Big Ten: Ohio Stadium
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
You didn't think I'd forget to get the mail, did you?
Matt from Pensacola, Fla., writes: Hey Adam, I was reading the article on the Elite 11 and noticed that Daryll Clark has bulked up to 240 with 3% body fat. I no longer live in PA and haven't seen much of PSU for a while, especially any of the players. Have you seen him recently? If so, does he look like he bulked up? Do you think that the increase in body mass will effect the way PSU runs the Spread HD? I know it could help him power the ball more, but as a QB, should that be the route he should be looking at, especially with the lack of experience at backup? If he gets injured, the season could be over. Great job on the blog by the way.
Adam Rittenberg: I haven't seen Daryll for a while, Matt, but he'll be at Big Ten media days next week. I'll definitely let you know how he looks, but I know colleague Bruce Feldman was blown away by how massive Clark has gotten during the offseason. That's a pretty amazing physique, and Penn State will need it to hold up given its lack of depth behind Clark. Some might say 240 is too big, but Terrelle Pryor is 238 and I don't hear any complaints there. I like what Clark has done during the offseason. Penn State should still be very careful with how much they run him this fall, but he can definitely take a beating with that body.
Cory from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I would like to see a schedule of when each school begins their summer practices (and the more details for each school's camp that can be included, so much the better)Perhaps I have not been looking in the right place or not looking hard enough, but I have yet to see such a list.If such a list can be made, I think many would appreciate it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
I will be in a Big Ten state this weekend, and it's not Illinois. Can you name it? If so, I have no prizes to offer, just my salute to you.
T.J. from State College, Pa., writes: El Duderino, I?m glad you ranked the toughest places to play in the Big Ten; I enjoyed reading your explanations. I have always thought of Beaver Stadium followed by Camp Randal as the toughest places to play with Ohio Stadium in a distant third. The atmosphere at the PSU-OSU game this past fall was pathetic for a night game. Anyway, I would like to propose a quantitative way of ranking the toughest places to play. If you take each team?s last ten losses (not played on a neutral site) and count how many occurred at home, you have a pretty good indicator of the strength of a particular venue. Here is how it came out when I added them up: 1.Penn State-(2) 2.Wisconsin, Iowa-(3) 3.Ohio State, Michigan State, Illinois, Purdue-(4) 4.Indiana-(5) 5.Michigan, Northwestern, Minnesota-(6)
Adam Rittenberg: First off, I think the nature of the Ohio State-Penn State game -- only 19 points scored -- probably took the edge off the Ohio Stadium crowd. It's still a very tough environment for road teams. Moving on, I like your formula. It's interesting how Ohio State has struggled a bit at home in recent years, but been flat-out dominant on the road in league games. Keep in mind that Penn State and Wisconsin also didn't face Texas at home, though Penn State deserved more credit than it received for beating up on Oregon State last fall.
Jordan from Jackson, Mich., writes: Adam, I know this is a little late, but I was thinking of rivalry games on unique fields and I was wondering what you would think of these scenerios. First Notre Dame and Michigan playing at Wrigley Field. One of the most popular places and sports along with the two winningest teams in college football history. And in a few years have the Michigan Ohio State rivalry played at a home n home at Ford Field and one at Clevland Browns Stadium, just for a nice change of pace. Go Blue!
Adam Rittenberg: Love the Wrigley Field idea, Jordan, and I'm sure a lot of fans would love to see this, too. The problem is the athletic directors from those schools would never give up those home games to play at a neutral site. The Wrigley Field game between Notre Dame and Michigan would be a true throwback, but a major issue is the size of the field. Northwestern wants to play a game there in the next few years, but there are some concerns that the field footprint isn't large enough. I really couldn't see Ohio State or Michigan giving up a home game to play at a smaller NFL stadium (with less character).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Love and hate are the themes of the day around these parts, so I figured I'd chime in about the Big Ten. There are many reasons why I love covering football in this conference, and a few things I'm not so crazy about.
Let's begin with five good things.Big stadiums -- Size matters in the Big Ten, which boasts three of the nation's four largest stadiums at Michigan, Penn State and Ohio State. Ohio Stadium, Beaver Stadium and Camp Randall Stadium are on the short list of toughest places to play, and other Big Ten venues (Kinnick Stadium, Spartan Stadium) add their own charm. The game-day experience is truly captured where Big Ten teams call home.
The Game (and other rivalries) -- The Big Ten lays claim to quite possibly the greatest rivalry in all of sports, between Ohio State and Michigan. No series has produced more colorful figures and memorable moments. The league also features exciting annual matchups like Michigan-Michigan State, Penn State-Ohio State and Minnesota-Wisconsin. At stake are coveted items like a bronzed pig, a giant ax, a brown jug and an ancient bucket.
Regent Street and the Beaver Stadium grounds -- They are two of the nation's prime tailgating spots, and they both belong to the Big Ten. Tailgating at Wisconsin or Penn State is an experience every college football fan should enjoy. You get beer and brats in Madison, and elaborate set-ups and daylong debauchery in State College. As a college football fan, you can't go wrong at either place.
Legendary coaches -- The Big Ten has produced legendary coaches through the decades. From Fielding Yost and Bob Zuppke to Bernie Bierman and Fritz Crisler to Woody and Bo to Hayden Fry and Duffy Daugherty to Barry Alvarez and Jim Tressel, the Big Ten has been at the top of the coaching ranks. The arrival of Penn State's Joe Paterno in 1993 has only added to the league's rich coaching tradition.
Night games in Columbus, Madison and State College -- Noon kickoffs are generally the norm in the Big Ten, which sort of blows but makes the rare night game all the more special. Ohio State will host only the ninth night game in team history this fall against USC, and the atmosphere will undoubtedly be electric. Same goes for any game under the lights at Camp Randall Stadium -- there were two last year -- and at Penn State, which thankfully welcomes night football more than any other Big Ten team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- So, I snuck into Ohio State's practice today. Sort of.
Before heading over to the football complex for interviews, I stopped by the rotunda at the north end of Ohio Stadium. A must-see on any college football fan's pilgrimage, it features stained-glass murals of Ohio State players and flowers at the top, which, supposedly are painted maize because Michigan beat the Buckeyes on the stadium's dedication day in 1922.
I was checking out the murals when I looked down through the main tunnel to the playing field and saw cornerback Malcolm Jenkins run across. I then spotted backup quarterback Joe Bauserman. Several other visitors to the rotunda also were surprised to get a glimpse of the team practicing. One guy lamented that he had worn a blue shirt. "It's not Michigan blue, more like Detroit Lions blue," he said, perhaps fearing he'd be spotted by Jim Tressel.
After watching a few 7-on-7 plays, I finally spotted the most anticipated recruit in Ohio State history, wearing the No. 2 jersey. I saw Terrelle Pryor, watched him trot across the field and then out of my sightline.
So, the story was a bit of a letdown. Pryor's teammates have gotten a much better view of the freshman quarterback in camp, and they like what they've seen.
"He's a great athlete that wants to be great," senior wide receiver Brian Robiskie said. "With everything being thrown at him, I can only imagine what he's going through with the position that he plays. He's doing a good job listening to the coaches, listening to some of the other players. He wants to learn. He wants to get on the same page with his receivers, with his running back and with his line. You can see that."
Pryor's improved passing has been a hot topic during the preseason, and senior wideout Brian Robiskie said the freshman is further along than Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith was at the same stage in his career. Then again, that isn't saying much.
"Terrelle's got a little more touch," Robiskie said. "Anybody you compare to Troy is going to have a little more touch on it. But definitely there have been situations in which he's had to thread it in there with three or four guys around him and he does it, and then there's other situations where he has to float it over the top and he does it."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- After relocating a little closer to The Shoe, it's time to take a look at the Ohio State Buckeyes, the back-to-back Big Ten champs and, as they're better known around the country, the back-to-back national runner-ups.
Before getting to the questions, I must say it was a bit odd to drive past a huge Time Warner Cable building about a mile and a half south of Ohio Stadium. From my vantage point, there wasn't a mass protest going on outside, though it can't be a popular spot among Buckeyes fans after what's happened with the Big Ten Network. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises recently wrote that both sides are still at fault for no agreement being reached, and the left-in-the-dark Buckeyes fans should respond to Gene Smith's letter with one addressed to all parties involved. Hard to argue with that.
|AP Photo/Terry Gilliam|
|All of Buckeye Nation is looking forward to Terrelle Pryor's debut.|
Moving on, here are three questions facing the Buckeyes this fall.
1. How will the team use freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor?
It's the biggest preseason debate for a team with few position battles and a ton of experience returning on both sides. Senior Todd Boeckman is the starter and Joe Bauserman the likely backup, but all eyes will be on Pryor when the season opens Aug. 30. Some Buckeye backers don't think offensive coordinator Jim Bollman and his staff are creative enough to effectively use Pryor, but Pryor might be making it easier for them. The common belief was that he would be used in special situations (goal line, etc.), much like Florida used Tim Tebow as a freshman. But Pryor's progress as a passer in training camp should expand his role. The first two games provide Pryor with opportunities to acclimate to the college game, but the coaches would be wise to save any custom packages and super-secret plays for USC in Week 3.
2. Can Boeckman take the next step?
He shares a backfield with a Heisman candidate (Beanie Wells) and shares a position with the program's future poster boy (Pryor), but the senior has a chance to elevate his own profile this fall. Boeckman turned in a solid first season as the starter, completing 63.8 percent his passes with 25 touchdown strikes. Interceptions were his bugaboo, as he threw multiple picks in four games, including the BCS national championship. Boeckman had the third-highest interception total among Big Ten starters (14) despite having the third-fewest number of pass attempts (299). Expect the first number to drop this fall as Boeckman builds on last season with the Brians (Robiskie and Hartline) back at wide receiver.
3. Will the defense force more turnovers?
Ohio State returns nine starters from a unit that led the nation in both total defense (233 ypg) and scoring defense (12.77 ppg) last season. But a stingy unit wasn't exactly an opportunistic one, as the Buckeyes tied for 93rd nationally in takeaways with 19. Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins has four interceptions in each of the last two years, but the Buckeyes could use more takeaways from standout linebacker Marcus Freeman and safeties Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman, neither of whom recorded an interception last fall. It might sound nitpicky to knock this defense, but turnovers decide games more than any other statistic and the Buckeyes need more of them. Given who's back, it shouldn't be a problem.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Northwestern media day has come and gone, and I learned that at least one Big Ten coach (Pat Fitzgerald) has read the blog. Only 10 more to go.
The schedule is shaping up a bit for next week. I'll be spending Wednesday at Camp Rantoul with the Illinois Fighting Illini, before heading over to Purdue for media day on Thursday. There could also be some surprises along the way.
Here's your daily diet of links:
- If you're just waking up, Ohio State defensive backs Donald Washington and Jamario O'Neal have been suspended for the first two games of the season. Not a major blow, given that they'll be back for USC, but it could shake up the dynamic in the secondary.
- Oh, and some guy named Terrelle Pryor spoke with reporters at Ohio State media day. He was a pretty popular man, Paul Schofield writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Items of note: Pryor rooms with starting quarterback Todd Boeckman, gets a lot of reps in practice and likes hanging out with the older players.
- More on Ohio State media day from The Columbus Dispatch's Buckeye Blog. Left tackle Alex Boone knows how to roundup the linemen -- "If you're big and fat, let's go" -- a group that includes Michigan transfer Justin Boren.
- Wisconsin star tight end Travis Beckum sat out Thursday's practice with "tightness in his lower body," but it doesn't appear to be too serious, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times. Also, defensive lineman Brandon Hoey's career is over after lingering back problems.
- The Badgers seem pretty solid at outside linebacker, but the middle is a concern. Enter Jaevery McFadden, who could unseat incumbent Elijah Hodge for the job, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus writes in the Badgers Blog.
- Apparently Akron doesn't like its chances to upset Wisconsin on Aug. 30. The school gave back some of its allotted tickets, so get 'em while they're available.
- Strong defense is a given at Penn State, but a strong season hinges on whether the offense can make up ground, Jeff Rice writes in the Centre Daily Times.
"Penn State has scored a total of six points in its last two trips to Camp Randall Stadium, where it faces Wisconsin on Oct. 11. It has scored a total of 23 points in its last three visits to Ohio Stadium, where it will face the Buckeyes on Oct. 25."
- Without star Sean Lee in the mix at linebacker, senior Tyrell Sales needs to step up for Penn State. It looks like he's ready, Sam Ross Jr. writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Missed this one from earlier, but it looks like Rich Rodriguez isn't the only one shelling out benjamins after the legal dispute with West Virginia. But given the final outcome, I doubt the university minds too much.
- Wide receiver Brian Gamble and offensive lineman Mark Jackson are back with their Illinois teammates at Camp Rantoul after missing the first three practices, Bob Asmussen writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette. There's also an item on cornerback Miami Thomas, who is from Chicago.
- Defensive end Cameron Jude and wide receiver Keshawn Martin are among the Michigan State freshmen who have impressed so far, the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode writes in his blog.
- Spartans cornerback Ross Weaver hopes to stay healthy after several setbacks, Andrew Mouranie writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- Fomer Michigan defensive end Rondell Biggs was arrested this winter for illegal possession of steroids, which surprises Jim Carty of the Ann Arbor News.
- Add Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo to the growing list of people that envision a turnaround in Iowa City this fall. Sorry, I just don't see it.
- If you didn't figure it out already from my posts yesterday, Northwestern is gunning for a bowl berth -- and a win, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Tim Brewster's incoming recruiting class is all the rage, but only three members from his first crop remain with Minnesota, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Will a healthy and deeper line translate into more sacks at Minnesota? The Gophers have to do better up front, Kent Youngblood writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
|Ohio Stadium is the toughest place to play in the Big Ten.|
It has been a year since Minnesota held its construction kickoff for TCF Bank Stadium, the 50,000-seat facility scheduled to open for the 2009 season. Of all the ongoing stadium projects in the Big Ten, Minnesota's will undoubtedly have the greatest impact on the program.
For all of coach Tim Brewster's effervescence and glass-half-full attitude, Minnesota was never going to get back to the glory days without its own on-campus facility. Athletic director Joel Maturi puts Minnesota near the bottom of the Big Ten in football income, Sid Hartman writes in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
"Ohio State's number one at $59 million and Northwestern is at the bottom at $15.5 million, and we're not far from the bottom. We're a little over $17 million," Maturi said.
That will change soon enough.
Which stadiums made the list? The usual suspects. Ohio Stadium came in at No. 3, followed by Beaver Stadium at No. 4, Camp Randall Stadium at No. 8 and Michigan Stadium at No. 13.
Here's my list of the league's toughest venues.
1. Ohio Stadium: The shoe has been filled in, but it only makes this place louder and meaner. Definitely the most intimidating Big Ten stadium for a road team.
2 . (tie) Beaver Stadium: Gotta admit, I haven't been to State College in a while, but I remember this place being loud. From talking to my colleagues who attended last year's game against Notre Dame, night games at Beaver Stadium are raucous.
2. (tie) Camp Randall Stadium: I've almost upchucked my bratwurst sitting in the press box at the end of the third quarter, when House of Pain's "Jump Around" starts blaring and the stadium shakes. (By the way, what ever happened to House of Pain?) Possibly my favorite place to watch a game in the Midwest: great tailgating, rowdy fans and not a lot of fun for the road team.
4. Kinnick Stadium: The pink visitor's locker room only enhances a very hostile experience for road teams. That Hayden Fry guy was a genius.
5. Michigan Stadium: In this case, size doesn't matter. The Big House is, well, big, but it's a shallow bowl that doesn't hold sound as well as other venues.
6. Spartan Stadium: Seems like a much more hostile place to play at night than during the day, but there's a sizable student section in the southwest corner.
7. Ross-Ade Stadium: Fans are generally nice and the place doesn't get too loud. Then again, where else can you ride the elevator with Purdue alum Neil Armstrong like I did last year before the Northwestern game. Very cool.
8. H.H.H. Metrodome: The Hump has grown a bit dumpy, but it still gets very loud when the Gophers are rollin'.
9. Memorial Stadium (Illinois): The massive facelift combined with an exciting team will make this relic a feared destination again. But at the moment, it's not.
10. Ryan Field: The fact that visiting fans usually outnumber Wildcats backers for Big Ten games doesn't help much, but at night, Ryan Field rocks.
11. Memorial Stadium (Indiana): The renovations should help, as will a better team, but there's not a lot of atmosphere here. Visiting teams won't shudder stepping onto the field.