NCF Nation: Joey Elliott

Elliott's kidney transplant a success

February, 13, 2013
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Notre Dame safeties coach Bob Elliott returned home Tuesday following a successful kidney transplant Feb. 6, the school announced Wednesday.

Elliott's sister Betsy, the donor, is healing at home in Dublin, Ohio.

Notre Dame says Elliott is recovering nicely, working from home and hopes to return to the office soon.

From the release:
Bob and Joey would love for all to know how grateful they are to the team at the Mishawaka Fresenius Clinic and Dr. Porile who made this year successful for Bob. They were in great hands with Dr. Goggins and Dr. Powelson at IU University Hospital in Indianapolis, as they were the team that performed the transplant and will now direct Bob and Betsy's recovery. They feel they benefited from world class expertise all along the way.

The kidney transplant capped a whirlwind year for the first-year Irish coach, as SI.com's Pete Thamel illustrated in an article last month that detailed the off-the-field extracurriculars surrounding Elliott.

I sat down with Elliott last April shortly after he was hired at Notre Dame for a story about the health obstacles he has had to overcome throughout his 30-plus-year coaching career. It has been anything but a conventional path for Elliott, who has stared death in the face, but has thrived in his profession.

Here's hoping for a speedy recovery.

Big Ten NFL draft roundup

April, 26, 2010
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The 2010 NFL draft is in the books, so let's take a look at the 34 Big Ten players who heard their names called in New York. When the full list of undrafted free agents comes out, I'll post it later in the week.

ROUND 1

ROUND 2

ROUND 3

ROUND 4

ROUND 5

ROUND 6

  • No Big Ten players selected
ROUND 7


Here are the selections according to Big Ten team:

Illinois: 3
Indiana: 3
Iowa: 6
Michigan: 3
Michigan State: 1
Minnesota: 2
Northwestern: 3
Ohio State: 4
Penn State: 6
Purdue: 1
Wisconsin: 2

Quick thoughts:

  • Three of the biggest draft steals from the Big Ten were pass-catchers in 2009: Illinois wideout Arrelious Benn, Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker and Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki. Benn had first-round skills but a fourth-round college résumé. Decker most often was compared to former Broncos wideout Ed McCaffrey, and if healthy, he could do big things in Denver. If Moeaki stays healthy, the Chiefs might have found the next Tony Gonzalez. Kirk Ferentz puts Moeaki right up there with Dallas Clark in Iowa's top tight ends.
  • Love the Colts' pick of Angerer, who could be a very good pro in a great situation in Indy. With Angerer and Indiana's Fisher going to Indianapolis, the Colts now have drafted 26 Big Ten players under Bill Polian.
  • Northwestern's Kafka also goes to a very good situation in Philly, as the Eagles love to pass the ball and will run some shotgun.
  • Penn State's Lee, Purdue's Neal, Wisconsin's Schofield and Northwestern's McManis could all be steals for their teams. Health has been an issue for Lee, Schofield and McManis, so they need to find ways to get on the field and stay there.
  • It was interesting how one Big Ten left tackle, Indiana's Saffold, rose up the draft boards late in the process, while another, Iowa's Bulaga, dropped.
  • Ohio State had four players drafted, but this has to be the Buckeyes' weakest draft class in recent memory. I thought Gibson would go in the second or third round, but Worthington, Coleman and Spitler barely made the cut. Did Jim Tressel deserve Big Ten Coach of the Year over Ferentz? The case looks stronger now.
  • Draft snubs included Michigan State wide receiver Blair White, Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott. Warren was the only Big Ten junior not to get drafted, though it was tough to fault his decision at the time. All four players have reportedly signed free-agent deals.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Danny Hope has a philosophy on football players who transfer.

"A transfer is a lot like a divorcee," the Purdue head coach said. "It's not a defect of character. It just didn't work out, and it may not always be all their fault."

Quarterback Robert Marve's divorce from Miami was a messy one, particularly at the end.

[+] EnlargeRobert Marve
Joel Auerbach/US PresswireRobert Marve started 11 games for Miami in 2008, passing for 1,293 yards.
The former Florida Mr. Football winner twice was suspended from the team, endured academic struggles and was arrested for breaking a car mirror and then trying to elude police, though charges were later dropped. He sat out the 2007 season because of left hand injuries sustained in a car accident the summer before. Marve started 11 games for Miami in 2008, but he was suspended for the Emerald Bowl for missing a class. (Marve said he showed up late because he was talking with another professor.)

As tension mounted between Marve, his family and Hurricanes head coach Randy Shannon, Marve announced in late December 2008 that he was leaving the team, saying, "I can't play for Coach Shannon." Shannon granted Marve's release but put heavy restrictions on where the quarterback could go. Marve considered walking on at Tennessee before settling on Purdue in late May.

"We did our homework," Hope said. "We don't just invite anybody to come into our family, regardless of the talent level. We knew all about his past and have known him for years. We recruited him a long time ago. Things didn't work out for Robert at Miami. Some of it was Robert, and some of it wasn't. It doesn't matter.

"There were no skeletons in the closet that were of any magnitude to make me think he wouldn't be a great teammate. He had to grow up some. And he has."

Marve has been a model citizen both on and off the field at Purdue, his new coaches and teammates say.

The quarterback "didn't have a great academic history in college," Hope said, but carries a B average at Purdue. Marve, who tore the ACL in his left knee last summer, spent last season learning Purdue's offense and his new teammates.

Fully recovered from the knee injury, Marve will compete for the starting job when Purdue opens spring practice March 24.

"What happened to him was the best thing in the world for him," said Boilers offensive coordinator Gary Nord, who began recruiting Marve immediately after things went south at Miami. "He got kicked real hard in the rear, and sometimes your toughest lessons are your best lessons learned. He got his priorities in life straight.

"He's done excellent academically, he's been great with his rehab and he's studying it as well as anybody I've ever coached."

Purdue isn't making Marve available to reporters until after spring ball starts, but his teammates have had plenty of access to him the last 10 months. Starting running back Ralph Bolden was surprised and impressed with how quickly Marve absorbed the offense and a leadership role.

"A lot of us knew what went on [at Miami]," Boilers wide receiver Keith Smith said, "but it's a fresh start, completely different style of program, everything's completely different. We didn't want to judge anything by prior actions because everybody has mistakes and you've got to move on.

"He matured a lot, and that's one of the key things of being a good quarterback and a good leader of a program."

Marve will have to earn the starting job, and Nord expects Caleb TerBush to provide strong competition. Last year's starter, Joey Elliott, was known for his high character and commanded respect in the locker room. After working behind Elliott, the Boilermakers will be able to spot a phony.

And while no one has ever doubted Marve's talent, his coaches and teammates see a lot more there.

"He has outstanding leadership ability," Hope said. "He's a tremendous worker, he's as committed as any football player that I've been around. He's a pied piper of men in some ways. They follow him, and he's fit in very well.

"The players have accepted him, based on his actions."
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Several photos line the wall outside Danny Hope's office at the Mollenkopf Center, commemorating Purdue's string of bowl appearances under former head coach Joe Tiller.

Hope's first season at the helm of the Boilermakers' program won't make it to the wall. There's no bowl championship trophy, no pictures of players and coaches wearing T-shirts and shades in the dead of winter. Hope's players don't tote any bowl swag, because they didn't get any.

A 5-7 season doesn't produce any tangible rewards. But it left Hope feeling very optimistic about the future.

Sandra Dukes/Icon SMIPurdue coach Danny Hope hopes the Boilermakers can capitalize on their strong end to the 2009 season.



After a 1-5 start filled with turnovers and near misses, Purdue rallied to go .500 in Big Ten play. The Boilers stunned then-No. 7 Ohio State, snapping a 19-game slide against ranked opponents. They also notched their first win at Michigan Stadium since 1966.

So, what exactly did Purdue accomplish in 2009?

"We made some noise," Hope said. "We've got a lot of work to do, and we haven't arrived yet, but we made some noise on the field the second half of the season. We weren't that far off, and everybody could see that. We kept swinging away, and we kept getting better as a team.

"When it was all over, we had some special moments in 2009."

The next steps are obvious for Purdue. Find ways to win close games, avoid the 10-minute disaster stretches that cropped up throughout last season, improve ball security, run defense and special teams, and, most importantly, get back to the postseason.

Simply making a lower-tier bowl isn't enough for first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver Keith Smith.

"We want to go to a January bowl game," he said. "That's our goal."

Purdue might have the personnel to get there. Despite losing 20 seniors, including quarterback Joey Elliott, safety Torri Williams and defensive tackle Mike Neal, the Boilers should be a deeper team in 2010.

Wide receiver was a major question mark for Purdue entering last season, but Smith emerged as the team's latest top option with a league-leading 1,100 receiving yards on 91 catches. He'll lead a group of wideouts and tight ends that also features Kyle Adams, Keith Carlos, Antavian Edison, Cortez Smith and others.

Ralph Bolden came out of nowhere to finish third in the Big Ten in rushing (77.9 ypg) and second in scoring (5.5 ppg), and the speedy junior expects big things this fall, especially if Purdue can reload along an offensive line that loses three starters. Al-Terek McBurse is a promising No. 2 option, and fullback Dan Dierking also returns.

"From a skill standpoint, we could have as much skill as Purdue has had on offense in many, many years," Hope said. "We're very promising at running back, we have all our tight ends back, we have Keith Smith back.

"There's some firepower there. We have to develop it."

Many eyes will be on the quarterback competition this spring, specifically Miami transfer Robert Marve. Marve, who will compete with Caleb TerBush for the top job, gets a fresh start after a tumultuous two years at Miami that got ugly at the end.

Purdue coaches and players say Marve has matured a lot in the last 10 months, and Marve's ability as a former blue-chip recruit has never been in doubt.

"In [offseason workouts], he's taking control," Bolden said. "He pretty much knows our offense. I don't know how, but he just jumped in and knew it, telling people to run this, changing routes and everything. He pretty much knows what he's doing, so I'm just following his lead."

Big Ten sacks leader Ryan Kerrigan leads a defense that must get tougher against the run after finishing last in the Big Ten in each of the last two seasons. The Boilers are helped by greater depth up front and the return of standout linebacker Jason Werner, who received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA last month.

Hope and his assistants will spend much of the spring evaluating the secondary, which must replace all four starters.

"Obviously, the bar has been raised," Hope said. "The record that we had last year, even though we had some signature wins, was not good enough. We didn't make postseason play.

"The standard is set, and the expectation level is always high at Purdue."
College football coaches love competition, and spring practice serves as a proving ground for it. Starting jobs are usually not awarded until the summer, but players can separate themselves during spring ball. We'll know a lot more about several Big Ten teams following the 15 practices this spring.

Here are five position battles to watch when the teams return to the field:

1. Penn State quarterback: Record-setting signal caller Daryll Clark departs after two years as the starter, and Penn State's ability to find a capable replacement will determine the course for its season. Sophomore Kevin Newsome backed up Clark last season and enters the spring as a slight frontrunner, but Matt McGloin and early enrollee Paul Jones will challenge him. Heralded quarterback recruit Robert Bolden joins the mix this summer.

2. Iowa running back: Can a team ever have too many running backs? Iowa will let us know this year. Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher stepped up big time in 2009, but they'll have to hold off Jewel Hampton, who returns from a knee injury that cost him all of last season. Don't forget Hampton had been pegged as Shonn Greene's successor before his injury. Jeff Brinson also returns from an ankle injury, and several others also will compete for carries.

3. Purdue quarterback: Robert Marve hasn't played a meaningful down since November 2008, but the Miami transfer hopes to succeed Joey Elliott as Purdue's top quarterback. Marve tore his ACL last summer and could be a bit rusty on the practice field, but he certainly boasts the talent to lead Purdue. He will compete with Caleb TerBush, who backed up Elliott last year but appeared in only one game, completing 4 of 10 pass attempts for 22 yards.

4. Illinois quarterback: The Illini have a new offensive coordinator and several new faces at quarterback following the departure of four-year starter Juice Williams. Paul Petrino wants to be very multiple with his scheme, but he needs to see who emerges between Jacob Charest, Nathan Scheelhaase, Eddie McGee and early enrollee Chandler Whitmer. Charest started two games in place of Williams late last season, while McGee has extensive field time but played wide receiver for part of 2009.

5. Michigan defense: You can't list only one position with the Wolverines defense, and all the individual competitions will be critical. Aside from a handful of likely starters -- defensive back Troy Woolfolk, defensive tackles Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen -- the competition will be open. Michigan needs consistent contributors who can work in Greg Robinson's scheme, and the coaches won't be afraid to look to young players.
It's still early February, but signing day is over and you can officially start looking forward to the 2010 season. But before we look at who's back in the Big Ten, let's look at who will be missed the most when the teams return to the practice field this spring.

Here are five players who leave big shoes to fill around the league:

Penn State QB Daryll Clark: Clark finished his career as one of the best quarterbacks in Penn State history, setting team records for career passing touchdowns, single-season passing touchdowns, single-season passing yards and single-season total offense. He was even more valuable as a leader both on and off the field, and few players invested as much as the two-year starter. His presence certainly will be missed.

Northwestern QB Mike Kafka: Kafka basically became the entire NU offense in 2009 as the run game struggled. He developed into a precision passer and ended up as one of the most valuable players in the Big Ten. The second-team All-Big Ten selection led the league in both passing (3,430) and total offense (3,729). Although backup Dan Persa got some playing time after Kafka was banged up against Penn State, he'll have a tough time replacing the senior.

Michigan DE Brandon Graham: The Wolverines defense struggled mightily with Graham on the field, and it's scary to think where the unit would have been without his nation-leading 26 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. Graham was arguably the most disruptive defensive lineman in the country in 2009, and he leaves a major void on the edge. Michigan will need several players to step up to fill the production void left by Graham's departure.

Iowa CB Amari Spievey: Some will argue with this one, but of all the players Iowa loses from the 2009 team, Spievey could be the most valuable. He took away one side of the field, forcing opposing quarterbacks to look elsewhere and freeing up playmaking opportunities for safety Tyler Sash and others. Iowa has some decent corners coming back, but none with the shutdown capabilities of Spievey, who recorded two interceptions and 10 passes defended.

Penn State DT Jared Odrick: Penn State has little trouble reloading in the defensive front seven, but the Lions will be hard-pressed to find another Odrick in the middle of the defensive line. Odrick consistently commanded double- and triple-teams, opening up lanes for teammates to reach the backfield. Big Ten coaches named him Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year, high honors given the league's depth along the D-line. Odrick was the biggest reason why Penn State finished sixth nationally in rushing defense (89.9 ypg).

Five more who will be missed: Purdue QB Joey Elliott, Iowa LB Pat Angerer, Penn State LB Navorro Bowman, Wisconsin DE O'Brien Schofield, Ohio State S Kurt Coleman.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 13

November, 23, 2009
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Big Ten play is complete, so there will be minimal movement the rest of the way.

1. Ohio State (10-2, 7-1): It seemed extremely unlikely back on Oct. 17, but Ohio State once again found its way to the top of the Big Ten. The Buckeyes won their fifth consecutive Big Ten title and their third outright league title in the past four seasons. Never doubt Jim Tressel in the month of November. Never doubt Tressel against Michigan. Buckeyes are at the top, again.

2. Iowa (10-2, 6-2): Head-to-head isn't everything, but when teams are as close as Iowa and Penn State on paper, it has to be the deciding factor. The Hawkeyes don't have as many dominant wins as the Nittany Lions, but they have better wins, including a 21-10 triumph at Penn State on Sept. 26. Iowa's defense bounced back strong against Minnesota after struggling at Ohio State. The Hawkeyes likely need a healthy Ricky Stanzi to win their bowl game.

3. Penn State (10-2, 6-2): The Nittany Lions on Saturday not only looked like a team that belongs in a BCS bowl game, but a team that could win one. Senior quarterback Daryll Clark stepped up in a big way, and the defense totally shut down Michigan State in the second half. It took a while, but Penn State seems to be peaking right now.

T-4. Wisconsin (8-3, 5-3): Wisconsin doesn't have a bad loss on its résumé, but the Badgers are certainly a notch below the top three after their loss at Northwestern. I'm sold on quarterback Scott Tolzien, running back John Clay and tight end Garrett Graham, but the defense struggled against Northwestern's spread attack. Still, the Badgers are in line for a possible Outback Bowl berth if they beat Hawaii on Dec. 5.

T-4. Northwestern (8-4, 5-3): When Northwestern trailed Indiana 28-3 on Oct. 24, no one thought the Wildcats would end up here. OK, maybe Pat Fitzgerald and his players kept the faith, but this was a flawed team that found itself down the stretch. Besides Ohio State, no Big Ten team had a better November than Northwestern, which notched two wins against top-20 teams. Like Tressel and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Fitzgerald does his best work in November.

6. Michigan State (6-6, 4-4): The Spartans might be beyond the collapses of the John L. Smith era, but they still haven't turned the corner as a program. With a chance to make a statement at home against Penn State, Michigan State fell flat on its face after halftime. Mark Dantonio's team will be an underdog in a bowl game and can redeem itself, but the season has been a disappointment.

7. Minnesota (6-6, 3-5): Another season has passed without a win in November or a victory in a rivalry game. The Gophers' defense came to play Saturday, as it has for most of the season, but the offense really struggled. Minnesota went scoreless against Iowa for the second straight season and endured its second shutout of the season (there was nearly another against Ohio State). The coaches downplayed the magnitude of the shift in offensive philosophy, but this unit looks lost right now.

8. Purdue (5-7, 4-4): I'd really like to rank the Boilermakers higher, but their losses to Michigan State and Minnesota keep them at No. 8. It's really a shame that Purdue won't be going bowling because the Boilers would be a very dangerous team in December or January. Kudos to head coach Danny Hope, quarterback Joey Elliott and others for keeping the team united after a 1-5 start.

9. Illinois (3-7, 2-6): The Illini didn't play this week, and they're assured of finishing outside the Big Ten basement because both Michigan and Indiana lost. Illinois really needs to win one of its remaining two games to build some momentum for a make-or-break 2010 season. A victory against No. 5 Cincinnati on Friday (ABC, noon ET) would provide a major confidence boost for Ron Zook and his team.

10. Michigan (5-7, 1-7): The Wolverines move up a spot because of a solid defensive effort against Ohio State, which couldn't pull away until Tate Forcier began firing interceptions in the second half. Mistakes doomed Michigan throughout its miserable Big Ten season, and head coach Rich Rodriguez needs Forcier and his other young players to grow up fast for 2010.

11. Indiana (4-8, 1-7): I'm very disappointed in the way Indiana finished the season. The Hoosiers had the mojo on their side Saturday, with a large crowd and archrival Purdue in their stadium. But they seemed to come out uninspired and made too many mistakes in all three phases. Head coach Bill Lynch has some exciting offensive weapons, but he needs to find a way to get this program over the hump in 2010 or he'll be gone.
Five lessons from the final week of Big Ten play.

1. Opportunity knocks for Buckeyes' defense: You can take shots at Jim Tressel's play calling or the fact Terrelle Pryor isn't a Heisman Trophy candidate by now. Or, you can admire what has happened with the Buckeyes' defense this season. A unit that lost several national award winners has gotten even better this fall, and Saturday's five-takeaway triumph against Michigan means Ohio State leads the nation in turnovers forced with 33. Ohio State's offense isn't always a masterpiece, but it's awfully fun to watch Kurt Coleman, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan, Cameron Heyward and the rest of the Buckeyes' defenders.

2. Penn State can play to its potential: It had been a ho-hum season for Penn State -- some would even call the campaign disappointing -- but the Nittany Lions saved their best for the regular-season finale. Penn State made a major statement in East Lansing, throttling Michigan State and executing on both sides of the ball. A secondary that I doubted all year stepped up to shut down Kirk Cousins, and Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark had arguably his best performance of the season. If Penn State gets a BCS at-large berth ahead of Iowa, the Lions will represent well if they play like they did Saturday.

3. Mike Kafka and Joey Elliott should gain All-Big Ten consideration: Both senior quarterbacks have made the most of their only full season as starters. Kafka has been accurate and extremely efficient for a surging Northwestern team, while Elliott turned in another terrific performance in Purdue's 38-21 victory at Indiana. In a year where returning starters struggled at quarterback (Adam Weber, Juice Williams, Pryor), these two signal-callers answered the bell for their teams. Kafka will be rewarded with a bowl trip, and Elliott should get some love on the All-Big Ten ballots.

4. The Iowa-Penn State debate is on: Both the Hawkeyes and the Lions finished the regular season 10-2, and both will be eligible for Big Ten at-large consideration. The league remains in pretty good shape for a second BCS berth, so will it be Iowa or Penn State? Iowa owns the head-to-head victory back on Sept. 26 and a stronger overall schedule, and the Hawkeyes should get starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi back for a bowl game. Penn State looked more impressive Saturday, and the Lions boast a national fan base, a history with both the Orange and Fiesta Bowls and the Joe Paterno factor. It will be very interesting to see which team gets the nod.

5. Four Big Ten coaches will be on the hot seat in 2010: We could still see changes in the coming days, but it's likely that all 11 Big Ten head coaches will be back next fall. But four of them -- Illinois' Ron Zook, Indiana's Bill Lynch, Michigan's Rich Rodriguez and Minnesota's Tim Brewster -- will certainly be feeling the heat. Zook has lost the momentum from the Rose Bowl run in 2007, while Lynch's team can't get over the hump or field a consistent defense. Rodriguez owns a 3-13 record in Big Ten play and has missed bowls in each of his first two years at Michigan. Brewster's change in offensive philosophy looks like a mistake as Weber has regressed and the Gophers were shut out for the second straight time against Iowa on Saturday.

Big Ten helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 22, 2009
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These guys saved their best for last.

  • Ohio State's defense: I could probably give helmet stickers to five Buckeyes defenders, but I need to spread the wealth a bit. Ohio State's defense forced five turnovers, converting one for a touchdown, in its 21-10 victory against Michigan. Individual standouts included safeties Kurt Coleman and Jermale Hines, cornerback Devon Torrence, defensive end Cameron Heyward and linebackers Brian Rolle, Ross Homan and John Simon.
  • Penn State QB Daryll Clark: After two uncharacteristic performances, Clark stepped up big in Penn State's spanking of Michigan State. The senior completed 19 of 27 passes for 310 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions as he spread the ball to eight different players.
  • Purdue QB Joey Elliott: If Clark doesn't win first-team All-Big Ten quarterback, it should go to Elliott. He made the most of his senior season and finished with a big win against Indiana, completing 21 of 29 passes for 205 yards and four touchdowns in the win.
  • Northwestern QB Mike Kafka and WR Andrew Brewer: Three years ago, they competed for the starting quarterback job and lost out to C.J. Bacher. On Saturday against Wisconsin, they hooked up six times for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Kafka finished 26-of-41 for 325 yards and no interceptions.
  • Iowa's defense: Another team effort from the Hawkeyes, who shut out Minnesota for the second straight year. All four starting defensive linemen recorded tackles for loss, and linebackers Pat Angerer and Troy Johnson stepped up in a big way as Iowa inched closer to a BCS at large berth.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 12

November, 16, 2009
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For the first time in a while, there are clearly defined tiers in the Big Ten. The bottom of the league no longer looks messy, as it's obvious who belongs there.

Ohio State sits atop the league standings once again, and until someone decides to dethrone the Buckeyes, they will be the league's signature program. Iowa is a clear No. 2, while Penn State and Wisconsin share the third spot.

Heading into the final week of conference play, here's where things stand.

1. Ohio State (9-2, 6-1): The Buckeyes got all they could handle from Iowa on Saturday, but clutch defensive play and a powerful run game proved to be the difference. It wasn't Ohio State's best defensive performance of the season, but the unit stepped up in overtime to silence James Vandenberg. The running backs and offensive linemen have taken heat throughout the season, but they stepped up in a big way. As a result, Ohio State is Pasadena-bound.

2. Iowa (9-2, 6-2): Wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos said Iowa didn't make a statement Saturday because it lost. I'd argue the Hawkeyes made a stronger statement in defeat than they have in several of their victories this season. No one gave Iowa much chance with Vandenberg making his first career start, but the Hawkeyes paced Ohio State for 60 minutes and beyond. If the Big Ten receives a BCS at-large berth, Iowa deserves it.

T-3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2): The Badgers torched Michigan in the second half en route to a 45-24 victory. Head coach Bret Bielema has this program reflecting its core values once again, and Wisconsin will be even better in 2010. The Badgers should be playing in a Jan. 1 bowl, and they can notch 10 or more victories for the third time in five years by beating Northwestern and Hawaii.

T-3. Penn State (9-2, 5-2): Thanks to linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee, Penn State rallied past Indiana after coming out completely flat on Senior Day. The Lions were fortunate not to be in a much bigger hole after committing four first-half turnovers. Penn State are still in the BCS at-large mix, but the Lions need a much more impressive showing next week at Michigan State, where they lost in 2007.

5. Northwestern (7-4, 4-3): It hasn't been an easy road for the Wildcats this year, but they've established the type of consistency the program needs. Northwestern will be going to back-to-back bowls for just the second time in team history. The Wildcats also went 3-1 in Big Ten road games for the second consecutive season. A win this week against Wisconsin would cap a strong finish and continue the momentum generated last year.

6. Michigan State (6-5, 4-3): Purdue dominated many parts of Saturday's game, but Michigan State made the big plays when it mattered. As a result, the Spartans are bowl eligible and can end up in a pretty nice spot if they knock off Penn State this week in East Lansing. Special teams and big plays from Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham, Charlie Gantt and others helped Michigan State win the shootout at Ross-Ade Stadium.

7. Minnesota (6-5, 3-4): An odd season for the Gophers continued Saturday with a strange victory against South Dakota State. But strong defensive play helped Minnesota get bowl eligible heading into next week's showdown at Iowa. It seems like Minnesota hasn't won a trophy game in forever, and an upset of the Hawkeyes would in many ways validate the season. A loss would increase the grumbling about the direction the program is headed.

8. Purdue (4-7, 3-4): I wouldn't blame Danny Hope for burning the game tapes of Purdue's losses as soon as the season ends. The Boilers once again let one slip away against Michigan State, allowing too many big plays and squandering great performances from Joey Elliott, Keith Smith and Ralph Bolden. Hope should have a good team coming back in 2010, but he needs to figure out ways to get over the hump.

9. Indiana (4-7, 1-6): Bill Lynch might want to join Hope and create a bonfire of game tapes before this week's Old Oaken Bucket game. Indiana's four road losses in Big Ten play have been especially painful because the Hoosiers could have won each game. When a team commits four first-half turnovers like Penn State did Saturday, you have to score more than 10 points. Indiana has made progress this season, even though the record doesn't show it.

10. Illinois (3-7, 2-6): Illinois didn't look like a team fighting for its bowl life until it was far too late in Saturday's loss to Northwestern. The Illini shouldn't have been trailing at halftime, and their third-quarter strategy left many shaking their heads. It's another lost season for head coach Ron Zook, who still must prove he can get the best out of the talented players he recruits.

11. Michigan (5-6, 1-6): Tate Forcier played well and Brandon Graham had another huge performance on defense, but Michigan once again unraveled in the second half to drop its sixth consecutive Big Ten game. The defense needs serious work in the offseason, which could start on Sunday. Michigan needs to beat Ohio State to avoid missing the postseason for the second straight year and finishing last in the Big Ten for the first time since 1962.

Wrapping up the early Big Ten games

November, 14, 2009
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We're about to get started here in Columbus. Here's what has happened so far in the Big Ten today.

Penn State 31, Indiana 20: Penn State gave Indiana a great opportunity to take control of this game with four first-half turnovers. When the Hoosiers couldn't capitalize, the Lions didn't give them a second chance. Penn State scored 24 unanswered points as running back Evan Royster got going and the defense held IU quarterback Ben Chappell in check for most of the second half. Daryll Clark didn't have a great game by any means, but he avoided mistakes in the second half and moved Penn State closer to the 10-win plateau. Linebacker Navorro Bowman made the play of the day when he intercepted a Chappell pass and raced 73 yards to the end zone. It has been a season of near misses for Indiana, which can't generate a consistent rushing attack.

Wisconsin 45, Michigan 24: Scott Tolzien became the latest quarterback to completely pick apart Michigan's secondary, as Wisconsin came in with an excellent offensive game plan today. Tolzien fired four touchdown passes as wide receiver Nick Toon and Isaac Anderson and tight end Garrett Graham all had big games. Badgers running back John Clay once again went over the 100-yard rushing mark (151, to be exact) as Wisconsin eclipsed its victories total from last season. Michigan backslid in the second half for the third straight week, as the run game never truly got going. Tate Forcier had arguably his best game at quarterback for the Wolverines, but he can only do so much. Greg Robinson's defense is a disaster, and Michigan's bowl hopes could be finished after a 4-0 start.

Michigan State 40, Purdue 37: The Spartans received big plays in all three phases during a wild second half as they held off Purdue to get bowl eligible. Special teams was huge down the stretch as Michigan State blocked a long field goal attempt, received another huge kickoff return from Keshawn Martin and drilled the game-winning field goal with 1:51 left. Quarterback Kirk Cousins didn't have his typical accuracy, but he hit on several huge pass plays, three for touchdowns. Purdue's desperate run for a bowl game ends despite another huge performance from quarterback Joey Elliott, an All-Big Ten candidate. Wideout Keith Smith and running back Ralph Bolden came up big, but the Boilers defense couldn't stop the big play.

Northwestern 21, Illinois 16: Illinois made this one interesting with a furious fourth-quarter rally behind backup quarterback Jacob Charest, who struggled for the first 50 minutes or so. After a sloppy first half, Northwestern took control with a 7-play, 99-yard scoring drive in the third quarter. Mike Kafka finally hit on a big pass play to Andrew Brewer (52 yards), and the run game started to show up with freshman Arby Fields. Kafka passed for 300 yards and Zeke Markshausen continued his surprise season at wide receiver. The game wasn't without controversy, as replay officials didn't overturn a fourth-down interception that sealed the win for Northwestern, which secures back-to-back bowl berths for the second time in team history. Illinois inexplicably will miss a bowl for the second straight season.

Minnesota 16, South Dakota State 13: The Golden Gophers are bowl eligible, but they didn't make it easy on themselves. Minnesota rode great defense to hold off South Dakota State and notch victory No. 6. Junior quarterback Adam Weber continued to struggle, completing 10 of 21 passes with a pick-six in the second quarter as the Minnesota offense piled up only 231 yards. But the Gophers defense forced four turnovers, including a fumble recovered for a touchdown by D.L. Wilhite. A huge sigh of relief for Tim Brewster, who now tries to win his first trophy game next week at Iowa.

video

Penn State held off Indiana's upset bid, 31-20.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

We've got a new No. 1 team and a lot of shuffling throughout the rankings this week. There's still a lot of uncertainty after the fifth spot, but things should get interesting down the stretch.

1. Ohio State (8-2, 5-1): Surprise, surprise, the Buckeyes are back on top in the Big Ten, a league they've owned this decade. After a blowout win against Penn State, Ohio State only must beat Iowa next week to secure the Big Ten's automatic BCS berth, most likely the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes come in very confident, while Iowa likely will be without starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi.

2. Iowa (9-1, 5-1): The quest for perfection is over in Iowa City, and the loss to Northwestern came with a cost as Stanzi left the field with a severe right ankle sprain. Iowa can still win the Big Ten with a victory next week, but it has struggled mightily in Columbus and will need big things from redshirt freshman James Vandenberg in his first career start at quarterback.

3. Penn State (8-2, 4-2): Because of a soft schedule, Penn State had only two chances for signature wins this season and it failed on both chances. Despite getting both Iowa and Penn State at Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions couldn't generate much offense and endured surprising breakdowns on special teams. Penn State probably saw its chances for a BCS at-large berth vanish after Saturday's poor performance.

4. Wisconsin (7-2, 4-2): Is there a more under-the-radar 7-2 team than Wisconsin? The Badgers quietly keep winning, though Saturday's game against Indiana got rather interesting down the stretch. Freshman running back Montee Ball really picked up teammate John Clay (concussion), and the Badgers' ground attack surged yet again. Wisconsin remains in good shape for a 10-2 season.

5. Northwestern (6-4, 3-3): The Wildcats move up two spots after their first win against a top 10 opponent since 2004. Not much has gone their way this season, but they continue to show unbelievable resolve in overcoming adversity. The defense is playing better each week, and Pat Fitzgerald is finding just enough offense despite injuries to quarterbacks Mike Kafka and now Dan Persa.

6. Michigan State (5-5, 3-3): Mark Dantonio said his team must regain respect in November, and Michigan State took a step in the right direction by pounding Western Michigan. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was brilliant and running back Ashton Leggett answered the bell with four rushing touchdowns. The Spartans now face a critical game at Purdue that could determine whether they reach the postseason.

7. Purdue (4-6, 3-3): What a wild season for Danny Hope's team. The Boilers outplay Oregon on the road, drop close contests to Notre Dame and Northwestern, shock Ohio State, lay an egg against Wisconsin and now rally to beat Michigan. Quarterback Joey Elliott and his teammates are extremely resilient, and they have a very real shot at a bowl game. Purdue can't afford any slip-ups and must beat Michigan State this week.

8. Illinois (3-6, 2-5): The confidence is coming back in Champaign as Illinois notched its second consecutive victory. Ron Zook's defense has come alive, and cornerback Terry Hawthorne and end Clay Nurse led the charge Saturday at Minnesota. It will be tough if quarterback Juice Williams misses extended time, but the Illini have faith they can do the unthinkable and finish .500 after a 1-6 start.

9. Minnesota (5-5, 3-4): A Jekyll-and-Hyde season continued for Tim Brewster's crew, which couldn't sustain the momentum from last week's victory against Michigan State. Minnesota came out completely flat in the first half and found itself in a huge hole against Illinois. The Gophers turned it around after halftime, but they're simply too inconsistent this season. This week's game against South Dakota State is a must win.

10. Indiana (4-6, 1-5): You have to feel for the Hoosiers, who just can't turn the corner like other Big Ten programs have (Northwestern, Purdue, Michigan State) in recent years. Junior quarterback Ben Chappell and sophomore wide receiver Tandon Doss have really impressed me this season, but when you can't consistently run the football or stop the run, you're going to lose games. Indiana needs a miracle this week against Penn State to keep its bowl hopes alive.

11. Michigan (5-5, 1-5): It's a meltdown at Michigan right now, as a team that started 4-0 and had some positive vibes going has totally fallen apart. The Wolverines squandered a 24-10 halftime lead against Purdue and endured more breakdowns from a young and marginal defense. Rich Rodriguez's seat is definitely getting hotter as Michigan needs an upset in the final two weeks to make a bowl game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Kudos and criticisms from around the league. Remember, players or coaches acknowledged in helmet tickers or Players of the Week don't appear here.

 
 Andrew Weber/US Presswire
 Illinois' Jason Ford rushed for 128 yards and one touchdown in Saturday's victory.
Thumbs up, Illinois RBs Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford: LeShoure has quietly had a solid season and continued to produce Saturday against Michigan, while Ford joined in the act as well. The two sophomore running backs combined for 278 rush yards and two touchdowns as the Fighting Illini notched their first Big Ten win and ran all over the Wolverines.

Thumbs down, Purdue's offense: The unit had a complete meltdown at Wisconsin after several solid performances. It wasn't just the turnovers that held Purdue back this time. Quarterbacks Joey Elliott and Caleb TerBush combined to complete only 27 percent of their passes, a statistic impacted by a ton of drops by their wide receivers.

Thumbs up, Chris Borland: The Wisconsin linebacker deserves consideration for Big Ten freshman of the year. He has meant that much to the Badgers' turnaround this fall. Borland continued to produce in his first career start at outside linebacker, forcing a fumble and recovering two fumbles against Purdue to earn Big Ten co-defensive player of the week honors.

Thumbs down, Greg Robinson: After an impressive performance in the season opener against Western Michigan, Robinson's unit has declined sharply. I heard a lot about improved communication and better cohesion before the season, but the defense endures multiple major breakdowns in every game. Whether it's pass defense against Notre Dame and Penn State or run defense against Illinois, the defense has been a disaster and it falls in his lap.

Thumbs up, Jedd Fisch: The Minnesota offensive coordinator produced his best game plan in his first game without his best player, wide receiver Eric Decker. Fisch was extremely creative and aggressive, and he received big plays from Duane Bennett, Nick Tow-Arnett, Da'Jon McKnight, Brandon Green and Troy Stoudermire.

Thumbs down, Minnesota's discipline: The Gophers notched a big win against Michigan State, but their 17 penalties tied a Big Ten single-game record set by Michigan State way back in 1957. It seemed like flags were flying on almost every play, and Minnesota won't win many more games if it doesn't improve its discipline.

Thumbs up, Penn State QB Daryll Clark: He should be the frontrunner for Big Ten offensive player of the year, with Wisconsin's John Clay as his only legitimate challenger. Clark turned in another strong performance against Northwestern, passing for 274 yards and a touchdown and scoring a rushing touchdown as well.

Thumbs down, Big Ten replay officials: Replay is supposed to ensure that the officiating crews get it right in these games, but the folks in the booth had a rough Saturday. The term "indisputable video evidence" definitely seemed a bit hazy in the Indiana-Iowa and Michigan State-Minnesota games.

Thumbs up, Terry Hawthorne: The Illinois freshman cornerback made arguably the play of the game against Michigan when he chased down wide receiver Roy Roundtree at the Illini 1-yard line. Illinois stopped Michigan on four straight plays and kept the Wolverines' lead at only six points, setting the stage for a second-half surge.

Thumbs down, Northwestern's fourth-quarter performance: The Wildcats have owned the fourth quarter in past seasons, but they are struggling in crunch time in 2009. After allowing 21 fourth-quarter points to Penn State in Saturday's loss, the Wildcats have been outscored 72-44 in the final 15 minutes.

And, for the first time ever ...

Thumbs up and thumbs down, Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi: Just having a little fun with this one, as Stanzi showed both his best and his worst on Saturday against Indiana. He threw a career high five interceptions, four in the third quarter, but once again responded in the fourth with two huge touchdown passes to notch his first career 300-yard passing performance and lift Iowa to another huge win.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Trick or treat.

1. Iowa in search of style points: After rising to No. 4 in the BCS standings, Iowa can help its cause and possibly win over more pollsters with a convincing win against Indiana (ESPN, noon ET). The Hawkeyes have fallen behind in seven of their eight wins and own only one victory by more than 11 points this fall. Indiana isn't a pushover this season, but the Hoosiers are vulnerable in the secondary. Iowa is banged up entering the game, as freshman running back Brandon Wegher makes his first career start in place of the injured Adam Robinson. The Hawkeyes also could use true freshman backs Brad Rogers and Josh Brown.

2. Bowl play-in game at TCF Bank Stadium: Minnesota and Michigan State both sit at 4-4 entering Saturday night's clash (Big Ten Network, 8 p.m. ET). Much like last week's Indiana-Northwestern game, this contest could determine a postseason berth. Michigan State is clearly the hotter team but must bounce back from a heartbreaking loss to Iowa. Linebacker Greg Jones leads a rapidly improving Spartans defense against a Gophers offense that has produced just seven points in its last two games. Minnesota can't afford a late-season collapse for the second straight season, especially with so much experience on the roster.

3. Joey Elliott vs. Scott Tolzien: One quarterback struggled with turnovers early in the season but has turned things around; the other started fast but has thrown five interceptions in his last two games. Elliott really seems to be hitting his stride, and he leads a confident Purdue team into Camp Randall Stadium, where it won in 2003. Wisconsin has dropped consecutive games and needs Tolzien to limit mistakes against an opportunistic Boilermakers defense. The Badgers' banged-up offensive line should be well rested coming off a bye week and needs to keep Big Ten sacks leader Ryan Kerrigan away from Tolzien.

4. Lions try to avoid Cat trap: Penn State snapped its losing streak at Michigan Stadium in convincing fashion last week. Now the Nittany Lions head to Northwestern's Ryan Field (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET), which hasn't been the easiest place to notch big wins. Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State is 4-2 in Evanston, but three of the victories have come by five points or fewer. The Lions rallied for a dramatic win in 2005 to spark their Big Ten title season. Penn State comes in hot, while Northwestern is banged up but revived after the biggest comeback in team history.

5. Quarterback questions in Champaign: Big Ten play hasn't been kind to Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier, who has completed just 38 of 81 attempts with two touchdowns and three interceptions in losses to Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State. Forcier and classmate Denard Robinson need to redeem themselves against Illinois, which ranks last in the Big Ten in both total defense and rush defense. Illinois' starting quarterback once again remains a mystery, as senior Juice Williams and freshman Jacob Charest both will see action.

6. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor: The Buckeyes don't have much to gain from Saturday's game against New Mexico State, which owns the nation's worst offense and will have a rough time putting up points. But it does provide Pryor another opportunity to make strides before next week's huge trip to No. 12 Penn State. Ohio State needs to decide how it wants to use Pryor the rest of the way. My plan? He runs the ball 17-22 times a game and throws deep when the opportunity presents itself.

7. Gophers begin life without Eric Decker: Minnesota's star senior wide receiver is out for the rest of the regular season after straining his foot in Saturday's loss to Ohio State. Decker has been the Gophers' only consistent weapon on offense this season. Minnesota needs a better performance from junior quarterback Adam Weber and an offensive line that has endured inconsistency throughout the season.

8. Indiana's ends vs. Iowa's tackles: For Indiana to have any shot at an upset in Iowa City, defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton must apply steady pressure to Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Iowa entered the year with the Big Ten's top tackles tandem in Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway, though the Hawkeyes rank eighth in the Big Ten in sacks allowed (17). Kirlew ranks fourth in the league in both sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.5), so keeping him away from Stanzi will be key.

9. Zook's reception at home: Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther says Ron Zook will be back in 2010, a decision that didn't sit well with much of Illini Nation. It will be interesting to see if the team can show some sign of progress on its home field against a sputtering Michigan team. If it's more of the same, you can bet the boo birds will be out for Zook, whose team is headed to a last-place finish for the third time in his five seasons in Champaign.

10. Penn State vs. Northwestern on money downs: Tom Bradley's defense leads the Big Ten in preventing conversions on both third down (30.4 percent) and fourth down (25 percent). Northwestern has attempted and converted more third downs (51.1 percent) and fourth downs (58.3 percent) than any other league team this season. If the Wildcats' offense can control the clock and stay on the field, it might hang around for a while. If Penn State holds its ground on the money downs, it should pull away.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg

It has been nine years since rivals Penn State and Pitt last played, and the debate about the discontinued series still rages in the Keystone State. When will they meet again? Not in the regular season any time soon. But there's a new subplot in the discussion this fall, as the Nittany Lions and Panthers are separated by just three spots in the BCS standings.

Both teams are playing their best football right now and remain alive in their respective conference title races. And maybe, just maybe, the 12th-ranked Lions and 15th-ranked Panthers will meet in a BCS bowl down the road. The big question: Which has the better team?

Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg and Big East blogger Brian Bennett break it all down.

 
  Eric Bronson/Icon SMI
  Pennsylvania football fans would like to see Daryll Clark and the Nittany Lions play Pittsburgh in the future.
Adam Rittenberg: We already debated Iowa and Cincinnati. Now let's get really personal. There are enough fans on both sides who want to see the series resume, but we both know how BCS teams hate to part with home games. Any chance we see Penn State and Pitt meet in a BCS bowl game?

Brian Bennett: It's certainly possible that both teams get into the BCS. But I see the chances of them meeting in a bowl as slim. Penn State would have to be an at-large pick, since there's no way Pitt is going to the Rose Bowl, and the options are limited elsewhere. Plus, the game wouldn't generate a whole lot of interest outside of Pennsylvania, where it would be enormous.

The bigger question I have is, why aren't these two teams still playing in the regular season? All indications are that Pitt would welcome the resumption of the series. Panthers fans blame Joe Paterno for killing the rivalry. How much truth do you think there is to that?

Rittenberg: Paterno wasn't pleased when Pitt joined the Big East, which prevented him from forming a new conference with Eastern schools. Penn State also must play at least seven home games a year. That's non-negotiable. The Lions can't afford to lose revenue from cramming their enormous stadium and continue to play other attractive nonconference opponents (i.e. Alabama) unless Pitt agreed to a 2-for-1 with two games in State College. I know the fans don't like to hear it, but the two schools are in different financial positions, and Pitt plays one more non-league game (5) than Penn State.

We could talk about this all day, but let's get to the teams. How do you think Pitt matches up against Penn State?

 
  Justin K. Aller/Icon SMI
  Pittsburgh quarterback Bill Stull is leading an improved Panthers offense.
Bennett: As with all the Big East contenders, you have to start on the offensive side of the ball. Those not playing close attention this year may view Pitt as a typical Dave Wannstedt, defensive-minded team. But the Panthers can really score and are averaging 34 points a game. They've got answers everywhere, from a terrific veteran offensive line, a true freshman back in Dion Lewis who's already gone over 1,000 yards, a stud receiver in Jonathan Baldwin, two top flight tight ends and a fifth-year senior quarterback, Bill Stull, who has made tremendous strides.

Defensively, Pitt has one of the top defensive front lines anywhere, with sack specialists Greg Romeus and Jabaal Sheard on the outside and bullrushing tackle Mick Williams on the inside. The Panthers have been exploited, however, in the passing game against the outside linebackers and the defensive backs, which is where I would think the Nittany Lions would attack with Daryll Clark.

But Penn State's offense hasn't been overly impressive this year. Has the Spread HD gone low def?

Rittenberg: Offense, offense, offense. That's all I hear from you, Bennett. Before getting to the Spread HD, which looks pretty good to me, let's talk a little D (you like my rhymes?).

Penn State's defense is simply dominant this season. I won't bore you with stats, but Penn State ranks in the top 10 nationally in seven major statistical categories, including No. 1 in points allowed (8.88 ppg). The defensive line is ferocious, led by tackles Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu and budding star Jack Crawford at defensive end. Linebacker U. is back as Navorro Bowman and The 'Stache (Josh Hull) have been fabulous and Sean Lee is getting healthier each week. They would digest Lewis.

The Lions are getting better each week on offense as a new-look line jells. Clark and running back Evan Royster have been fabulous since the Iowa loss, and the new group of wide receivers has seen different stars emerge each week (Chaz Powell, Derek Moye, Graham Zug). Tight end Andrew Quarless is a major matchup problem, and backup running back Stephfon Green can go the distance on any play.

Penn State might be the most complete team in the Big Ten right now. So what do you think? Who would win if these rivals decided to play this year?

Bennett: This why I'm glad I cover the Big East and not the Big Ten: I enjoy the forward pass and seeing teams score.

I'm with you on Penn State's defense -- it's stacked. That would probably be the difference in the Pennsylvania Bowl. Although I think Pitt could still move the ball, it likely wouldn't come anywhere close to its usual points total against the Nittany Lions, while that improving offense behind Clark would get the job done.

So I give the slight nod to Penn State as remaining the big dog in the state, but the gap is narrowing once again. Now, what can we do to talk these two teams into actually playing one another?

Rittenberg: I agree that Penn State would win the game, especially with the way the Nittany Lions are playing right now. The Big East doesn't have a defense ranked in the top 20 nationally, and the Nittany Lions' size and speed on that side would pose problems. Pitt's defensive line could hurt Penn State, but Clark still would make plays in the pass game. I've been very impressed with Pitt this year, as much as I'm reluctant to buy into Wanny-coached team (sorry, Bears fan here).

How do we get these two together again? I wonder if Pitt would be willing to do a 3-for-2. Otherwise, maybe they could meet at a neutral site and split the revenue. Or we could wait for Paterno to retire. On second thought, that'll never happen.

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