Big Ten: Robert Bolden
Michigan QB Denard Robinson: "Shoelace" was amazing in his first career start, a 30-10 victory over Connecticut, predictably with his feet and surprisingly with his arm. Robinson broke Michigan's record for single-season quarterback rushing with 197 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, eclipsing Steve Smith's mark in the third quarter. He was just as brilliant as a passer, completing 19 of 22 attempts for 186 yards and a touchdown with several big third-down conversions.
Penn State QB Rob Bolden: Bolden looked like he belonged Saturday in his first career start (and game), continuing his rapid rise at the college level. How many freshmen don't enroll early and still win a starting quarterback job, much less at a big-time program? After some early jitters, Bolden completed 20 of 29 passes for 239 yards with two touchdowns in a 44-14 win over Youngstown State. He also had an interception that wasn't really his fault. He'll have some ups and downs in the coming weeks, but Bolden appears to be the answer for the Lions.
Minnesota FB Jon Hoese: Hoese almost didn't make the trip to Middle Tennessee on Thursday after his father suffered a severe stroke six days earlier. He decided to play and ended up rushing for a career-high three touchdowns, including the game-winner, as Minnesota rallied for a 24-17 win. Hoese also recovered a Middle Tennessee fumble on a kickoff to seal the win. Just a tremendous performance amid adversity.
Michigan State RBs Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker: The Spartans rediscovered their run game in a big way during Saturday's 38-14 win over Western Michigan, as Bell and Baker combined for 258 rush yards and four touchdowns on 27 carries. As projected starter Larry Caper sat out with a hand injury, Baker set the tone and Bell sparkled in his first college game with a 75-yard run. Bell's 141 yards mark the most ever by a Michigan State freshman in his first college game.
Northwestern QB Dan Persa: Persa likely saved Northwestern from what would have been a crushing loss to SEC bottom-feeder Vanderbilt. Despite getting no help from an anemic rushing attack, Persa completed 19 of 21 passes for 222 yards and three touchdowns, all to different targets in the 23-21 victory. He added 82 rushing yards in a performance that mirrored what Mike Kafka did for NU in 2009.
- Days after his father suffered a severe stroke, Minnesota fullback Jon Hoese had the game of his life Thursday night, Phil Miller writes in the Star Tribune. A healthy Duane Bennett equals good things for the Gophers run game, Marcus Fuller writes in the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press.
- The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade looks at the best and worst from Ohio State-Marshall. Terrelle Pryor's strong opener hints of good things to come, Bill Livingston writes in The Plain Dealer.
- We didn't learn too much from watching Indiana stomp Towson, Bob Kravitz writes in The Indianapolis Star. Indiana's offense sparkled in the opener, while the defense raised more concerns, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
- A look behind the history of Robert Bolden's upcoming start at Penn State from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Musselman. Penn State's delay in naming a starting quarterback could hold back the passing attack for several weeks, Bob Flounders writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News. Will Nittany Nation forgive this Nebraska writer? Probably not.
- The Wisconsin-Iowa rivalry lost out with the new Big Ten divisional alignment, Scott Dochterman writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Iowa makes Kirk Ferentz the league's highest-paid coach, Andy Hamilton writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
- Purdue co-defensive coordinator Gary Emanuel knows what to expect from Brian Kelly's offense at Notre Dame, Stacy Clardie writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Michigan might play as many as 12 freshmen in Saturday's season opener, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. The Big House will look great Saturday, but Bob Wojnowski asks, will the Michigan team?
- Illinois' series against Missouri in St. Louis was a good idea that hasn't worked out well, Loren Tate writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette. The Illini embrace their role as underdogs for Saturday's game, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins nearly ended up playing for Western Michigan, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press. Led by Greg Jones, the Spartans' linebacking corps could be the best ever, Charboneau writes.
- A look at the winners and losers from Big Ten divisional alignment from The Detroit News' Matt Charboneau. In case you missed the division links from around the country, annarbor.com's Kaleb Roedel has you covered.
- Wisconsin star offensive linemen Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt are always barking at each other, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- New Northwestern starting quarterback Dan Persa inspires plenty of confidence, Brad Wilson writes in The Express-Times. A great look at the play that defines Drake Dunsmore's career at Northwestern from the Chicago Tribune's Teddy Greenstein.
By the way, it's game day!!!
- If you missed it, here's my reaction to the new Big Ten divisions.
- It's hard to find a loser in the Big Ten's new alignment, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune. The divisions weren't perfect, but about as good as could be expected, Dave Curtis writes in The Sporting News. From a mathematical standpoint, the Big Ten got it right, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald. The Game stays where it always has been, but big changes are coming to the Big Ten, SI.com's Stewart Mandel writes. Penn State makes out pretty well in the new setup, David Jones writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.
- Big Ten fans got their way, but the league missed an opportunity by leaving The Game at the end of the regular season, CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd writes.
- Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez is disappointed to lose the annual Iowa rivalry, Mike Lucas writes in The Capital Times. The Badgers are the biggest losers in Big Ten realignment, Tom Oates writes in the Wisconsin State Journal. Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor (knee) hopes to return no later than Week 2, if not sooner, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- The Omaha World-Herald has a good breakdown of the divisions and what they mean for Nebraska and Iowa. Nebraska's first Big Ten go-round will be no picnic, Tom Shatel writes in the World-Herald.
- By the way, Penn State just named a true freshman (!!!) as its starting quarterback. Read all about Robert Bolden here and here and here and here.
- Ohio State fans deserve credit for keeping The Game in its rightful place, Bob Hunter writes in The Columbus Dispatch. A look at Jim Tressel's winning legacy in Columbus during the past 10 years from The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises.
- Michigan's Michael Shaw is academically cleared for the season, but no starter has been named at his position, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News. A look at Brock Mealer's amazing story from annarbor.com's Pete Bigelow.
- The Bucket game isn't going anywhere for Indiana and Purdue, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star. It's game on for the Hoosiers tonight against Towson, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
- Iowa came out in decent shape after Big Ten realignment, Sean Keeler writes in the Des Moines Register. After walking away from a terrifying motorcycle crash, Iowa center Josh Koeppel will appear on national TV, Lee Hermiston writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
- Purdue's new-look secondary earns high marks from the offense, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Michigan State's fate in Big Ten realignment looks manageable, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal. Spartans fans should be happy with the league's plan, Michael Rosenberg writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Tim Brewster's fate at Minnesota ultimately will be tied to former offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch, Jim Souhan writes in the Star Tribune. Like it or not, quarterback Adam Weber is still running the show for the Gophers, Marcus Fuller writes in the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press.
- The (Champaign) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen looks at what the Big Ten divisions mean for Illinois. The Illini's new-look secondary will be tested against Missouri, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- The Northwestern-Illinois rivalry survives Big Ten realignment, ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers writes.
My Year 2 record dipped a little -- 69-26 (.726) -- but I vow to do better this fall. Every Thursday during the season, I'll identify a Game of the Week and explain my selection in a video blog post later in the day.
All 11 Big Ten teams make their season debuts this week, and here's how I see things shaking out.
Minnesota 26, Middle Tennessee 20: My pick changed when Middle Tennessee star quarterback Dwight Dasher was ruled out for the game. Dasher made MTSU a lot more dangerous. The Gophers get a boost from Duane Bennett in the run game and keep their new-look defense off of the field just long enough to escape Murfreesboro with a big win.
Ohio State 37, Marshall 7: Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes' offense deliver an efficient performance in the opener, jumping out to a 24-0 lead. Marshall struggles to move the ball against the Buckeyes' stout defense, which gets big performances from linebacker Brian Rolle and defensive lineman John Simon.
Indiana 31, Towson 14: Even without All-Big Ten selection Tandon Doss, Indiana flexes its muscles in the passing game against an FCS foe. Quarterback Ben Chappell and receiver Damarlo Belcher hook up for two touchdown passes as the Hoosiers roll.
Michigan State 41, Western Michigan 17: There will be no MAC disaster this year in East Lansing. Quarterback Kirk Cousins lights up Western Michigan and finds Keshawn Martin for several big plays as the Spartans roll to an impressive opening victory.
Penn State 30, Youngstown State 6: Evan Royster and the Penn State run game take the pressure off of true freshman quarterback Robert Bolden, who wows the crowd on several throws in his first career game (and start). Penn State plays all three quarterbacks and gets solid play from Devon Still and the defensive front seven in a win.
Iowa 34, Eastern Illinois 9: The Hawkeyes learn from last season and refuse to let an opponent hang around. Ricky Stanzi turns in a clean performance and tosses a pair of touchdown passes, one to Marvin McNutt. Adrian Clayborn and the Iowa defense make it a rough day for the visiting Panthers.
Missouri 35, Illinois 23: It's tough to beat Missouri with a healthy secondary, much less one as banged up as the Illini's. Illinois holds its own for two and a half quarters, but Blaine Gabbert proves to be too much and fires three touchdown passes. Redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase shows some promise in his first career start, but it's not enough.
Michigan 28, Connecticut 27: The first game in the renovated Big House should be a great one. This certainly could go either way, but Michigan wins the game at the line of scrimmage with its size and athleticism. An improved offensive line creates enough room for its talented ball-carriers to make plays. Denard Robinson leads the winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame 31, Purdue 27: This is my Game of the Week. Check the blog later for a video breaking down my selection.
Northwestern 23, Vanderbilt 17: It'll be tough for Pat Fitzgerald's crew, but the defense comes up big against a Vanderbilt team that won't have star Warren Norman at 100 percent even if he plays. Northwestern's run game doesn't do much, but new starting quarterback Dan Persa earns his stripes in the second half to secure win No. 1.
Wisconsin 41, UNLV 17: I could see the Rebels starting fast as they open the Bobby Hauck era, but Wisconsin is simply too strong and too balanced on offense. The Badgers mix in Montee Ball and James White with starting running back John Clay and wear down UNLV in the second and third quarters. Defensive end J.J. Watt has a big night for Wiscy.
The wait is over and we finally get to see Big Ten teams play games that count. As opening weekend begins a little early with three games tonight, here are 10 things to watch around the league.
1. Quarterback questions at Michigan, Penn State: Two of the league's traditional powers likely will be evaluating multiple quarterbacks in their openers. True freshman Robert Bolden was named a surprise starter for the Nittany Lions, but sophomores Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome also are likely to get some work. Denard Robinson could be poised to take control at Michigan, but head coach Rich Rodriguez expects to play more than one signal caller, so sophomore Tate Forcier and true freshman Devin Gardner likely will take some snaps in the spotlight. Penn State has to see what it has under center before a Week 2 trip to defending national champ Alabama.
3. Heisman push begins for Pryor, Clay: When we last saw Terrelle Pryor in a game, the Ohio State quarterback was at his best, winning Offensive MVP honors at the Rose Bowl. By all accounts, Pryor made strides during the offseason and said he has a greater grasp of the offense and what it takes to be a leader on the big stage. His accolades heading into the season -- Big Ten preseason Offensive Player of the Year, Heisman Trophy candidate -- are based largely on hype and potential, but Pryor finally gets a chance to produce some hard evidence against Marshall. Wisconsin running back John Clay has been largely overlooked in the preseason, but he also could help his Heisman candidacy with a strong debut at UNLV, which ranked 112th nationally in rush defense a year ago.
4. Mystery team makes debut in St. Louis: Who's the Big Ten's mystery team this season? Illinois. The Illini have new offensive and defensive schemes, a new starting quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase and plenty of unknowns on both sides of the ball. Missouri typically brings out the worst in Ron Zook's squad, and Illinois will need to show some resiliency in the Edward Jones Dome. Scheelhaase is young but skilled and athletic, and it'll be interesting to see how he handles the spotlight in an NFL stadium. Illinois' secondary faces Blaine Gabbert and Missouri's high-powered passing attack without two starters (safety Supo Sanni, cornerback Terry Hawthorne), so linebacker Martez Wilson and others need to step up.
5. Iowa's new-look offensive line: The Hawkeyes shouldn't have much trouble beating Eastern Illinois, although after last year's roller-coaster ride, you never know. The opener should give a new-look offensive line time to get comfortable and create holes for running back Adam Robinson. Iowa will start three new players up front -- right tackle Markus Zusevics, right guard Adam Gettis and center James Ferentz -- and needs to get comfortable before bigger tests the next two weeks against Iowa State and Arizona. Running back Jewel Hampton sits out because of a suspension, but Iowa really needs to get the run game going with Robinson and adequately protect quarterback Ricky Stanzi.
6. Spartans' secondary in spotlight: Most point to the secondary as Michigan State's biggest weakness in 2009, and for good reason. The Spartans ranked last in the Big Ten in pass yards allowed (267.6 ypg), allowed 11 more passing touchdowns (32 total) than any other Big Ten squad and recorded only six interceptions, the second-lowest total in the league. Several underperforming players are gone, and Michigan State hopes to be younger but better in the back four this fall. Cornerback Johnny Adams returns to the mix, and hopes are high for Trenton Robinson, Chris L. Rucker and others. The secondary needs to step up Saturday against Western Michigan, which loses standout quarterback Tim Hiller but returns top wideouts Robert Arnheim and Jordan White.
7. Line dance in the Volunteer State for Gophers, Wildcats: Both Minnesota and Northwestern boast veteran offensive lines that need to upgrade their run-blocking ability this fall. Minnesota ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing for the second straight year in 2009, while Northwestern finished eighth and had no big plays in the ground game. It'll be very interesting to see how both lines perform in what likely will be balmy weather in Tennessee. Minnesota opens Thursday night at Middle Tennessee, while Northwestern visits Vanderbilt in Nashville 48 hours later. Both squads have multiple backs competing for carries, but the performance of the two lines will go a long way toward showing what the upcoming season will hold.
8. Brock Mealer leads Michigan out of the tunnel: Doctors told Brock Mealer he'd never walk again after being paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident that killed his father and the girlfriend of his brother, Elliott, an offensive lineman for Michigan. But Brock never gave up hope and worked with Michigan strength and conditioning coaches Mike Barwis and Parker Whiteman to work his way out of a wheelchair. Saturday, he'll be walking out of the tunnel at Michigan Stadium as he leads the Wolverines onto the field for their opener against Connecticut. "He's that one percent," Wolverines defensive tackle Mike Martin told me. "People said he'd never walk again, and he's proving people wrong right there. We’ve got to come out right behind him and show what we've got."
9. Indiana's new-look defense: The Hoosiers' season likely hinges on whether a historically porous defense can improve. IU will use the 3-4 alignment more this season, but the coaches also are excited about defensive ends Darius Johnson and Fred Jones. Tyler Replogle provides excellent leadership at linebacker, but Indiana needs three junior college transfers -- linebacker Jeff Thomas and defensive backs Andre Kates and Lenyatta Kiles -- to make an immediate impact. A strong debut against Towson is key.
10. Quarterback-turned-receivers: There was a time when Michigan State's Keith Nichol, Minnesota's MarQueis Gray and Purdue's Justin Siller looked like the potential answers for their teams at quarterback. All three players now will play prominent roles at wide receivers on opening weekend. All three received strong reviews in training camp as receivers, and all three could start on Saturday. Gray is the likeliest to be called upon as a quarterback, as he remains Adam Weber's backup for the Gophers. Siller makes his first appearance since 2008 after being suspended from school for the 2009-10 academic year.
That was the first thought that came to mind when I saw Penn State's news release naming true freshman Robert Bolden as the Nittany Lions' starting quarterback for the opener Saturday against Youngstown State. The announcement came down about three minutes before the Big Ten officially announced its new divisions and future schedules.
What better way to take the spotlight off a true freshman? Again, JoePa=genius.
I'm stunned by Penn State tabbing Bolden as its top quarterback. No one gave him a shot after spring ball, considering he hadn't even arrived on campus. Sure, Bolden had a great camp and caught on faster than everyone expected, but Paterno hates playing freshmen, much less at the quarterback spot.
Clearly, the 6-4, 208-pound Bolden made a strong impression on the legendary coach. That, or Penn State didn't see nearly enough development from sophomores Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome. Probably a bit of both.
Paterno reiterated in the news release that he expects to play multiple quarterbacks early in the season. He considers Bolden, McGloin and Newsome as 1a, 1b and 1c on the depth chart.
"Based on what we have seen to this point, Bolden has a slight edge right now, but we are confident all three quarterbacks are ready to go and hope to give them an opportunity to play until we settle on the one that gives us the best chance to win," Paterno said in a statement.
Bolden looked impressive in the Big Ten Network's preview show at Penn State, and he brings excellent size and athleticism to the huddle. Like any freshman, he'll make some mistakes, but if the Penn State coaches think he's the best option now, he'll likely only get better with experience.
What a day. The Big Ten has divisions, Michigan and Ohio State are on opposite sides and Penn State is starting a true freshman at quarterback.
Times have changed.
"We've got to make up our minds here," Paterno said on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference.
But regardless of who walks out there first for Penn State on Saturday -- Matt McGloin, Kevin Newsome or Robert Bolden -- the Nittany Lions likely will play more than one quarterback in their opener against Youngstown State. That's the way it goes when a team has virtually no experience returning at the most important position on the field.
True freshman Paul Jones is out of the race for 2010, as academic issues have prompted him to redshirt. Sophomores McGloin and Newsome and true freshman Bolden have paced each other throughout camp.
"We'll play more than one quarterback," Paterno said. "We'll play two or maybe three until we're settled, until one is the leader. ... None of them have played. One of the kids [Newsome] has played about 30 plays, so it's difficult for me to tell you just how good some of them are going to be."
Newsome entered camp with a slight edge after backing up Daryll Clark last year, but McGloin has played well and gained confidence. Bolden only arrived at Penn State this summer but has generated a lot of buzz with his performance in camp.
Paterno's stance on playing freshmen is well known: he hates it, much less at the quarterback position. But the 6-foot-4, 208-pound Bolden might be too good to leave on the sideline.
"We've got to use a younger player and we've got to do the best we can to get him ready to be effective," Paterno said. "We're fortunate that we have more than one kid who has the physical ability, but it's just a question right now of who's going to be the guy in the huddle who says, 'Let's get this thing going.'
"We've got a play a young one. I don't like it, but we've got to play him."
One more Penn State nugget:
- Despite being listed as a starting cornerback on the Week 1 depth chart, Chaz Powell has been moved back to offense, Paterno said. Penn State is hurting a bit on offense with receiver Curtis Drake and tight end Andrew Szczerba both out and No. 2 running back Stephfon Green battling a neck injury. "We moved [Powell] because we got some people bumped up," Paterno said. "Green's hurt. Kid from Philly, Drake, he's banged-up. We needed somebody over there to do some of the things those guys could do, not only be running backs, good receivers, guys that could maybe make something happen." Powell ranked fourth on the team with 28 receptions last year before moving to corner. The good news is cornerback Stephon Morris appears to be healthy now.
(And then there's Purdue, which didn't include a depth chart in its game notes for Notre Dame. Ugh.)
I've had the chance to review depth charts from those programs that released them today -- two-deeps from Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota are coming soon -- and I checked in on several coaches' news conferences.
Here's what stood out:
- Even though Indiana will shift to a 3-4 defensive alignment this year, the depth chart lists a 4-3 with Darius Johnson and Fred Jones as the starting ends and Chad Sherer and Tyler Replogle flanking junior college transfer Jeff Thomas at linebacker.
- Interesting to see several veteran offensive linemen like Justin Pagan and Cody Faulkner listed as backups rather than starters. Junior Andrew McDonald steps into some big shoes at left tackle as Rodger Saffold departs to the NFL.
- The backup quarterback job remains open, as Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are both listed as No. 2 behind Ben Chappell.
- Indiana expects big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson, listed as a starter at wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
- Sophomores Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo are listed as the starting cornerbacks. Shaun Prater doesn't appear on the depth chart after dealing with a leg injury in camp. Prater hasn't been officially ruled out for the Eastern Illinois game, but I wouldn't expect to see much of him on Saturday.
- James Ferentz is listed as the starting center, a spot where Iowa might be a little thin following Josh Koeppel's motorcycle accident Monday morning.
- Starting defensive end Broderick Binns is suspended for the opener, so Christian Ballard is listed as a possible starter at both end and tackle. Mike Daniels and Lebron Daniel are the next options behind Ballard.
- Sophomores Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier and freshman Devin Gardner are listed as co-starters at quarterback. Head coach Rich Rodriguez reiterated Monday that Gardner won't redshirt this fall.
- Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw are listed as co-starters at running back, with Michael Cox behind them.
- True freshman Carvin Johnson is listed as the starter at the spur position (safety/linebacker). Pretty big surprise here, and a testament to Johnson's work in camp.
- Senior James Rogers steps into Troy Woolfolk's starting cornerback spot opposite J.T. Floyd.
- Receivers Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady clearly showed enough in camp to be listed as starters or possible starters against Connecticut.
- Sophomore running back Arby Fields returned to practice Monday and wore a no-contact jersey after being sidelined with a shoulder problem. He's listed as a co-starter at running back with Jacob Schmidt and Stephen Simmons. Northwestern wanted a clear No. 1 running back to emerge in camp, but Fields' injury changed the plan.
- Junior Bryce McNaul is listed as the third top linebacker alongside returning starters Quentin Davie and Nate Williams. McNaul won the job in camp.
- Venric Mark is the only true freshman listed on the depth chart, both as a backup wide receiver and a co-starter at punt returner. I'll go out on a huge limb (sarcasm) and predict Mark will be the man on returns for the Wildcats very shortly.
- Junior defensive end Nathan Williams, a projected starter, will miss the Marshall game with a knee injury. He should be back shortly thereafter. Solomon Thomas will start in Williams' spot Thursday night.
- Starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) is questionable for the Marshall game, but corner Devon Torrence (hamstring) should be fine.
- Sophomore C.J. Barnett's strong performance in camp lifted him ahead of Orhian Johnson on the Week 1 depth chart. Johnson missed a chunk of camp with an injury.
- Start salivating, Buckeyes fans, because running backs Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry likely will handle kickoff returns against Marshall.
- Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin and freshman Robert Bolden are listed as co-starters at quarterback for the Youngstown State game.
- Sophomore Devon Smith's strong camp landed him a starting spot at both receiver and kick returner, and a backup role on punt returns.
- Redshirt freshman Garry Gilliam is listed as the starting tight end, as Andrew Szczerba likely will miss the opener with a back injury. Penn State obviously is thin here after losing Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
- Veterans Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are listed as the starting linebackers, with promising younger players like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges right behind them.
- After a very impressive camp, freshman running back James White appears at No. 3 on the depth chart behind both John Clay and Montee Ball. White also is the No. 2 punt returner behind David Gilreath. His emergence likely will result in veteran Zach Brown redshirting the season.
- Senior Blake Sorensen likely will start at outside linebacker, as Mike Taylor continues to rehab after undergoing a second procedure on his knee in camp. Culmer St. Jean and Chris Borland are listed as the other starting linebackers.
- The starting cornerback spots remain open, as Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith will compete in practice this week.
- Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has grown up in the job, Michael Hunt writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Barry Alvarez always said a team needs five great players, and Wisconsin has the magic number this year, Andy Baggot writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Some very revealing stuff from Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez in this interview with the Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom. Annarbor.com's Pete Bigelow looks into the crystal ball and sees what Rodriguez needs to turn things around at Michigan this fall. More on Rodriguez and the hot seat from Rivals.com's Tom Dienhart.
- Could Jim Tressel catch the great Woody Hayes in coaching wins at Ohio State? The Columbus Dispatch's Ken Gordon breaks it down. According to Buckeyes receiver Taurian Washington, the team has added Florida State transfer Dionte Allen. If Ohio State wins a national title this fall, the 2008 recruiting class could be a big reason why, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Robert Bolden appears to be Penn State's best quarterback, and The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' David Jones asks when the freshman should see the field. The Nittany Lions play the Big Ten's toughest schedule this fall, Jared Shanker writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News. Penn State's league schedules for 2011 and beyond have been wiped clean, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror.
- An in-depth look at Illinois' all-time football roster from The (Champaign) News-Gazette. New coordinator Paul Petrino is being called "the offensive Ron Zook" by Zook himself Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell is right at home in his hometown, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required). Good guy Bill Lynch will take the Hoosiers bowling this season, Hugh Kellenberger writes in The Herald-Times.
- A great piece on the history of traveling trophies in the Big Ten from The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Scott Dochterman.
- Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald refuses to eat at In-N-Out Burger until the Wildcats head back to the Rose Bowl, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Michigan State has the ingredients for a renaissance this fall, most importantly team unity, Lynn Henning writes in The Detroit News.
- An in-depth season preview for Iowa from the Iowa City Press-Citizen and Des Moines Register. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi and defensive end Adrian Clayborn are two reasons why Iowa could be special this fall, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- The Detroit Free Press' Shannon Shelton examines the outlook for Northwestern, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota this fall. Iowa tops the Big Ten in Terry Hutchens' league preview (The Indianapolis Star).
- Minnesota's coaching staff has gone through a lot of shuffling, but co-defensive coordinators Kevin Cosgrove and Ron Lee provide stability, Marcus Fuller writes in the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press.
- The Big Ten is poised for some very big changes in the coming weeks, Bernard Fernandez writes in the Philadelphia Daily News.
- Purdue's strength once again will be through the air this fall, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
Here are 10 fearless predictions in the Big Ten, which kicks off the 2010 season Thursday night!
1. The Big Ten faces Nebraska in a BCS bowl: Ohio State will get back to the national title game for the first time in three years. Because of the new Rose Bowl rule, a non-AQ team heads to Pasadena, but the Big Ten gets an at-large BCS berth for the sixth consecutive season. Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State or Michigan State heads to the Fiesta Bowl to face Big 12 champion and soon-to-be Big Ten member Nebraska on New Year's Day.
2. The Game changes dates: I really hope I'm wrong on this one, but too many signs point to the Ohio State-Michigan game moving up on the schedule beginning in 2011. Perhaps the Big Ten bigwigs listen to their fans, but the potential for an Ohio State-Michigan clash in the Big Ten championship game could be too valuable ($$$) to pass up. My bet is on the Buckeyes and Wolverines ending up in different divisions when the alignment comes out.
4. Michigan and Penn State both play three quarterbacks: Not an overly fearless pick here, but I expect two gifted true freshmen, Penn State's Robert Bolden and Michigan's Devin Gardner, to see the field this fall. Penn State will want to evaluate more than one quarterback in a game setting, and it's rare when a quarterback playing in a spread offense like Rich Rodriguez's lasts the entire season without injury. Denard Robinson likely starts the opener, but Gardner and Tate Forcier also will play at some point.
5. Michigan State's Greg Jones records two interceptions: Jones has done everything but intercept a pass in his first three seasons at Michigan State. Things change this fall, as the linebacker becomes a bigger factor in coverage and records a pair of picks to earn consensus All-America honors for the second consecutive year.
6. MarQueis Gray leads Minnesota in receiving: After competing with Adam Weber for the Gophers' starting quarterback job this spring, Gray becomes Weber's top target in the passing game. He catches on quickly at receiver and uses his size and good hands to become a reliable possession option.
7. Bill Lynch chucks his chewing gum against Michigan again: Once again, a bad call in the Michigan game on Oct. 2 will bring Howard Beale out of the normally subdued Lynch. Maybe it's a touchdown called back on a phantom holding penalty, or a fumble that never was, but Lynch's gum surely will take flight.
8. The Big Ten has at least one forced and one unforced coaching change: Several Big Ten coaches enter the season on the hot seat, including Michigan's Rodriguez, Illinois' Ron Zook, Minnesota's Tim Brewster and, to a lesser extent, Indiana's Lynch. Someone gets pink-slipped in November or December. Will this be Paterno's final season at Penn State? A lot of people think it will be. Also, if Ohio State wins a national title, it wouldn't be totally shocking to see Jim Tressel move on.
9. Purdue, Michigan State and Northwestern all pull off upsets: Michigan State should be an improved team and has three opportunities for upsets against Wisconsin (Oct. 2 at home), Iowa (Oct. 30 on the road) and Penn State (Nov. 27). The Spartans win at least one of those games. Purdue could be a dangerous team by the time Wisconsin visits on Nov. 6. Northwestern pulls off an upset every season and could get Iowa again (Nov. 13) or Penn State (Oct. 30).
10. Evan Royster and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos will set team records against ... Royster, the Penn State senior running back, gets a steady diet of carries early in the season and breaks Curt Warner's team career rushing record against Illinois on Oct. 9. Johnson-Koulianos, the Iowa senior receiver, needs 401 yards for the Iowa receiving record and gets it Oct. 30 against Michigan State.
It's prediction time, and while I'm certain most of these will look terrible by mid October, here we go ...
Conference champion: Ohio State
It's not just the history of winning or sharing the last five league championships. Ohio State simply has fewer holes than Iowa and Wisconsin. Yes, the Buckeyes must travel to Madison and Iowa City, but they've been flat-out dominant on the road in conference play, winning 16 straight Big Ten road contests before the loss to Purdue last season.
Offensive MVP: Wisconsin running back John Clay
Someone needs to stand up for Clay. He's being completely overlooked in the Heisman Trophy race, and he was snubbed for Big Ten preseason Offensive Player of the Year in favor of Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor. In case you forgot, Clay is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and he'll play behind the nation's best offensive line this fall. He should be more durable following offseason ankle surgeries. I expect big things from big No. 32 this fall.
Defensive MVP: Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn
This might be one of the nation's most competitive award races, as Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan also are in the mix. But Clayborn makes more impact plays than any defender in the Big Ten, and he'll continue to have opportunities because of the overall strength of Iowa's defensive line.
Surprise team: Purdue
The Boilermakers' injury situation leaves me a bit concerned about this selection, but I still really like the potential in West Lafayette. Robert Marve is a perfect fit for the spread offense, and will distribute the ball to a talented group of receivers. Kerrigan leads a veteran defensive front seven that should be better against the run. And the schedule is back-loaded, allowing Purdue to find its identity in the first six games before things get really tough. Indiana and Michigan are also possibilities here.
Team most likely to disappoint: Penn State
There isn't an obvious choice here, but preseason No. 19 Penn State enters the fall with two major obstacles: virtually no experience at quarterback, and arguably the nation's toughest road schedule. Trips to Tuscaloosa, Iowa City and Columbus look daunting, and while Tom Bradley's defense should be solid once again, it won't be easy for this team to win 11 games for the third straight season. Iowa, Northwestern and Michigan also are possibilities here.
Surprise player: Michigan State receiver Keshawn Martin
We could see a Devin Thomas redux this fall, which would bring smiles to Spartans fans. Martin seemed to be hitting his stride toward the end of last season, and after averaging 18.1 yards per touch in 2009, he'll get the ball a lot more this season. Other potential surprise players include Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa, Ohio State defensive lineman John Simon and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
Newcomer of the year: Purdue quarterback Robert Marve
Talent has never been the problem for Marve, and he's finally in the right situation to become a star. The Miami transfer owns a big-time arm in an offense that will feature it, and he has grown up a lot since his time at Miami. If Purdue's new-look offensive line can protect Marve, the offense will put up big numbers. Three junior college transfers in the secondary -- Indiana's Andre Kates, Minnesota's Christyn Lewis and Illinois safety Trulon Henry -- are also newcomers to watch.
Freshman of the Year: Penn State quarterback Robert Bolden
He might not start the opener against Youngstown State, but I expect Bolden to enter the mix in a big way for the Nittany Lions. He has impressive size and arm strength, and his ability to quickly pick up the offense and remain in the race throughout preseason camp tells a lot about his potential. Other candidates include Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and Michigan State defenders Max Bullough and William Gholston.
Coach of the Year: Ohio State's Jim Tressel
It's time. Tressel has dominated the league like few coaches in history, and yet he has never won the Coach of the Year Award. The odds are once again against Tressel because of Ohio State's status as Big Ten preseason favorite, but I have a feeling he finally gets what he deserves. Other potential winners include Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Purdue's Danny Hope and, yes, Michigan's Rich Rodriguez.
Can't-miss game: Ohio State at Iowa, Nov. 20
For the second consecutive year, this game likely will decide the Big Ten championship, as both teams enter the fall in the top 10. Iowa gave Ohio State all it could handle in 2009 despite playing without starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Ohio State has dominated the series with Iowa, but this game could be special. Other can't-miss contests include Ohio State at Wisconsin (Oct. 16), Wisconsin at Iowa (Oct. 23) and whenever Penn State's Joe Paterno goes for win No. 400.
- The Big Ten will be more than the big four this season, AOL FanHouse's John Walters writes.
- Big Ten defensive ends Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue), Adrian Clayborn (Iowa) and Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) can single-handedly change games, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Geography won't determine Big Ten divisions in the end, Mike Hlas writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Purdue AD Morgan Burke weighs in on the division debate, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- True freshman Robert Bolden could soon become Penn State's starting quarterback, David Jones writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News. Jack Crawford is in line to become Penn State's next star D-lineman, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Bolden isn't the only true freshman quarterback in the mix for a starting job in the Big Ten, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Still, Denard Robinson looks like the man to beat at Michigan, Michael Rosenberg writes in the Free Press. The downward spiral of former Michigan cornerback Boubacar Cissoko continues, annarbor.com's Lee Higgins writes.
- Brandon Wegher's return this fall seems unlikely, but Iowa should be fine at running back, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- Not surprisingly, mammoth Michigan State freshman William Gholston is switching from linebacker to defensive end, Matt Charboneau writes in The Detroit News. Michigan State's secondary has something to prove this fall, Denny Schwarze writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- Minnesota's schedule looks pretty brutal, Hlas writes. Still, the Gophers could catch a big break in their opener if Middle Tennessee's Dwight Dasher can't play, Monte Hale writes in The Daily News Journal.
- Defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins and wideout Corey Brown are among the Ohio State freshmen who could see the field this fall, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Speaking of freshmen, Venric Mark leads a group of Northwestern newcomers who should see the field this fall, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Illinois starting tight end Zach Becker will miss the first three games with a foot injury, Bob Asmussen writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette.
- The competition for Indiana's backup quarterback job remains open, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
- Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, a former tight end at Central Michigan, is getting some work at his old spot, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- The Big Ten should leave the Michigan-Ohio State game alone when determining divisions, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises and annarbor.com's Michael Rothstein write.
- Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett is asking a judge if he can try out for a UFL team.
- Running back Austin White is no longer part of Michigan's team, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News. Michigan's senior class wants to go out as winners, John Niyo writes in The Detroit News. A very cool story, as Brock Mealer (Elliott's brother) will lead Michigan onto the field Sept. 4, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Despite the buzz around Robert Bolden, it seems unlikely that Penn State will start a freshman quarterback, Neil Rudel writes in the Altoona Mirror. Penn State president Graham Spanier took time away from his daughter's wedding to work on Big Ten expansion, Lee Barfknecht writes in the Omaha World-Herald.
- The outside expectations are low, but don't be surprised if Minnesota is mediocre or better, Tom Powers writes in the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press.
"Even though their schedule is tougher than it has been, I don't think anyone would be -- or should be -- shocked if the Gophers won six games. At 6-6 their record would be, well, mediocre again. The difference this time around is that the bar has been lowered so much by all these gloomy predictions, that 6-6 will feel like an amazing accomplishment."
- Kirk Herbstreit says Ohio State's national title hopes hinge on these three games, Tim May and Ken Gordon write in The Columbus Dispatch. Academic issues force Buckeyes offensive lineman Marcus Hall to redshirt this fall.
- If you believe a video game simulation, Purdue could be in trouble this season, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Indiana cornerback Richard Council lets you know exactly where he is on the field, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis star. Here's a unique look at a full day of Indiana training camp from The (Bloomington) Herald-Times' Dustin Dopirak (subscription required).
- After his involvement in the residence hall fight, Michigan State offensive lineman J'Michael Deane seeks redemption, Mike Brudenell writes in the Detroit Free Press. Sparty the Spartan makes the list of the 12 coolest mascots in college football.
- For the second straight year, Wisconsin's defensive line is a mystery, Tom Oates writes in the Wisconsin State Journal. Badgers linebacker Mike Taylor is making good progress with his knee, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Expectations are high for Iowa entering the fall, and the Des Moines Register's Andrew Logue has a comprehensive look at the Hawkeyes in 2010. After waiting in the wings, Iowa offensive linemen Adam Gettis and Markus Zusevics are ready to roll, Ryan Suchomel writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
- The (Champaign) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen passes out his training camp awards for Illinois.
Here are some thoughts and observations:
- We didn't get to watch a ton of tape on the quarterbacks, but it's easy to see why folks are getting excited about true freshman Robert Bolden. He's very impressive physically, and his arm strength was obvious on several throws, including one over a defender and into the arms of a diving Derek Moye. Bolden moves around well in the pocket, and he's very good on his pass drops for a young player. The Big Ten Network analysts agreed, as both Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith picked Bolden as Penn State's starter for the opener.
- Again, not much passing seen on the show, although Matt McGloin had an overthrow and Paul Jones appeared to underthrow wideout Justin Brown on one play.
- DiNardo said both Kevin Newsome and McGloin have had time to create separation, but it just hasn't happened yet. "Bolden has separated himself physically from the other guys," DiNardo said. "To me, he throws the ball a lot better than his competition."
- Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno told the BTN crew that limiting turnovers and managing the game will be the top priorities early on for Penn State's quarterback. "Right now, we're looking for a guy that's going to not lose the game for us and make plays when he has to," JayPa said. While both Jay Paterno and Joe Paterno didn't rule out playing two quarterbacks, they'd strongly prefer one to emerge.
- DiNardo, Griffith and host Dave Revsine were very impressed with Penn State's younger players, particularly at the offensive skill positions. They singled out sophomore wideout Devon Smith as someone who can contribute both in the passing game and on returns. Smith showed good speed in the drills we saw. "They have to find a way to get him the ball in this offense," Griffith said.
- The BTN crew also liked freshmen running backs Silas Redd and Curtis Dukes, who they feel can challenge junior Stephfon Green for the backup spot behind Evan Royster. Both Redd and Dukes bring a physical running style, but I'm not ready to count out Green one bit. Although labeled a speed guy, he actually has decent size. Green had a nice run during the 9-on-7 portion of practice, hitting the hole and then bouncing outside.
- Linebacker Gerald Hodges really stood out to me. He landed several big hits on Green and looks like he can be a solid contributor this fall. The BTN crew said Michael Mauti, who comes off of an ACL injury, didn't look 100 percent.
- The 9-on-7 drill started with the offensive line getting decent push up the middle, but soon enough, Penn State's defensive front emerged. Sophomore end Pete Massaro did a nice job of closing gaps up the middle.
- Defensive end Jack Crawford and linebacker Chris Colasanti stood out in individual drills. Crawford is a big dude at 6-5, 256, but he keeps his pads low. Colasanti brings it as a hitter.
- A classic JoePa line when asked to assess the team: "Sloppy, not sure of themselves, lack of leadership, no quarterback. Other than that, we're pretty good." He also talked about special teams costing Penn State the Iowa game last year, and how it can't happen again.
- While Penn State almost certainly will be a run-heavy team early, JoePa knows he'll need the quarterbacks to do more. He doesn't want to see a good group of receivers go to waste.
- Final thought: Penn State's defense will be fine this fall. It comes down to the offensive line, generating a consistent run and limiting mistakes from the quarterback spot. Bolden's play certainly is encouraging.