Big Ten: Mike Stoops

Iowa waited nearly two months to promote a position coach to a coordinator role. And that's not even the surprising part of the Hawkeyes' announcement Tuesday.

Phil Parker is Iowa's new defensive coordinator. After spending the past 24 seasons coaching defensive backs, the past 13 at Iowa, Parker now will lead the Hawkeyes' defense. He replaces Norm Parker, who announced his retirement in December. Although Phil Parker, who isn't related to Norm, had been mentioned as a top candidate when Norm announced his retirement, the likelihood of a promotion seemed to decrease as the days went on with no announcement from Kirk Ferentz.

Some Iowa fans had been gearing up for a big-splash hire, whether it was Mike Stoops back in December or former Michigan defensive coordinator Jim Herrmann in recent days. The big splash never happened, and Phil Parker gets the job. Expect him to maintain a similar defensive philosophy after working under Norm Parker for so long.

OK, so here's the surprising part: Reese Morgan, Iowa's offensive line coach for the past nine seasons, is moving to defensive line. He replaces Rick Kaczenski, who left in December for the same post on Nebraska's staff. Morgan has only coached offense at Iowa, working with the team's tight ends from 2000-2002 after serving as a high school coach in Iowa City.

Morgan's move is, well, odd. Defensive line is Iowa's biggest question mark entering 2012 -- yes, even bigger than running back -- so we'll see early how Morgan fares with the transition.

Ferentz also announced that Darrell Wilson will move from linebackers coach to defensive backs coach. Iowa has one defensive staff vacancy to fill, and administrative assistant LeVar Woods, a former Hawkeyes linebacker, likely will be named the team's linebackers coach. Woods' appointment makes a lot of sense.
"Phil, Darrell and Reese have all done an outstanding job in our program for a significant period of time," said Ferentz. "I am confident they will have a very positive effect on our team as we transition forward."

Ferentz, who has a news conference scheduled for 5 p.m. ET Wednesday, still must name an offensive coordinator to replace Ken O'Keefe, who left last week for a post on the Miami Dolphins' coaching staff. He also must name an offensive line coach to replace Morgan.

Tuesday's announcement increases speculation that Brian Ferentz, Kirk's son and a New England Patriots assistant coach, will return to Iowa City in an assistant role. Don't be shocked to see Brian Ferentz named Iowa's offensive line coach.

That leaves the coordinator role, which could go to wide receivers coach Erik Campbell, if Ferentz once again promotes from within.

Should Ferentz go that route, he would be reaffirming faith in his guys rather than outsiders. The moves likely won't go over well with Iowa fans, who have seen the same two coordinators throughout Ferentz's tenure. Many fans naturally want big-splash hires from the outside. Phil Parker certainly isn't, and Campbell would fit into the same category. I think promoting Campbell makes a lot of sense, as he has paid his dues as a position coach.

We should learn more about Iowa's coaching plans Wednesday, so stay tuned ...
Indiana and Arizona essentially swapped offensive coordinators in recent weeks. Rod Smith, the Hoosiers' co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach left IU to rejoin new Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez in Tucson. Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson replaced Smith with Seth Littrell, who spent the 2011 season as Arizona's offensive coordinator but was let go following Mike Stoops' firing. Littrell did his part with the Wildcats' offense, which ranked 16th nationally in yards per game (465.3 ypg) and third in passing (370.8 ypg) this season. Before joining Arizona's staff in 2009, Littrell spent four seasons coaching running backs at Texas Tech.

The former Oklahoma running back, who won a national title in 2000, will serve as Indiana's sole offensive coordinator.

I recently caught up with Littrell, who arrived in Bloomington on New Year's Day, to get his thoughts on joining the Hoosiers' staff.

Why Indiana? Why did this make the most sense for you?

Seth Littrell: I've known Coach Wilson for a long time, and we've been talking back and forth for a while. We've always had somewhat of a relationship. I knew the unbelievable offenses he had at Oklahoma, and I thought it was a good opportunity for me to go into a great new conference and a prestigious school in Indiana, where they're doing great things right now. You look at the basketball program up and going again, and then with Coach Wilson here in his second year, I thought it was a good opportunity to be able to help him turn this and get back to competing and winning. Plus, it's a chance for me to be under a great offensive coach who can teach me some things.

You were working under a defensive coach at Arizona. How will that change for you now, working for a guy who had success on the offensive side?

SL: It'll be unbelievable. I've been very fortunate to work with a lot of people, [Mark] Mangino and Mike Leach and Mike Stoops, and playing under Bob Stoops. I've had a great opportunity to work for offensive and defensive guys. The biggest thing I always look for is relationships and guys you feel comfortable around. It's a great environment, people are pulling in the same direction. And the more I talked with Coach Wilson over the phone, I felt very comfortable with him.

How would you describe your offensive philosophy?

SL: I played under Mike Leach at Oklahoma in 1999, so a lot of it comes from that "Air Raid" background. But the biggest thing in coaching is you have to adjust. We've had to adjust. Sonny Dykes had to adjust when he first came to Arizona, and then I came in and we had Rob Gronkowski, so we used a little bit more tight end, play-action underneath. And then last year, we didn't have as many tight ends, so we were more spread. You have to be a teacher and you have to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are as an offense and each individual player, and hopefully build something great around them. People look at me, coming from a huge passing background, but you look at Dana Holgorsen, who's one of my best friends at West Virginia. He's tweaked it his way, I've kind of tweaked it my way. And the tweaks you see are based upon what we have as personnel, but at the same time getting those guys in the best situations to compete.

Have you had a chance to look at the personnel you'll be inheriting at Indiana?

SL: Obviously, I've looked at some film, just when I came down on an interview. And as I've come back, I have had some time to watch some games here and there. And I'm extremely excited. They played a lot players last year. Shoot, Tre [Roberson] started the last five games [at quarterback] as a true freshman. He definitely has some strengths. I'm excited about him, I'm excited about the offense in general. There's players here you can compete and win with.

As you go out recruiting the next few weeks, what are some of the things you're going to be looking for?

SL: The first thing you look at is character and determination to win. You want to get great people to surround this program, which is nothing new. Coach Wilson has been doing that since he got here. You look for people who want to come out and compete, and who want to be at Indiana. You can recruit all kinds of kids, but do they really want to be at Indiana? Do they really want to play in the Big Ten? Those are qualities you look for, and then you recruit from there. Obviously, we have different needs. We have a few more needs we need to fill up. But as a philosophy, the biggest thing you want to find are great athletes who have a will to compete and a will to win.

Kevin Johns has been there as a co-coordinator. How is that going to work with him, as far as play-calling and so forth?

SL: We've sat down and talked, but the last week has been so fast. We have met, he's a great guy, the staff on offense is unbelievable. We've all talked, and I'm really excited about those guys. They're unbelievable coaches. This isn't about me. This is about this program. This is about an offensive staff coming together and working together. It's not about one guy saying, 'Here, this is what we're going to do.' That's never how it's been with me. We have an offensive staff, we sit down, we talk, we put all our heads together and we figure out the best way to help us be successful and win. That's what it comes down to. It's a team thing.

There's been more spread in the Big Ten the last 10 years. How do you think the offense works in the league? Are there different challenges in the Big Ten versus the Pac-12 or the Big 12?

SL: I couldn't give a fair assessment on that because I've never been in this league. I haven't studied it a ton. Now we did play Iowa [in 2009 and 2010] while I was at Arizona, and they had some unbelievable defenses. They were big, strong, physical guys, and they were really good up front and really sound across the board. We have to sit down and watch and discuss as a staff, and we'll figure out the best thing for us to do offensively.

How big of a challenge is this?

SL: Everywhere is a challenge in college football. It's hard to win games. Each week, you can never take it for granted, because you step on the field, wins aren't easy. I don't care where you're at. You can be at Oklahoma, or you can be at a I-AA [program], they're all hard. The biggest thing you have to do is prepare yourself mentally and physically each and every week. And you've got to enjoy it. You've got to have fun in the process. Those are the people who are going to be successful.

Big Ten chat wrap: Dec. 14

December, 14, 2011
12/14/11
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The Big Ten chat made its triumphant return earlier Wednesday. In case you missed the festivities, here's a full wrap-up along with some highlights:
Rex Burkhead from Sea of Red: I am looking forward to the test they call an SEC defense. However, I think we have the ability to wear down the Gamecocks if they let me run the ball 38 times. (crossing my fingers) I think that we'll have to run the ball up the middle more in this game since those dang South Carolina guys are fairly quick. I also think that we will have to run the ball 4 out of 5 plays to open up big plays in the passing game to get past this stingy defense. (Not to mention, me or my boy Taylor might bust off a nice long rushing TD somewhere along the way) What are your thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: South Carolina is a lot better defending the pass than the run, so I'm sure you'll get plenty of touches, Superman. It's also important to run away from Ingram and Clowney, the two standout defensive ends. If you end up running the ball 38 times or more in the bowl game, Nebraska should be in pretty good shape to win. The concern is if the Huskers' offense has quick drives and can't stay on the field. South Carolina's offense isn't nearly as dangerous as it was with Lattimore, but the Gamecocks have some weapons.
Brian from CBus: Should we be happy we're getting Everett Withers, or upset that Mike Stoops is not coming to town?
Adam Rittenberg: Depends on whether you wanted Luke Fickell to remain on staff, too. Stoops was unlikely to take the job when Fickell would also stay on in a significant role. I think Fickell is a really good coach who has tremendous upside for Ohio State. But it didn't seem likely Stoops and Fickell would ever share coordinator duties. Withers has a lot of experience as a defensive coach and is well regarded.
Jay from Boston: It seems to me that the PSU job would not be attractive to "big name" established HC's because it will presumably be a long time before the trustees let a coach run around without significant oversight. Most established HC's have high-egos and don't want people constantly looking over their shoulders. Wouldn't giving an up-and-comer assistant be the best bet then? They'd be more likely to accept institutional restrictions and for the chance to prove themselves.
Adam Rittenberg: Jay, I see what you're saying, but I really think Penn State needs a guy with previous head-coaching experience. He needs to understand leadership and how to oversee an entire program and all the outside things that go along with it. Most important, he needs to have no character issues. There are coaches looking to prove themselves who have previously run programs. Penn State should be able to find one.
Jon from Chicago: The weather is not really a factor, if you look at statistics/data. But would the Big Ten want Soldier Field to get the grass/turf right before remotely thinking about making the move to Chicago for the Championship Game? The grass is disgusting at times at Soldier Field, but Chicago is a great city to host the game.
Adam Rittenberg: Totally agree, Jon. The field should be a significant concern for the Big Ten if it considered moving the game to Soldier Field. The league doesn't want two of its best teams, possibly national title contenders, competing on such a lousy surface. But I agree Chicago would be a great place to host the game. Many more Big Ten fans live here than any other Midwestern city, so the market outside of the two participating fan bases would be much greater.

Thanks again for all the questions, and my apologies to those whose questions weren't answered.
Luke Fickell will make Ohio State's defensive calls beginning in 2012 and have coordinator in his title as he joins Urban Meyer's staff.

"Luke Fickell will have the [coordinator] title," Meyer told WBNS radio in Columbus in a short interview Tuesday. "It might be co, it might not, but at the end of the day, he'll be calling the defense."

Meyer said at his introductory news conference that Fickell would have a significant title on his staff but didn't specify what it would be. Meyer has spoken with former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops about a position, but Tuesday's announcement likely means Stoops will end up elsewhere.

Fickell held the title of co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State until being moved into the interim head coach role following Jim Tressel's resignation on Memorial Day. He'll continue as Buckeyes head coach through the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl on Jan. 2. The 2012 season will give Fickell a chance to showcase his play-calling ability, as Jim Heacock has served as Ohio State's primary defensive coordinator since 2005.

Why would Fickell's title be co-defensive coordinator? Because North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers could soon be joining Meyer's staff. Meyer told WBNS radio that Withers is "in the picture" at Ohio State but nothing is official yet. Withers, who will depart North Carolina after the Independence Bowl, has served as defensive coordinator at North Carolina, Minnesota and Louisville, among other stops. Don't be surprised if he joins Ohio State's staff in a co-defensive coordinator role.

The only two assistants officially named to Meyer's staff are Fickell and Tom Herman, who comes over from Iowa State to serve as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. Current assistants Stan Drayton and Taver Johnson are expected to remain on Meyer's staff.

Tuesday's news could be good for Nebraska and Iowa, two teams looking for defensive coordinators. Stoops is a good fit at both spots as he has a close relationship with Nebraska coach Bo Pelini and played safety at Iowa. Then again, Stoops is a very coveted coach who would like to lead a program again in the near future.

Big Ten mailblog

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
3:30
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Let's do this.

Mike from Cincinnati writes: Adam, Big fan of the blog. I know that today is a busy day with everything that went on this weekend. However, I have to say that I was a little surprised that you didn't mention anything about the passing of Joe Daniels. I know it's been a busy few days, but I think everyone can agree that Coach Daniels was not only a great coach, but a great man as well. His battle with cancer was well noted, but it is a sad day for Buckeye Nation.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, thanks for the note, and my apologies for not posting something sooner on Coach Daniels' passing. Very sad to hear about it. He meant a great deal to Ohio State's program and had an impressive coaching career. I would encourage all Big Ten fans to consider making a donation to Uplifting Athletes, an organization that helps raise funds and awareness to fight rare diseases such as kidney cancer, which Daniels fought courageously until his death.


Brian from Storm Lake, Iowa, writes: What do you think of Bo Pelini's chances are that he will land Mike Stoop's in as DC?

Adam Rittenberg: Stoops is in high demand as a defensive coordinator, and he'll have his pick of top programs to join in that role. He'd clearly rather have another head-coaching position, and some jobs are still out there. If Stoops goes the coordinator route, Nebraska should have a good shot because of Pelini's friendship with the Stoops family. That connection likely would need to be the deciding factor if Stoops is to join the Huskers' staff.


Andrew from Cleveland writes: Hey Adam, I wasn't sure who I should make this comment to, but I guess I'll go with the old vet. Did you notice that Michigan is the only team in the nation to have played 10 bowl teams? Not only that, but 11 of the teams we played were bowl eligible. I know that being a bowl team doesn't mean the same thing as before, but I think it shows consistency to be able to go through that many solid teams and end the season with only two losses.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm the Big Ten blog vet, but Bennett is MUCH older, trust me. Good point about Michigan's schedule. The Wolverines beat only one team (Nebraska) that appears in the final BCS standings but also recorded some decent wins (Notre Dame, San Diego State). Still, as you note, being bowl eligible isn't really that impressive any more. Six of Michigan's wins came against teams that had six or seven wins. It would have been nice to see Michigan face two of the better Leaders Division teams in Wisconsin and Penn State.


Neal from Atlanta writes: Northwestern is Playing Texas A&M in Texas. Purdue is Playing W. Michigan in Michigan. Illinois is playing UCLA in California. Penn State is playing Houston in Texas. Ohio State is playing Florida in Florida. And Nebraska and Michigan State are playing SEC teams in the Southeast. Iowa is the only non-BCS Big 10 team playing on a neutral fieldDon't you think it is more than a little disadvantageous to the Big 10, a conference trying to regain some respect, to be playing almost all of their opponents in their home states?

Adam Rittenberg: Sure, Neal, but what can you do? No one wants to play bowl games in Big Ten territory outside of the indoor facilities like Detroit's Ford Field. Most bowl games are affiliated with at least one conference that has teams near to its location. Would it make a difference to play the ACC in Florida? Or an SEC West team in the Cotton Bowl? This is just the way it is. The Big Ten could add some more bowl games against teams from non-AQ conferences, but that's not commissioner Jim Delany's style. He wants to play the best teams in the best leagues in the biggest games. The result is an incredibly difficult bowl lineup. It's why a .500 record for the Big Ten in bowls is like the ACC going 7-3.


Scott from Williamsport, Pa., writes: Adam, We PSU fans are a little less than thrilled with our bowl selection. Why did the conference not fight harder for one of its better teams? PSU has to bring in as much revenue to the conference as any of the other teams. Makes us wonder if the ACC would treat us better, they have more teams we would like to play anyway.

Adam Rittenberg: Scott, you make some good points, and Penn State's players deserved a better bowl after having nothing to do with the sex-abuse scandal. It's a tough situation but not a surprising one. But you have to look at this from the Big Ten's point of view, too. The league has valuable relationships with these bowls and their corporate sponsors. You also have an unprecedented situation at Penn State that will drag on for a while and bring negative publicity to the bowl game (again, not the players' fault). You had the Insight Bowl group that had dealt with its own negative-publicity situation in the past year. You had the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas not wanting to pair two teams (Penn State and Texas A&M) without permanent head coaches. Could the Big Ten have done more? Sure. But the league has bigger interests than Penn State -- again hard for Penn State fans to hear, but true -- and creating tension with its bowl partners might not be the smartest way to go. Again, I'm not saying it's right, but you have to look at it from both sides. Would the ACC have done more? We'll never know.


DaReganOnDaTrack from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: I love you guys. And I love where both of you had Michigan State: in the the top 13 at least. Im a die hard spartan fan and was in Lucas Oil. Seeing the ref throw the flag nearly brought tears to my eyes. Toughest Spartan loss since the the 07 michigan loss. I understand why Michigan State is not in BCS bowl. Its a business and its about money. But shouldn't they get the rankings right? Michigan State dropped 4 spots losing to the best team in the B1G by 3 points. Yeah, wisconsin was a 2 loss team. But one of their losses came to Michigan State!!!! In addition, how the heck is michigan 13, four spots better than MSU?!?!?! We have the same number of wins, plus the head to head and a tougher schedule!!! Im not complaining about the BCS bowl picks, Im complaining about what goes in to the ranking formula. Michigan State should not be four spots behind a team they beat and have the same number of wins, not to mention AFTER THEY LOSE A THE B1G TEN CHAMPIONSHIP BY THREE POINTS!!!! This needs to be fixed for all Conference Championship losers!!!

Adam Rittenberg: We love you, too, Regan. I think you have the right perspective on the whole BCS bowl selection/BCS standings situation. BCS at-large berths are based on brand name, fan base and other factors that have little to do with on-field performance. The Sugar Bowl is a business that made what it believes is a smart business decision by inviting Michigan. Hard to argue it from a business perspective. My bigger issue, like yours, is with the final BCS standings and the final coaches' poll. You can argue Michigan and Michigan State are evenly matched teams. Michigan State was one spot ahead of Michigan on both mine and Bennett's latest ESPN.com power rankings ballots. But to see the gap between the two schools on some of the coaches' final Top 25 ballots is ridiculous -- looking at you, Nick Saban, Les Miles and Bret Bielema. These teams shouldn't be six or eight spots apart. Michigan State should be higher than No. 17 in the final BCS standings.


Ted from Iron River, Mich., writes: Hey Adam; simple question for you. How does Russell Wilson miss out as one of the five candidates for the Heisman? Why couldn't you make the case for two players from one team, on that great offense, making the list? I think the two losses that supposedly tarnished his Heisman status, is easily restored given what he did in UW's final games, especially the B1G Championship. Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Ted, it's strange how Wilson fell so quickly out of the Heisman race. Even in Wisconsin's two losses, he rallied the team in the fourth quarter. It's not his fault the defense can't knock down a pass. To be fair, he wasn't nearly as sharp on the road this season than he was at Camp Randall Stadium, but he didn't bomb like some other Heisman candidates. The guy had one of the best statistical seasons in Big Ten history, much like Montee Ball did. But it's very hard for a team to send two players to New York that isn't competing for a national title. Also, it's hard to argue Wilson had a better season than Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, the two quarterbacks invited to New York. The case for Ball being better than Trent Richardson as the nation's best running back is a little stronger.

Big Ten lunch links

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
12:00
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And then my herbalist took this weird bee pollen paste, rubbed it around my gums, and now my mouth feels like a spaceship.
It's official: Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has been hired as Florida Atlantic's new head coach.

Florida Atlantic's trustees approved the hire Monday after the parties had agreed last week to a five-year deal that will pay Pelini a total of $2.49 million.
Trustees got packets with Pelini's sales pitch over the weekend, coming away duly impressed.
"Frankly, if he does three-quarters of what he says in here, it's pretty amazing," FAU trustee Bob Rubin said. "[Athletic director Craig Angelos] found the right guy."

Pelini has spent the past four seasons at Nebraska working under his younger brother, Bo, as the team's defensive coordinator. Nebraska had a top-15 defense in both 2009 and 2010 but endured some inconsistency this season. Carl Pelini was a high school head coach in both Missouri and Ohio but hasn't run a program at the college level.

Bo Pelini now must make a crucial hire as he looks for his brother's replacement. He'll surely put in a call to good friend Mike Stoops, the former Arizona head coach who might be the nation's most coveted defensive coordinator candidate. Sam McKewon makes a good case for why Bo Pelini should hire Stoops, as he needs a big name to take the program to the next level.

Stoops will be tough to land, and if he goes elsewhere, it will be interesting to see where Bo Pelini looks.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
4:00
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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.
Ohio State? Nebraska? Maybe Iowa?

If former Arizona head coach Mike Stoops doesn't land another head-coaching position, it's a pretty good bet he'll be coaching defense in the Big Ten in 2012.

Stoops
Stoops
Stoops has confirmed he met with new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, presumably about the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator position. While he's not saying whether or not he has been offered the job, Stoops certainly is in the mix.

He also could get a call from his good friend Bo Pelini, who likely will need a defensive coordinator to replace his brother, Carl, expected to become Florida Atlantic's head coach. Stoops told the Lincoln Journal Star's Steven M. Sipple that he would be interested in an opening on Nebraska's staff should one emerge.

Stoops and Pelini haven't discussed any jobs, Sipple reports. Their two families are close as the groups of brothers grew up together in Youngstown, Ohio.

"We're great friends, and I have great respect for Bo and what he's done," Stoops told the Journal Star.

There's also the situation at Iowa, which has a defensive coordinator in Norm Parker. But Parker's health issues in recent years have made his future a constant topic of discussion. I've heard from many Iowa fans expressing interest in Stoops, a safety at Iowa from 1982-84.

It will be interesting to where the coaching carousel goes, but Stoops could be heading back to the Big Ten.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini has reached a verbal agreement to become Florida Atlantic's head coach, colleague Joe Schad and others are reporting.

Schad reports that Pelini is expected to be introduced at Florida Atlantic on Monday. Pelini will replace Howard Schnellenberger, who announced before the season that he planned to retire and will coach his final game Saturday when the 1-10 Owls host Louisiana-Monroe. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was among those who recommended Pelini for the job.

It will be interesting to see where Nebraska coach Bo Pelini looks to replace his older brother on staff. The Pelini brothers helped bring Nebraska's defense to prominence in 2009 and 2010, and the unit had its good moments this year but also dealt with some puzzling inconsistency.

Former Arizona coach Mike Stoops was among the candidates Carl Pelini beat out for the FAU job, Schad reports. Stoops confirmed he has had discussions with new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer about a position on the Buckeyes staff. It will be interesting if Bo Pelini makes a push for Stoops, his close friend, for the Huskers' vacancy.

Nebraska's offense should be very strong in 2012, and it will be the defense, Bo Pelini's specialty, which must makes strides after losing standouts Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard. This will be a very important hire for Bo.
Urban Meyer didn't hold back at his introductory news conference Monday at Ohio State.

"I'm going to go about and try to assemble the best coaching staff in college football," Meyer said.

Ohio State is supporting its new coach on the endeavor.

So how is the process going? Let's take a look at what we know and what could be happening soon with Meyer's staff at Ohio State.
  • Current Buckeyes head coach Luke Fickell is the only assistant Ohio State has officially confirmed to be joining Meyer's staff. Meyer didn't specify Fickell's role but said it would be "a significant title and significant position." It's a strong possibility Fickell's title includes assistant head coach. He also could be named a co-defensive coordinator, the role he shared with Jim Heacock on Jim Tressel's staff.
  • While Fickell could be a candidate for the sole defensive coordinator role, Meyer is assessing candidates and could lure in a big fish in Mike Stoops, the former Arizona head coach. Stoops confirmed he has met with Meyer but didn't say whether he has been offered a position. No one will be surprised if Stoops is named Ohio State's next defensive coordinator, a position he held at Oklahoma for five years under his brother, Bob. Stoops would be a big-name addition for Meyer, who likely will add several.
  • Multiple outlets are reporting that Meyer will retain Stan Drayton, in his first year as Ohio State's receivers coach. Drayton worked for Meyer at Florida and replaced Darrell Hazell in Columbus. This makes a lot of sense, as Drayton is a strong recruiter with ties to Ohio and to Florida. Drayton also can coach running backs.
  • It will be interesting to see where Meyer looks for an offensive coordinator. One name being mentioned quite a bit is LSU offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa, an Ohio native who served as Meyer's offensive line coach at Bowling Green. Studrawa in July replaced Steve Kragthorpe, who had to step down after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
  • Other current Buckeyes assistants who could remain on staff include cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson and linebackers coach Mike Vrabel. If Vrabel stays, it will be interesting to see which position Fickell coaches as he used to oversee the linebackers. Defensive line seems a likely spot.
  • Former Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster reportedly has been offered a position on Meyer's staff, as well as one at Arizona with new boss Rich Rodriguez. While Brewster didn't work out as a head coach in Minneapolis, he's one of the nation's top recruiters and could help Ohio State on the trail, particularly in Texas. Brewster has coached tight ends most of his career.
  • Other potential candidates to join Meyer's staff include Notre Dame running backs coach Tim Hinton and Florida linebackers coach/special-teams coordinator D.J. Durkin and strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
4:30
PM ET
Hope you enjoy the games this weekend. I know I will.

Jason from Madison, Va., writes: Adam, I'm a little confused. You said in a post this week that you predict MICHIGAN to win the Legends Division, yet you posted today that you predict MSU to beat the Maize and Blue this weekend. You seem to be contradicting yourself here. Are you saying that Michigan will lose this game, but somehow win the division? Please elaborate on your thought process here. (By the way, Michigan wins this weekend 31-13.)

Adam Rittenberg: Jason, no contradiction. I see Michigan State winning Saturday and Michigan still going on to win the Legends division. The reason? I don't see the Spartans beating Wisconsin next week, and Michigan State will lose another game along the way. Michigan, meanwhile, has a pretty favorable remaining schedule. The Wolverines must travel to Illinois and Iowa, but they get both Nebraska and Ohio State in Ann Arbor. Listen, these predictions are far from a guarantee as Michigan State has played only one Big Ten game and Michigan only two league contests, but I'm looking at the schedules for both teams, not just who wins Saturday.


David from Baltimore writes: Adam - Love the Blog - Thanks. From the couch it seems that Northwestern has more overall talent than ever. And yet we can't get it done on the field. The coaches seem to panic, get overly emotional about minor details and do more cheerleading than coaching. Is Northwestern just getting outcoached? Pat Fitzgerald is a great guy and kids want to play for him, but he seems to be letting them down on gamedays. What do you think and do you have any words of wisdom for the Wildcat coaching staff? Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: David, it's a combination of talent, poor execution and yes, getting out-coached at times in games. You don't repeatedly have the second-half performances Northwestern has had this year (Illinois, Michigan) and last year (Michigan State, Penn State) without getting out-maneuvered schematically to a certain extent. There are some trouble spots on defense, and the talent level there needs to be upgraded (and should be, through recruiting), but if Northwestern could execute a bit better, especially on third downs, things wouldn't be nearly as bad as they are. I think the coaches should consider some personnel changes on defense, and you'll likely see some at Iowa. As for cheerleading more than coaching, I don't see it as much. Fitzgerald is a high-energy guy, and Northwestern practices with a lot of emotion, which is good. Fitzgerald has a lot of positive attributes as a head coach, but the in-game coaching and adjusting is still an area where he and his staff have room to grow.


Cory from Omaha writes: Adam, trust me, I know Nebraska's defense has looked awful this season, especially compared to previous ones, but Lavonte David had been the one exception to the defensive woes. He has been a dominant and explosive linebacker. I know I feel he was snubbed not making the Mid Season All American list, do you?

Adam Rittenberg: Cory, I agree Lavonte David has been fabulous for the Huskers' defense this season. He might be the only Nebraska defender performing to the preseason expectations. He was good against Wisconsin and turned the Ohio State game around with the forced fumble. Now was he snubbed from the All-American list? I know David was considered, and few would have argued had he made the rundown. But the three linebackers chosen -- Courtney Upshaw, Chase Thomas and Luke Kuechly -- all are having outstanding seasons. It wasn't a huge snub.


Ethan from Sioux Falls, S.D., writes: Adam, With Mike Stoops out at Arizona and Norm Parker's defense spinning it's wheels since the end of last year, is it time to let Norm go and bring in Mike? Mike played at Iowa and has shown he can command a defense when he was at Oklahoma. Norm's health problems can present problems, he missed a good part of the year last year with diabetes related issues. Is it time to make a change to the coordinators at Iowa? Ferentz has never had to hire a coordinator other then when he came on as coach in 1999 and I applaud his ability to coaches, but maybe it's time for a change.

Adam Rittenberg: C'mon, Ethan, you don't want to get rid of Norm, do you? He's a legend! But you bring up an interesting possibility should Parker want to step down (no indication he does, but his health problems have been well documented). It wouldn't surprise me if Mike Stoops returns to the Big Ten at some stage, perhaps in a head-coaching capacity. He obviously has great affection for Iowa. Would the Hawkeyes be able to pay him? Would he want the job? A lot depends on what other offers are out there, and whether there are any head-coaching vacancies Stoops would want. But it's something to think about when the coaching carousel starts spinning next month.


Chris from New York writes: Adam, everyone is talking about how an undefeated B1G team could/will get left out of the BCS National Championship game if there are undefeated teams in the SEC and Big 12. Let's move onto another scenario. There is only one undefeated team in the SEC and Big 12 combined and Stanford is undefeated with a win over Oregon. First, will Wisconsin (assuming they are undefeated still) find itself behind Stanford in the BCS rankings and continue to be on the outside looking in at he BCS National Championship game? Second, should the Badgers be pulling for Michigan St this weekend (and look for a solid win over a 1 loss team on October 22 or should the Badgers be pulling for Michigan's continued success and hope to play a top 7 Michigan team in the inaugural B1G Championship game? Which scenario would give the Badgers a bigger boost and the best chance to be walking Bourbon Street with a drink in hand?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, these are some exciting questions. You're getting me geared up for the Rooting Interest posts, which will return soon. I think Wisconsin should root for Michigan State to win this week and for Illinois to keep winning until the Badgers come to town Nov. 19. Michigan State and Illinois don't play one another, so those are the teams that can give Wisconsin true quality victories. Facing an undefeated Michigan team in the Big Ten title game would help, but if the rest of the Big Ten is viewed as weak, it could hurt the Badgers if it's between them and Stanford. The bigger thing Wisconsin should root for, other than a Stanford loss, is for Oregon and Arizona State to lose games. Stanford plays Oregon on Nov. 12 and could meet ASU in the Pac-12 championship game. As a Wisconsin fan, you don't want those to look like quality wins for the Cardinal. Right now, the Big Ten has a stronger computer rank than the Pac-12, which helps Wisconsin if it's between the Badgers and the Cardinal. But the landscape could change week to week.


Carrie from Pittsburgh writes: Talk of JoePa's retirement has been swirling for decades as has the debate of a replacement from within or outside the program. If a program hires from outside, usually the new head coach cleans house and brings in his own coaching staff. If Penn State's next head coach is an outside hire, why would they NOT keep any or all of the defensive coaches (provided they want to stay)? Penn State's defense plays lights out year after year.

Adam Rittenberg: Carrie, a coach usually doesn't take a job unless he's allowed to choose his staff. While most coaches give the previous assistants interviews and sometimes retain a few, the decision typically belongs to the new man in charge. I'm sure defensive coordinator Tom Bradley, defensive line coach Larry Johnson and linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden would be considered to stay on staff, as all three are veteran assistants and are very well respected in the coaching profession. They would also have to weigh their options and see if other opportunities are out there. I'd love to see Bradley land a head-coaching gig, but he loves Penn State and has been in the area for decades. A lot depends, obviously, on the next coach, who his previous defensive assistants have been, etc.


Matt from Ames, Iowa, writes: This week is Iowa's spirit game against Northwestern. I haven't seen much for fan participation beyond wearing a certain color on gameday, but this takes the cake. Do you think it's possible to take it a step further and spell words or draw pictures, pixel art style?

Adam Rittenberg: Sure, Matt, knock yourself out. I love coordinated crowd designs, especially for night games. Just keep it clean. I'll be watching.
Here's the second half of my interview with new Indiana coach Kevin Wilson. Check out Part I as well.

[+] EnlargeKevin Wilson
AP Photo/Sue OgrockiNew Indiana coach Kevin Wilson is confident he can build a quality defense.
What do you think it's going to take to turn around the defense at IU?

Kevin Wilson: Well, we'll start with our coordinator and structure, and I'm going to take some time to research and get the right person there, myself being much more offensive-oriented. So we'll take a little time and get the right one there and start with the structure standpoint. From there, I don't know because I've not really had the opportunity with our defense to know if there's physical limitations or concerns with certain position groups that aren't as talented, as strong, as big, as fast as we need.

So we'll start here with our defensive leadership, we'll start with our defensive structure. I've got a couple thoughts, but I'm going to wait until we get our defensive guy on staff and not square-peg or pigeonhole him and give him a chance to get it going. We're going to buy some time from the coaching and scheme standpoint, and I don't know a great deal about our actual personnel as we speak.

Is it a concern for you that the defense has been a problem for more than a decade? Indiana has had the offensive players -- Antwaan Randle El, Ben Chappell and those guys -- but the defense hasn't really caught up.

KW: I don't have a clue what their defensive stats have been. I just know for nine years, 15 spring practices, all preseason, every Tuesday and Wednesday going against coach [Bob] Stoops, with the attitude and the mind-set, I might be known as an offensive guy, but having come from the environment that I just came from, I have a great feel for what it looks like and how to structure, practice, recruit, coordinate, prepare, put a defense in great position.

Because I'm coming from one of the greatest defensive places there is with the coaching and the way that thing has been run with Bob, with Mike [Stoops], with Bo Pelini, with Brent Venables, that's been a pretty strong defensive place. Trust me, the hardest thing at Oklahoma isn't game day. The hardest thing at Oklahoma is Tuesday and Wednesday in practice.

There's a perception that Indiana is a basketball school. How do you deal with that? Was it a concern for you when you started talking about the job?


KW: It really wasn't. Coach [Tom] Crean is a great coach and we do have phenomenal tradition in basketball. He's going to be an extremely positive and avid supporter because this school is such a strong school, I don't think it should take a backseat or not be strong in any department. I don't think our school, the way president [Michael] McRobbie has it set up, he doesn't want to be average in anything.

From an athletic perspective, with our new administration with [athletic director] Fred Glass, with resources and dollars and Big Ten revenue and things we're generating and raising, I don't think we want to be just a member of a conference in any sport. We're pushing ourselves to get ourselves in position to play at an extremely high level, to play at a consistent winning level and start putting our teams in position to play for championships in all sports. It's great we're a basketball school, but what we really are at Indiana is we're a great school. We should be great at all things. We're looking forward to the challenge, and we're looking forward to the opportunity to build this thing and make it into a strong program.

I know you haven't been there too long, but from talking to the players or seeing any tape from last year, how close is Indiana to getting over that hump?

KW: I haven't really studied it. I know we're not playing horseshoes, so I don't want to be close. From what I've gathered, there is a strong nucleus of some talent coming back, sounds like a great recruiting class. I know we've done a very nice job in our scheduling and what we've got nonconference. I know the Big Ten league, I know it's going to be competitive. But I also feel we're going to put a plan in place, a process in place, to win.

We're not trying to win three, five years down the road. In fairness to our seniors, our alumni and our fans, we need to win right now. That's not trying to be arrogant or boastful or making statements that can't come true, but we're going to try and build something. It's a process, it's going to take time, but in fairness to our seniors, we're going to do everything we can to be as good as we can as fast as we can.

When you look at scores and you look at the talent, yeah, they're not far off. But being close is not winning. Being close doesn't excite me. But it does make me feel like there are the resources here where we feel like we have a chance. We tried to start [Tuesday] with a change of mind-set, a change of body language, a change of how we act and carry ourselves to see if we can get this thing going in a positive direction and build something that's going to be special here for our school and these players and for the fans and for the state of Indiana.

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 3

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
10:15
AM ET
Ten items to track as you watch every Big Ten squad in action Saturday.

1. Hawkeyes head west: History doesn't favor Iowa -- or any Big Ten team, for that matter -- when it comes to early season road games out west. Iowa has dropped its past six games west of the Rockies, and as columnist Mike Hlas points out, the Hawkeyes have lost their past three road games against Pac-10 members by an average of 28 points. Fortunately for Iowa, it boasts a senior-laden team that should be able to handle the difficulties of a time change, a late kickoff time, the absence of defensive coordinator Norm Parker and some potentially steamy weather in Tucson against No. 24 Arizona (ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET). This is a chance for Iowa to showcase itself on the national stage and beat a solid Wildcats team. The elements will be tough, but Iowa is a tough team that won in tough places last fall.

[+] EnlargeRicky Stanzi
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallRicky Stanzi and Iowa take aim at a rare road win over the Pac-10.
2. Spartans' secondary put to the test: Michigan State's secondary was the team's No. 1 concern entering the season. We should get an excellent read on whether the Spartans have taken a step forward or not Saturday night against Dayne Crist, Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph and the Notre Dame offense (ABC/ESPN2, 8 p.m. ET). Floyd is a handful for any secondary, and Rudolph showed once again against Michigan that he's not a typical tight end. Michigan State needs strong performances from safety Trenton Robinson, cornerback Chris L. Rucker and others, and it'll be interesting to see if All-American linebacker Greg Jones provides a lift in coverage, a point of emphasis for him in returning to school.

3. Big Ten reunion of sorts: When Wisconsin began watching tape in preparation to face Arizona State on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), coach Bret Bielema made sure to include a clip of a Michigan quarterback leading a historic comeback against the Badgers in 2008. That quarterback was Steven Threet, who will lead the Arizona State offense into Camp Randall. Threet is one of several former Big Ten players reunited with foes from their old league Saturday. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles, formerly of Michigan State, faces Iowa, while Rice running back Sam McGuffie, formerly of Michigan, faces Northwestern. And let's not forget about Arizona coach Mike Stoops, who goes up against his alma mater.

4. Minnesota picks up the pieces: This could go one of two ways for Tim Brewster's crew. Minnesota either will let Matt Barkley and USC go nuts Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium (ESPN, 3:30 p.m. ET) and increase the calls for a coaching change. Or, the Gophers will use last week's inexcusable loss to South Dakota as a rallying cry and play good football against a USC team asking to get beat. Obviously, Minnesota needs to take a huge step with a young defense, which will regain the services of senior safety Kyle Theret. Overshadowed by the Dakota Debacle were the strong performances of Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber and running back Duane Bennett, who need even better days against the Trojans.

5. Michigan's quarterback rotation: Unless we see an Appalachian State re-run, Michigan should be able to rest sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson for part of Saturday's game against Massachusetts. If and when Robinson leaves the game, it should get interesting. Will coach Rich Rodriguez continue to call on true freshman Devin Gardner before last year's starting signal caller, Tate Forcier? How will they perform? Forcier seemed to be in better spirits last week at Notre Dame, and you know he's itching to play and show what he can do in a game.

6. Penn State running on E: E as in All-Big Ten running back Evan Royster, who needs a strong performance very soon after racking up only 72 rush yards in the first two games. Whether it's Royster's weight gain, the offensive line or a limited playbook, Penn State hasn't gotten much from No. 22. Saturday provides an interesting challenge as Penn State faces a Kent State team (ESPN2, noon ET) that leads the nation in rush defense (11 ypg allowed). The Golden Flashes certainly aren't Alabama, but they did a nice job of holding Boston College's ground game in check last week. This is a good chance for Royster to show he's still got it and make a move in his pursuit for the school's career rushing record.

7. Purdue behind the 8 ball: Life without No. 8 (Keith Smith) begins for Purdue, which must identify a new top target for quarterback Robert Marve. Smith was an outstanding possession receiver, and the Boilers will look to Justin Siller, Antavian Edison, Cortez Smith, Gary Bush, O.J. Ross and others to help fill the void beginning Saturday against Ball State. Purdue also can't also lose sight of the need to identify a deep threat. Through two games, Marve has completed 54 passes for only 391 yards (7.2 yards per completion). Siller seems like a good candidate to stretch the field.

8. A family affair for Poseys: Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey squares off against his older brother, Julian, a defensive back for Ohio, on Saturday in Columbus. It's one thing for brothers to play on opposing teams, but the Poseys likely will be matched up directly against one another. DeVier Posey has been excellent so far this season, recording eight receptions for 146 yards and two touchdowns. But Julian Posey can hold his own -- three pass breakups and a 38-yard fumble return to the end zone this year for the Bobcats -- and he knows his little brother better than anyone. Said Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel: "I told DeVier, 'If big brother shuts you down, it's going to be a long lifetime for you.'"

9. Illini aim to own the state: Illinois is 12-0 all-time against public schools from the state, a streak it tries to continue Saturday against Northern Illinois. It's only Week 3, but this is another must-win for Ron Zook's team, which looked very good last week against Southern Illinois. After the NIU game, Illinois has a week off before opening Big Ten play with Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan State. So this is crucial. Linebacker Ian Thomas and an improving Illinois defense faces a Northern Illinois team favored to win the MAC West but struggling a bit so far this season. NIU also could be without ailing coach Jerry Kill for the game.

10. Wildcats, Hoosiers hit the road: Northwestern and Indiana both are favored to win Saturday, but September road games always are tricky. The Wildcats head to Houston, which will be a homecoming for several players, but provides some unique challenges, namely the weather. Rice held its own in the season opener against Texas and should test on-target quarterback Dan Persa and his NU teammates. Remember Indiana? It seems like the Hoosiers haven't played for eons (actually Sept. 2), but they're back at it Saturday afternoon at Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers top this week's Bottom 10, but they'll be excited to face a Big Ten squad in their house. Indiana's defense must perform better than it did in the opener.

Best case-worst case rewind: Iowa

January, 11, 2010
1/11/10
5:00
PM ET
The best case-worst case rewind continues with ... Iowa.

In case you missed it: Iowa's best case-worst case.

Best-case synopsis: Iowa picks up where it left off last fall, overcomes a brutal road schedule and shows improvement on both sides of the ball. The team's young running backs fill in after the loss of Shonn Greene, and an improved pass rush helps a playmaking defense slow down opponents. Iowa goes 3-2 on the road, including an upset of Penn State, reaches the top 15 and finishes 10-2 before going on to a win against LSU in the Capital One Bowl.

Worst-case synopsis: The personnel losses combined with the rough road schedule proves too much for Iowa, which tumbles to a 5-7 finish. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi throws too many interceptions but gets little help from a Greene-less run game. Iowa struggles with injuries and doesn't many nearly as many plays on defense. Iowa goes 0-5 away from Kinnick Stadium and drops home contests against Northwestern and Minnesota. Off-field problems continue to hurt the program.

You can't handle the truth: (quotes from the original post) "The Hawkeyes pave the road in black and gold, the defensive line holds together and 'Stanzi is the Manzi' T-shirts are worn all across the state." ... "Wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos gets the message after his depth-chart demotion." ... "The defense misses tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, but an improved pass rush combined with more playmaking from linebacker Pat Angerer, safety Tyler Sash, cornerback Amari Spievey and others more than makes up for it." ... "Iowa then ruins Mike Stoops' homecoming and takes care of Arizona." ... "Iowa doesn't flinch in front of the 'Whiteout' crowd, upsetting the Nittany Lions." ... "Stanzi records double digits in picks." ... "The season begins with a too-close-for-comfort win against Northern Iowa." ... "Iowa recovers against Indiana but drops its third consecutive home game to Northwestern." ... "[Bryan] Bulaga and Spievey bolt for the NFL."

Lies, lies, lies: "Running backs Jewel Hampton and Jeff Brinson find plenty of daylight." ... "The Hawkeyes easily handle Northern Iowa in the opener." ... "Stanzi makes sure the team avoids a letdown against Arkansas State." ... "Iowa overcomes its recent demons against Northwestern." ... "After squeaking by Arizona, Iowa heads to Happy Valley and pays the price for last year's upset at Kinnick Stadium. Penn State rolls the Hawkeyes by 20 points, giving Nittany Nation bragging rights on the Big Ten blog." ... "A bowl-bound Minnesota team then comes to Kinnick Stadium and rolls to a win." ... "The run defense crumbles without King and Kroul." ... "Left tackle Bryan Bulaga returns for his senior season."

Reality check: Iowa actually exceeded the best-case scenario, not only going 10-2 but reaching the FedEx Orange Bowl rather than the Capital One Bowl. A win against Georgia Tech capped a storybook season for the Hawkeyes, who overcame tons of adversity and went 4-1 on the road, including wins in State College and Madison. Stanzi was a mixed bag, throwing 14 interceptions in the first three quarters of games but coming up huge in the fourth. The defense continued its playmaking ways as end Adrian Clayborn became a superstar. The Hawkeyes restored themselves among the Big Ten's elite and set up a potential league title push in 2010.

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