Our third question of the week: What was the Big Ten's biggest disappointment of the season?
Mitch Sherman: Christmas came early for Big Ten detractors. No individual or team performance matched the league-wide flop of Week 2. You remember it as the day Ohio State lost 35-21 at home to Virginia Tech, Notre Dame pounded Michigan 31-0 and Oregon dominated the second half against Michigan State. Moreover, Nebraska barely avoided overtime against McNeese State. Iowa scored two late touchdowns to sneak past Ball State. Maryland, Minnesota, Rutgers and Illinois – all eventual bowl teams -- won close over South Florida, Middle Tennessee and Howard and Western Kentucky. Northwestern lost to Northern Illinois, and Central Michigan routed Purdue. Seriously, The nation laughed at the Big Ten all year because of that day. Want to know why league teams opened as underdogs in all 10 bowl games? Look to Sept. 6.
Dan Murphy: The Big Ten championship game. The state of Ohio might disagree, but this year's game in Indianapolis did not live up to its billing. This was supposed to be a showdown between one of the country's best offenses and one of its best defenses. One side of that equation never showed up in Ohio State's 59-0 win over Wisconsin. The lopsided score (and the Buckeyes defense) gave us no chance to marvel at Melvin Gordon. The Heisman Trophy runner-up ran for 76 yards, eliminating whatever small chance he had to win the award. I understand that without an Ohio State blowout, the Big Ten probably would have been the odd man out in this year's College Football Playoff. But from the standpoint of wanting a dramatic, competitive finale to the conference season, man, what a dud.
Adam Rittenberg: I remember talking with MGoBlog's Brian Cook about Michigan in the summer, and Cook described Michigan's schedule as "low-variance," likely to produce eight or nine wins, but probably not 10 or seven. I completely agreed. No one envisioned 5-7 as being remotely possible for a team that, despite underachieving the year before, seemingly had improved depth and leadership. Brady Hoke really liked his team. Opposing coaches told me the talent absolutely was in place for a solid season. Then the bottom fell out against Notre Dame and Michigan never truly recovered. I really thought the offense could at least be respectable under new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, but it never got on track against solid competition. Northwestern and Iowa certainly belong in the biggest-disappointment conversation, but neither team has as much raw talent as Michigan. What a clunker.
Brian Bennett: As disappointing as Michigan and Northwestern were, I never viewed either as a serious league title contender. Many picked Iowa to win the West Division because of its dream schedule. No Ohio State or Michigan State and both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home the final two weeks. Yet the Hawkeyes managed to go just 7-5, losing at home to a terrible Iowa State team, getting blown out at Minnesota and letting Maryland run all over them. This Iowa team never found a real identity and squandered what could have potentially been a special season. That should cause some re-evaluation this offseason in Iowa City.
Austin Ward: The premature end of defensive end Noah Spence’s college career. Ohio State obviously disagreed with the ruling against Spence, and perhaps it had a case that his failed drug test wasn’t for a performance-enhancing substance. But either way, the junior did break the rules when he was suspended for a second time by the Big Ten, bringing a promising college career to a sad end. The league was robbed of a chance to watch his elite talent for another season, Ohio State’s plans for unleashing a completely unstoppable defensive line at every position took a blow and, of course, Spence’s own health was damaged. Hopefully there is a happy ending for him following his time away from the field, but it was certainly a wasted opportunity this season.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Michigan athletic department shed another tie to erstwhile director Dave Brandon on Wednesday with the resignation of chief marketing officer Hunter Lochmann.
A school spokesman said Lochmann left Michigan "to pursue other opportunities."
A week ago, Lochmann made controversial comments about the impact of individual student-athletes on the athletic department's marketability. He said the power of star players like former quarterback Denard Robinson was "fleeting" during a discussion about whether or not college athletes should be paid at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum.
"At Michigan, it's the block M that has the infinity and power, not Denard Robinson," Lochmann said, according to a story from SportsBusiness Daily. "Those are fleeting, four-year relationships, but it's the block M that's been there for over 150 years."
Lochmann was hired as the athletic department's first chief marketing officer in December 2010. His position was created less than a year into Brandon's five-year tenure as Michigan's athletic director. Brandon resigned under intense public scrutiny in late October.
Among the criticisms that led to public protests and digital petitions calling for Brandon's firing was a perception that the former Dominos Pizza CEO cared more about enhancing Michigan's athletic brand than what was best for fans, alumni or student-athletes.
The spokesman from Michigan did not say whether Brandon's departure or Lochmann's recent comments had any impact on the latter's decision this week to leave the university.
1. Today's the day when Wisconsin can make its reunion with Paul Chryst official. Chryst told his players at Pittsburgh that he planned to meet with the Badger brass. His move might leave room for another domino to fall among Big Ten coaches. The chain reaction that started with Bo Pelini's firing at Nebraska could wind up affecting Michigan State as well. Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is one of many potential candidates that make sense for the opening at Pitt. Narduzzi danced around questions about his contact with other schools this week. Spartans head coach Mark Dantonio knows it's a matter of time before he loses the talented coordinator, and this might finally be the year.
2. At least Dantonio knows he won't be losing his quarterback this offseason. Redshirt junior Connor Cook said he would return for his final year of eligibility in 2015. Cook said he has “unfinished business” to attend to at the college level. The 6-foot-4 Cook won't have star receiver Tony Lippett to help him fill out his résumé next fall, but he could be helping his draft stock by sticking around. Heisman winners Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston would likely have been selected before Cook in this year's draft. Next year's class is a little less daunting.
3. The Associated Press released its All-America teams Tuesday and 14 Big Ten players were mentioned on the top three units. Four players -- Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman, Brandon Scherff and Joey Bosa -- made the first team. There are always tough calls and offended feelings when trying to narrow down a pool of thousands of players to the very best at each position, but the Big Ten shouldn't feel slighted by any of the picks this season. It would be a tough sell to say any others were undeservedly left off the list.
Now, on to the links…
- Offensive coordinator Tom Herman will stay at Ohio State for the playoffs before taking over as Houston's new head coach.
- Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis says bowl teams are hurt by an antiquated system for distributing ticket allotments.
- Rutgers receiver Andrew Turzilli, a fifth-year transfer from Kansas, is looking forward to his first college bowl experience.
- In a postseason full of Big Ten underdogs, none is fighting the odds as much as Maryland against Stanford.
- Coachless Michigan lost its first player to a transfer this offseason on Tuesday, a redshirt freshman linebacker.
- Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has attracted a lot of attention in coaching circles during his first year with the Nittany Lions.
- The Big Ten Network reached way back in time to fill its Mt. Rushmore of Indiana football.
- Madison prepared to welcome its native son Paul Chryst with a slideshow of his past connections to the town and university.
- The Gophers are feeling the love as they prep for Minnesota's first New Year's Day bowl in a half century.
- Former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini landed a job in his hometown at Youngstown State.
- Iowa is having trouble selling tickets to its eighth Florida bowl game in the last 13 years.
- Former Illinois linebacker Houston Bates, now at Louisiana Tech, will get a chance to end his career against his former teammates.
- Freshman linebacker Ja'Whan Bentley has a bright future in the middle of the Purdue defense.
Overview: Brady Hoke’s final season as Michigan’s head coach consisted of a long string of stubbed toes. A constant barrage of distractions away from the field cast a permanent cloud over this season’s team. Things didn't get much brighter on the field. Turnovers, allowing too many and not taking enough, were the team’s most consistent problem. They contributed to an offense that averaged 20.9 points and 333 yards per game. Only Penn State did worse in the Big Ten in those categories. Veteran quarterback Devin Gardner and star receiver Devin Funchess combined for three touchdowns in the first 26 minutes of the season, but only connected for one more score in the remaining 11 games. A well-stocked defense helped Michigan pull out a couple of close and dramatic wins against Penn State and Northwestern. The resulting 5-7 record meant the Wolverines would miss bowl season for the third time in the last seven seasons.
Offensive MVP: Gardner battled through injuries and other elements outside his control during a disappointing final season at Michigan. He played poorly at times -- sophomore Shane Morris replaced him in the lineup briefly in late September -- and contributed to the turnover problems. Still, the fifth-year senior remained the obvious soul of the offense. The few times Michigan moved the ball well were a result of Gardner’s good play. In a young, unproven group, Gardner’s experience made him an important part of the offense.
Defensive MVP: Senior linebacker Jake Ryan moved from outside to inside linebacker to bolster the Wolverines' strong front seven. The new position allowed him to use his speed and instinct to patrol the entire field. He led the team with 112 tackles, including 14 tackles for loss. Ryan, a deserving recipient of the team’s MVP award voted on by his teammates, is a no-brainer selection for the defense’s top player in 2014.
Jim Harbaugh – San Francisco 49ers
The Case For: Harbaugh remains the slam-dunk hire for Michigan. He transformed Stanford from a program that had not had a winning season in five years before he arrived to an Orange Bowl winner when he left for the NFL. Harbaugh’s stay in San Francisco will likely come to an end this year, making it a good time for him to return to his alma mater.
The Case Against: The ultra-competitive Harbaugh may not want to leave the NFL on a bad note. Many NFL insiders, including ESPN’s Adam Schefter, previously said they expect Harbaugh will remain at the pro level. Michigan has been patient so far, but it would have to wait two more weeks for the 49ers to finish their season before trying to sign Harbaugh. That puts the Wolverines in a bad spot while trying to build a recruiting class that is down to only six committed prospects.
Les Miles – LSU Tigers
The Case For: Miles has been mentioned as a candidate in each of Michigan’s last three coaching searches. He played for the Wolverines during the same era as interim athletic director Jim Hackett. He’s another native son who would excite fans because of a resume that includes two SEC titles and a national championship.
The Case Against: Miles told LSU beat reporters Monday night that he didn’t want to be quoted directly about the Michigan opening, but that he wasn’t considering leaving for Ann Arbor. He said neither he nor his agent has talked to the Wolverines. If Miles were to reverse course it wouldn’t be the first time a coach took a job after saying he wouldn't, but reports out of Baton Rouge are that he was adamant he wasn’t considering it.
Jim Mora – UCLA Bruins
The Case For: Mora’s early success in recruiting has helped UCLA become a force in the Pac-12 South during his three seasons as a college head coach. He spent the first quarter century of his coaching career in the NFL before taking three years off and eventually landing with the Bruins. He’s a strong second-tier option if Michigan can’t land its top choice.
The Case Against: Mora, a father of four, was happy enough keeping his family on the West Coast last year when he was reportedly offered a job at Texas. There’s nothing to indicate he would be any more swayed to leave behind what he’s building in Los Angeles to come to Michigan. His contract with UCLA extends through 2019 and his assistants would be shocked if he left now.
Dan Mullen – Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Case For: Mullen became one of the coaching world’s rising stars this season while leading Mississippi State to the No. 1 ranking and holding it until November. The former Urban Meyer assistant previously coached in the Midwest as a graduate assistant at Notre Dame and a quarterbacks coach at Bowling Green.
The Case Against: Mississippi State is working this month to extend Mullen’s contract in Starkville and keep him around. Athletic director Scott Stricklin said on Dec. 8 that he was optimistic that the two sides would reach a deal. Mullen told The Clarion Ledger he had not been in contact with Michigan as of Tuesday morning. He also said in October that he hopes to have shoveled his last driveway.
Sean Payton – New Orleans Saints
The Case For: It was a surprise when Payton’s name was one of many tossed out as possible candidates during the first two weeks of the search. He is a Midwest native who coached as an assistant in Big Ten for one season (Illinois) before moving to the NFL in 1997. He’s had a lot of success in nine seasons with the Saints, including winning Super Bowl XLIV, but is in the middle of his first losing season since 2007.
The Case Against: Payton’s salary is reportedly in the $8 million range, which would be almost impossible to match on the college level, even for a school like Michigan. He has spent almost two decades in the NFL and told reporters he has no plans to leave New Orleans.
Greg Schiano – Free Agent
The Case For: If Michigan is looking for a tough disciplinarian, Schiano fits that bill. He is largely responsible for building Rutgers’ program from a laughingstock to a top-10 team in his decade there. He has spent the past year traveling the country to hone his coaching philosophy and prepare for his next job.
The Case Against: Schiano struggled at his most recent job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where players complained he was too much of a micromanager. His year away from the game makes him a harder sell to Michigan fans who are hoping for a big name to join the program.
Bob Stoops – Oklahoma Sooners
The Case For: Stoops provides that big name after 15 seasons at Oklahoma. He has won 168 games, a national championship and multiple national coach of the year awards. The Sooners have grown stagnant in recent years, which leads some to believe that Stoops and Oklahoma would both be better off with a fresh start.
The Case Against: Stoops has a good relationship with the university leadership at Oklahoma and one of the largest annual salaries in college football. The Youngstown, Ohio, native has no problem recruiting talented players to Norman and it’s unclear if he would be interested in taking on a perceived fixer-upper like Michigan.
In a silly season marked by expedient and unexpected hires, Michigan has been slow and deliberate in its search. Jim Hackett, now six weeks into his career as an athletic director, had specific timelines in mind the day he formally fired Brady Hoke. He knew enough to know he’d be surrounded by eager requests for a resolution and wanted to deliver a message right away: Sit tight. This could be a while.
“I ask for your patience in this search process,” he said. “It's not fair for me to comment on potential candidates today or the institutions or organizations they currently may be employed by. I can't compromise the integrity of our search process by commenting prematurely, until we have that new coach ready to go.”
That’s a request Hackett should get used to issuing if he has plans to drop the interim tag from his title and stick around for a while. Fan bases aren’t known for their equanimity, so there will be plenty of fingers hovering above the panic button in the near future. It will take at least a couple of years, not a couple of weeks, to solve the issues keeping Michigan from competing for championships on a regular basis.
The need to rush to find a coach doesn’t exist for Michigan. The only notable jobs that remain open outside of Ann Arbor as of Tuesday morning are Colorado State and Wisconsin, expected to become Colorado State and Pittsburgh later this week if Paul Chryst returns to Madison to coach the Badgers. Neither of those programs is in line to poach someone high on Michigan's wish list.
Recruiting concerns shouldn’t force Hackett into a decision either. Each passing day does give Michigan’s next staff less time to rebuild a recruiting class that has only six current commits. On the other hand, much of that rehab is done in face-to-face meetings that build trust. Monday started a month-long dead period when coaches aren’t allowed to travel to see recruits. No new coach will be able to sit in a prospect's living room until Jan. 14.
At some point before September, the Wolverines will hire their new coach. Then the real patience-testing waiting period begins. Michigan isn’t likely to be in a position for instant gratification regardless of who it hires.
Fast turnarounds usually require an electric, game-changing player (i.e. Denard Robinson in 2011). In today’s college football world, that player almost has to be at quarterback. The Wolverines have an improved offensive line and have many skill players returning, but their offense won’t click until it finds a star at that position. That’s not to say Shane Morris or another Wolverine can’t eventually fill that role, but the available options all appear to be more than a few months of training away from getting there.
A solid defense and a game-managing offense isn’t enough to compete in Michigan’s division anymore. The program’s next head coach will have annual battles with Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio, two smart coaches with a big head start in creating teams that can control the game on both sides of the ball.
The time it will take to catch up puts Hackett and the Wolverines in a tight spot. After seven years with only one bowl win, Michigan can’t afford another full trip through the life cycle of a coaching staff without some sustained success.
Starting with a new president and a new athletic director presents a rare opportunity for the program to do a complete reboot. The right head coach can help all three of them settle into appropriate roles and healthy relationships – something Michigan’s last two coaches learned was an important ingredient to success. With so much riding on this decision, Michigan fans should have no problem being patient as Hackett takes all the time he needs.
Here is a look at the latest news on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten.
1. Ohio State OC Tom Herman a good fit for Houston: He's currently in negotiations with Houston to be its next head coach, according to The Associated Press. And, if the Cougars sign him in the end, they're getting a good one. He worked a lot of magic with Ohio State's quarterback situation, and Houston could use a little of that after sophomore John O'Korn took a step back and lost his job after a terrific freshman campaign. Herman would have two young quarterbacks to work with -- O'Korn and Greg Ward Jr. -- and he'd inherit a talented team that simply underperformed this season. Herman has proven enough; he's undoubtedly ready to move up the ranks. Ohio State fans should be sad to see him go but, at the age of 39, you knew he couldn't stay around forever. As the winner of the Broyles Award, which goes to the nation's top assistant, he was just too talented stay a coordinator much longer.
2. Indiana one of two leading schools for UAB running back: In case you need to catch up here, UAB running back Jordan Howard is looking for a new home after his program folded. And he's quite the coveted sophomore, considering he's No. 7 nationally with 1,587 rushing yards. As ESPN.com's Jeremy Crabtree reported, Howard has Indiana and Notre Dame leading the way right now. He visited both schools, has no other visits planned and wants to decide where to transfer within about the next three weeks. In other words, it sure looks as if Howard is down to the Irish and the Hoosiers.
It's a bit of a surprise the Alabama native is looking to move up North, but it could work out well for Indiana. Tevin Coleman is expected to declare early for the NFL draft, and the Hoosiers are looking for a replacement. Playing time is something IU could offer, and it doesn't hurt that UAB wideout Marqui Hawkins already chose Indiana. Plus, as Howard told me a little over a week ago, he has some family in the Fort Wayne, Indina, area. If IU can reel him in, he would instantly become one of the most intriguing Big Ten running backs of the 2015 season. He's definitely a player you should be keeping an eye on.
3. $12 million worth of football building renovations at Penn State: OK, so $12 million isn't nearly as much of a head-turner as Maryland's $155 million facility. But we're talking about strictly football here, and $8 million is dedicated to just “branding and graphic upgrades.” As StateCollege.com reported, one of the plans is to integrate video, sound and lighting to “create a ‘Wow' factor in all areas of the building.” Among the renovations? An “experience room,” which is supposed to immerse recruits into a digital, first-person view of game day. Digital locker room name plates are among the suggested concepts, as this renovation is trying to take PSU more into the 21st century. The funds aren't as much as other B1G schools' recent renovations, but PSU doesn't need to alter as much, either. The facilities are already pretty good.
- Les Miles says Michigan hasn't contacted him about the coaching job.
- The departure of offensive coordinator Tom Herman won't derail Ohio State, writes The Columbus Dispatch's Rob Oller.
- Five quick talking points on Michigan State, from Baylor fans buying up MSU's Cotton Bowl tickets to the next career move for defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi.
- Maryland wideout Stefon Diggs was one of the first big names to sign with Randy Edsall, and he tweeted Monday about the “hometown” movement.
- Rutgers freshman CB Dre Boggs has played in nine games already this season, but he has higher expectations for himself.
- Paul Chryst, who's poised to succeed Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, declined to say Monday that he'll remain with Pitt.
- New Nebraska coach Mike Riley said he intends to keep at least one of Bo Pelini's assistant coaches.
- Comparing Iowa's recruiting classes to those of its bowl opponent, Tennessee.
- Minnesota saw a slight jump in attendance this season.
- Illinois received two commitments on Monday, an athlete/cornerback and a tight end.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Les Miles will not be the next coach at Michigan. So says Les Miles.
After LSU's Monday evening bowl practice, the Tigers' coach addressed persistent rumors that he will return to his alma mater, where he played under Bo Schembechler and spent a decade as an assistant coach.
Miles refused to be quoted on the record in the post-practice chat with reporters, but he sent a clear message: A return to Ann Arbor is not going to happen. He and his agent, George Bass, have not heard from Michigan, Miles said, and he would not change jobs even if Michigan made contact.
Miles also has told LSU athletic officials that he has not been contacted by Michigan and that he has no intention of leaving the Tigers, LSU spokesman Michael Bonnette said.
Miles is nearing the end of his 10th season at LSU, where he has won two SEC titles and one Bowl Championship Series crown. Miles-to-Michigan rumors have emerged in the past -- most notably late in the 2007 season, when he famously addressed reports on the subject prior to the SEC championship game -- but he has remained at LSU each time the Wolverines have had a coaching vacancy.
Since Michigan fired Brady Hoke on Dec. 2, Miles has shot down questions about a return to the Wolverines, but never as emphatically as he did Monday. After unofficially addressing the Michigan job opening, Miles went on to discuss several subjects related to his current job, including injuries, underclassmen who might become early entries in the 2015 NFL draft and the Tigers' upcoming bowl matchup with Notre Dame.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
QB: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Well, duh.
RB: Justin Jackson, Northwestern: In the year of the running back in the Big Ten, Jackson somewhat quietly produced 1,187 yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman.
RB: Curtis Samuel, Ohio State: He added to the Buckeyes' ridiculous array of skill players, running for 386 yards and six scores. Looks like a future star.
WR: Mike Dudek, Illinois: In another season, one in which a guy like Barrett doesn't put up mind-boggling stats, Dudek would have been the freshman of the year in the league. He should surpass 1,000 yards receiving in the Fighting Illini's bowl game.
WR: DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State: Though the Nittany Lions' offense struggled, Hamilton caught more passes (75) than any other Big Ten player and finished with 848 yards in the regular season.
WR/RB: Jalin Marshall, Ohio State: A versatile, speedy weapon who could come out of the backfield or fly into it, Marshall scored seven touchdowns on offense and one on punt returns. He's also the team's backup quarterback right now.
OL: Mason Cole, Michigan: The first Wolverine ever to start the opener at left tackle as a true freshman, Cole stayed there all season and showed a lot of promise with his excellent footwork and instincts.
OL: Brian Allen, Michigan State: The true freshman and brother of All-Big Ten center Jack Allen appeared in all 12 games, with one start at left guard.
OL: Billy Price, Ohio State: The redshirt freshman has started all 13 games as a guard for the Buckeyes.
OL: Andrew Nelson, Penn State: The Nittany Lions had their issues on the offensive line, but Nelson started every game at tackle -- including twice at left tackle -- and has a bright future.
OL: Christian DiLauro, Illinois: He filled in as the starting right tackle in the second half of the season for the Illini and helped them rally their way to a bowl game.
DL: Kemoko Turay, Rutgers: After a torrid start, the pass rushing specialist finished with 7.5 sacks. He also blocked a field goal against Michigan to preserve that victory.
DL: Malik McDowell, Michigan State: The blue-chip recruit whose signing day saga made headlines showed his talent by playing in all 12 games and recording 3.5 tackles for loss.
DL: Steven Richardson, Minnesota: Thrust into a starting role after the first week because of injuries, the true freshman more than held his own by finishing with 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks.
LB: Darron Lee, Ohio State: After taking a medical redshirt last year, Lee emerged as one of the Buckeyes' top defensive playmakers, recording 66 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries, one of which he scored on.
LB: Ja'Whan Bentley, Purdue: The Boilermakers' linebacker position has been a problem for the past few years, but Bentley is part of the solution. He was Purdue's second-leading tackler on the season with 76 stops, adding an interception and three fumble recoveries.
LB: Anthony Walker, Northwestern: In his first start against Penn State, Walker returned an interception 49 yards for a touchdown. He also had a pick in the win at Notre Dame and led the Wildcats with nine tackles for loss.
LB: Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State: Playing mostly in a reserve role, McMillan had an immediate impact on the Buckeyes. The former stud recruit recorded 50 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception.
DB: Eli Apple, Ohio State: It's scary how many star freshmen the Buckeyes have. Apple is another, as he had 41 tackles, including 5.5 for loss, and a pair of interceptions.
DB: Montae Nicholson, Michigan State: The true freshman played in every game and had three starts in the Spartans' "No Fly Zone." He had 30 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries.
DB: Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern: He made waves in the Wildcats' upset win over Wisconsin by grabbing three interceptions. He started five times at safety and finished with 51 tackles.
DB: Marcus Allen, Penn State: He started Penn State's final six games at safety after Ryan Keiser got hurt, and the Nittany Lions' defense didn't miss a beat. He was third on the team in tackles with 52.
K: Rafael Gaglianone, Wisconsin: The effusive Brazilian with the strong leg went 17-for-20 on field goals, including 2-of-3 from beyond 50 yards.
P: Daniel Pasquariello, Penn State: His 37.7-yards per punt average was nothing to write home about -- except the Australian probably does write home a lot. He improved down the stretch to solidify the Nittany Lions' punt team.
Returner: De'Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska: He was third in the FBS in punt-return average (17.8) and scored three touchdowns, including a memorable one in the comeback win at Iowa.
1. Wisconsin can't officially offer its vacant head coaching job to anyone until Wednesday, but all signs still point to Paul Chryst being the guy despite chatter about him being interested in staying at Pitt and athletic director Barry Alvarez talking to Greg Schiano.
The focus now is on hiring assistants, and Jeff Potrykus writes that keeping defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is a possibility. If so, that would be a major coup, as Aranda is one of the brightest young defensive minds in the game and is loyal to Gary Andersen. Potrykus also reports that former Wisconsin assistant Joe Rudolph could return to Madison along with Chryst.
2. The Michigan search continues, and the longer this goes on the more you have to think the Wolverines must believe they have a shot at Jim Harbaugh. There's a potential interesting twist to this saga, however, as there are reports the Miami Dolphins could fire coach Joe Philbin and take a run at Harbaugh.
Of course, the Dolphins are owned by Stephen Ross, who is arguably Michigan's most well-known booster. He would naturally be involved in putting together a lucrative package to bring Harbaugh to Ann Arbor. I can't imagine Ross would trap door his alma mater in order to bring Harbaugh to Miami, so if there's more to this pursuit than it indicates that Harbaugh truly is interested in leaving the NFL ranks right now.
3. The Columbus Dispatch's Bill Rabinowitz reports that the Ohio State parents association has written a letter to the Big Ten asking for financial assistance to travel to the Buckeyes' semifinal game against Alabama in New Orleans.
Each family can be reimbursed $800 out of the school's student-assistance fund, but that's still not enough to cover all the travel costs. And things only get more expensive if Ohio State wins and moves on to the national title game in Texas.
Star defensive tackle Michael Bennett's mother, Connie, called it "reprehensible" that players' families aren't helped more when it comes to traveling to watch their sons play.
"They're making hand-over-fist dollars on our guys, the guys take all of the risk for the entertainment dollars and they ignore their families altogether," she said, according to Dispatch story.
The playoff is a great thing for the sport, but how fans and especially families were going to be able to get to those games has always been a major unanswered question. Neither the Big Ten nor NCAA can change that right now, but given the new autonomy measures the Power 5 conferences have been granted, this needs to become a priority. The playoff will generate an enormous pile of money, and a small part of that should go toward making sure participating players' parents are in the stands.
- Illinois may be playing in a minor bowl game, but the program has to approach it like a major one.
- Iowa could shake up its depth chart for its bowl game.
- Alvarez learned a few things from the last time he stepped in to coach a bowl game, in 2012.
- This is cool: Former Minnesota All-American Bobby Bell finally finished up his college degree -- at age 74.
- Nebraska high school coaches would like to see new coach Mike Riley recruit more in-state kids.
- Purdue picked up a tight end they hope is a Tennessee stud.
- Will change happen at Northwestern?
- Michigan State's Pat Narduzzi would make a lot of sense for Pitt, Joe Rexrode writes, and I totally agree.
- Tom Herman is on the fast track toward becoming a head coach, but Ohio State fans wouldn't mind if he waited another year.
- Penn State offensive coordinator John Donovan spoke to the media for the first time since August, and of course Christian Hackenberg was a popular topic.
- Indiana landed a commitment from a former Ohio State pledge.
- Rutgers offensive lineman Kaleb Johnson is about to make his 50th straight start.
- Maryland is hoping to keep more top recruits home and build itself into a Big Ten power.
- Big Ten football is a study in riches and rags, Mike Hlas writes.
What is the dead period and why is it an important time in football recruiting? Plus, Texas Tech’s loss at quarterback could be Baylor’s gain.
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Dave in Ohio writes: OK. Gary Andersen left Wisconsin for OSU (not the one we know). He's a western guy. I was more surprised when he took the UW job than I am that he left. The bigger question, to me, is how much longer can Michigan wait to find its new coach? The clock continues to tick, and the longer it waits, the more it looks like another Brady Hoke-type hire.
Dan Murphy: The longer Michigan waits, the more optimistic its fans should be. Interim athletic director Jim Hackett has been on the job for little more than a month; his patience is prudent. Michigan is (and should be) willing to wait for Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles. The school won’t wait if both men have turned the job down through back channels. So, while there’s a chance they’ve already said “no thanks” and the Wolverines are now desperately seeking a Plan B hire, it's more likely that the Wolverines are biding their time and vetting backup plans in case the top choices don’t work out.
There’s a natural tendency to want to pile on the “Michigan can’t get anything right” rhetoric after the past year in Ann Arbor, but this search hasn’t provided any tinder for that fire. There’s no reason to rush a very important decision.
Tom in Berkeley, California, writes: I'm not surprised that Wisconsin lost the [Big Ten championship] to Ohio State, but this is a team that has lost by more than one score once in the past five years. A 59-0 loss is quite a surprise. Is it possible that the head coach, and perhaps many of the assistants, were focused on where they would be coaching next and were neglecting their game prep?
Dan Murphy: Nebraska hired Mike Riley on Thursday night. Virtually no one knew the Oregon State job would be open before then. Did Gary Andersen’s mind wander toward the possibility of a move on Friday? Maybe. Even if it did, I doubt that was a damning distraction for the routine walkthrough most teams hold the day before a game. There’s no way Andersen wasn’t fully focused on winning a conference championship the following day. It takes an incredibly competitive nature and a strong ability to compartmentalize to become a successful head coach. As for his assistants, many of them didn't know until Andersen took the job earlier this week. There are many reasons why Ohio State beat Wisconsin. A distracted coaching staff is not one of them.
@DanMurphyESPN I realize Chryst and WI have history, but wouldn't he be a step down from Bielema and Andersen? PC didn't impress at Pitt. - David (@drhgeronimo) December 12, 2014Dan Murphy: Paul Chryst has a 19-19 record in three years at Pittsburgh while trying to shift from one style of offense to another. Those aren't numbers that were going to shoot him to the top of many coaching search lists. At Wisconsin, though, he provides an opportunity for stability. The Madison native played quarterback for the Badgers and was an offensive coordinator there for seven seasons. After losing two coaches in short time, finding someone who will stick around for a while should be a priority for Wisconsin. He understands the job and knows the administration. Some of the players he recruited are still around. Wisconsin doesn't need someone who can build a team from scratch. The program is in great shape, it just needs someone who can keep things headed in the same direction. It's worth noting here that Wisconsin can't officially offer the job to anyone until Dec. 17 because of university hiring policy.
@DanMurphyESPN @ESPN_BigTen Do you think Aranda will stick around if Chryst comes to Wisconsin? I don't want to lose him as a DC - Timmer Shay (@TimShay17) December 12, 2014Dan Murphy: It's impossible to say definitively, but I wouldn't count on Dave Aranda staying in Madison. He coached with Andersen at Utah and, like Andersen, has spent the majority of his career further West. The California native is probably due for a head coaching job in the near future, but my guess is he's not going to be sticking around at Wisconsin until then.
@DanMurphyESPN @ESPN_BigTen What are the chances OSU OC Tom Herman gets a HC job this year? Or is next year more likely? - MattR (@MattWR32) December 12, 2014Dan Murphy: Herman is the next Urban Meyer disciple in line for a head job. Travis Haney reported earlier today that he impressed Houston's athletic director in a meeting this week, but Herman could help himself down the road by passing during this year's cycle for a couple reasons. Right now his focus is on getting a third-string quarterback ready to face an SEC champion defense for a shot at a national championship. More importantly, the amount of talent coming back for the Buckeyes will put Herman behind the wheel of a frightening offense in 2015. If he hangs on for another year or two, he'll have bigger opportunities than he does now.
Dan Murphy: Nailed it. Now please pass the tin foil, my hat is falling apart.
With every passing second, Michigan is falling further and further behind in the recruiting battles for the Class of 2015.
Every other school that has not been touched by college football’s silly season will spend the next three days making in-home visits with recruits’ moms and dads, hosting prospects on official visits or dropping by high schools checking on junior and sophomore targets. Plus, on average most recruits take only two or three visits and for many this weekend puts them at that magic point in their decision-making process and now they’ll be able to hash out a choice with family and friends over the holidays.
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It seems like every year, true freshmen are having a greater impact on the game. This season continued that trend. There were so many good first-year running backs that great players such as Nick Chubb and Dalvin Cook couldn't find their way to this team. Meanwhile, a trio of SEC pass-rushers had immediate influence, with one even breaking Jadeveon Clowney's freshman sack record. Expect to hear a lot more from this group over the next few years.
QB: Brad Kaaya, Miami
This past summer was a disaster at quarterback for Miami, which lost starter Ryan Williams to injury and prospect Kevin Olsen to off-the-field issues, but Kaaya provided a resounding solution. After some early struggles on the road in his first start, Kaaya was exceptional and led the ACC in touchdowns (25), yards per attempt (8.6) and passer rating (148.2) while proving to be one of the best deep-ball threats in the country.
Coaching Carousel Affects Recruiting
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
11:00 AM ET Nevada Louisiana-Lafayette 2:20 PM ET Utah State UTEP 3:30 PM ET 22 Utah Colorado State 5:45 PM ET Western Michigan Air Force 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State