Big Ten: Rob Ianello

What will 2011 hold for the embattled Ohio State Buckeyes? There will be high levels of interest for the team's opener, even if the first opponent is not a heavyweight. While everyone waits to see how the players respond to a controversy-filled offseason, let's take a look at what faces the Buckeyes on the field in their season debut.

Week 1 Opponent: Akron

Coach: Rob Ianello (second year, 1-11)

2010 record: 1-11 (1-7, Mid-American Conference)

Returning starters: 13 (five offense, eight defense)

About the Zips: Akron came about its crummy record honestly in its first year under former Notre Dame assistant Ianello. Only two teams in the country were worse at putting points on the board than the Zips, who averaged just 15.6 per game, and they allowed 35.1 points to their opponent. Their passing and rushing attacks ranked in the 100s nationally, and only a win against Buffalo in the finale helped them avoid a winless campaign. Patrick Nicely returns at quarterback, but the team's leading rusher and top receiver from last season are gone. Ianello hopes another year in the system helps both sides of the ball.

Random factoid: Current Ohio State coach Luke Fickell spent 2000-2001 as Akron's defensive coordinator. That's the only non-Buckeyes coaching position Fickell has had.

Series with Ohio State: The Buckeyes lead 6-1 and won the last meeting 20-2 in 2007.

Totally unscientific percentage chance Ohio State wins: 97.9 percent. No Terrelle Pryor. No Dan Herron, DeVier Posey or Mike Adams. A new head coach. Tons of offseason distractions. All of these things could add up to an opening-week struggle for Ohio State -- if the opponent were a bit tougher. Akron should be improved over last season, simply because there's really nowhere to go but up for the Zips. But the Buckeyes still have way too much for Akron to handle, especially at home. If not, it could really be a bad year in Columbus.

Previously in the series

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Michigan

Michigan State

Minnesota

Nebraska

Northwestern
After finishing as a finalist for Central Michigan's head-coaching job, Illinois defensive backs coach Curt Mallory secured his next best option.

Mallory, demoted from his post as Illinois co-defensive coordinator after the 2009 season, will become Akron's new defensive coordinator, The (Champaign) News-Gazette is reporting. Mallory told the newspaper that he wanted to continue coaching in a coordinator role, and new Akron head coach Rob Ianello will give him the chance.

"I thought I really had a good chance [at the Central Michigan job], but it didn't work out," Mallory said. "That's OK. So you just move on to the next one."

Mallory, the son of former Indiana head coach Bill Mallory, has been at Illinois since 2005, first as defensive backs coach and then sharing the coordinator duties with Dan Disch. Though Mallory survived Ron Zook's staff overhaul at Illinois, he would have been serving under a new coordinator, Vic Koenning. Also, Zook tried to bring Penn State's Larry Johnson as defensive coordinator last year, so it's hard to blame Mallory for looking elsewhere.

The big question is whether Disch remains on Illinois' staff as linebackers coach. Disch is one of Zook's top recruiters, especially in the state of Florida, but it wouldn't be a stretch to see him depart as well.

Mallory will be the sixth assistant Zook must replace since the end of the 2009 season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

There has been no shortage of complaints on this blog and elsewhere about Wisconsin's approach to nonconference scheduling. The Badgers haven't taken too many scheduling risks during the Bret Bielema era, most notably backing out of a game against Virginia Tech last year to avoid having to play the Hokies, Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State in successive weeks. 

Wisconsin might be adding a big name to its future schedules as athletic director Barry Alvarez confirmed Tuesday that the school is talking with Notre Dame about scheduling a series sometime between 2012-15.

The potential Badgers-Irish series also has implications for another Big Ten program: Purdue.

Alvarez told WTSO radio in Madison that Notre Dame wants to play Purdue every other season rather than annually, which opens up another scheduling opportunity. Though Notre Dame doesn't carry the mystique it once did, this shift can't be good for Purdue, which was guaranteed major exposure and the chance to have in-state bragging rights every time it faced the Irish.

Though Wisconsin and Notre Dame haven't played since 1964, a series between the two schools certainly makes sense. They often recruit against each other, and Alvarez served as Notre Dame's defensive coordinator in 1988-89 before claiming the top job at Wisconsin. Notre Dame recruiting whiz Rob Ianello came to the Irish from Wisconsin. 

Whether Notre Dame regains its prestige on the field, the addition of the Irish should momentarily quiet the clamor surrounding Wisconsin's non-league scheduling approach. 

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