Big Ten: Texas A&M Aggies

Video: Teams set to jump to elite level

March, 15, 2013

Michele Steele and Ivan Maisel go over a trio of teams ready to make the jump to Alabama's heights.

Big Ten mailbag

January, 1, 2013
Happy New Year! Let's get to those final pre-bowl questions.

Zach from Pittsburgh writes: Adam, got coaching carousel question, a.k.a by the time you get to this, it may be irrelevant, but here it goes. Every ESPN analyst is using the fact that Bill O'Brien was told by PSU officials that the Sandusky Scandal would not incur and NCAA punishment as a reason for leaving Penn State for the NFL next year. If this is the case, then why did O'Brien sign a contract extension keeping him in Happy Valley until 2020 after the sanctions came out in July?

Adam Rittenberg: Because he wanted as much job security as possible after the sanctions came down. O'Brien knew Penn State could be in for a long rebuilding phase because of the length and severity of the sanctions. As a first-year coach, he wanted to ensure he would have enough time to ride out the sanctions and eventually get the program on solid footing. O'Brien used the sanctions for leverage, which is smart in that situation. He didn't know he'd have so much success and be on the NFL coaching radar right now. As a coach, you have to think about the job you're in and how much time you have to get things right.

Chris from Chicago writes: I have a question on coaching stability. At Northwestern (where Jerry Brown has kept his job despite some fans incredulity over the years), the stability in the coaching staff is probably a good thing each year for recruiting, system, etc....but does it hurt come bowl time? I mean, Mississippi State has Tim Brewster (who knows Northwestern from his time at Minnesota) and a former NU grad assistant on staff....while Northwestern's guys have all been at NU for a long time. Is there some minimal amount of staff turnover that might be a GOOD thing?

Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Chris. Typically, coaching staffs that have greater continuity are better off than ones that don't. And given how much movement there is in the business, coaches are going to know one another well in almost every game, if they've worked together in the past. Brewster's knowledge of Northwestern could help a little, although his Minnesota teams never beat the Wildcats. It's up to Northwestern's staff to ensure calls have changed enough so they don't tip their hand in the game. But in general, I've seen staffs that lack continuity have way more problems than ones that don't. Coaches should be held accountable every year, and changes must be made when needed. But as a rule, continuity is good.

P.K.G. from Kuwait City, Kuwait, writes: Hey Adam, Love the blog! Had a question regarding expansion for ya. Two teams left to go. Why isn't anyone talking about T-A&M...... I know, I know, they are in the SEC. But just hear me out here: they are part of the AAU, bring a huge market in texas, have other amazing teams other than just football and good in academics as well (from the 'south' as well). Now, once the TV deals for the B1G are negotiated, which I'm guessing is going to be huge, cant Delany at least try/consider them for entry into the league? I know no one would want to leave the SEC because they get paid a lot too, but joining the B1G after the negotiations could spell HUGE amounts of money per school. Also, they will have a relatively easier path to the NC Game as opposed to in the SEC. So, all this along with the academic prestige that tags along with our conference, why shouldn't we consider T-A?

Adam Rittenberg: P.K.G., you kind of answer your own question here. Texas A&M wouldn't want to leave the SEC because the money there is pretty darn good, too. Other than maybe Missouri, which you could argue fits in with the Big Ten better than the SEC, I really couldn't see any SEC teams leaving a good situation there, even if it's for another good situation in the Big Ten. It's why the realistic expansion targets to me are all outside the two big-money leagues (SEC and Big Ten). You have to look at the ACC because of the financial differentials (current and future) with the Big Ten/SEC. We'll see if the Big 12 survives, and things certainly look better there under Bob Bowlsby's leadership. But there's the potential to have the Big Ten and SEC at one level money-wise and everyone else earning a lot less.

Hines from Fairfax, Va., writes: Hi Adam, don't care for your blog in the least but I want your opinion on something. Bill O'Brien is getting alot of credit for PSU's success this year, rightfully so given the obvious adversity he had to deal with in addition to being solely a football coach. My question deals with the attention he is getting from the NFL now. Sure, he guided PSU to an 8-4 record and made the offense go, but let's face it, the cupboard was far from bare. I would have to say that those of us who follow PSU closely are not majorly suprised about where we finished the season in the big10 ranks, given the remaining talent. Is this attention warranted at this point based only on his coaching skills, because I am pretty sure NFL owners don't give a huge crap about his PR abilities as much as wins and losses. I personally think in two more years we will have a much better gauge as to what kind of 'football coach' we have. Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the love, Hines. Happy New Year, bud. I agree with you about Penn State's cupboard being far from bare this season. O'Brien inherited an excellent senior class that included several future NFL defenders and an offensive line anchor in center Matt Stankiewitch. But O'Brien deserves all the credit he gets for transforming Matt McGloin into one of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks and modernizing a Penn State offense that had grown extremely stale under the previous staff. I honestly didn't know how Penn State was going to score points this year after Silas Redd and Justin Brown both transferred in the summer. O'Brien took that offense to another level. But he still has been a head coach for only a year. The problem is it might be tough to gauge him next season as the sanctions really start to impact Penn State's roster. The guy can coach -- we saw that this year. But I agree that a few more years would let us know more about O'Brien's potential both at Penn State and in the NFL.

Gabriel from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: Will the Wolverines have a Lloyd Carr-esque offensive style next year so that Gardner and Shane Morris can operate in the way that Chad Henne did?

Adam Rittenberg: Gabriel, Michigan's 2013 offense under Al Borges will look a lot more like the ones the Wolverines ran during Carr's tenure. Borges had to adjust his system because of Denard Robinson's skill set and background in the spread, but he's undoubtedly a pro-style guy who wants to run a pure pro-style system as soon as possible. Gardner should allow Borges to do that, and if Gardner performs well enough, Michigan won't have to use Morris as a true freshman.

Beth from Lino Lakes, Minn., writes: Hi Adam!Happy bowl week!As I listen to my Gophers destroy the Boston College hockey team this evening, a thought occurs to me. Do you think there's any chance the B1G might try to add Boston College? They don't add much for football (but neither does Rutgers or Maryland). What they so add is a new TV market, good academics, and great hockey. The B1G launches their hockey conference next season...could this be a fit for our inevitable 15th/16th school?

Adam Rittenberg: Happy bowl week, Beth! The Big Ten can't make hockey a top priority in expansion, even with the new hockey league coming soon. Is Boston College as a whole a good addition? Meh. My concern is that college sports really don't matter in the Boston market, even less so than they do in New York/New Jersey or Washington D.C. I remember covering Boston College's undefeated basketball team against Notre Dame during the 2004-05 season, and then Eagles coach Al Skinner talking about how the team was basically an afterthought in the market. The other question is demographics. Is the population growing in Boston like it is in the southeast? No. Is Boston as strong of a recruiting area as potential ACC markets like Atlanta and Raleigh/Durham? No. So while it would be great to have Boston College hockey in the Big Ten, I'm lukewarm on the addition as a whole.
Michigan State has made strides on the field toward becoming a nationally elite program.

The school took another step Friday night in ensuring Pat Narduzzi remains as defensive coordinator.

Texas A&M pursued Narduzzi for its defensive coordinator position and reportedly made a very lucrative offer. Narduzzi visited College Station and toured the facilities Thursday. But he has decided to remain with Michigan State, the team announced Friday.
"When provided a professional opportunity like Texas A&M, I owed it to my family to investigate it because my first obligation is to take care of my wife and children," Narduzzi said in a prepared statement. "The bottom line remains; however, that I'm very comfortable working for Mark Dantonio and Michigan State. The support from the top down is tremendous. Coach Dantonio, athletics director Mark Hollis, President [Lou Anna] Simon and our Board of Trustees have been very supportive and understanding as I've gone through this decision-making process, and I'm thankful for their patience. I share the same feelings that our players and coaches have that there’s some unfinished business to take care of here. We're all driven to win the Big Ten Championship and win a Rose Bowl."

Narduzzi coordinated a defense that ranks fifth nationally in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed.
"Prior to Texas A&M aggressively pursuing Pat Narduzzi, Mark Hollis had already identified the financial resources to make sure that not only Pat, but all of our assistant coaches, had salaries that are competitive in the Big Ten," Dantonio said in a statement. "We understand that our continued success will provide professional opportunities for our student-athletes and coaches alike. There's no doubt that Pat will be a head coach sometime soon, but for now, we’re excited that he remains a Spartan as we continue our pursuit of another Big Ten Championship and our first trip to the Rose Bowl."

As Dantonio notes, Narduzzi soon will land a head-coaching position, but until that point, he'll likely remain with Michigan State. This is a key step for Michigan State to keep its momentum and keep pushing forward as a new power in the Big Ten.

There was a bit of bad news for Michigan State, as running back Edwin Baker told the Associated Press that he's skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft. Baker had a big year in 2010, rushing for 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns, but he slipped behind Le'Veon Bell on the depth chart this fall.

Bell likely will be the team's primary ball carrier in 2012, although Baker could have been a big part of the offense as well.

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

December, 4, 2011
Texas A&M (6-6) vs. Northwestern (6-6)

Dec. 31, noon ET (ESPN)

Texas A&M take from Big 12 blogger David Ubben: The Aggies are in a state of turmoil. They have no coach and the players are understandably shaken up about it. Mike Sherman was loved around College Station, and his super classy exit press conference showed all the reasons why. Ultimately, Texas A&M's much-ballyhooed second-half failures ended Sherman's tenure as the head Aggie. The numbers are well-known by now, but still staggering. They tell the story of how a preseason top 10 team with as much talent as any in the Big 12 ends up at 6-6. Five halftime leads of double digits and another by nine against rival Texas. All were losses.

That doesn't change the talent on the field. Running back Cyrus Gray will likely return from injury, as will quarterback Ryan Tannehill with top targets Ryan Swope and Jeff Fuller. They'll play with an offensive line that has some legit NFL talent, a credit to Sherman's recruiting acumen as a coach with an offensive line background. Texas A&M is already assured of leaving the Big 12 with a bitter taste en route to the SEC next season, but a bowl win might help ... if only a little bit.

Northwestern take from Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern will play in a bowl for a team-record fourth consecutive year, but the Wildcats are still looking for that elusive postseason win after a disappointing 2011 campaign.

As players and coaches often are reminded, Northwestern hasn’t won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose. The Wildcats have come close the past three seasons, particularly in the 2010 Outback Bowl, but they’ve fallen short each time. While Texas A&M’s motivation might be a question mark after its recent coaching change, Northwestern will be geared up.

The good news is that unlike last year, Northwestern will have top quarterback Dan Persa on the field for its bowl. Although Persa didn’t look nearly as dominant this season as he did in 2010, he still led the Big Ten in passing (240.3 ypg) and completed 74.2 percent of his passes with 17 touchdown strikes and seven interceptions. Persa and the offense will need to put up points as Northwestern’s defense has struggled mightily this season and in the recent bowl losses. The Wildcats will be without top cornerback Jordan Mabin against Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill and his talented group of receivers.

This will be a virtual road game for Northwestern in Houston, as Texas A&M fans will pack Reliant Stadium. But Pat Fitzgerald’s teams often play better on the road than at home, as they are 14-8 on the road since the start of the 2008 season.
Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez said Texas isn't among the 15 schools included in an initial report by a search firm helping the Big Ten with its expansion study.

Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds recently told The Oklahoma's Berry Tramel that "something drastic" would need to happen for Texas to leave the Big 12.

So the Big Ten-Texas talk is dying down, right?

Not so fast, my friends.

Washington athletic director Steve Woodward shared this interesting tidbit over the weekend with The Seattle Times (scroll down to the bottom).
Woodward also talked about expansion and said the Pac-10 and the Big Ten have reached out to officials at Texas and Texas A&M. "I'd be surprised if our office is not in contact with them," he said. "I'm sure those conversations have happened and are taking place."

When asked if the league might expand beyond two teams, Woodward said that's a possibility. "It could be two, four or a merger of Big 12. ... There's a theory that at the end of the day there's only going to be four super conferences. Now that it's going to look like, God only knows."

Though phrases like "I'd be surprised" don't sound overly concrete, it's interesting that Woodward mentioned both Texas and Texas A&M. It's unlikely the Texas legislature would let Texas go without A&M being part of the package.

Could the Big Ten and Pac-10 get into a bidding war over the Texas schools? Nothing against the Pac-10, but from a revenue and media rights perspective, it doesn't compete with what the Big Ten has to offer.

In the end, I don't think Texas and Texas A&M will leave the Big 12. But as I've written before, it would be silly for the Big Ten to not at least gauge the interest. And if Woodward is to be believed, the talk about Texas as an expansion candidate isn't going away.

Penn State turns to Clark at QB

August, 26, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

  AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
  Senior Daryll Clark has been named the Penn State starting quarterback.

After listing two possible starters at quarterback on Penn State's Week 1 depth chart, coach Joe Paterno made his decision and tabbed senior Daryll Clark to lead the Nittany Lions offense against Coastal Carolina. Clark had been expected to get the starting nod over sophomore Pat Devlin, mostly because of his experience last season as Anthony Morelli's backup.

The 6-2, 231-pound Clark turned in an impressive performance in the Alamo Bowl, helping rally Penn State to a win against Texas A&M. His combination of size and speed seems to fit Penn State's new offense, the Spread HD, but Paterno doesn't discount Clark's ability as a passer, which will be key as the Lions return three senior wide receivers.

"He's a good all-around quarterback," Paterno said on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. "People think he's a runner. He's a good thrower. Smart kid, good leader."

Paterno reiterated that both Devlin and third-stringer Paul Cianciolo remain in the mix and that more than one quarterback could see the field this fall. It will be interesting to see what happens to Devlin, a highly touted prep quarterback who reneged on a verbal commitment to Miami to play for his home state school. Clark is on pace to earn a fifth season of eligibility in 2009, while Devlin has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Devlin still should see the field a decent amount this fall, and Paterno downplayed the belief that Clark's skills fit the offense better than the other candidates.

"The system's got to fit the quarterback," Paterno said. "You've got a quarterback and we have three, and you can't put a system in for one quarterback because he could go down halfway through the first quarter or the first game, so you put in something they all can do without being a strain."

Clark appeared in eight games last season, completing 6 of 9 passes for 31 yards. Though Paterno said he named a starter to prevent Clark from looking over his shoulder, the junior doesn't appear to lack any confidence and has the demeanor to command respect right away.

"They're all bright as can be, but I had to make a pick and Clark right now is the best of the three," Paterno said. "But the other two guys will be pushing."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Many don't know what to make of the Spread HD, the futuristic-sounding, somewhat mysterious offense Penn State will run this fall.

Will the Nittany Lions line up four wide every time? How much read option will they use? Will running backs Evan Royster and Stephfon Green be on the field at the same time? How will the new starting quarterback -- Daryll Clark or Pat Devlin -- impact the system?

Penn State senior center A.Q. Shipley has an easy solution for the confused masses. Pop in a DVD of the 2005 season, one that ended with an Orange Bowl victory.

"It's going to be very similar to '05," Shipley said. "You'll see a lot of similarities in the way Daryll plays in relation to Michael Robinson. From an offensive line perspective, I don't think it plays too much of a difference in what we do, but in terms of receivers, running backs and the whole scheme of things, it's going to be a lot like 2005, spreading it out."

Clark took most of the reps with the first team in spring practice and enters training camp with a slight edge over Devlin. He has only 36 career pass attempts but played a big role in rallying Penn State to an Alamo Bowl victory against Texas A&M last December.

Though comparisons to Robinson are a bit premature, Clark has already established a presence in the huddle.

"He plays with a lot of swagger," Shipley said. "Even though he hasn't played too many downs, when he has, when he comes in, he does a great job, commands respect, commands the huddle. He's never settled for being the second-string quarterback. As a quarterback, you need to have him as a leader. Regardless of if he has the title of captain or not, he's going to be every bit the leader as the rest of us."

Penn State was run-heavy in 2005, finishing 14th nationally in rushing offense (212.8 ypg). Robinson led the way, winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors, and running back Tony Hunt added 1,047 rushing yards.

Clark has the versatility needed to run the system, and Green's explosiveness gives the spread a new element.

"If you can get Stephfon to the outside, it's game over," Shipley said. "We're excited about both of those guys."