NCF Nation: Jaevery McFadden

Wisconsin's 20-14 victory in the Champs Sports Bowl marked a fitting end to a season where the program reclaimed its identity.

[+] EnlargeJohn Clay
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireJohn Clay rushed for 121 yards and two TDs in the win over Miami.
In 2008, the Badgers got away from the things that made them a respected upper-tier Big Ten program for the better part of the past 15 years. They lacked discipline and consistency, and they didn't just lose games, but got thrashed by Penn State, Iowa and Florida State.

The 2009 campaign will be remembered as the season Wisconsin got back on track. Everything seemed to stabilize, from the quarterback to the head coach to the defensive leadership.

Many of the reasons for UW's turnaround showed up Tuesday night against No. 15 Miami. An aggressive defense shut down Jacory Harris and the Hurricanes offense. A balanced offense found gaps in Miami's defense and should have scored at least 30 points. Quarterback Scott Tolzien made good decisions and tough throws. Tight ends Lance Kendricks and Garrett Graham torched Miami for 13 receptions and 205 receiving yards (107 after the catch). The offensive line imposed its will for backs John Clay (121 rush yards, 2 TDs) and Montee Ball (61 rush yards).

Keep in mind, Miami is the type of team that supposedly gives the Big Ten trouble, but Wisconsin faced very little adversity aside from the opening minute and the final two.

Wisconsin had a fairly watered-down 9-3 record entering the Champs Sports Bowl, but a signature win against Miami changes things. And raises the bar for 2010.

The Badgers lose only one offensive starter in Graham. Clay likely will enter the fall as a Heisman Trophy candidate. There are some significant departures on defense, namely end O'Brien Schofield, linebacker Jaevery McFadden and safety Chris Maragos. But Wisconsin boasts a lot of young talent on defense, including linebacker Chris Borland, the Big Ten's Freshman of the Year this fall, as well as end J.J. Watt, linebacker Mike Taylor and cornerback Devin Smith.

For the most part, Wisconsin remains a young team. And a good one.

Expectations will be higher for Wisconsin in 2010, and they should be. The Badgers should challenge both Ohio State and Iowa for the Big Ten title. Wisconsin proved Tuesday it can win a big game on a big stage, and the bowl victory could signal bigger things ahead for Bielema's crew.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Fifteen spring practices still don't mask all the warts a team has, and every head coach has a position group that keeps him awake at night. After looking at where each Big Ten team got help this spring, here's a look at the positions that still look a little shaky around the league.

Illinois' offensive line -- The Illini boast arguably more offensive firepower than any Big Ten team, but they'll struggle without improvement up front. There's youth throughout the front five, and while players like Jeff Allen boast loads of potential, there are a few unknowns heading into the fall. The line allowed five sacks and 16 tackles for loss in the spring game.

Indiana's wide receivers -- Kellen Lewis' dismissal from the program after spring practice creates a major void at receiver. Lewis was pegged to be Ben Chappell's top target, and with Ray Fisher moving from wideout to cornerback, the Hoosiers need big things from young players like Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher.

Iowa's defensive tackles -- This position will be a question mark for the Hawkeyes right up until the season opener, and most likely beyond. Iowa must find a way to replace mainstays Mitch King and Matt Kroul, and it lacks much experience besides Karl Klug. The team needs continued development from guys like Mike Daniels and Cody Hundertmark.

Michigan's defensive line -- Brandon Graham should be one of the nation's top pass-rushers this fall, but he needs some help up front. Michigan likes what it has in young linemen like Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin and incoming freshman Craig Roh. Those players will need to grow up fast so the defense can generate consistent pressure.

Michigan State's running backs -- Few players meant more to an offense than Javon Ringer did to Michigan State last fall, and the search for a replacement remains a bit murky. Aside from a brief surge by Ashton Leggett, the running back room remains very crowded as Caulton Ray entered the mix this spring. Two heralded freshmen arrive during the summer in Edwin Baker and Larry Caper.

Minnesota's offensive line -- The Gophers have the bodies up front, but they've still got a long way to go in picking up the new offensive system/philosophy. It's a fairly dramatic change for returning starters like Dom Alford and Ned Tavale, so growing pains are expected. But a talented Gophers team can't take another step forward if its offensive line doesn't come together.

Northwestern's wide receivers -- Three starters are gone at receiver, and no one really wowed during spring practice. Northwestern should get better here as Jeremy Ebert returns from hip surgery, but it's time for experienced players like Andrew Brewer and Sidney Stewart to step up as primary targets for new starting quarterback Mike Kafka.

Ohio State's offensive line -- Michigan transfer Justin Boren undoubtedly had a positive effect on the offensive line this spring, but questions remain about a group that underachieved for most of 2008. Can Mike Adams complement his physical gifts with a toughness needed to play left tackle in the Big Ten? How will Jim Cordle and Bryant Browning adjust to new positions when the games begin? Stay tuned.

Penn State's secondary -- Head coach Joe Paterno didn't hide his concern for this group, which lost all four starters from 2008. Breakdowns in the secondary doomed Penn State in its only two losses last fall. Safety Drew Astorino should be ready for big things, but cornerback A.J. Wallace must find a way to stay healthy and become a legit shutdown guy on the outside.

Purdue's quarterbacks -- Joey Elliott boasts the knowledge to be an effective Big Ten starter, but does he have the skills to get it done? He has spent a lot of time on the sideline during his college career, and Purdue would benefit from having another viable option at quarterback. Justin Siller's dismissal really stings, and the development of backup Caleb TerBush looms large this summer.

Wisconsin's linebackers -- The Badgers lose a lot of production in DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas, and they don't have much proven depth at linebacker. They can ill afford an injury to Jaevery McFadden or Culmer St. Jean, and it's imperative to develop more linebackers during preseason camp.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After a lengthy hiatus, What to Watch is back as we take a look at the first three Big Ten bowl games.

  • Champs Sports -- Wisconsin vs. Florida State, Dec. 27
  • Valero Alamo -- Northwestern vs. Missouri, Dec. 29
  • Insight -- Minnesota vs. Kansas, Dec. 31

Here are some things to keep an eye on as you watch the games (in order).

1. Wisconsin's power run game -- The Champs Sports Bowl will feature strength vs. speed, and Wisconsin needs to overpower a swift Florida State defense with 473 pounds of running back. P.J. Hill and John Clay form a bruising rushing tandem, and Wisconsin will have to control the clock and wear down the Seminoles. The Hill-Clay attack seemed to surge in the final five games.

2. Wisconsin linebacker Culmer St. Jean -- He appeared in every game this fall and racked up 16 tackles, but the Badgers sophomore linebacker takes on a much bigger role against the 'Noles. St. Jean will start at middle linebacker as Jaevery McFadden moves to the weak side to replace the injured Jonathan Casillas. Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said St. Jean has been peaking in practice heading into the bowl.

3. Wisconsin wide receiver David Gilreath -- The sophomore could be an X-factor in this game. He took on a bigger role in the rushing attack late in the season, but Wisconsin has to find better ways to use his speed. It's baffling that Wisconsin ranks last nationally in kickoff returns despite having Gilreath as the return man. If offensive coordinator Paul Chryst finds creative ways to use Gilreath, Wisconsin could surprise Florida State.

4. The Badgers' offensive line -- Sure, they're big, and at times they've played well as a unit, but few things have gone according to plan for the Wisconsin offense this season. The next task is a daunting one -- finding a way to block Florida State defensive end Everette Brown. Sophomore left tackle Gabe Carimi receives the undesirable task of trying to keep Brown from digesting quarterback Dustin Sherer.

5. C.J. Bacher and Northwestern's passing attack -- Northwestern was able to win nine games without summoning superhuman performances from Bacher, who delivered a couple of them last season. But to get win No. 10, Bacher will need to be at his best. Missouri's high-powered offense probably can't be held down for 60 minutes, but the Tigers' pass defense is miserable. Bacher can put up big numbers with a veteran receiving corps, but he must avoid interceptions, his bugaboo, and make more plays in the red zone.

6. Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton -- There's some talk that Northwestern's all-conference end could enter the NFL draft after a stellar junior season. He can showcase his ability on a national stage against Chase Daniel and Missouri. Northwestern will have to generate a strong pass rush against Daniel, and Wootton leads a defense that led the Big Ten in sacks (33) this fall.

7. Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton -- Northwestern likely will get its best all-around player back for the Alamo Bowl, but how he responds from left wrist surgery is a big question. Sutton, who typically carries the ball in his right arm, will wear a cast for the game and expects to be fine. The Wildcats struggled to generate a consistent run game without him and need one to control the clock against Missouri.

8. Minnesota's offensive line -- Head coach Tim Brewster acknowledged his team got beat up down the stretch, and no unit suffered more than the offensive line. Brewster brought in veteran line coach Tim Davis after the regular season, and it will be interesting to see what impact Davis has on a young group. The Gophers need to reduce the pressure on quarterback Adam Weber and find a way to run the ball against Kansas.

9. Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker -- The first-team All-Big Ten selection underwent left knee surgery after the regular season but is expected to be fine for the Insight Bowl. Minnesota seemed to lose its consistency on offense after Decker sprained his ankle Nov. 1, and Weber undoubtedly will be thrilled to have his top target healthy again. If Weber and Deck regain their rhythm and keep Todd Reesing and the Kansas offense off the field, Minnesota should have a shot in this one.

10. Gophers secondary and forcing turnovers -- Minnesota built its 7-1 start on amazingly opportunistic defense, particularly from the secondary. The Gophers' four starting defensive backs -- Traye Simmons, Tramaine Brock, Marcus Sherels and Kyle Theret -- have combined for 10 interceptions, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. The group also owns a whopping 47 pass deflections. Minnesota's secondary has to force mistakes from Reesing, who has thrown 12 interceptions this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I hope everyone had a good weekend. I spent part of it pushing my car off a hunk of ice with the wind chill at 20 below. For those of you wondering why there aren't more bowl games in northern cities that could help Big Ten teams, please feel free to visit me in Chicago today. Cold doesn't do it justice. 

Here are some links to warm you up. 

"There is pressure, though, [Texas coach Mack] Brown said. It's an accepted part of the job for any coach at a place such as Ohio State or Texas, with huge stadiums, enrollments, alumni bases and fans. He said when he and Tressel stood at midfield in Ohio Stadium before the 2005 game, they could see the pressure building by the minute. 'I could see as all the people in scarlet were walking into the stadium. I kind of laughed at him,' Brown said. 'He said, 'Yeah, you've got the same thing. Yours just wear orange.'"

"Coach Joe Paterno will unleash his players into the City of Angels during the early portion of Penn State's stay. But his task, as the days count down, will be corralling the Lions back into their pens as the team nears a Jan. 1 kickoff. It may not be that easy considering the pull and allure of Los Angeles."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In addition to the big news that Minnesota star wide receiver Eric Decker will miss Saturday's game at Wisconsin (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), here are some other injury updates from around the Big Ten.

MICHIGAN
Head coach Rich Rodriguez said quarterback Steven Threet (concussion) is improving and should return to practice today. If Threet practices, he will split first-team snaps with Nick Sheridan. Threet made eight consecutive starts before sitting out last week as Sheridan helped Michigan to a 29-6 win at Minnesota.

Running back Brandon Minor (shoulder, wrist, ribs) also is improving but won't practice today. Rodriguez hopes Minor can practice later this week, though it's unlikely the junior will start Saturday against Northwestern (ESPN2, noon ET).

"Obviously he's very questionable for this weekend," Rodriguez said. "We'll see how he responds [Wednesday] and Thursday. He's definitely not going to practice today. He's a tough guy and I'm sure if he's able to go at all in practice this week, he will."

INDIANA
Quarterbacks Kellen Lewis (ankle) and Ben Chappell (head) both should be fine for Saturday's game at No. 8 Penn State after leaving last week's loss to Wisconsin with injuries, head coach Bill Lynch said.

Linebacker Will Patterson (knee) will miss the Penn State game, while cornerback Richard Council (ankle) is questionable and likely will be replaced in the starting lineup by Donnell Jones. Indiana already has lost three starters in the secondary -- cornerback Chris Phillips and safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk -- to season-ending knee injuries.

WISCONSIN
Starting middle linebacker Jaevery McFadden (concussion) has been cleared and will practice today. Right tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel will undergo an MRI on his lower right leg and could return to practice Wednesday.

PURDUE
Fifth-year senior quarterback Curtis Painter (separated throwing shoulder) is improving and should return to practice today. Painter told head coach Joe Tiller that he threw about 50 passes Monday -- the team is off that day -- and experienced minimal pain.

Tiller said Purdue likely will start redshirt freshman Justin Siller for the third consecutive game but could rotate Siller and Painter from series to series against Iowa.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- Penn State enters tonight's game trying to further validate itself as a top 5 team and a national title contender. Wisconsin is simply trying to save its once-promising season.

Throw in the possibility of hobbled Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno spending another game in the press box and the game has some intriguing storylines.

Penn State (6-0, 2-0) hasn't won Big Ten road games in consecutive weeks since 1995, when it beat Purdue and Iowa. Wisconsin (3-2, 0-2) had its 16-game home win streak snapped last week against Ohio State and is trying to avoid an 0-3 start to Big Ten play.

A good game night atmosphere, as usual. You know you're in a swing state when people are parading Barack Obama and John McCain signs at house parties before a football game. Things were getting a little heated over on Breese Terrace, which flanks the west side of Camp Randall Stadium, but no punches were thrown.

Nice to see everyone involved in the political process.

The weather is unseasonably warm. Should make for a real nice night of football.

INJURIES Penn State starting wide receiver Jordan Norwood is expected to play tonight after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury.

Wisconsin starting left tackle Gabe Carimi is questionable with a knee injury sustained last week. Redshirt freshman Josh Oglesby would start in his place.

WHAT TO WATCH

* Daryll Clark played an extremely smart game last week at Purdue, and the Penn State quarterback will need another poised performance against Wisconsin. Clark has proven himself as a passer, but his ability to scramble and use his athleticism could loom large tonight.

* Wisconsin redshirt freshman running back John Clay has provided a big boost in the last two games, but how much will the coaches give him the ball? Clay's problem isn't ability, but being able to grasp the offense and his responsibilities. The Badgers need him to grow up fast tonight to have a shot at the upset.

* Aside from the final drive, Wisconsin's defense limited the damage against Ohio State's offense. Tonight will provide a much bigger challenge for linebackers DeAndre Levy, Jonathan Casillas and Jaevery McFadden. Penn State's veteran offensive line allows little penetration, and both Evan Royster and Stephfon Green average more than six yards per carry. Missed tackles will result in points, and the Badgers' back seven needs to be sharp.

* Penn State's defensive line has turned in a heroic performance thus far this season, barely skipping a beat despite dismissals and suspensions. Wisconsin quarterback Allan Evridge has been struggling, and if the Lions can apply steady pressure and force a turnover or two, Evridge could quickly lose confidence. Penn State also could capitalize if Carimi can't play and Oglesby makes his first career start. And finally ... some tidbits for you, courtesy of ESPN's fine research department.

* Bret Bielema will be coaching in his 32nd career game on Saturday. When Bielema was born on Jan. 13, 1970, Joe Paterno had already coached in 43 career games and had two undefeated seasons. Bielema was born 12 days after Penn State beat Missouri in the Orange Bowl following the 1969 season to cap a perfect 11-0 campaign.

* Wisconsin has held Penn State to six points combined in the last two series meetings at Camp Randall Stadium.

* The Badgers love playing night games. Since a 17-9 win at Penn State in 1995, Wisconsin is 21-2 in night games, with one of those losses coming last week against Ohio State.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Rich Rodriguez and Bret Bielema aren't the happiest guys these days, and both coaches have some things to fix before this weekend. Here's your daily fix of the happenings around the Big Ten Conference.

  • Bielema didn't grasp Wisconsin's defensive confusion on Ohio State's game-winning touchdown until reviewing the game tape Sunday, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The crowd noise at Camp Randall Stadium also worked against the home team, as linebacker Jonathan Casillas recalled.

"[Jaevery McFadden] was right in front of me and yelling and you couldn't understand what he was saying because it was so loud. We were in a state of limbo almost, unsure of where we were. And we ended up getting lined up late. When you line up against an offense you have to get into your stance. Then you have to analyze what they are in and dissect that. And then go from there, read and react. I don't think we gave ourselves a chance to read and react."

  • Rodriguez used the S-word -- soft -- to describe Michigan's play in a 25-point home loss to Illinois, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News.  
  • After being shredded by C.J. Bacher last season, Michigan State's banged-up secondary needs all of its healthy members to step up Saturday against Northwestern, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal.
  • Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter began playing football in Ohio before moving to Indiana as a middle-schooler. What if he had stayed in the Buckeye State? The Columbus Dispatch's Bob Baptist takes a look. 
  • Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark has answered questions about his passing ability. Now it's time to see him run more, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Andy Manis
 Lance Kendricks and the Badgers will likely miss out on a BCS bowl berth following a 20-17 loss to Ohio State on Saturday.

MADISON, Wis. -- Jaevery McFadden sighed as soon as the three letters were brought up, the ones that have dogged the Wisconsin football program despite sustained success since 1999.

A BCS bowl berth had been Wisconsin's top goal entering the season, and for good reason. The Badgers are one of only three FBS teams to play January bowl games in each of the last four years. But unlike the other two programs, USC and West Virginia, Wisconsin has fallen just short of the big bowls.

After dropping consecutive games to begin Big Ten play, the Badgers' BCS bugaboo likely will continue.

"A lot of stuff has just got to go our way," said McFadden, the junior linebacker who had eight tackles a fumble recovery in Saturday night's 20-17 loss to Ohio State. "We can't control what everybody else does. Honestly, we could control the last two losses we had.

"We had 'em, and we let 'em go."

Last week, Wisconsin experienced "extreme disappointment," according to head coach Bret Bielema, after blowing a 19-point halftime lead and falling to an inferior Michigan team in Ann Arbor. The Badgers lost their edge on defense in the fourth quarter, couldn't run the ball in the second half and wasted opportunities in the red zone.

Saturday night brought a different sort of distress. Wisconsin played well in many areas.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- With all four starters returning, Michigan's defensive line was considered the strength of the team coming into the season.

It will have to be today.

Wisconsin has dominated play so far, particularly on defense, and should be leading by much more than six points. A veteran Badgers' defensive front is absolutely manhandling Michigan's patchwork offensive line. Freshman running back Sam McGuffie has no chance to run up the middle, and Badgers linebackers DeAndre Levy, Jonathan Casillas and Jaevery McFadden are sealing off the edges.

The last play of the quarter summed it up for Rich Rodriguez's sputtering offense, as quarterback Steven Threet got hit as he threw the ball away and Michigan still got called for holding. Michigan managed just 22 yards and one first down in the quarter. This is beginning to look a lot like Notre Dame in 2007.

The Badgers have had some success with the run game, but Michigan's front four has done a nice job so far. Wisconsin couldn't convert a Threet fumble into a touchdown and settled for three points. The Badgers held the ball for 10:17 but couldn't get in the end zone. Not good.

A potential problem for the Badgers is the passing game. Star tight end Travis Beckum is dressed for the game but has yet to appear. Guess that hamstring is still a problem. The All-American is just standing on the sideline right now.

Without both Beckum and Garrett Graham in the game, quarterback Allan Evridge is looking more to his wide receivers, most of whom are unproven.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Tuesday blog was a little Buckeye heavy -- apparently they have a big game this week -- so it's time to see what else happened around the league. Let's see ... bad news at Minnesota, no news at Penn State.

Read on.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- I've arrived safely in Columbus and it's still early enough to call this a morning briefing, so it is. I'll be heading over to Ohio State for interviews this afternoon, but first here's what's going on around the Big Ten as training camps wind down.

  • A major renovation of Memorial Stadium is almost complete, and Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther will turn his attention to other matters, including whether to continue playing the annual football game with Missouri in St. Louis or switch to campus venues, Terry Bannon writes in the Chicago Tribune. Illinois-Missouri used to be just a basketball rivalry, but both teams are on the upswing. The (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette's Loren Tate takes a look at most hyped games in the series history.
  • Jerimy Finch gives Indiana's defense another playmaker and requires the coaches to be creative with their lineup, possibly pairing Finch with Nick Polk at safety or using the Florida transfer at linebacker, the Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens writes in his blog. Indiana got some more good news Thursday as talented freshman wideout Tandon Doss is cleared to play after being sidelined by an academic issue.
  • Here's a closer look at the Iowa depth chart, which includes two starting quarterbacks and no Shonn Greene, who still is expected to play a major role. Greene wasn't as much of a couch potato last year as roommate Albert Young indicated, but his exile from the program took a toll, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
  • An injury to a right guard rarely spells doom, but Michigan's offensive line looks thinner without Cory Zirbel, Jim Carty writes in The Ann Arbor News.
  • Michigan State's coaches have a new $15.5 million recruiting tool, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal. Spartans star running back Javon Ringer, one of four team captains announced Thursday, will face a new look from Cal's defense in the opener, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News.
  • Minnesota shuffled its defense, going big at middle linebacker with Lee Campbell moving over from defensive end, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune. The shift creates an interesting competition at outside linebacker between veterans Deon Hightower and Steve Davis.
  • Ohio State senior linebacker Marcus Freeman loves the pub -- and the double teams -- teammate James Laurinaitis receives, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises checks in with former Buckeyes quarterback Troy Smith. Why was a Division III swimming coach talking to the Ohio State football team, especially since he's not a fan? Because he wins national championships.
  • Quarterback isn't the only starting spot in Penn State's offensive backfield not yet determined. Here's a look at the running backs, courtesy of The Altoona Mirror's Todd Irwin. Joe Paterno didn't say much during an interview with the Big Ten Network, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane writes in his blog. Penn State has stayed relatively healthy during the preseason, Bob Flounders writes in The Patriot-News.
  • Ultra-confident Kory Sheets might tick off Purdue's coaches at times, but he's ready to carry the load at running back, Stacy Clardie writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. The Boilers' lack of linebacker depth forced the team to move Joe Holland from safety, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier.
  • Jaevery McFadden is the man in the middle for Wisconsin's defense, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Offensive line depth is a concern for the Badgers entering the season, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern media day has come and gone, and I learned that at least one Big Ten coach (Pat Fitzgerald) has read the blog. Only 10 more to go.

The schedule is shaping up a bit for next week. I'll be spending Wednesday at Camp Rantoul with the Illinois Fighting Illini, before heading over to Purdue for media day on Thursday. There could also be some surprises along the way.

Here's your daily diet of links:

  • If you're just waking up, Ohio State defensive backs Donald Washington and Jamario O'Neal have been suspended for the first two games of the season. Not a major blow, given that they'll be back for USC, but it could shake up the dynamic in the secondary.
  • Oh, and some guy named Terrelle Pryor spoke with reporters at Ohio State media day. He was a pretty popular man, Paul Schofield writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Items of note: Pryor rooms with starting quarterback Todd Boeckman, gets a lot of reps in practice and likes hanging out with the older players.
  • More on Ohio State media day from The Columbus Dispatch's Buckeye Blog. Left tackle Alex Boone knows how to roundup the linemen -- "If you're big and fat, let's go" -- a group that includes Michigan transfer Justin Boren. 
  • Wisconsin star tight end Travis Beckum sat out Thursday's practice with "tightness in his lower body," but it doesn't appear to be too serious, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times. Also, defensive lineman Brandon Hoey's career is over after lingering back problems.
  • The Badgers seem pretty solid at outside linebacker, but the middle is a concern. Enter Jaevery McFadden, who could unseat incumbent Elijah Hodge for the job, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus writes in the Badgers Blog.
  • Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis practiced with the third-team offense on Thursday, The Hoosier Scoop blog reports. Wow. He's really going to have to earn his way back.
  • Apparently Akron doesn't like its chances to upset Wisconsin on Aug. 30. The school gave back some of its allotted tickets, so get 'em while they're available.
  • Strong defense is a given at Penn State, but a strong season hinges on whether the offense can make up ground, Jeff Rice writes in the Centre Daily Times.
"Penn State has scored a total of six points in its last two trips to Camp Randall Stadium, where it faces Wisconsin on Oct. 11. It has scored a total of 23 points in its last three visits to Ohio Stadium, where it will face the Buckeyes on Oct. 25."

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