Big Ten: Sun Belt
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Tuesday blog was a little Buckeye heavy -- apparently they have a big game this week -- so it's time to see what else happened around the league. Let's see ... bad news at Minnesota, no news at Penn State.
- Like it or not, Ohio State is carrying the Big Ten flag this weekend, though other teams also need to step up, Dave Curtis writes in The Sporting News.
- Defensive lineman Will Davis is pulling double duty for Illinois, and freshman Cory Liuget will have a big role soon up front, Stu Durando writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Illinois' opponent this week, Louisiana-Lafayette, has more important things than football on its mind, Herb Gould writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- After a strong performance against Murray State, Indiana's Marcus Thigpen wants the Hoosiers' running backs to have a greater role, Brian Hedger writes in the Gary Post-Tribune.
- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is just 3-6 against rival Iowa State, and he's well aware of the missed opportunities, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Iowa is getting healthy for Saturday, especially in the passing game, Pat Harty writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
- Michigan's defense has the experience -- and now the speed -- to carry the load while the offense transitions, Brian Hamilton writes in the Chicago Tribune. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis dropped in on Rich Rodriguez last year to learn about the spread offense, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Weis also said his "To hell with Michigan" comment was an homage to Bo. Whatever you say, coach.
- A lot of tough talk from Florida Atlantic this season. After coach Howard Schnellenberger dissed Texas, kick returner Jeff Blanchard, reportedly, had this to say about Michigan State: "We will score a lot against them, trust me." I didn't realize winning the Sun Belt was license to pop off. At least Spartans coach Mark Dantonio is taking a rational approach to the game, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- A season-ending injury to running back Duane Bennett and injuries to two starting offensive linemen will test undefeated Minnesota, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune. Here's a good look at the three men trying to replace Bennett, courtesy of Marcus Fuller in the Star Tribune.
- Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher is focused on limiting turnovers, even if his completion percentage suffers, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. The Wildcats need fewer dropped passes and more from defensive tackle John Gill, but the secondary finally looks solid, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald.
- A heavily criticized Ohio State team has an opportunity to change things Saturday, Pete Thamel writes in The New York Times. Many give the loser of Saturday's game an outside chance to still reach the BCS title game, but after back-to-back failures, Ohio State knows it needs to be perfect, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune. Jim Tressel in a Tommy Bahama? Pete Carroll in a sweater vest? Here's a great piece on the differences between the two coaches from The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises.
- Penn State's defensive line continues to be in flux, Frank Bodani writes in The York Daily Record. ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel and others weigh in on the impact of Penn State's most recent disciplinary lapse, John Ross writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Some funny lines from Purdue coach Joe Tiller about the Oregon matchup, though linebacker Jason Werner's latest back injury is no laughing matter, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier.
- All-America tight end Travis Beckum can't wait to make his season debut for Wisconsin at Fresno State, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Badgers linebacker Jaevery McFadden clouds mistakes with top-end speed, Mike Lucas writes in The Capital Times.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Most college football fans have some knowledge of Missouri, Cal, Utah, Syracuse, Northern Illinois and maybe even Akron (hey, Jason Taylor played there). But seriously, does anyone know what a Chanticleer is? Put your hands down, liars.
It's time to take a closer look at some of Big Ten's lesser-known opponents for Week 1. Learning about these far-flung teams is one of the fun parts about the nonconference schedule. It's a bit like the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament, except these games are never played on neutral sites. But as Michigan found out last year against Appalachian State, not all these teams are showing up just for a hefty check.
Here's the skinny on the squads visiting State College, Iowa City, Bloomington and Columbus on Saturday.
COASTAL CAROLINA CHANTICLEERS (at Penn State)
- Location: Conway, S.C. (15 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach)
- Enrollment: 7,872 as of fall 2007
- Football coach: David Bennett (39-17, sixth year at CC; 102-34, 13th year overall)
- Conference: Big South (Football Championship Subdivision)
- 2007 record : 5-6
- Fun fact: According to the Coastal Carolina football media guide, the nickname Chanticleer comes from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (I wonder if it's required reading for football players). "A Chanticleer is a rooster who rules the barnyard with cunning and wit. His competitiveness never wanes as he battles to the end, using his brains to come out on top every time." Somehow I don't think their brains will help them against Penn State. Coastal Carolina athletic director Moose Koegel was a co-captain for Penn State's football team under Paterno in 1970.
MAINE BLACK BEARS (at Iowa)
- Location: Orono, Maine (125 miles northeast of Portland)
- Enrollment: 8,777 as of fall 2007
- Football coach: Jack Cosgrove (80-90, 16th season at Maine)
- Conference: Colonial (Football Championship Subdivision)
- 2007 record : 4-7
- Fun fact(s): Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz served in the same role at Maine from 1990-92, finishing with a record of 12-21 (Cosgrove was his offensive coordinator). The Black Bears beat Mississippi State in 2004 and face a Division I-A opponent for the fifth straight year. Author Stephen King is among Maine's famous alumni. The Black Bears had seven players on NFL rosters last season, the most among FCS schools.
WESTERN KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS (at Indiana)
- Location: Bowling Green, Ky. (110 miles south of Louisville)
- Enrollment: 19,215
- Football coach: David Elson (37-22, sixth year at WKU and overall)
- Conference: Independent
- 2007 record : 7-5
- Fun fact(s): The Hilltoppers are in their final year as a Division I-A independent before joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2009. They won the 2002 FCS national championship under coach Jack Harbaugh, the father of Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, and have 12 straight winning seasons. Famous alums include Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel and former Minnesota basketball coach Clem Haskins. The 2008 schedule includes 10 Division I-A opponents this fall. And Elson can wield a sledgehammer. Both Elson and Indiana coach Bill Lynch attended Butler.
YOUNGSTOWN STATE PENGUINS (at Ohio State)
- Location: Youngstown, Ohio (70 miles southeast of Cleveland)
- Enrollment: 13,497 as of fall 2007
- Football coach: Jon Heacock (50-31, eighth year at YSU at overall)
- Conference: Missouri Valley (Football Championship Subdivision)
- 2007 record : 7-4
- Fun fact(s): Youngstown is a tradition-rich program with four FCS national championships, 25 FCS playoff victories and six appearances in the title game. Heacock succeeded Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and is the younger brother of Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Heacock. The Penguins have sent 21 players to the NFL, including quarterback Ron Jaworski and kickers Paul McFadden and Jeff Wilkins. Other notable alumni include Kansas coach Mark Mangino, actor Ed O'Neill and ABCD All-America basketball camp founder Sonny Vaccaro.