Ten teams down, four left standing in the annual Big Ten blog March tournament. This year we’re letting the people decide the best campus to visit on a Saturday in the fall.

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Which game day setting is the best?

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    22%

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    35%

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    12%

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    31%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,162)

Like the NCAA Tournament, we’re down to four competitors -- Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Nebraska. Instead of making you wait a whole week to decide a winner, we’re going to settle things today. Inspired by last weekend’s Wrestlemania, we’re finishing this year’s bracket with a Royal Rumble style vote. Choose between one of the four remaining options today to decide this year’s tournament winner and the best game day scene in the conference.

Before we get started, a quick review of how we arrived at the final four schools. Here are the results from last week’s Elite Eight round.

No. 1 Ohio State def. No. 9 Minnesota

The plucky Golden Gophers put up a good fight, but were no match for the Horseshoe. Minnesota won the loyalty of a few states in its region and the iconoclasts in Vermont -- perhaps bonding thanks to their long, cold winters. The rest of the world (69 percent of total voters) would prefer a trip to Columbus, where the football is the main attraction but there is plenty more to enjoy during a weekend trip.

No. 2 Penn State def. No. 7 Michigan State

Penn State continued a chalky second round in the tournament. The Nittany Lions secured 75 percent of the votes in this run-off against the overmatched Spartans. There might not be as much going on in central Pennsylvania on 350-plus days per year, but on a football weekend it scores a resounding victory over East Lansing. Now can Penn State pull an upset and take down the Buckeyes in our battle royale?

No. 3 Wisconsin def. No. 6 Iowa

The closest battle of this year’s tournament so far goes to the Badgers with 60 percent of the vote. Iowa and the folks at Kinnick Stadium put up a good fight. They won the vote in their home state and three neighboring states -- Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. Most of the rest of the country preferred “Jump Around” to the famous pink visitor’s locker room. Bucky Badger is on to the final round.

No. 4 Nebraska def. No. 5 Michigan

The most popular match-up in our second round goes to Nebraska. Big Red showed up in droves to win decisively against the Big House. Nearly 13,000 voters weighed in, but Michigan and Delaware were the only two states where more fans picked the Wolverines. Apparently the Tunnel Walk gets the blood boiling a little bit faster than touching the banner. The Cornhuskers will be underdogs in our final round.

That leaves us with four competitors to decide our champion. Get your votes in by midnight on Tuesday to help decide a winner. And in case you need a quick refresher, our descriptions of each campus on game day are listed below.

Ohio State: The reigning Big Ten and national champion Buckeyes play in one of most iconic and recognizable settings in all of sports. Ohio Stadium, expanded by 2,500 seats last year to an official capacity of 104,944, ranking as the fourth-largest on campus facility in the nation. The Michigan game last season drew a record crowd of 108,610. More than 36 million fans have attended Ohio State games at the Horseshoe, which is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. Situated on the banks of the Olentangy River, the stadium is known for its unique design and close proximity of fans to the field. The Rolling Stones played at the venue in 1997 and might come back this year. What else do you need to know? From the Ramp Entrance to the Buckeye Battle Cry, this place is uniquely O-H-I-O. Oh, and nowhere else can boast this awesome tradition.

Penn State: Beaver Stadium truly turns into its own city during game days. RVs and other tailgaters take up what seem like miles of terrain as Nittany Lions fans flock from all over to see their favorite team. More than 100,000 fans regularly pack the place and make things very uncomfortable for opposing teams. Night games and white-outs are especially impressive scenes. Penn State has one of the largest and most engaged student sections you'll find anywhere, and chants of "We Are!" will ring in your ears coming into and out of the stadium. A picturesque setting and a charming college town also enhance the environment. The only real drawback is getting into and out of State College in a timely fashion. Then again, why are you in such a hurry to leave?

Wisconsin: Where to begin? The bratwursts are big, the crowds are loud, and the atmosphere is electric. The marching band performs a pregame concert at Union South -- listen for "On Wisconsin" -- an hour before every game. Regent Street/Breese Terrace are packed with fans and bars blaring House of Pain before and after the game, and the entire downtown takes on a football flavor. Inside Camp Randall, the excitement really picks up. The most famous tradition is "Jump Around," when the song sends the entire stadium rocking between the third and fourth quarters. But there’s also the wave, singing along to "Build Me Up Buttercup," and remaining seated after the game listen to the marching band perform once more. And after all that? It’s time to take that energy back downtown to continue the party.

Nebraska: The game-day experience starts Friday evening at Misty’s, where local and opposing fans gather to hear the Nebraska marching band, eat prime rib and put down a few beverages. That hospitality continues straight through to the final buzzer, when Cornhuskers fans are known to stand and applaud the visiting team, win or lose. Before then, pregame festivities reach a climax during the Husker Power chant as the team prepares for its traditional Tunnel Walk, which is as hair-raising an experience as any Big Ten team has when taking the field. Don’t forget to pack your red balloons. Fans release them in the stadium after Nebraska’s first score.

[+] EnlargeCardale Jones
Ohio State AthleticsCardale Jones led the Buckeyes to a national championship, but he'll have to fight to keep the starting QB job.

Many FBS programs around the country have reached the midpoint of spring practice, including defending national champion Ohio State, where coach Urban Meyer still hasn't picked from among three really good quarterbacks.

Michigan and Syracuse will play their spring games Saturday (we haven't confirmed whether the winning team in Ann Arbor will have to run extra stadium steps), and then glorified scrimmages will begin en masse in the coming weeks.

What have we learned so far? Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State have really interesting quarterback competitions. Texas is going to play faster (and hopefully better) on offense, and "Coach Boom" is already laying the boom on the Plains. New Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh is really popular at his alma mater (but not popular enough to be elected student body president), and USC might have identified another star receiver.

Here's a look at some of the biggest developments in spring practice so far:

1. Meyer is losing sleep

Meyer has a dilemma that a lot of coaches would love to have: He has to choose from among three quarterbacks who have won big in college.


(Read full post)


Top Big Ten spring developments

March, 30, 2015
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The last Big Ten team to open spring practice, Rutgers, gets started Monday. And Michigan, the first to finish, wraps Saturday at the Big House. The practices of February and March have shed light on the offseason direction of programs across the league.

As April approaches, here’s a look at five notable spring developments in the Big Ten:

Jake Rudock nears departure from Iowa: Rudock, the Hawkeyes’ two-year starting quarterback who was demoted behind C.J. Beathard in January, is free to leave Iowa City, with “no strings attached,” according to Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. Scheduled to graduate in May, Rudock visited Michigan this spring and could be eligible, under NCAA rules, to play in 2015, though the Big Ten may pose an obstacle with its intraconference transfer rule. The QB has yet to announce his intention. If he lands in Michigan, he would join an inexperienced group headed by junior Shane Morris; Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone own no college experience.

Harbaugh-mania accelerates: This phenomenon, of course, began long before spring practice. But the excitement that follows Jim Harbaugh at every turn has advanced to a new level since practice opened. While the Michigan workouts have produced few details, the coach continues to generate headlines away from the field -- for his roadside help for two women involved in a rollover car accident to his stint as first-base coach of the Oakland A’s. For his latest trick, Harbaugh finished fourth in U-M’s Central Student Government presidential election -- a post for which he did not run, of course. Needless to say, Harbaugh brings more to the Big Ten than just his coaching acumen.

Pro-style offense takes hold at Nebraska: New coach Mike Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf have introduced a series of foreign concepts during the first half of spring drills. At a school that built its reputation on power offensive football, the new coaching regime will bring much of the scheme that produced strong QB play at Oregon State. Langsdorf, who rejoins Riley after one year with the New York Giants, got a taste this month of the challenge ahead. Nebraska quarterbacks, led by Tommy Armstrong Jr., have been trained to gain yards with their feet as often as their arms. The transition figures to endure a few rocky moments.

Key Spartans missing: Michigan State opened practice last week without running back Delton Williams and receiver Macgarrett Kings Jr. Both are facing legal issues after incidents that occurred in the past month. Coach Mark Dantonio offered little on their status. Neither player is listed on the MSU spring roster. Their standing in the program before next season looms large for Michigan State. Williams was the Spartans’ third-leading rusher as a sophomore in 2014, behind the departed Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill. Kings, as a junior, worked as the top MSU punt returner and accumulated 404 receiving yards as Connor Cook’s third-leading target.

Buckeyes maintain their edge: Complacency ranks as the No. 1 enemy of a defending champion. Through four practices, Ohio State appears on track to stay hungry in the chase to repeat. Plenty of competition for positions exists in Columbus, a factor that figures to drive the Buckeyes through the offseason. Early reports indicate that Gareon Conley and Damon Webb look set to wage a solid battle for the open cornerback position. Two vacant spots on the defensive line also have generated attention. And what’s that, you ask, about the most high-profile battle of all? Nothing much has happened at quarterback, what with Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett held out of most drills while Cardale Jones runs the show. It’ll get intense in August. And Urban Meyer already is feeling the heat.

Jim HarbaughRick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

Jim Harbaugh, full-time football coach at Michigan and part-time first-base coach for the Oakland A's, finally discovered something he couldn't win.

I mean, he didn't try to ... but still.

According to The Michigan Daily, Harbaugh's 115 votes in the Central Student Government election for president added up to 1.26 percent of the vote, falling short of The Defend Affirmative Action Party (765), The Team (4,036) and the winning ticket by a grand total of FIVE votes, Make Michigan (4,041).

Harbaugh, ever the competitor said he was disappointed in his fourth-place finish despite not campaigning at all and not being eligible for a seat in Michigan's student government since 1986. He vowed to do better next year.

But you don't care about that. You care about Harbaugh. Let's let the Daily tell you about the creative ways the football coach landed on various ballots:

Harbaugh received 115 votes for president in total, including 82 votes for "Jim Harbaugh," another 18 simply for "Harbaugh" and four for the joint ticket of "Jim Harbaugh and Diag Squirrel."

Other voters were more creative with their write-in submissions, with the tickets "Jim Harbaugh and Jabrill Peppers," "Jim Harbaugh and His Khakis" and "Jim Harbaugh and Jesus Shuttlesworth" receiving one vote each.

Jesus Shuttlesworth, eh? America, is this the unifying 2016 ticket we've all been waiting for?

Jim Harbaugh, Ray AllenUSA TODAY Sports, NBAE via Getty Images

With spring practices under way, it was a big visit weekend in the Big Ten. A number of programs within the conference had some big visitors on hand, so here is a look at some of the top prospects who were on campus and what a few had to say about the visits.

PENN STATE

The Nittany Lions had a ton of big visitors on campus and that included quite a few 2017 prospects.

Lineman Robert Hainsey was one of those recruits on hand, and Hainsey tweeted a picture of the visit.

Cam Spence was another 2017 target in Happy Valley and he too took to Twitter to show off his experience.

The Nittany Lions also had some 2016 prospects, including Damar Hamlin, Michal Menet and Khaleke Hudson to name a few.

NEBRASKA

The Cornhuskers also had some big visitors on campus in Lincoln. Offensive lineman Nathan Smith was one of the bigger targets on hand and Smith tweeted his thoughts on his time on campus.

OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes picked up a huge commitment in 2016 running back Demario McCall, but the coaches had quite a few other big visitors on hand outside of McCall.

ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Luke Farrell was one of those visitors and Farrell currently holds Ohio State very high on his list.

"It went well," he said. "I liked getting to see practice and I liked how they run the position meetings."

Farrell is still planning some other visits, but wants to decide before his season starts.

One of the more important prospects visiting was Texas quarterback Tristen Wallace, who tweeted out quite a few pictures of the visit and time spent with current Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller.

MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans were yet another Big Ten program with a lot of traffic on campus, including Georgia prospects Isaiah Pryor, Russell Halimon, Korey Banks and Jamyest Williams.

Their time spent with the coaching staff was memorable, especially for Williams, who is a defensive back.

"I was just thinking while Coach [Mark] Dantonio was talking, that he can turn two stars into first-round draft picks, imagine when he gets a four-star athlete and what he could do for me," he said.

Michigan State also had ESPN Jr. 300 receiver Justin Layne in for a visit, and Layne tweeted about his time with the coaches.

Layne got a chance to hang out with ESPN Jr. 300 quarterback Messiah DeWeaver, who took a return trip to see Michigan State. DeWeaver will be deciding at the end of April, so this could be an important visit for Michigan State in that race.

"I was there for a couple days," he said. "I saw the ins and outs of practice and had a great time with the coaches and players."

South Carolina was also well represented in East Lansing with Nick McCloud, Josh Wilkes, Greg Ruff, Quay Brown, Jamari Curren and a few others taking the trip.

MICHIGAN

The Wolverines and Buckeyes had the chance to host one of the biggest visitors of the weekend in ESPN Jr. 300 defensive lineman Rashan Gary as well as a few other New Jersey prospects.

ESPN Jr. 300 receiver Ahmir Mitchell was among that group and tweeted out some pictures from their time at Michigan, including one picture at breakfast with Jim Harbaugh.

Michigan coaches offered 2017 defensive lineman Corey Bolds on the visit, who happens to be teammates with Gary.

Athlete Korey Banks received an offer on his visit to Michigan this weekend, and the Georgia prospect came away very impressed with what the Wolverines have to offer.

"It's a Michigan offer. It's always exciting to get a Michigan offer, especially from coach Jim Harbaugh," Banks said. "Of course I'm going to keep them in the running, they pack 118,000 fans in the Big House. What kid wouldn't love that offer, that's a big achievement for me."

Isaiah Pryor isn’t your typical recruit. He is 6-foot-2 and has offers from some of the biggest programs in the country, but there’s something even more unique about the 2017 Georgia prospect.

Pryor doesn’t have a Twitter account.

He decided that he didn’t have time for it, so he deleted his account. A decision that is rare among kids his age.

“I was a little kid and everyone had one, so I created one. I just didn’t use it, so there’s no point in having it,” he said. “Apparently coaches like that, because I’m staying off social media.”

That’s not the only unique aspect about Pryor, though. He used to play the saxophone, but had to stop because football prevented him from being in the marching band. He also understands that football allows him an opportunity to get the education he desires.

“I want to major in psychology because I’m interested in the human mind and helping people with mental disorders. My mom and dad are nurses and they help people every day, so I just want to be in that field,” he said. “If I have the opportunity to make it to the NFL, I’m definitely going to take it, but I feel like the reason we’re doing all of this is to get an education. After football is over, all you have is your education.”

Pryor has already started to do some research on programs and says Ohio State is a school that has stood out for his major.

With so many offers already, he is going to have a big decision ahead of him. He and a few fellow Georgia recruits took a few visits over the weekend before heading to the Adidas showcase at the EFT football academy in Illinois.

NEW ORLEANS -- When you have some of the best defensive linemen in the nation in attendance at an event like the New Orleans Opening regional, you expect a lot of great one-on-one battles.

And nothing makes for better footage than watching a dominating defensive lineman go to work. Fortunately, high profile prospects like Alabama commitment Raekwon Davis and Edward Oliver did not disappoint at Saturday’s camp.


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Michigan’s cornerbacks will be operating in close quarters this season. The Wolverines want to play a more aggressive defensive scheme in 2015, which means more press coverage in the secondary.

Lining up facemask-to-facemask with opposing wide receivers was common in coordinator D.J. Durkin’s schemes when he was running Florida’s defense the past two seasons. Michigan dabbled in tight coverage in the recent past, but never fully committed to playing that way. This year’s team, says cornerbacks coach Mike Zordich, will make it a fundamental part of what they do. That might come with a few growing pains.

“That’s coach Durkin’s defense,” Zordich said. “We’re totally 100 percent committed. We just have to find the guys that can catch on the fastest and handle the technique the best. … It’s a lot of work. It’s new, a total concept for the defense for these guys that haven’t played it.”

[+] EnlargeD.J. Durkin
AP Photo/Butch DillD.J. Durkin's defense at Florida was built around press man coverage.

The new technique might be a challenge for players who have grown used to operating with a larger cushion during the past few years at Michigan, but they’re excited about the opportunity to do something different. Fifth-year senior Blake Countess said he’s slowly improving his footwork and learning to get his hands on opposing receivers at the line of scrimmage.

“It’s a more aggressive scheme, so we’re definitely going to be pressing,” he said. “We’re going to be up in receivers’ faces. It’s going to be fun.”

Countess is one of three cornerbacks who have separated themselves on the initial depth chart as spring practice winds to a close. Zordich praised Countess’ work ethic. He said returning starter Jourdan Lewis is the most natural press corner on the roster and junior Channing Stribling’s 6-foot-2 frame makes him a strong candidate for playing time as well.

Zordich is open to rotating as many as four or five cornerbacks onto the field on game days as long as the coaching staff believes they can trust all of them equally. The rest of the group in Ann Arbor still has work to do to reach that point, but reinforcements are on the way.

“They’ve been told. The room has been told that there are going to be three guys coming into this secondary,” Zordich said. “They know their backs are against the wall, and we’ve got to see how they handle it.”

Former Stanford starter Wayne Lyons is expected to be on campus this summer and to spend his final year of eligibility with the Wolverines. His 41 games of experience in the Pac-12 should be an immediate boost to Michigan’s depth in the defensive backfield. Freshmen Keith Washington and Tyree Kinnel will also have a chance to compete for spots among the cornerbacks.

Their progress will be monitored by Zordich and safeties coach Greg Jackson, who so far have split the defensive backfield responsibilities equally. In meetings, Zordich takes the cornerbacks and Jackson takes the safeties. At practice, each coach watches half of the field and directs both positions to make sure the unit is working together.

Zordich said the somewhat unorthodox arrangement has worked out well for the first full month of practice. Zordich and Jackson played on the same Philadelphia Eagles defense for two seasons in the 1990s, which he said made it easy to get used to coaching together.

“When I first walked in here and saw him, it was like, ‘Wow, this is crazy,’” Zordich said. “It absolutely helps. Greg and I were both very headsy players – lining people up, directing traffic, telling people where to go. Then to play two years together on a really successful defense, yeah, I think it helps, absolutely.”

Together they are responsible for getting as many cornerbacks as possible ready to play in a new, tougher, riskier defense than in the recent past at Michigan.

We've reached the height of March Madness as another week nears an end, which begs this question: How to best incorporate basketball into the weekly #B1GFridayFive? A wise editor suggested that we scour the Big Ten football rosters for players we'd like to see lace up the sneakers.

This is, by no means, an all-inclusive list. We want your input. Who plays football in the Big Ten but would make a formidable power forward or point guard? Let us know, and use the hashtag #B1GFridayFive. Here are our selections, listed alphabetically:


Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun

Shilique CalhounTim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports 



Really, this choice is all about our desire to see what happens to a poor defender intent to draw a charge on the 6-foot-5, 256-pound Calhoun as he barrels downcourt toward the goal. The two-time All-Big Ten lineman, one of the nation’s most ferocious pass rushers, earned his reputation as a powerful dunker on the hardwood in the New Jersey high school ranks. He received offers in basketball from the likes of Wagner, Monmouth and Lehigh and averaged 17.5 points and 10 rebounds as a senior in 2010-11 at Middletown South. At the Buc Holiday Classic in January 2011, Calhoun was named MVP for his three-game performance, capped by a 38-point outburst in the championship.


Michigan QB Zach Gentry

Zach GentryMax Olson/ESPN



This list needs a quarterback, and we couldn’t find a better option than Michigan's recently signed freshman, who will join the Wolverines this summer. Gentry, arguably the best New Mexico prep quarterback ever, was nearly as good in basketball. He earned all-state honors as a junior at Albuquerque’s Eldorado High School, averaging 19.6 points and 10 rebounds. Even at 6-7, Gentry is an athlete. He rushed for 220 yards in a game last season. Gentry did not play basketball as a senior because of his football plans. He turned down Alabama, among others, to pick Texas last year. But when Jim Harbaugh came calling, Gentry reconsidered, committing to Michigan at, yes, a January basketball game in Ann Arbor.


Purdue DE Gelen Robinson

Gelen RobinsonAP Photo/Michael Conroy 



Maybe this is a stretch. Robinson, admittedly, is not a good basketball player. But come on, his dad, Glenn “Big Dog” Robinson won the Naismith and Wooden awards at Purdue in 1994, averaging more than 30 points per game as a junior. Glenn was the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft and scored more than 20 points per game over 11 seasons. Gelen’s older brother, Glenn Robinson III, plays for the Philadelphia 76ers after a career at Michigan. And Gelen, expected to contend for a starting spot on the defensive line in 2015 after collecting 20 tackles as a true freshman, wears his dad’s No. 13 at Purdue. Gelen also competes in wrestling and throws the shot put at Purdue. He can take on another sport, right?


Ohio State DT Adolphus Washington

Adolphus WashingtonEvan Habeeb/USA TODAY Sports 



Washington is a legitimate basketball talent. He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year in Ohio as a senior at Cincinnati’s Taft High School after averaging 23.1 points and 14.3 rebounds per game. He led the school to the state’s final four and earned a scholarship offer for basketball from Xavier. Washington got serious about football early in his high school career after Cincinnati was the first to offer. Last year, Washington came into his own on the Ohio State line, notching 4.5 sacks. At 6-4, he would surrender several inches in the post, but we’d like to see the 295-pounder battle in the Big Ten paint.


Minnesota TE Nate Wozniak

Nate WozniakAP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack 



How did this happen -- a 6-foot-10 kid from Indiana with soft hands and good feet who gave up basketball? There's no doubt that Wozniak gets mistaken regularly around the Twin Cities for a member of Richard Pitino’s basketball team. He quit the sport, according to reports at the time of his 2013 football commitment to the Golden Gophers, before his senior year of high school to focus on his work as a tight end. Yes, he is the tallest player in the Big Ten, playing behind star Maxx Williams in 2014 as a redshirt freshman. At 267 pounds, Wozniak could eat space and block shots in basketball, if nothing else. Alas, it’s not going to happen.

[+] EnlargeWayne Lyons
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonEx-Stanford cornerback Wayne Lyons is the first, and likely only, former Jim Harbaugh player who is reuniting with his old coach now that he has returned to the college ranks.

Former Stanford cornerback Wayne Lyons will be finishing his career with his old head coach, Jim Harbaugh, at Michigan, Wolverines assistant Mike Zordich said.

Lyons, a Florida native who was recruited to Stanford by Harbaugh when he was in Palo Alto, has been an expected arrival in Ann Arbor since February. He is the first, and likely only, former Harbaugh player who is reuniting with his old coach now that he has returned to the college ranks.

Zordich said the fifth-year transfer was on campus this past weekend and would be joining the team this summer.

"There are three guys coming in in the secondary," Zordich said. "One coming from Stanford and two freshmen."

Zordich said he spent time with Lyons over the weekend and watched his film.

"I think he's the right kind of body, a bigger body ... a lot of length. He's a pretty good corner," Zordich said.


(Read full post)


K.J. Costello picks Stanford

March, 26, 2015
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The quarterback dominoes in the 2016 class continued to fall Thursday, as No. 4 pocket passer K.J. Costello announced his commitment to Stanford.

Costello, the nation's No. 40 overall prospect, had narrowed his choices to Michigan, Stanford and USC in recent weeks, and had been close to making a commitment since the beginning of the month, finally feeling comfortable enough with his final choice to do it Thursday.

This is a significant recruiting win for Stanford, as the Cardinal elected not to take a scholarship quarterback in the 2015 class after missing on top targets Ricky Town and Brandon Wimbush. In the 2016 class, the Cardinal focused all their attention at the position on Costello and did not make an offer to any other signal-caller.

Costello broke onto the scene as a sophomore, throwing for 1,478 yards and 13 touchdowns for Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Coto de Caza, California. His first offer came the following April as Florida State came calling. Costello then raised his game as a junior, passing for 3,123 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Grabbing a commitment from Costello means David Shaw and staff don't have to regroup and begin recruiting other quarterbacks in earnest, and it should give the Cardinal an in-state recruiting bump. Costello is the biggest name at the position in state, and is good friends with ESPN Junior 300 wide receiver and teammate Dylan Crawford, who also holds a Stanford offer.

Cardinal coaches also earn some recruiting bragging rights with the commitment, as Costello's mother attended USC and the 6-foot-4, 216-pound quarterback has said he grew up very familiar with the Trojans' program. Stanford also beat out Michigan, where coach Jim Harbaugh undoubtedly used his success with the Cardinal as a recruiting pitch for the Wolverines.

Costello is commitment No. 2 in the 2016 class for Stanford, joining defensive tackle Bo Peek


(Read full post)


As the NCAA tournament moves to its next round Thursday, so does our Big Ten bracket challenge. This is your opportunity to sound off on the best game settings in the league. Here in March, those autumn afternoons remain a distant dream. But it won’t stop us from wishing for tailgates and touchdowns.

The results are in from the first round. Eight teams remain alive, and it's about to get heated in the quarterfinals with two storied programs battling head-to-head. Kudos to Purdue for what was either voting irregularity or the largest international fanbase in the league, but the commissions met and it was unanimous that Nebraska was moving on anyway to face Michigan. The polls close Monday at 4 p.m.

No. 4 Nebraska vs. No. 5 Michigan

Tournament résumés:

SportsNation

Which game day setting is better?

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    74%

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Discuss (Total votes: 12,832)

Nebraska: The game-day experience starts Friday evening at Misty’s, where local and opposing fans gather to hear the Nebraska marching band, eat prime rib and put down a few beverages. That hospitality continues straight through to the final buzzer, when Husker fans are known to stand and applaud the visiting team, win or lose. Before then, pregame festivities reach a climax during the Husker Power chant as the team prepares for its traditional Tunnel Walk, which is as hair-raising an experience as any Big Ten team has when taking the field. Don’t forget to pack your red balloons. Fans release them in the stadium after Nebraska’s first score in each game.

Michigan: The Big House is massive and claims to have hosted more than 100,000 spectators in every Michigan home game since Nov. 8, 1975. The maize-colored crowd can get the low-slung bowl rocking when the Wolverines are rolling, which hasn’t always been the case in recent years. Critics say the stadium is too quiet for its population, but there are few atmospheres more charged than a night game at Michigan. Late starts will come more frequently in the future. Before the game, the university's nearby golf course fills up with tailgaters, downtown Ann Arbor offers some must-eat restaurants within reasonable walking distance to the stadium, and the front lawns on State Street overflow with students ready to party. Michigan Stadium may have fallen behind its neighbor in Ohio in sheer numbers, but the winningest tradition in college football still knows how to do it in style.

The results are in. The first round of the Best Big Ten game day setting tournament is complete, what did we learn?

First of all, Purdue might be able to solve its attendance woes by building an international airport in West Lafayette (more on that in a minute). Second, there is a pretty significant gap between the haves and have-nots when it comes to entertaining fans on football Saturdays. Every first-round winner captured at least two-thirds of the vote. The next round is likely to be a bit more competitive. Before we get to that, a brief recap:

No. 3 Wisconsin def. No. 14 Indiana

The Badgers haven’t lost to Indiana on the field since 2002. They have controlled the series, reaching a high mark of 83 points against the Hoosiers in their 2010 meeting. The game day atmosphere is equally dominant. Wisconsin took 86 percent of the vote in this contest where 5,471 people weighed in. Even in its home state, Indiana finished with only 33 percent of the vote.

No. 4 Nebraska def. No. 13 Purdue

The Cornhuskers are advancing despite a bit of controversy. Purdue actually won 65 percent of the overall vote, but our crack team of investigators uncovered some trends pointing toward corruption that would make even the city of Chicago blush. More than 12,000 of Purdue’s 14,990 votes came from overseas. We're fairly confident that all of those aren't coming from Anthony Mahoungou's fan club. Nebraska won 49 of 50 states in the U.S. and when international numbers were excluded had a comfortable margin with 70 percent of the vote.

To put it in March Madness terms, some crafty engineers at Purdue found a way to put Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol and Tony Parker in Boilermaker jerseys and sneak them onto the court. Upon further review, the judges have sent Nebraska on to the next round.

No. 5 Michigan def. No. 12 Northwestern

This was no m00n repeat. The Wolverines would have had a clean sweep of the 50 states if not for the apparent diehard Northwestern fan base in Vermont. Michigan and the Big House, with 78 percent of the overall vote, still cruised to an easy victory over Ryan Field in the contest that drew the biggest legitimate crowd (7,377 participants) in the first round.

No. 6 Iowa def. No. 11 Illinois

Kinnick Stadium is a plucky six seed, and could be a good contender to pull of an upset in the next round. Iowa’s product on the field has struggled in the past few years, but the game-day experience had no issues competing with Illinois. The Hawkeyes won 81 percent of the vote. Only Wisconsin registered a more lopsided victory this week.

No. 7 Michigan State def. No. 10 Maryland

The Big Ten newcomers have yet to establish themselves as worthy of a road trip after their first year in the league. Maryland, despite its massive crab-and-cheese-covered pretzels, fell to Spartan Stadium in the 7-10 matchup. Michigan State took 77 percent of the 5,501 votes and moves on to face Penn State in the next round. If Tom Izzo can somehow get involved, the Spartans can be a dangerous seven seed.

No. 9 Minnesota def. 8 No. Rutgers

Our lone upset of the first round belong to Minnesota. Twice as many Gophers fans than Rutgers fans showed up to the polls this week. Rutgers won the Lambert-Meadowlands Trophy this year, which is given to the top college football team in the northeast. They controlled that upper corner of the country in our tournament as well, but the rest of the U.S. would rather eat their Dilly Bars in snowy Minnesota during college football season.

Voting for the Elite Eight contests begins this afternoon. Vote early, vote often, just please don’t ask your thousands of European cousins to vote as well. That skews the results. Here are your matchups for the next round:

1 Ohio State vs. 9 Minnesota

2 Penn State vs. 7 Michigan State

3 Wisconsin vs. 6 Iowa

4 Nebraska vs. 5 Michigan

Unique perks of being a coach

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26
1:34
PM ET
[+] EnlargeSteve Spurrier
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsSouth Carolina's Steve Spurrier has seen incredible growth in college coaches' contracts since his Duke days.

Before the Head Ball Coach moniker had taken hold and before his Hall of Fame coaching career had taken flight, Steve Spurrier once left a $30,000 raise sitting on the table.

That was more than 25 years ago when he was at Duke, where Spurrier was making around $75,000 in base salary when he was hired as head coach in 1987.

At the time, Spurrier's head-coaching counterpart at North Carolina was Mack Brown, who was making substantially more money than Spurrier was. So after the Blue Devils won seven games in 1988, and Spurrier won the first of two straight ACC Coach of the Year awards, he asked then-Duke athletic director Tom Butters if a bump might be in order. Butters knew what a commodity he had in Spurrier and offered to give him another $30,000, but only if Spurrier would agree to stay at Duke for an extended period of time.

"I never signed it and ended up going to Florida the next year," recalled Spurrier, whose 1989 Duke team won the ACC championship. "That was a lot of money in those days, too."

Fast-forward to the present, and Spurrier could pocket an extra $100,000 as South Carolina's coach for simply making the Capital One Bowl or even the Outback Bowl. A 10-win season would mean $100,000, and that total goes up to $200,000 for an 11-win season and $300,000 for a 12-win season.


(Read full post)


Spring is here, but we can't stop daydreaming about the fall.

So we've been putting together our ultimate Big Ten road trip for the 2015 season. In case you've missed the previous installments, we've been giving our picks for which game we would attend each week if money and editorial decisions were no object. We can each pick only one game per week.

It's time for Week 9, which falls on Halloween. Don't be skurred:

Saturday, Oct. 31

Maryland at Iowa

Michigan at Minnesota

Illinois at Penn State

Nebraska at Purdue

Rutgers at Wisconsin

Byes: Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Ohio State

Brian Bennett's pick: Michigan at Minnesota

The Little Brown Jug game had become so one-sided that it had lost all its luster ... that is, until Minnesota went into the Big House last year and smacked the Wolverines around. All of a sudden, that jug might be a bit more important to the Maize and Blue this year. A long dormant rivalry renewed, perhaps? With no other high-profile games this weekend, save me a Surly and fly me to Minneapolis.

Dan Murphy's pick: Rutgers at Wisconsin

The Badgers’ home schedule is a little soft in 2015. The teams visiting Wisconsin went a combined 32-55 last year, and Rutgers (8-5) had the best record of the bunch. The matchup between Corey Clement and Paul James, if he stays healthy, could wind up being one of the best running back battles in the conference this season. Plus, it’s Halloween in Madison, which I hear is a pretty good time. The people-watching will be entertaining even if the game is another 37-0 blowout like the 2014 version.

Josh Moyer's pick: Michigan at Minnesota

Grab me a dilly bar and some thermals, because I'm off to Minneapolis this week. The Gophers haven't beaten Michigan in back-to-back seasons since 1962-63, so this weekend's a chance to see Jerry Kill rewrite history. On top of that, I'd get an up-close look at the Little Brown Jug and a bird's-eye view of the Michigan coach who's everywhere. Easy decision.

Mitch Sherman's pick: Michigan at Minnesota

Sign me up for Halloween in Minneapolis. Might we see a few Brady Hoke masks from the Minnesota fans, hoping to scare the Wolverines into a repeat performance from a year ago in Ann Arbor, when the Gophers rolled Michigan 30-14? That game delivered a sobering dose of reality in Michigan’s Big Ten opener. In its first return to Minnesota since a 35-13 win in 2012, Michigan gets the Gophers much deeper in the season this year. And by late October, coming off an open date after hosting Michigan State, it will be interesting to gauge the psyche of the Wolverines. Are they still riding the wave of Jim Harbaugh energy? The Halloween game rates with a trip to Penn State as their toughest away from home in the Big Ten.

Previous trippin'

Week 1: Bennett and Murphy at Ohio State-Virginia Tech; Ward at Michigan-Utah; Moyer at Wisconsin-Alabama

Week 2: Unanimous: Oregon at Michigan State

Week 3: Sherman and Murphy at Rutgers-Penn State, Bennett and Ward at Nebraska-Miami

Week 4: Bennett and Ward at Maryland-West Virginia, Sherman and Moyer at BYU-Michigan

Week 5: Unanimous: Iowa at Wisconsin

Week 6: Unanimous: Nebraska at Wisconsin

Week 7: Moyer and Ward at Penn State-Ohio State, Murphy at Michigan State-Michigan, Sherman at Nebraska-Minnesota

Week 8: Bennett and Moyer at Penn State vs. Maryland, Sherman at Ohio State-Rutgers, Ward at Northwestern-Nebraska

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