luke, fair question. Coaching candidates certainly want to be well-compensated, and Iowa has shown Ferentz the money over the years while the NFL continues to lurk. Head coaches also want to be able to retain and attract top assistants. But to me, salary is just one piece of the equation, and if I'm a coach, I want to be in a place where I can recruit at the highest levels and compete for national championships. Is Iowa that place? A coach has to be one heck of a recruiter to overcome some inherent obstacles (weak in-state talent pool, so-so facilities). Besides Ferentz's salary and the passion of Iowa fans, there aren't many elements of the program that scream "big-time" to me. Iowa will be a more attractive job when its facilities upgrades are completed and it can offer very competitive salaries, not just for the head coach but to his assistants.



Ben from Milwaukee writes: Adam, I know I am a biased source (Penn State alum) but how are the Nittany Lions not getting more buzz in the preseason by many so called "experts." They won 9 games last year with one of the worst offenses in college football that was based out of the 1960s. O'Brien's offense fits great for McGloin who is a 3rd year starter, one of the few in the B1G, and Silas Redd is a dark horse Heisman candidate. Penn State's front seven boasts a few All-American candidates in Gerald Hodges, Jordan Hill and Michael Mauti. I know the secondary is thin, and there is always transition with a new staff. But with OSU and Wisconsin at home this year is 10 or 11 wins that unreasonable?

Adam Rittenberg: Ben, you bring up some good points about Redd and the defense, but Penn State isn't getting more buzz because it went through a historic coaching transition, which typically brings about some speed bumps. The sense is Penn State will have some struggles with all the newness around the program. Although the offense can't get much worse, it could make more mistakes as it gets comfortable with a complex new scheme. Matthew McGloin could be a much better player this year, but most people will remain skeptical after watching him flounder for most of 2011. While the defensive front seven should be strong, Penn State loses Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Devon Still as well as several experienced defensive backs. You mention the schedule, and that's where Penn State could make some major noise. If the Lions can take advantage of a fairly easy start, limit mistakes and build confidence for the bigger games -- Ohio State, Nebraska, Wisconsin -- they could sniff the 10-win mark.



KJ from Ferndale, Mich., writes: I am guessing that you being the Michigan fan will rank Michigan Stadium #1? With that said, what do you think about my ranking, and I have been to every Big Ten Stadium sans Minnesota who didn't have one until recently.1. Beaver Stadium - You have to drive to Knoxville to find an equivalent.2. Camp Randall3. Spartan Stadium - When Sparty is winning, there is no better place to go for a game in the entire country. 4. Memorial Stadium5. The Shoe. 6. Kinnick Stadium. Vastly under-rated. 7. Michigan Stadium - Penn State pulled off a partial white out in 2009 so this ranking might be a little high. Nuff said. 8. Do the rest really matter?

Adam Rittenberg: Me being the Michigan fan? That's a good one. Without giving away too much, Michigan Stadium won't be occupying the No. 1 spot. While the recent renovations have helped, the Big House remains overrated in my book, especially when compared to other Big Ten stadiums. While your rankings seem borderline insane -- Memorial Stadium at No. 4? -- you'll probably be pleased to see where we have Michigan Stadium. Wolverines fans, not so much.



Mochila from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: It was suggested that I submit this to you, which I wrote in one of the posts: "AR and BB don't have enviable jobs. No matter what they write, somebody is going to take exception to it. You said Meyer is a good coach? Fawnfestival. You mentioned Ohio State's recent issues? Hate carnival. You think Michigan's stadium is too quiet? lol, troll. Michigan State has to rebuild at QB? Ignoramus. 1 + 1 = 2? Go to skool, noob. ACC-Transfer-U? Adam is the anthropomorphism of the trivia game "You don't know Jack." Taylor Martinez is working on his throwing motion? You're just in love with the other schools. Didn't mention Iowa until now? No respect."So, my question is: do you enjoy being one of the B1G's bloggers?

Adam Rittenberg: Mochila, I do enjoy the job and feel very honored to be in this position. I realize how many folks would love to have this job, and understand that it's a lot more enjoyable than what most people do for work. That said, it's not nearly as glamorous as some believe it to be, and a lot of the behind-the-scenes responsibilities/tasks make it challenging. Dealing with criticism is part of the deal, and I learned that from the blog's infancy. If you can't take the heat, you can't do this job, period. You'll drown.

The comments section cracks me up most of the time. It's what you get with the anonymity of the Web. Do I really care what LivesWithHisMother thinks about my receding hairline or supposed biases toward one team or another? Not really. I enjoy dealing with the intelligent Big Ten fans out there -- of which there are many -- and try to limit my interactions with everyone else.



Sean from East Lansing, Mich., writes: In terms of my team, the Michigan State Spartans, I think that Dantonio has the potential to become a defining coach in Michigan State football history. He already has accomplished the rare feat of beating the hated Wolverines 4 times in a row and has put us back on the national map. I foresee buildings named after him in the future to stand alongside Duffy's football center and Munn arena. I can see it now... the Izzo Center next to Spartan Stadium and Dantonio field.

Adam from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Hey Adam,I think Dantonio has a chance to become a coach that defines MSU football. It's interesting to me that the coaches that have had success in the modern era (post WWII) at MSU all came from one coaching tree (Munn-Daugherty-Perles-Saban-Dantonio) with a former assistant under a successful MSU head coach becoming MSU head coach years later (except for Daugherty), and all of them had or have similar coaching styles (smash-mouth football). It could be argued that MSU is defined more by its most successful style of play, rather than by one particular coach, since again, its most successful coaches are all linked back to Munn. Also, Dantonio still has expectations yet to fulfill, and he has his age working against him, as he has already mentioned that he doesn't intend to coach into his 70s (I personally give him until he's 65 at the latest unfortunately, though I hope I'm wrong). He will ultimately be beloved, but he continued the styles that made the rest successful, so its more the style than one particular coach. And you know what? I think us at MSU are pretty happy and content with that.

Adam Rittenberg: Sean and Adam, I was thinking about this when finishing up Monday's post. Dantonio certainly is on his way toward being a defining coach for Michigan State. Perhaps the only thing that could hurt him, as Adam correctly points out, is longevity. He has accomplished a lot in his five seasons in East Lansing, but how long will he coach? He turned 56 in March, and he had his health scare a few years ago. It doesn't look like Coach D is slowing down or thinking of stepping aside any time soon, and his recent contract essentially keeps him at Michigan State as long as he wants to be there. How long would he need to coach to reach "defining" status? Another 7-10 years? More? Dantonio needs to keep winning and get Michigan State back to the Rose Bowl, but he's definitely building momentum toward it. My sense with Dantonio is it will come down to longevity. Adam's point about style of playing defining a program makes sense, and it's applicable to several Big Ten programs (i.e. Wisconsin).



Jon from Dublin, Ohio, writes: It's impossible to watch 18-22-year-olds 24/7. Should Urban Meyer and staff be applauded for its direct discipline or criticized that players are in trouble in the first place? This seems drastically different than at Florida.

Adam Rittenberg: Jon, I think Meyer deserves credit for setting a hard-line tone on how he'll handle off-field issues so far. But the real answer to your question won't be known for some time. The key for Meyer -- and all coaches -- is to limit player conduct issues as much as possible. The hope is his approach toward discipline will deter players from making bad choices off of the field, because believe me, people are already counting the number of arrests under Meyer's watch at Ohio State. Every coach has to be aware of the arrest counter.



Nic from Vermillion, S.D., writes: I find Nebraska's defining coach to not as black and white and some see it. Obviously Osbourne is king with his 255 wins, and 3 national titles, but none of that may have never happened without Devaney paving the way. Nebraska was a nobody in football until Devaney's tenure the led to to titles and 100+ wins and when he retired he handed the reigns to Osbourne who carried the momentum, while taking the AD job with Neb. You can almost argue Devaney is as defining in big red football as Osbourne. Its also like a past version of what Alveraz and Bilema are today.

Scott from Omaha writes: I think in most Nebraska fans' minds, Osborne and Devaney are tightly linked together, given that Devaney picked Osborne as his successor. Regarding either being the face of the program, most recent fans would probably pick Osborne, while the older ones would pick Devaney, since he was the one who really got things started. I don't think Osborne gets enough credit for keeping the program at a high level. Just think - the seniors at the end of his tenure as coach weren't even born when he assumed the head coach position. That's more than a caretaker role.

Adam Rittenberg: Good thoughts here, guys. As I stated in the post, Osborne is the face of Nebraska's program and always will be. But Devaney's accomplishments in getting the program back to a nationally elite level cannot be overlooked here at all. I mentioned longevity earlier and that's really the difference as Osborne's affiliation with Nebraska has lasted so many years.

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