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.
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.
Our first question of the week: What was the best game of the season?
Brian Bennett: It didn't have a lot of meaning for the rest of the season, but Northwestern's 43-40 overtime win at Notre Dame was as entertaining a game as you could find. The Wildcats, coming off four straight losses in which they had scored a total of 50 points, somehow rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter on the road in South Bend. Jack Mitchell drilled a 45-yard field goal with 10 seconds left to tie it and then hit a 41-yarder in the first overtime to give Northwestern a win that ranked alongside their 1995 upset of the Irish in terms of pure shock value.
Adam Rittenberg: Neither Minnesota nor Nebraska won the Big Ten West Division this year, but the teams delivered an entertaining game Nov. 22 in Lincoln. The game had a bit of everything: long pass plays, tough running, a key injury to Minnesota's David Cobb and a huge special teams play from Nebraska's Nate Gerry, who returned a blocked field-goal attempt 85 yards for a touchdown. Minnesota hung around and rallied in the second half behind Mitch Leidner, and Nebraska's late push fell short as De'Mornay Pierson-El fumbled near the Gophers goal line. Minnesota held on for a 28-24 win in what proved to be the final home game for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
Josh Moyer: Indiana's 31-27 upset over eventual SEC-East champ Missouri still resonates the most with me. The Hoosiers came in as a two-touchdown underdog to the then-No. 18 Tigers, and all of us predicted another IU loss. Why wouldn't we? Indiana had lost its last 18 games against ranked opponents (dating to 2006), and it last beat a top-18 opponent on the road in 1941. So all signs pointed to a Mizzou win, especially when it took a 27-24 lead with a little more than two minutes left in the game. But IU quarterback Nate Sudfeld wouldn't be denied; he engineered a six-play, 75-yard game-winning touchdown drive. Just 22 seconds remained following the score. After a rough Week 2 in the Big Ten, no one expected this kind of game in Week 4.
Dan Murphy: Maybe it wasn't the most competitive, but Wisconsin's 59-24 win over Nebraska on Nov. 15 will go down as the most memorable game in the Big Ten this season. That game, a battle for control of the West Division, sent the two teams in opposite directions to finish the year. The Huskers' loss on a big stage probably sealed Pelini's fate in Lincoln and started a domino effect that will significantly shuffle the league's coaches. The record-setting performance by Melvin Gordon punched his ticket to the Heisman Trophy ceremony. His 408-yard mark stood for only one week, but the images of him galloping untouched through Nebraska's defense and the falling snow will have a much longer shelf life.
Mitch Sherman: Let’s not forget the Big Ten newcomers. Maryland and Rutgers largely fared better than expected in challenging situations as they prepared for unfamiliar foes every week. And when they met on Nov. 29 in College Park, the seeds for a new rivalry were planted. Rutgers completed the largest comeback in school history to win 41-38 on Kyle Federico’s 25-yard field goal with six minutes to play. The game featured nearly 1,000 total yards, just five punts and two turnovers, excellent red zone- and third-down efficiency. In other words, it wasn’t a sloppy mess. The Scarlet Knights trailed 35-10 late in the second quarter when a Maryland roughing-the-punter penalty extended a TD drive that sparked the rally. If this was just a start, we’re all excited to see where this series can go.
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.
Our final question of the week is this: What's your early prediction on the Big Ten's bowl record?
Brian Bennett: I'll go with 4-6. And that's if several things go right, especially in the lower-tier bowls. This is once again a very challenging postseason slate for the Big Ten, which will face some elite offenses in Baylor and Auburn, the No. 1 team in the country in Alabama, a seasoned team playing a virtual home game (Stanford) and an SEC division winner, among others. Regardless, the postseason is already a success for the Big Ten because the league got a team into the playoff.
Josh Moyer: The Big Ten certainly didn’t draw an easy lot with these matchups, so it’s difficult envisioning a scenario where the conference ends the bowl season with a winning record. I waffled between three and four wins, but the Big Ten is an underdog in each of its matchups. That doesn't bode well. On the plus side, it should be easier to steal some wins from the lower-tier games. For example, Illinois’ Tim Beckman is facing a Louisiana Tech team that fell to Northwestern State and Old Dominion. A win is a win, right?
Adam Rittenberg: I'll go 4-6. The underdog thing is nothing new in the league, but several games look like toss-ups to me. Both Ohio State and Michigan State have tough tasks in the big bowls, but there are opportunities for wins near the bottom of the lineup.
Mitch Sherman: With its three traditional SEC matchups in addition to the playoff semifinal in the Sugar Bowl, the Big Ten faces a tough task to get to .500. I think it happens after a strong start that includes at least two wins from the group of Illinois, Rutgers and Penn State. I’ll say 5-5, which -- do the math -- includes an Ohio State loss to Alabama.
Dan Murphy: I'm going with 5-5. The Big Ten shows its teams have, for the most part, improved since the early September disaster by playing competitive games against some quality opponents.
Austin Ward: The most accurate picker on the Big Ten blog this season usually needs a little more time to crack the code and nail down the winners, but initially I would expect the conference to finish with at least 6 wins. Currently that doesn’t include a victory for Ohio State, but Urban Meyer has been masterful as an underdog and I think at a minimum that matchup will be close. I’m reserving the right to change my pick to the Buckeyes later this month.
QB: J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: Barrett broke the Big Ten single-season record for touchdowns produced with 45. He would have added to that total if not for a broken ankle in the regular-season finale vs. Michigan.
RB: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: All he did was lead the FBS in rushing, break the Big Ten single-season rushing record and earn the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year honors.
RB: Tevin Coleman, Indiana: Coleman joined Gordon as the only other player in the country to top 2,000 yards; he would have been a serious Heisman contender in another year or on a more successful team.
WR: Tony Lippett, Michigan State: The Big Ten’s receiver of the year led the league with 1,124 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns.
WR: Leonte Carroo, Rutgers: Carroo joined Lippett at over 1,000 yards and averaged 19.7 yards per catch.
TE: Maxx Williams, Minnesota: A John Mackey Award finalist, Williams was the Golden Gophers’ top receiver and crucial cog in their run game.
OT: Taylor Decker, Ohio State: Anchored a Buckeyes offensive line that developed into one of the league’s best over the course of the season.
OT: Brandon Scherff, Iowa: He was named the Big Ten offensive lineman of the year and is a surefire NFL first-round draft pick.
C: Jack Allen, Michigan State: The Spartans gave up fewer sacks (10) than any Big Ten club and had one of the league’s top offenses with Allen at the point of attack.
G: Kyle Costigan, Wisconsin: An ESPN All-American, Costigan helped pave the way for Gordon’s record-breaking runs.
G: Pat Elflein, Ohio State: He was a sturdy performer all season on the Buckeyes’ line as the offense scored at a rapid pace.
DE: Joey Bosa, Ohio State: The Big Ten defensive player of the year led the league in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (20) and tied for the lead with four forced fumbles.
DE: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State: After a quiet start, Calhoun got back to his dominating ways and finished with 6.5 sacks.
DT: Anthony Zettel, Penn State: With eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss from the defensive tackle position, Zettel was the most disruptive interior lineman in the conference.
DT: Louis Trinca-Pasat, Iowa: LTP was a pleasant surprise for the Hawkeyes, leading the team with 11 tackles for loss and adding 6.5 sacks.
LB: Mike Hull, Penn State: Hull was the Big Ten linebacker of the year and led the league with 134 tackles.
LB: Jake Ryan, Michigan: Ryan turned in a strong senior season with 112 tackles and 14 tackles for loss.
LB: Derek Landisch, Wisconsin: Any one of the Badgers’ four “Chevy Bad Boys” linebackers could have made the first team, but Landisch led the team with nine sacks and 16 tackles for loss.
DB: William Likely, Maryland: A big-play machine, Likely grabbed six interceptions and scored touchdowns on two of them.
DB: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota: Like Likely, he was always in the middle of the action with four picks and a key strip late to seal the Nebraska win.
DB: Trae Waynes, Michigan State: Probably the best pure cover guy in the league, Waynes is asked to do a whole lot as the point man in the Spartans' "No Fly Zone."
DB: Michael Caputo, Wisconsin: Caputo was the leader from his safety spot for a defense that was the best in the league during the regular season; he finished with 99 tackles.
K: Brad Craddock, Maryland: The Big Ten kicker of the year made his first 18 field goals this season, including a 57-yarder and a game-winner at Penn State.
P: Peter Mortell, Minnesota: Mortell was a field-position weapon for the Gophers, leading the league with a 45.5-yard average per attempt
PR: De'Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska: The freshman scored three touchdowns on punt returns and had a preposterous 17.8 yard average for the season.
All-purpose: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: We had to find a spot for Abdullah on the team, and since he returned kicks and was extremely versatile as a running back, this seemed like a good spot.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Thursday night that the school is prepared to hire Pitt coach Paul Chryst, a former UW quarterback and offensive coordinator.
It’s a delicate situation, of course, for the Badgers, the uprooted assistant coaches and their families -- not to be taken lightly. But perhaps the most interesting byproduct of Andersen’s unexpected departure is the news that Barry Alvarez will coach Wisconsin in its bowl game. Again.
Alvarez, the 67-year-old athletic director and Hall of Fame former coach of 16 years in Madison, led the Badgers in the 2013 Rose Bowl, a six-point loss to Stanford, after Bret Bielema bolted to Arkansas.
Alvarez ought to just coach the Badgers in every bowl game. In fact, other legends should follow suit and rejoin their former programs on the sideline in the postseason. Surely, the NCAA would allow a special 10th coach. If not, just make them interns.
Let’s bring back Bobby Bowden, Lou Holtz, Mack Brown (too soon?), Don Nehlen, Lavell Edwards, Hayden Fry, Barry Switzer and, if Indiana can get to six wins, Bill Mallory.
Yes, I’m joking. Slightly more serious about this, though: Nebraska has an opening on its staff for the Holiday Bowl. How about Tom Osborne? If Alvarez can go from the College Football Playoff selection committee to the sideline, why not Osborne?
Yeah, he’s 77, served three stints in Congress, lost a gubernatorial primary in Nebraska -- did that really happen? -- and spent five years as athletic director since coaching his last game, a resounding win over Peyton Manning and Tennessee in the 1998 Orange Bowl.
But Osborne has perhaps never watched more college football than in this season. He must have some ideas on how the Huskers could surprise USC. One more fumblerooski up his sleeve.
What an experience it would be for Barney Cotton, long loyal to Nebraska, to have the ex-coach at his side. Cotton played under Osborne from 1975-78, then sent his three sons to Nebraska. It could also be a meaningful sendoff for Ron Brown, the Nebraska running backs coach who worked alongside Osborne in the legendary coach’s final 11 seasons.
Might help a bit with ticket sales, too, and inject a little spice into a game that means a great deal to several Huskers who want to honor their former coach, Bo Pelini, but realistically, little to the forward movement of the program.
Alvarez played linebacker for Bob Devaney on Nebraska teams of the 1960s that included Osborne as an offensive assistant. If Barry can do it, so can Tom.
Alas, it’s unrealistic. Osborne would likely never thrust himself into the spotlight in such a way. But just let me dream.
Thursday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida...
Lots of hardware
What a night on the Disney Boardwalk at the College Football Awards Show. The Big Ten had a good showing, as Iowa offensive tackle Brandon Scherff won the Outland Trophy, presented to the nation's top interior lineman; Maryland's Brad Craddock took home the Lou Groza Award as the top place-kicker; and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon beat finalists Tevin Coleman of Indiana and Ameer Abdullah of Nebraska for the Doak Walker Award, given to the best running back.
Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright won the Bednarik Award, given to the best defensive player. Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa was among the finalists.
Also, Nebraska wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp won a vote for college football's play of the year for his behind-the-back catch in the season opener.
Around the league:
- As expected, Gordon plans to leave after this season for the NFL.
- Some confusion exists over Iowa's starting quarterback for the TaxSlayer Bowl.
- A meeting with Missouri in the Citrus Bowl is a "big step" for Minnesota, according to coach Jerry Kill.
- One of Purdue's recent football brings a French flavor, by way of a California junior college.
- Northwestern needs to make changes, writes Teddy Greenstein, but will it happen?
- The competition continues at Illinois during bowl practices.
- Urban Meyer and Nick Saban have already met once in a playoff. They sat side by side Thursday and recalled the 2009 SEC championship game.
- No surprise that Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess did not meet his own expectations this year.
- The explanation of playoff committee chair Jeff Long on Mississippi State's final-week jump over Michigan State does not erase flaws in the process, writes Graham Couch.
- Indiana lands UAB receiver Marqui Hawkins but misses a juco QB target.
- Freshman quarterback Michael O'Connor is leaving Penn State.
- Maryland coach Randy Edsall, in San Francisco on Thursday, to discuss the Terps' matchup with Stanford, says receiver Stefon Diggs will play in the Foster Farms Bowl.
- The salary pool for Rutgers' assistant coaches ranks eighth in the Big Ten.
Penn State freshman quarterback Michael O'Connor, ESPN's No. 6 signal-caller in the 2014 recruiting class, plans to leave the football program and transfer elsewhere.
He redshirted this season but was expected to compete for the starting job after Christian Hackenberg's departure.
"I loved my time here at Penn State and thank the community for all their support," O'Connor told ESPN.com in a text message.
He committed to former coach Bill O'Brien last year but, two weeks before O'Connor was set to enroll, O'Brien took a job with the NFL's Houston Texans. O'Connor decided to enroll early at Penn State anyway, despite James Franklin's hire not becoming official until the weekend before O'Connor started school.
Franklin also signed quarterback Trace McSorley to Penn State's 2014 recruiting class. Besides Hackenberg, McSorley is now the only scholarship quarterback on the roster.
"We thank Michael for his contributions to the program and wish him well in his future academic and athletic endeavors," Franklin said.
O'Connor is the fifth scholarship quarterback to transfer from Penn State since 2012. The other four were Tyler Ferguson (Louisville), Rob Bolden (LSU, Eastern Michigan), Steven Bench (USF) and Paul Jones (Robert Morris).
Blindsiding Bucky: As if getting destroyed in the Big Ten championship game hadn’t already made for a miserable week for Wisconsin, it somehow got even worse on Wednesday. Which was more shocking, the 59-0 loss to Ohio State on Saturday or Gary Andersen’s swift departure just a handful of days later? For that matter, who could have envisioned he would leave for Oregon State instead of a more prestigious job like maybe Florida or Michigan? This was truly a shocker, and the Badgers are no doubt reeling. The Beavers had previously kicked the tires on Brady Hoke, and a reasonable case could have been made that what amounted to a trade with Nebraska for Bo Pelini would have qualified as a successful hire given his consistent track record as a winner. But instead of two out-of-work Big Ten coaches, Oregon State landed a current division winner. And that means Wisconsin should take a long, hard look in the mirror at itself and figure out why it is looking for another coach.
- Why can't Wisconsin hang on to its coaches lately? Looking at the pros and cons.
- Wisconsin must examine its policies moving forward.
- Will the Badgers turn to former assistants to fill the job?
- Is it just bad luck?
Texas Tom: With a Broyles Award now officially in his trophy case and a cell phone in hand that was already receiving calls about jobs before Tuesday, expect the conversations about Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman as a future head coach to continue to heat up while he tries to focus on preparing for the College Football Playoff. After Houston made its opening official on Monday, that seems like a logical landing spot for Herman and a potentially perfect fit for that program with a rising star in the profession who knows the spread attack and has been masterful in developing quarterbacks. On top of that, Herman has previous ties to the area as a former assistant at Rice, and he’s earned a reputation for recruiting in Texas despite the long distance to Ohio State. He might even be able to bring along a Houston native with him to work with the quarterbacks if his former pupil Kenny Guiton is ready to get into the profession.
- The Michigan athletic department has made a hire -- but it's a public relations firm, not a coach.
- Michigan State has a chance to improve its stature against an opponent that has impressed Mark Dantonio.
- Can Penn State slow down Boston College dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy?
- Taking a closer look at what Maryland's assistants are earning.
- Evaluating Rutgers on offense this year as compared to last season.
- The price is steep, but that isn't keeping Ohio State fans from snatching up tickets for the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
- Indiana swooped in to pick up a former UAB wide receiver.
- The other Wisconsin departure was anticipated all along, and Melvin Gordon isn't keeping it a secret.
- There's a buzz around the bowl game for Minnesota this postseason.
- Complete details for Mike Riley's contract at Nebraska have been revealed.
- A former Purdue running back is carving out a career as a model after winning a reality show.
- Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff remains a man of few words.
- Illinois is happy to be heading to a bowl game, but it is aware there is work to be done.
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- A judge overseeing a lawsuit about the $60 million fine imposed on Penn State by the NCAA as part of a consent decree after the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal says the case won't be put into a court-run mediation program.
Commonwealth Court Judge Anne Covey on Wednesday denied a request by the state treasurer and the senator who brought the lawsuit, saying they're free to keep negotiating with Penn State and the NCAA on their own. She says there's no new information they're closer to a deal.
The judge says she's reluctant to take "unwarranted action" that could delay the trial, scheduled for January.
The lawsuit began to enforce a law requiring the fine to remain within Pennsylvania. It's been widened to address the legality of the consent decree.
Sandusky was convicted but denies molesting children.
Today's question: Other than Ohio State (for obvious reasons), which Big Ten team would benefit the most from a postseason win?
Josh Moyer: The Spartans are still searching for a marquee win, since the closest they have come is a 27-22 victory against Nebraska. They played just two ranked teams all season -- No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Ohio State -- and lost handily in both games. Michigan State just needs to show it won’t struggle against top competition. The defense allowed only 14.4 points per game against unranked opponents, for example. But against Oregon and Ohio State? Try an average of 47.5 points. Not only does Michigan State need this, but so does the Big Ten. A win here would help quiet the College Football Playoff debate by showing the Big 12 isn’t the better conference.
Brian Bennett: Iowa. There's a lot of negativity -- again -- around Kirk Ferentz's program after the Hawkeyes lost their final two games and finished just 7-5 despite a dream schedule. It didn't help that Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst fired Bo Pelini after the Huskers beat Iowa and said he had to evaluate where the Hawkeyes stood in terms of relevance. Iowa fans are very loyal, but they're getting sick of this mediocrity, and a loss to a middling Tennessee team wouldn't help.
Mitch Sherman: Penn State. The Nittany Lions spiraled after a 4-0 start; there’s no other way to spin it. Playing in New York against Boston College, another regional recruiting rival, PSU needs to show it is trending up with James Franklin, who had such momentum through the summer and into late September. The home loss to Maryland hurt. A win to finish this transitional season can ease some of the pain and push Franklin into another productive offseason.
Dan Murphy: Michigan State's only two losses this season came to Ohio State and Oregon. TCU is the only other school in the country that can say it's undefeated against non-playoff teams. A win against Baylor would show that Michigan State deserves to be considered one of the nation's best.
Austin Ward: The Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl might not have the most appealing matchup of bowl season, but Illinois should be watched closely in a game that could help shape the trajectory of the team moving forward. Tim Beckman has already been given the green light for another season with the program, but if he can’t knock off a Group of Five team like Louisiana Tech and the Illini finish below .500, those questions about his hot seat could start right back up again quickly.
Adam Rittenberg: Minnesota. The Gophers have dropped consecutive bowl games under Jerry Kill -- they had no business losing last year to Syracuse. It's important for Minnesota to show it can make strides from the end of the regular season into the postseason.
1. The Big Ten announced plans for a conference-wide concussion protocol starting in the 2015 season. The league will have an independent trainer in the press box of every game to monitor for players that show concussion symptoms. The plan is similar to what Michigan instituted in October when quarterback Shane Morris returned to a game with a mild concussion. The Big Ten's new protocol will include disciplinary actions for team's that don't properly report concussions. Having independent concussion monitors on-hand helps trainers on hectic sidelines and it wouldn't be a surprise if other conferences around the country soon followed suit.
2. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman won the Broyles Award Tuesday, given to the nation's top assistant each year. Herman, the architect of the Buckeyes' No. 4-ranked scoring offense, earned the award this season while twice replacing Heisman contenders at quarterback with barely a hiccup in production. Herman is an engaging personality who will likely be a coveted head coaching candidate in the near future. Herman, 39, is young and so is his offense. Ohio State will return almost all of its firepower next season and will likely be considered one of the best, if not the best, offenses in the country to start the year. Herman will have the luxury of being picky, but with the promising future ahead he probably isn't in any rush to get out of Columbus.
3. In other coaching news, the rumor mill continues to churn in Ann Arbor. The top choice for most Wolverines' fans is current San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, but former Michigan great Charles Woodson said he's not very optimistic that Harbaugh will take the job. Meanwhile, erstwhile coach Brady Hoke made his final official Michigan appearance Monday night at the team's awards banquet. Hoke's players thanked him for showing up when he easily could have skipped the event. It served as a fitting end for a coach who always put his love for his players first, even when it put him in a bad spot.
Now, on to the links...
- Champagne, blaring television sets and back to work: how Urban Meyer found out Ohio State was headed to the playoff.
- Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook will reunite with training buddy Bryce Petty at the Cotton Bowl.
- James Franklin flirted with the idea of alternative uniforms for Penn State's football team in a recent teleconference.
- Longtime columnist Jerry Izenberg tells Rutgers' fans to quit whining about spending bowl season in Deroit.
- Maryland cut ties with a committed recruit when he visited another school without checking in first.
- Comedian Adam Sandler had some words of advice for Indiana QB and So. Cal. neighbor Zander Diamont.
- Michigan's top receiver, junior Devin Funchess, will enter the NFL draft rather than stick around for his senior season.
- Losses to Ohio State and Duke (in basketball) last week were a reminder of where Wisconsin stands in the recruiting world.
- Minnesota players are happy to be headed to the Citrus Bowl to wrap up the 2014 season.
- Former Nebraska coach Tom Osborne gave a short, warm welcome to new Cornhuskers coach Mike Riley.
- It appears that Iowa's quarterback battle will continue into the postseason.
- A bowl bid has provided a boost for Illinois on the recruiting trail.
- Former Purdue star Dave Butz was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame Tuesday.
The second question in our roundtable series is this: The Big Ten is an underdog in all 10 matchups. Who has the best chance to pull off an upset?
The Big Ten is an underdog in several of these matchups. Who has the best chance for an upset?
Adam Rittenberg: I look at Penn State and Rutgers. Penn State limped down the stretch at the end of the season, but I think bowl practices can be extremely valuable to the offense, especially the line that struggled so much in Big Ten play. Boston College is a physical team but Penn State's defense should be able to limit the Eagles on the scoreboard. If Christian Hackenberg and the offense makes a few more plays, PSU can win. North Carolina has been wildly inconsistent and I like the way Rutgers fought back against Maryland. Rutgers can run on the Heels all day long.
Josh Moyer: Michigan State was an alluring pick, especially because it's only a two-point underdog. But I still think Gary Andersen's squad stands a better chance at the upset against Auburn. Wisconsin is a far better team than the Big Ten championship indicated, and it's difficult to see a repeat performance from a good team with a good coaching staff. Auburn's defense is nothing special, and Melvin Gordon will be running angry on Jan. 1 -- which is bad news for Auburn fans. It's also worth mentioning the Badgers have only once allowed an opponent to score more than 28 points this season. So Dave Aranda's defense should still be one of the best the Tigers have faced.
Brian Bennett: I realize I'm going way out on a limb here, but how about Maryland? Sure, the Terrapins are flying cross-country to play Stanford in a virtual road game. But how motivated will the Cardinal truly be in Santa Clara after they've played in several major bowl games the past few seasons? And other than the rout of UCLA, Stanford wasn't that impressive all season. Maryland is just a crazy enough team to pull it off.
Austin Ward: Perhaps Boston College won't be a significant favorite, but it is absolutely going to have its hands full with Penn State's stonewall defense. And if that's not enough, the Nittany Lions are going to have plenty of motivation and will be thankful for the chance to play thanks to the removal of their NCAA sanctions, their fans will show up in force and James Franklin will have had a month to work out some kinks on that beleaguered offensive line. Penn State is going to be a dangerous opponent in the postseason.
Dan Murphy: Missouri has already set the precedent of being upset by a Big Ten team (Indiana) this season, so it seems logical to believe the Gophers can follow suit. It won't be an easy day for senior David Cobb in his final game as a college running back, but Minnesota should be able to stick with the Tigers in a low-scoring affair.
Mitch Sherman: Sounds crazy after Saturday, but I actually think Wisconsin can rebound and beat Auburn. Everything snowballed on the Badgers in Indianapolis. They're simply not that bad. I realize Wisconsin lost to LSU, which lost 41-7 to Auburn, but bowl games are strange like that. And Auburn, after playing for the title last season, may lack some of its edge. Wisconsin should be out for redemption and to save face. Alabama and Georgia gouged the Tigers on the ground. I think Melvin Gordon can do the same.
Penn State Lands ESPN 300 CB Taylor
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