Big Ten: Ron English

Two Big Ten assistants will attend this year's NCAA Champion Forum, a networking and leadership development seminar for minority assistants identified as potential head coaches.

Purdue wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman and Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Everett Withers, who also serves as the Buckeyes' assistant head coach, are among the 11 FBS assistants attending the event, held June 13-15 in Orlando, Fla. Assistants from the ACC, Pac-12, Big 12 and SEC also will be in attendance.

Sherman, Withers and the other assistants will have simulated job interviews, media training and other sessions during the event. There's an athletic directors panel on June 13 that will include two Big Ten ADs: Illinois' Mike Thomas and Northwestern's Jim Phillips. There also are networking events with ADs on the first two nights of the forum. Big Ten senior associate commissioner Mark Rudner will represent the league.

The Big Ten has sent 22 coaches to the event, formerly called the Minority Coaches Forum, between 2006-2012 (no event was held in 2011). Five of those attendees -- Don Treadwell, Darrell Hazell, Mike Locksley, Ron English and Garrick McGee -- went on to become FBS head coaches. Hazell, who took over at Purdue in December, is the Big Ten's first African-American head coach since Bobby Williams at Michigan State (2000-02) and just the fourth in league history.

Michigan State secondary coach Harlon Barnett and Northwestern receivers coach Dennis Springer attended last year's Champion Forum.

Sherman, hired by Hazell in January, spent the past seven seasons as Virginia Tech's receivers coach. His other FBS stops include Wake Forest and Ohio.

Withers already has been a head coach, albeit on an interim basis with North Carolina in 2011 after the school fired Butch Davis weeks before the season. He has been defensive coordinator at North Carolina, Minnesota and Louisville and also coached defensive backs at Texas and with the NFL's Tennessee Titans, among others.
Iowa wide receivers coach Erik Campbell has left the program to pursue other opportunities, according to several reports out of Iowa City.

Scout.com and Rivals.com are reporting Campbell's departure, and wide receiver recruit Damon Powell told Scout.com that Campbell no longer will be coaching him at Iowa. The school hasn't made an official announcement on Campbell and has "nothing to report" on possible staff changes, but the coach on Twitter responded to fans thanking him for his time at Iowa and wishing him good luck in his next stop.

From Scout.com:
"I didn't know he was going to leave," said Powell, who verbally pledged to Iowa from Snow Junior College in Utah. "The new receivers coach, Coach [Brian] Ferentz called and told me that Coach Campbell is no longer with Iowa."

Powell, who is from Ohio, is having second thoughts about his commitment to the Hawkeyes with Campbell leaving. He is playing host to Brian Ferentz and Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz this Saturday.

Brian Ferentz, who joined the coaching staff for the 2012 season and worked with the offensive line, coached tight ends with the New England Patriots in 2011 and should be able to make the transition to receivers. But Campbell could be a big loss for Iowa.

The former longtime Michigan receivers coach mentored two record-setting Hawkeyes in Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. McNutt set single-season records for receiving yards (1,315) and touchdowns (12), and the career receiving mark (2,8612). Johnson-Koulianos finished as the school's all-time leader in receptions with 173. Campbell spent five years with Iowa.

Campbell looked like a potential candidate for Iowa's offensive coordinator vacancy last year, but Kirk Ferentz ended up hiring Greg Davis. Iowa finished 114th nationally in total offense, 99th in pass offense and threw only seven touchdown passes (just two FBS had fewer).

I've heard Eastern Michigan is the likely landing spot for Campbell, who could become Eagles' offensive coordinator under Ron English, who he worked with at Michigan.

Big Ten lunch links

September, 20, 2012
9/20/12
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Looks like Michigan has fired the first shot in Saturday's rivalry game with Notre Dame.
On Thursday, we began ranking all 48 Big Ten nonconference games in 2012, beginning with the 13 least-compelling contests on the slate.

This next batch of 14 contains a few more interesting games but is mostly a middling bunch. Here is where you'll find much of the exciting MACtion on the Big Ten schedule. We'll count these down until we get to the must-see games.

34. Central Michigan at Iowa, Sept. 22: The Chippewas were a robust 3-9 last season, though they did somehow upset eventual MAC champion Northern Illinois. At least a team that surrendered 33.3 points per game last season should allow Iowa fans to see their team light up the scoreboard.

33. Eastern Michigan at Purdue, Sept. 15 : Prepare to see a lot of directional Michigans on this list. Ron English did great work last year in getting a formerly moribund program to 6-6 (with the help of two FCS wins). He could punch his ticket out of Ypsilanti and into a major head-coaching gig if he can pull off an upset over a Big Ten team on the way to a bowl.

32. Eastern Michigan at Michigan State, Sept. 22: At least this is an in-state, uh, "rivalry." The Spartans are 8-0 all-time against EMU and have never won by fewer than 32 points.

31. Michigan State at Central Michigan, Sept. 8: Only slightly more interesting because it's on the road, for some reason. Michigan State beat Central Michigan 45-7 last year in a game I dare anyone to remember.

30. Marshall at Purdue, Sept. 29: Purdue plays Eastern Michigan and then gets a bye week before hosting Marshall. Safe to say the Boilers won't be getting a lot of national attention during those three weeks. Marshall did win a bowl game last season, though it was only the Beef O'Brady's Bowl.

29. Northern Iowa at Iowa, Sept. 15: How does an FCS game get ranked this high? Because Northern Iowa is a really good FCS team that nearly upset the Hawkeyes last time they played, three years ago. And coming as it does a week after the Iowa State clash, well, this could possibly be interesting.

28. Louisiana Tech at Illinois, Sept. 22: Louisiana Tech is not a bad team. It won eight games a year ago and challenged TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl before losing by a touchdown. Still, with no history (this is the first meeting) and very little in common, this matchup won't generate too much pre-game hype.

27. Miami (Ohio) at Ohio State, Sept. 1: This doesn't figure to be a great game (the Redhawks won just four games a year ago). But it is the Buckeyes' opener, which makes it Urban Meyer's debut. That and the geography bump this one up a few notches.

26. Indiana at Navy, Oct. 20: Now we're starting to get into some games that could go either way. Navy has been a much better program of late than the Hoosiers and could cause fits with its offense. IU may regret scheduling this one between the Ohio State and Illinois games, with little time to prepare for that option attack.

25. Western Michigan at Minnesota, Sept. 15: The Gophers had better play well if they want to win this one. Western Michigan gave Illinois and Purdue everything they wanted last year and could be the MAC favorites with prolific quarterback Alex Carder returning.

24. Western Michigan at Illinois, Sept. 1: The Broncos lost just 23-20 in Champaign last year. There would have been easier ways for Tim Beckman to open his Illini tenure, though he is very familiar with WMU, having coached at Toledo.

23. Ohio at Penn State, Sept. 1: Bill O'Brien's Penn State debut comes against a Bobcats crew that won 10 games a year ago (and is coached by former Nebraska coach Frank Solich). Upset alert. Given all that's gone on in State College, the most interesting things about this game might be happening away from the field.

22. Arkansas State at Nebraska, Sept. 15: The Red Wolves won 10 games a year ago and now are coached by offensive guru Gus Malzahn, who'll match wits against Bo Pelini's defensive mind. I am officially intrigued.

21. Navy at Penn State, Sept. 15: The Midshipmen had a losing record last year for the first time since 2002. But you can never take them lightly because of their style of play and constant effort. Navy will have to overcome quite a talent gap, however.
Thanks to reader Erik from Waco, Texas, for inspiring this post.

He writes:
Adam, there are seven teams matched up in two or more games against Big Ten opponents this season: Syracuse, Northern Iowa, Central Michigan, Navy, Massachusetts, Notre Dame, and Western Michigan. Two questions. 1) Which team(s) do you think will fare the best against the Big Ten. 2) With most of these games being strongly in Big Ten favor, does a school use "we play Big Ten schools" as a recruiting factor even if they don't win many? Is there a hidden advantage here?

To answer Erik's question, there are actually eight teams facing multiple Big Ten opponents -- the seven listed above, plus Eastern Michigan. Notre Dame has the best chance to rack up some wins against Big Ten competition, namely because the Irish play two Big Ten squads (Michigan and Purdue) on their home field in South Bend. Syracuse also is positioned for success against the Big Ten. The Orange open the season by hosting Northwestern, which has some question marks on both sides of the ball. In Week 3, Syracuse visits Minnesota, which has won just six games the past two seasons. Navy also has a good opportunity for a win against Indiana in October, while Western Michigan has two winnable road games (Illinois and Minnesota).

Regional teams like Western Michigan, Central Michigan and Northern Iowa undoubtedly use their games against Big Ten foes in recruiting. Although they're underdogs, all three teams have been competitive against the Big Ten and can sell the chance to play in Big Ten stadiums to recruits from the Midwest.

With the season less than three months away, let's take a closer look at the eight teams that will face multiple Big Ten opponents in nonconference play this fall.

Syracuse
Sept. 1 vs. Northwestern; Sept. 22 at Minnesota

The Orange come off of a 5-7 season under Doug Marrone, who closed most of the team's practices this spring in an effort to eliminate distractions and foster team chemistry. Syracuse plays just five true home games this season, which puts a premium on the Northwestern game. Northwestern is 6-0 in season openers under coach Pat Fitzgerald. Minnesota and Syracuse both are looking for a boost on offense after finishing 110th and 90th, respectively, in total yards in 2011.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Northern Iowa
Sept. 1 at Wisconsin; Sept. 15 at Iowa

Anyone who follows the FCS knows Northern Iowa boasts a very solid program. The Panthers come off of a 10-3 season and have won seven or more games every season since 2002, recording 10 or more wins four times. UNI gave Iowa all it could handle in the 2009 season opener and will face two Big Ten squads going through some personnel transition at key positions.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Central Michigan
Sept. 8 vs. Michigan State; Sept. 22 at Iowa

After a terrific run under Brian Kelly and Butch Jones, Central Michigan has backslid under former Michigan State assistant Dan Enos. The Chippewas have gone 3-9 in each of Enos' first two seasons in Mount Pleasant. They get Michigan State at home, and it'll be interesting to see how the Spartans respond after their blockbuster opener against Boise State. Central Michigan stunned Michigan State in East Lansing in 2009 but has lost its only two meetings against Iowa.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Navy
Sept. 15 at Penn State; Oct. 20 vs. Indiana

After seven consecutive bowl appearances and seven consecutive Commander-in-Chief trophies, Navy's run ended last season with a 5-7 mark. The Mids haven't faced a Big Ten opponent since nearly stunning Ohio State in Columbus in the 2009 opener. Indiana is the first Big Ten team to visit Annapolis since Northwestern in 2002.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Massachusetts
Sept. 8 vs. Indiana; Sept. 15 at Michigan

After winning 23 games combined in 2006 and 2007, Massachusetts has hovered around the .500 mark in the FCS. Now UMass is moving to the FBS and the MAC, beginning with the 2012 season, and will play its home games at Gillette Stadium. The Minutemen went 5-6 last season and hired Notre Dame offensive coordinator Charlie Molnar as their new head coach. Molnar brought in Purdue assistant Phil Elmassian as his defensive coordinator.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Notre Dame
Sept. 8 vs. Purdue: Sept. 15 at Michigan State; Sept. 22 vs. Michigan

The Irish begin Year 3 of the Brian Kelly era after a disappointing finish to 2011. Their quarterback issues are well documented, and highly touted recruit Gunner Kiel enters a crowded mix this season. Notre Dame has won three straight against Purdue and five of six but struggled against both Michigan and Michigan State in recent years. The Irish play arguably the nation's toughest schedule, so the two home games against Big Ten foes are huge for Kelly's crew.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-2

Western Michigan
Sept. 1 at Illinois; Sept. 15 at Minnesota

The Broncos are no stranger to Big Ten foes, having faced both Michigan and Illinois in the 2011 regular season and Purdue in the 2011 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Bill Cubit's squad always airs it out and returns talented senior quarterback Alex Carder. Record-setting wide receiver Jordan White departs and the receiving corps will have a new look to it, but the Broncos should be able to test the secondaries of both Illinois and Minnesota.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 1-1

Eastern Michigan
Sept. 15 at Purdue; Sept. 22 at Michigan State

Eastern Michigan is on the rise under former Michigan assistant Ron English, as the Eagles went 6-6 in 2011, snapping a streak of 15 consecutive losing seasons. What had been one of the worst programs in the FBS seems to be showing some life, and EMU should once again boast a strong rushing attack in 2011 after finishing 14th nationally last season.

Predicted record vs. Big Ten: 0-2

Big Ten predictions: Week 3

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
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Before we get to pad our stats (hopefully) in Week 4, it's time to forecast an intriguing slate of Week 3 games.

Thus far, neither of us has had anything resembling perfection. Will it change this week?

Let's get to the picking ...

EASTERN MICHIGAN at MICHIGAN

Brian Bennett: Michigan's biggest problem will be adjusting to the weirdness of playing during the day. Other than that, former Wolverines defensive coordinator Ron English's team has no answer for Denard Robinson. ... Michigan 42, Eastern Michigan 10

Adam Rittenberg: I see the Wolverines starting off a bit slowly against the 2-0 Eagles, but Robinson and the running backs will get going in this one and coordinator Al Borges can stick to his system more. Don't see Brady Hoke running up the score on English and Mike Hart. ... Michigan 36, Eastern Michigan 14

PENN STATE at TEMPLE

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State's ongoing indecision at quarterback concerns me, especially against a Temple defense playing well. Like last year's game, this contest will be low scoring but Silas Redd and Brandon Beachum come up big in the second half with touchdowns. ... Penn State 23, Temple 16

Brian Bennett: I agree Temple will keep it close behind the running of Bernard Pierce at home. Penn State does just enough to win on a late TD pass to Derek Moye -- just don't ask me who throws it. ... Penn State 21, Temple 17

PITTSBURGH at IOWA

Brian Bennett: I covered Pitt closely the past three seasons and have no confidence in the Panthers to win a tough road game, especially the way quarterback Tino Sunseri has played. Iowa's defense rebounds after a rough day in Ames and grounds the High Octane. ... Iowa 28, Pitt 19

Adam Rittenberg: No love for the Big East? I hereby revoke your Primanti Bros. privileges. Pitt takes an early lead against a reeling Hawkeyes defense, but Iowa rallies in the second half behind running back Marcus Coker (last chance, Marcus). ... Iowa 27, Pitt 20

SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE at PURDUE

Adam Rittenberg: The heat is rising on coach Danny Hope, but Purdue should get through the fourth quarter without tension for the first time this year. Both Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve play at quarterback, but Purdue's run game makes the big difference in this one. ... Purdue 34, SE Missouri State 17

Brian Bennett: Just what Purdue needs after two shaky performances: a highly beatable FCS team. No field goal blocks needed this time. ... Purdue 35, SE Missouri State 10

SOUTH CAROLINA STATE at INDIANA

Brian Bennett: And just what Indiana needs, too. Finally a big offensive performance for Kevin Wilson's club against an overmatched FCS squad. ... Indiana 41, SCSU 17

Adam Rittenberg: Wilson can be as reckless as he wants to with big decisions and still get his first win as IU's coach. Matt Perez and the Hoosiers' run game show some signs of life for the first time this season. ... Indiana 30, SCSU 17

NO. 15 MICHIGAN STATE at NOTRE DAME

Adam Rittenberg: Las Vegas isn't giving Michigan State any respect, and the Notre-Dame-is-actually-good-honest-to-God rhetoric is getting tiresome. The Spartans typically play well in South Bend and win another close one against a desperate Irish team that doesn't know how to close. ... Michigan State 27, Notre Dame 24

Brian Bennett: How can anyone pick Notre Dame at this point? I wouldn't pick the Irish in an intrasquad scrimmage. The Spartans get a big step up in competition, but Kirk Cousins leads them to the first of what they hope are many road wins. ... Michigan State 31, Notre Dame 28

MIAMI (OHIO) at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: A tough game to predict, not knowing how the players will respond to the Jerry Kill situation. I'm thinking Kill returns to the sidelines and they play inspired to give their coach a dramatic first victory with the Gophers. ... Minnesota 21, Miami 20

Adam Rittenberg: I thought Minnesota would lose this game before the season, and then felt differently after the Gophers' gutsy performance at USC. But last week's clunker against New Mexico State soured me on Minnesota, and Miami has had two weeks to prepare. ... Miami 27, Minnesota 21

WASHINGTON at NO. 11 NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: After a week of enduring Bo Pelini's wrath, the Blackshirts respond against young quarterback Keith Price as Nebraska pulls ahead in the fourth quarter. ... Nebraska 28, Washington 16

Brian Bennett: The defense simply has to get better, and I think it will slow down Washington's Chris Polk. Taylor Martinez atones for the bowl game as Huskers-Huskies III goes the home team's way. ... Nebraska 31, Washington 14

NORTHWESTERN at ARMY

Brian Bennett: If Dan Persa doesn't play, will either team pass the ball more than five times? Army's unique style will give the Wildcats fits, but they pull it out in the end. ... Northwestern 24, Army 20

Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern has to show more willingness to throw the ball with Kain Colter, as the Wildcats boast great weapons at receiver and tight end and Army struggles against the pass. Coordinator Mick McCall opens up the offense and the Wildcats' defensive line plays well enough for a win. ... Northwestern 27, Army 21

NO. 7 Wisconsin vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (at Chicago)

Adam Rittenberg: There will be no shutout this week as Northern Illinois' Chandler Harnish makes some plays against Wisconsin. While former Badgers defensive coordinator Dave Doeren will improve the Huskies' defense eventually, NIU's youth and inability to stop the run proves costly against Montee Ball and James White. ... Wisconsin 45, Northern Illinois 31

Brian Bennett: Doeren's knowledge of the personnel makes this one interesting, and Northern Illinois is better offensively than Oregon State. Russell Wilson is the difference as Doeren sells out against the run. ... Wisconsin 38, Northern Illinois 24

NO. 22 ARIZONA STATE at ILLINOIS

Brian Bennett: Illinois is out to prove itself, but Arizona State is a little more battle tested after beating Missouri last week. Brock Osweiler throws the game-winning pass in overtime of a wild shootout. ... Arizona State 51, Illinois 48

Adam Rittenberg: This is the type of game both of these programs tend to lose. But I'm buying into Illinois and think the Illini rise to the occasion and notch a statement win at home. Vontaze Burfict introduces himself to Nathan Scheelhaase a few times, but Scheelhaase scores a touchdown in the final minute for the game winner. ... Illinois 33, Arizona State 31

NO. 17 OHIO STATE at MIAMI

Adam Rittenberg: This will be a slog for the Buckeyes, who remain shorthanded at key positions. Both Ohio State quarterbacks play and Jordan Hall helps in his return, but the main reason I'm picking the Buckeyes is because I simply don't trust Jacory Harris to limit mistakes. Ohio State 20, Miami 17

Brian Bennett: I'd rather purchase snake oil in bulk from a traveling salesman than pin my hopes on Harris. And yet ... I just don't think Ohio State can make enough explosive plays on offense after that Toledo showing. The Fightin' Shapiros pull the upset. ... Miami 21, Ohio State 16

SEASON RECORDS

Bennett: 19-5 (.792)

Rittenberg: 17-7 (.708)
My team-by-team breakdown of each Big Ten schedule continues with the Michigan Wolverines.

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept. 3: Western Michigan (6-6)
Sept. 10: Notre Dame (8-5)
Sept. 17: Eastern Michigan (2-10)
Sept. 24: San Diego State (9-4)

Legends division games

Oct. 1: Minnesota
Oct. 8: at Northwestern
Oct. 15: at Michigan State
Nov. 5: at Iowa
Nov. 19: Nebraska

Crossover games

Oct. 29: Purdue
Nov. 12: at Illinois
Nov. 26: Ohio State (protected)

No plays

Indiana
Penn State
Wisconsin

Gut-check game: At Michigan State. Michigan's trip to Northwestern a week before also could qualify, but we'll learn a lot about the Wolverines at Spartan Stadium. New coach Brady Hoke has played up Michigan's top two rivalries -- Michigan State and Ohio State -- placing countdown clocks to both games around Schembechler Hall. Hoke can gain some goodwill among Michigan fans if he leads the Wolverines to a victory in East Lansing, ending Michigan State's three-game win streak in the series. Michigan State has no intention of relinquishing the Paul Bunyan Trophy and still feels disrespected by Michigan, so this will be a test.

Trap game: Purdue. This non-division game falls between the Michigan State trip and another Legends division road game at Iowa. Michigan won an ugly game last year in West Lafayette, but Purdue ended its losing streak at the Big House in 2009 and should be a much improved offensive team. This is Michigan's only home game in a stretch of four out of five on the road, the Wolverines must handle their business against the Boilers.

Snoozer: Eastern Michigan. Other than the two schools being only a few miles apart, there isn't much upside to this game. The Ron English-Brady Hoke story is nice and will be rehashed leading up to kickoff, but Eastern Michigan still is building its program to a respectable level. Expect a big day for Denard Robinson and the Wolverines offense.

Non-con challenge: Notre Dame. The first night game at Michigan Stadium should be electric, and Notre Dame will bring in a squad likely ranked in the top 20. Unlike Michigan, the Irish ended 2010 on a good note and could take a significant step in Brian Kelly's second season as coach. Robinson went nuts against Notre Dame last year in South Bend. It'll be interesting to see how he fares in Michigan's new offense as the Wolverines get their first test. Michigan also shouldn't forget about San Diego State in Week 4. Obviously, there's a lot of familiarity between the two coaching staffs.

Key stretch: The home games against Nebraska and Ohio State in late November stand out, but Michigan's season likely hinges on how the team performs on the road. Michigan plays four out of five games away from Ann Arbor between Oct. 8-Nov. 12, including three Legends division road games (Michigan State, Northwestern, Iowa). The Wolverines could gain a lot of confidence from the stretch or stumble and be fighting to make a bowl game.

Analysis: Here's a case where the cross-division schedule isn't nearly as daunting as the division slate. Michigan misses both Wisconsin and Penn State and hosts rival Ohio State at a time when the Buckeyes could be reeling. On the flip side, the Wolverines play three of their five division games on the road before a tough finish against Nebraska and Ohio State. Michigan once again has a chance to start off strong as it plays five home games to open the season. The big key will be performing better against mid- to upper-tier Big Ten competition.

More B1G schedule analysis
Ryan Van Bergen came to Ann Arbor to be a 5-technique defensive end for coach Lloyd Carr and coordinator Ron English.

Four years later, Van Bergen is finally fulfilling his original mission at Michigan.

[+] EnlargeRyan Van Bergen
Rob Christy/US PresswireDefensive end Ryan Van Bergen, right, says he feels at home in Michigan's new 4-3 attack.
Coaching change forces players to adjust to new schemes and personalities. But the defense Greg Mattison is installing this spring at Michigan feels familiar for Van Bergen, a fifth-year senior.

"I'm a little bit more comfortable," Van Bergen said Tuesday on a conference call. "This is the position I feel I was slotted to play."

Van Bergen isn't the only one feeling good about the new direction Michigan is taking this spring under Mattison and head coach Brady Hoke. After the defense reached historic lows under the previous regime, Hoke and his staff are trying to restore the unit.

The 4-3 alignment is back and the defensive front once again is the focal point of the scheme.

"Coach Hoke, particularly, says all the time our defensive line will be the most tested and will have to be the toughest group if we're going to be successful as a team," Van Bergen said. "I enjoy that pressure, and I think my position group enjoys that pressure."

Michigan is loading up on bulk with its line this spring. Van Bergen checks in at 6-foot-6, 283 pounds, while tackle Mike Martin (6-2, 299) and converted offensive lineman Will Campbell (6-5, 333) add to a more formidable front.

A larger line has made things easier for other units on the defense.

"There’s some much bigger bodies and a lot more weight up front than there was last year," Van Bergen said. "So the linebackers are having an easier time navigating and coming downhill and making plays."

Mattison didn't have to spend much time selling Wolverines defenders on himself or his system. His extensive coaching résumé both in college and especially his most recent stop as Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator did the trick.

"When you’re thinking of defenses, the first defense that comes to mind, for me, is the Ravens'," Van Bergen said. "When you come in with a reputation like that, everything the guy says is gold to everybody on the team. We just all bought in completely because of where he's come from and what he's done."

Hoke's track record as a longtime defensive assistant, including an eight-year stretch at Michigan from 1995-2002, also makes an impact on the players.

"Coach Hoke is more of a defensive-emphasis kind of coach," Van Bergen said. "He seems to put more pressure on us in practice situations. He's been with the D-line specifically through different drills in spring ball. Coach [Rich Rodriguez] was more of an offensive guy and he was with the offensive players and staff a little bit more. For me, personally, that's a big difference."
Today is the only time that we get a glimpse into the coaches poll, as the final ballot has been released.

Six Big Ten head coaches participated this year: Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Michigan's Rich Rodriguez, Illinois' Ron Zook, Indiana's Bill Lynch, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Minnesota's Tim Brewster.

Let's take a quick look at the notable selections from each coach's ballot.

Jim Tressel's ballot: Alabama at No. 1, Oregon at No. 7, Ohio State at No. 8, Iowa at No. 9, Penn State at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 15, USC at No. 25.

Rich Rodriguez's ballot: Alabama at No. 1, Texas at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 7, Oregon at No. 8, Penn State at No. 9, Iowa at No. 10, West Virginia at No. 18, Wisconsin at No. 20.

Ron Zook's ballot: Alabama at No. 1, Texas at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 7, Penn State at No. 10, Iowa at No. 11, Wisconsin at No. 17.

Bill Lynch's ballot: Alabama at No. 1, Texas at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 7, Iowa at No. 9, Penn State at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 16, Northwestern at No. 24.

Mark Dantonio's ballot: Texas at No. 1, Alabama at No. 2, Cincinnati at No. 3, Ohio State at No. 7, Penn State at No. 9, Iowa at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 18, Central Michigan at No. 25.

Tim Brewster's ballot: Texas at No. 1, Alabama at No. 2, Ohio State at No. 7, Iowa at No. 9, Penn State at No. 10, Wisconsin at No. 23.

Quick thoughts:
  • Dantonio and Brewster were two of only four coaches to rank Texas at No. 1 (Idaho's Robb Akey and Nebraska's Bo Pelini were the others). Brewster coached under Mack Brown at Texas and has a son, Nolan, who plays safety for the Longhorns.
  • Only three of the six Big Ten coaches voted Iowa ahead of Penn State despite the Hawkeyes' head-to-head victory Sept. 26.
  • Brewster ranked Wisconsin much lower than his Big Ten colleagues (think there's a rivalry there?).
  • Lynch was the only Big Ten coach who voted for Northwestern. Louisiana-Monroe's Charlie Weatherbie ranked the Wildcats at No. 19.
  • Ohio State received its highest ranking (5) from a Michigan guy, LSU head coach Les Miles. The Buckeyes' lowest rating (11) came from South Carolina's Steve Spurrier, who ranked Iowa at No. 10.
  • Penn State ranked anywhere from 8 to 13, with the lowest votes coming from Eastern Michigan's Ron English and Mississippi State's Dan Mullen.
  • Iowa ranked anywhere from 8 to 18, as Washington State's Paul Wulff clearly didn't think much of the Hawkeyes. Stanford's Jim Harbaugh ranked Iowa 16th.

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 3

September, 17, 2009
9/17/09
8:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Week 3 doesn't match its predecessor in terms of national prestige, but it still means a lot to the Big Ten. Wins over teams like Cal, Arizona and even Notre Dame would help the league's national reputation.

Here are 10 things you don't want to miss.

Spartans go for lucky seven -- The House that Rockne Built has turned into Spartan Stadium South, as Michigan State has claimed six consecutive games in South Bend. A seventh straight is crucial, especially after the Spartans lost their focus last week against Central Michigan. Notre Dame also comes in wounded and desperate for a victory, which could take some pressure off head coach Charlie Weis. Michigan State's secondary needs a much better effort against Notre Dame deep threats Golden Tate, Michael Floyd and Kyle Rudolph. Kirk Cousins could cement himself as the Spartans' starting quarterback with a big day.

Minnesota linebackers take on Cal's Best -- Led by reigning National Defensive Player of the Week Nate Triplett, the Gophers' linebacking corps has led an improved defense in two victories. But things get much harder this weekend as Heisman Trophy candidate Jahvid Best visits TCF Bank Stadium with eighth-ranked California. Minnesota gets a chance to show off its new stadium to the country against a top 10 team, but Best and backup Shane Vereen could make it a long day.

Iowa homecoming for Stoops -- Arizona head coach Mike Stoops returns to his alma mater with a pretty decent Wildcats team. The Iowa faithful undoubtedly will welcome the former All-Big Ten safety, but Stoops hopes to ruin their afternoon. Wildcats running back Nic Grigsby, the nation's second leading rusher, will match up against a Hawkeyes defense coming off a very impressive performance against Iowa State.

Buckeyes, Rockets clash in Cleveland -- What looked like a total mismatch before the season has spawned some more intriguing plotlines. Ohio State comes off a crushing loss to USC and needs to spark Terrelle Pryor and the offense against a Toledo team that has allowed 90 points in two games. If the Buckeyes can't score against this team, start to get concerned. Toledo, meanwhile, is riding high after thumping Colorado and boasts a dangerous quarterback in Aaron Opelt. Plus, head coaches Jim Tressel and Tim Beckman grew up together. And the game will be played at Cleveland Browns Stadium. I'm actually excited for this one.

Penn State ready to run -- The run game has been grounded so far in Happy Valley, and Penn State needs to get things corrected against Temple. Penn State boasts the Big Ten's best all-around back in Evan Royster, but the new faces on the offensive line have struggled a bit. The Lions can't afford to be one-dimensional when Iowa comes to town Sept. 26, so they need to spark Royster, Stephfon Green and the ground game right away.

Wildcats aim for Syracuse sweep -- The Big Ten is 2-0 against Syracuse this season, though the Orange have been a tougher opponent than many had expected. Northwestern barely squeaked by Eastern Michigan last week and needs a better performance from its defense against Greg Paulus and the Cuse. It's a critical game for the Wildcats, who need quarterback Mike Kafka to be a playmaker and defensive end Corey Wootton to return to the form he showed in 2008.

Wolverines reunite with English -- Michigan's veteran defenders face their former coordinator Ron English, who brings his Eastern Michigan team to the Big House. Players like safety Troy Woolfolk haven't forgotten English's intense style, and they'll look to impress him on Saturday. Michigan must guard against a letdown after an impressive start. Eastern Michigan showed last week that it doesn't quit, and the Wolverines need to maintain their focus to match their wins total from 2008.

Purdue's Bolden rolls along -- If you haven't watched Purdue running back Ralph Bolden yet, tune in to Saturday's game against Northern Illinois. The nation's leading rusher has been spectacular so far, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Purdue has been a surprise team so far in the Big Ten, and the Boilers aim for a 2-1 start against a pretty decent Huskies team that gave Wisconsin all it could handle two weeks ago.

Indiana's defense hits the road -- Make no mistake. Indiana's trip to Akron is huge for Bill Lynch and the Hoosiers. IU hasn't been dominating so far, but it has found ways to win thanks to a veteran-laden defense. The Hoosiers need defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton to apply pressure on Akron quarterback Chris Jacquemain, who has already thrown four touchdown passes to Deryn Bowser this year. If Indiana wants to make any sort of run in 2009, Akron is a must win.

Clay in the starting blocks -- Wisconsin's matchup against Wofford doesn't exactly get the blood flowing, but it's worth watching sophomore running back John Clay make his first career start for the Badgers. Clay has the tools to become a superstar, but he didn't claim the starting job in preseason camp and has struggled with his weight in the past. He comes off a very impressive performance against Fresno State and might establish himself as Wisconsin's top back with a strong showing against Wofford.

Big Ten lunch links

September, 15, 2009
9/15/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Follow me on Twitter during the Big Ten coaches teleconference, which begins right now.

Please begin reading.

A quick look at Week 3 in the Big Ten

September, 14, 2009
9/14/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


After a Saturday showcase in which the nation's two most significant games involved Big Ten teams, the Week 3 slate is a bit of a letdown. Still, there are several interesting matchups and games that can help the league improve its national reputation.

Here's a quick snapshot.

Eastern Michigan (0-2) at Michigan (2-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET

Back in the national rankings and the national spotlight, Michigan tries to keep the momentum going against Eastern Michigan. Several veteran Wolverines defenders will be reunited with former coordinator Ron English, who's in his first year at the helm of the Eagles. Eastern Michigan gave Northwestern all it could handle and looks improved on offense behind quarterback Andy Schmitt. The Wolverines' defense aims for a better showing after struggling to contain Notre Dame's receiving threats.

Temple (0-1) at Penn State (2-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET

The Lions will have no trouble winning this game, but they want to be nearing their peak before Iowa visits Happy Valley on Sept. 26. That means better play from the offensive line and more consistent production from Evan Royster and the running backs. Penn State's defense should shut down a Temple team that lost to Villanova in Week 1, but the Lions' offense needs to diversify before Big Ten play kicks off. Linebacker Navorro Bowman (groin) could miss his second straight game.

(Read full post)


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


The Big Ten went 10-1 in Week 1, though several teams looked unimpressive in victory and Illinois looked like a mess in defeat. The level of competition jumps up in Week 2, as the league has several chances to distinguish itself on the national stage.

Here's a quick look at what's on tap:

Syracuse (0-1) at Penn State (1-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET

Orange quarterback Greg Paulus exceeded expectations in the season opener, making several big plays against Minnesota before tossing a costly interception in overtime. He could be in for a rude awakening against Penn State, which recorded 13 tackles for loss and four sacks Saturday against Akron. The Lions' defensive front hasn't missed a beat, but Joe Paterno wants to see better play from his offensive line against Syracuse.

Eastern Michigan (0-1) at Northwestern (1-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET

Barely tested in Week 1, Northwestern should once again have little trouble this week against Eastern Michigan, which comes off a 27-14 home loss to Army. Ron English's team really struggled to defend the run, and Northwestern will try to spark its ground game with multiple backs. The competition will get much tougher for Northwestern in the coming weeks, but these games are important to build confidence and continuity on offense. Pat Fitzgerald also wants a more dominant performance from his defense, which didn't generate much of a pass rush against Towson.

Western Michigan (0-1) at Indiana (1-0), Big Ten Network, noon ET

Both teams struggled in their openers, though Indiana made enough plays on defense to escape with a win. The Hoosiers will need an even better performance from their defenders as they face veteran Broncos quarterback Tim Hiller. Hiller couldn't possibly play much worse than he did against Michigan, and it will be important for Indiana defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton to provide a heavy dose of pressure, much like the Wolverines did on Saturday.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In a move that will delight the Mid-American Conference and could draw mixed reviews from Spartan Nation, Michigan State has reached a long-term scheduling agreement with the three MAC schools located within state lines -- Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. 

Billed as the Celebrate the State Football Series, Michigan State will play 12 games against the directional Michigan schools during the next 10 years.

The agreement includes road contests against each MAC team, beginning in 2012 with a trip to Central Michigan. The Spartans have never visited Central Michigan or Western Michigan and last played a MAC team on the road in 1899. 

"I'm not sure if there's another school in the country or another conference in the country taking this approach," Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard said.

There are obvious financial gains for the MAC schools in this deal, and while Michigan State could draw some criticism, the Spartans aren't shying away from the big boys. Michigan State will continue its series with Notre Dame and play both Alabama and West Virginia in the coming years.  

There will be some heat for playing the MAC, but almost every Big Ten school does it and both Central Michigan and Western Michigan are respectable programs, while Eastern Michigan is starting fresh under coach Ron English. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

As the last line of defense, Michigan's cornerbacks and safeties have a heightened sense of accountability. 

There will be times this fall when Donovan Warren or one of his secondary mates either must make a play or watch six points go up on the scoreboard. But first-year defensive coordinator Greg Robinson has crafted a scheme that minimizes the plays when a defensive back gets left alone on an island. 

After a season when Michigan's defense often felt deserted, it's a welcome change for Warren. 

"Coach Robinson's all about playing to your help and not just playing your game alone," Warren said. "You have to play to your help. That's what defense is all about."

Warren, a true junior who enters his third season as a starter, will be playing in his third defensive scheme this fall. Fortunately, Robinson's system reminds him of the one employed by former coordinator and current Eastern Michigan coach Ron English, who remains very popular with veteran Wolverines defenders.

Like the rest of the team, Michigan's back four struggled last season, finishing ninth in the league in both pass defense (230 ypg) and interceptions (nine). Warren is one of the Big Ten's most-experienced cornerbacks, but he'll be surrounded by youth this fall. Michigan loses corner Morgan Trent and safety Brandon Harrison, and safety Stevie Brown has moved down to linebacker this fall.

"We have a lot of unproven guys and guys that haven't been on the field," Warren said.

If Robinson's system works correctly, Michigan's young players won't be feeling green too often.

"It's using your leverage and knowing where your help is and what guys can do to you in certain situations," Warren said. "Coach Robinson, he breaks it down so much more mentally, so you know what to expect." 

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