Big Ten: Iowa Hawkeyes

Big Ten morning links

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
8:00
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Live football has almost returned. Until it arrives again, take a few spins on the coaching carousel.

The Wisconsin Way: Continuity should be back at Wisconsin, and the program made it clear that it won’t be compromising anything it proudly stands for to keep it. By sticking inside the family on Wednesday and officially bringing Paul Chryst back home, the Badgers have somebody who knows exactly what the job entails and a coach who almost certainly won’t be making a lateral move at any point in the future. Maybe the Badgers will start spending more money on assistants down the road, so there’s some flexibility there in regards to an issue that turned off Bret Bielema. But in terms of knowing the kind of recruits it can expect to land and clearly laying out the academic requirements moving forward, not to mention bringing in an existing relationship with the university and the boss, Chryst couldn’t be any better suited to provide stability for Wisconsin after a rough stretch of losing Bielema and then Gary Andersen after two short years.

Down to one: Wisconsin moving quickly leaves only Michigan active on the job market, and while there’s no telling when that search will end, it is effectively the only one that still has a chance of connecting on a true home-run hire. No offense to Chryst or new Nebraska coach Mike Riley, because those were smart, sensible hires that made perfect sense for each program -- but they certainly don’t qualify as splashy or scream that championships are on the way. If Les Miles is definitively out of the picture, it really seems as though Jim Harbaugh is going to have to come through for the Wolverines once his commitments to San Francisco are over at the end of the NFL season. And it seems like Michigan is fully committed to doing whatever it takes to deliver him. Maybe there’s another huge name secretly looming out there for Michigan, but if there was, wouldn’t there have been some indication of that by now? The Big Ten is down to one job, and there really only seems to be one guy who should claim it.

Coordinator corner: Just below those headline vacancies leading Big Ten programs, the chance to replace Tom Herman as Ohio State’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator will be up there as a highly-coveted position this offseason as the coaching carousel spins. The odds are strong that Ed Warinner will receive something of a promotion from his co-coordinator duties and take on more responsibility as a play-caller, though he was already somewhat active in that regard in his current role. Warinner not only deserves a raise for the incredible job he’s done with the Ohio State offensive line, he has earned more credit than he currently receives for that work, which is perhaps why he hasn’t landed an opportunity to lead his own program yet despite a couple interviews over the last two years. The Buckeyes are actually fortunate that they don’t have to replace both Herman and Warinner simultaneously, but either way there will be no shortage of candidates lining up for the shot to potentially work with J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller at quarterback.

East Division
West Division
Every day this week, before the bowl season kicks off, our Big Ten panel of experts will be weighing in on different topics related to the regular season.

Our third question of the week: What was the Big Ten's biggest disappointment of the season?

Mitch Sherman: Christmas came early for Big Ten detractors. No individual or team performance matched the league-wide flop of Week 2. You remember it as the day Ohio State lost 35-21 at home to Virginia Tech, Notre Dame pounded Michigan 31-0 and Oregon dominated the second half against Michigan State. Moreover, Nebraska barely avoided overtime against McNeese State. Iowa scored two late touchdowns to sneak past Ball State. Maryland, Minnesota, Rutgers and Illinois – all eventual bowl teams -- won close over South Florida, Middle Tennessee and Howard and Western Kentucky. Northwestern lost to Northern Illinois, and Central Michigan routed Purdue. Seriously, The nation laughed at the Big Ten all year because of that day. Want to know why league teams opened as underdogs in all 10 bowl games? Look to Sept. 6.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke, Devin Gardner
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesMichigan's 5-7 season was tough to watch on several fronts.
Josh Moyer: You can’t talk about the biggest disappointment without mentioning Michigan’s 2014 season – especially the first half of it. The Wolverines started just 2-4, with wins over Appalachian State and Miami (Ohio), while making school history with its poor play. First came a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame, which was the most lopsided loss to the Irish in the series’ 127-year history. Then came a lightning-delayed loss to Utah, when the Big House emptied so much that one player called it the “Ute House.” And then Brady Hoke’s squad lost the Little Brown Jug to Minnesota, 30-14, in the Gophers’ largest margin of victory in the series since 1977. Oh, and Michigan helped Rutgers get its first-ever Big Ten win, as longtime starting QB Gary Nova passed for a career-high 404 yards. It was a nightmare first half to the season.

Dan Murphy: The Big Ten championship game. The state of Ohio might disagree, but this year's game in Indianapolis did not live up to its billing. This was supposed to be a showdown between one of the country's best offenses and one of its best defenses. One side of that equation never showed up in Ohio State's 59-0 win over Wisconsin. The lopsided score (and the Buckeyes defense) gave us no chance to marvel at Melvin Gordon. The Heisman Trophy runner-up ran for 76 yards, eliminating whatever small chance he had to win the award. I understand that without an Ohio State blowout, the Big Ten probably would have been the odd man out in this year's College Football Playoff. But from the standpoint of wanting a dramatic, competitive finale to the conference season, man, what a dud.

Adam Rittenberg: I remember talking with MGoBlog's Brian Cook about Michigan in the summer, and Cook described Michigan's schedule as "low-variance," likely to produce eight or nine wins, but probably not 10 or seven. I completely agreed. No one envisioned 5-7 as being remotely possible for a team that, despite underachieving the year before, seemingly had improved depth and leadership. Brady Hoke really liked his team. Opposing coaches told me the talent absolutely was in place for a solid season. Then the bottom fell out against Notre Dame and Michigan never truly recovered. I really thought the offense could at least be respectable under new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, but it never got on track against solid competition. Northwestern and Iowa certainly belong in the biggest-disappointment conversation, but neither team has as much raw talent as Michigan. What a clunker.

Brian Bennett: As disappointing as Michigan and Northwestern were, I never viewed either as a serious league title contender. Many picked Iowa to win the West Division because of its dream schedule. No Ohio State or Michigan State and both Wisconsin and Nebraska at home the final two weeks. Yet the Hawkeyes managed to go just 7-5, losing at home to a terrible Iowa State team, getting blown out at Minnesota and letting Maryland run all over them. This Iowa team never found a real identity and squandered what could have potentially been a special season. That should cause some re-evaluation this offseason in Iowa City.

Austin Ward: The premature end of defensive end Noah Spence’s college career. Ohio State obviously disagreed with the ruling against Spence, and perhaps it had a case that his failed drug test wasn’t for a performance-enhancing substance. But either way, the junior did break the rules when he was suspended for a second time by the Big Ten, bringing a promising college career to a sad end. The league was robbed of a chance to watch his elite talent for another season, Ohio State’s plans for unleashing a completely unstoppable defensive line at every position took a blow and, of course, Spence’s own health was damaged. Hopefully there is a happy ending for him following his time away from the field, but it was certainly a wasted opportunity this season.

Big Ten morning links

December, 16, 2014
Dec 16
8:00
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Good morning, Big Ten fans. Only four more days until college football résumés ...

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.

East Division
  • 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.
  • Rutgers freshman CB Dre Boggs has played in nine games already this season, but he has higher expectations for himself.
West Division
  • Paul Chryst, who's poised to succeed Gary Andersen at Wisconsin, declined to say Monday that he'll remain with Pitt.

Iowa Hawkeyes season review

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
2:30
PM ET
Before we turn our full attention to bowls, we’re taking a look back on the 2014 regular season for each team. Up next: Iowa.

Overview: With an easy conference schedule -- one that featured Indiana and Maryland as crossover opponents -- expectations here were set for the Big Ten championship. Instead, 2014 was a step backward. (The Hawkeyes won eight games in the 2013 regular season but finished 7-5 this season.) Athletic director Gary Barta said Iowa's record "isn't unacceptable," while coach Kirk Ferentz agreed but also added he was "disappointed." The season didn't exactly get off to a rousing start, as the offense stumbled in its first 14 quarters. Iowa fell to Iowa State, 20-17, in Week 3 while offensive coordinator Greg Davis was criticized for his conservative play-calling. Still, the Hawkeyes suffered only one loss by midseason and stood at 5-1, thanks in part to C.J. Beathard taking the reins against Pitt and igniting a comeback on 7-of-8 passing. The issues really spilled over in the second half of the season, as the Hawkeyes lost four of their final six games. Three of those contests were decided by a single score, two by field goals, but that hardly made players feel any better. Iowa didn’t beat one team with a winning record and, in spite of Barta’s comment, defensive tackle Carl Davis labeled his team’s finish with a key word: “Unacceptable.”

Offensive MVP: Left tackle Brandon Scherff. It’s not easy for a lineman to receive recognition like this, but few players boast the strength and technique Scherff does. Not only was he named the best offensive lineman in the Big Ten, but he also recently won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top lineman. He protected Jake Rudock's blindside all season, and he helped spring Mark Weisman to 14 rushing touchdowns. He’s also No. 7 on Mel Kiper’s “Big Board” for the 2015 NFL draft.

Defensive MVP: Defensive tackle Louis Trinca-Pasat. You could make an argument for three of the defensive linemen here -- Drew Ott and Carl Davis being the others -- but Trinca-Pasat was a surprisingly disruptive force inside. Davis may have freed him up a bit, but LTP still finished with an impressive 11.5 tackles-for-loss and 6.5 sacks. Maybe most impressive? The defensive tackle was fourth on his team with 65 tackles.

ESPN's Big Ten all-freshman team

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
10:00
AM ET
The Big Ten doesn't put out an all-freshman team. But we do. Here are our picks for the top first-year players in the league in 2014:

Offense

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.

Defense

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.

Specialists

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.

Big Ten morning links

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
8:00
AM ET
Miss college football? Bowl games begin this weekend. Giddy up.

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.

West Division
East Division

ESPN.com's All-Big Ten team

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
9:00
AM ET
The Big Ten unveiled its official all-league teams last week, but we have our own thoughts and choices. Here is the ESPN.com All-Big Ten team for 2014:

Offense

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.

Defense

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.

Specialists

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.

Big Ten morning links

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
8:00
AM ET
Wisconsin survived its first full day since way back in 2012 without a head coach, though the search to replace Gary Andersen -- set to to be introduced Friday at Oregon State -- appears set end quickly.

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:

West Division
  • 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.
East Division
  • 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.

B1G roundtable: Bowl thoughts, Part IV

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
3:30
PM ET
Each day this week, our Big Ten panel of experts is weighing in on a topic related to the league's postseason lineup.

Today's question: What will be the most lopsided bowl game involving a Big Ten team?

Austin Ward: There’s no question which team will be most excited about its appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl, and it’s the same one that appears to be trending upward while the other seems mired in mediocrity. Iowa is capable of putting big numbers on the scoreboard and shutting opponents down defensively, but it was perhaps the most inconsistent squad in the Big Ten this season. The Vols, meanwhile, will have no shortage of motivation, they are emerging on both sides of the ball with a lot of young talent and a coming-out party could come at the expense of the Hawkeyes.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm worried about Nebraska. It's always tricky predicting how teams perform in bowls after coaching changes, and I tend to think Ameer Abdullah, Kenny Bell and the other leaders will keep the Huskers grounded. But when USC is on its game, especially offensively, the Trojans are one of the nation's best teams. I don't see Nebraska's defense keeping pace with USC stars Cody Kessler, Buck Allen and Nelson Agholor.

Dan Murphy: There are no guaranteed laughers in this group. One game that has some potential to get out of hand is Tennessee-Iowa. The Hawkeyes have been impossible to predict this season and the Vols have a roster full of young, talented players that could benefit from an extra couple weeks of practice time.

Mitch Sherman: Hate to say it after the good vibes of the Mike Riley hire in recent days, but Nebraska might get exposed against USC. The Huskers, as a program, are in transition as most of the coaches, if not all, in charge of bowl preparation plan for a future at different schools. Organization may suffer. Focus could be a concern for the Huskers, who would likely struggle to slow Kessler and Agholor if none of these exterior issues existed. Nebraska’s best hope is to let it all hang out. Really, there’s nothing to lose -- except the game, by a sizeable margin.

Josh Moyer: Nebraska could have its hands full with USC’s offense, so that one really has the potential to be lopsided. The Trojans boast the nation’s No. 25 scoring offense, and the Huskers haven’t seen a passing attack quite like this all season. Kessler completed 70.7 percent of his passes, while throwing for 3,305 yards, 36 touchdowns and just four interceptions. Without Bo Pelini, Nebraska isn’t in the best spot, either -- so I think there are simply too many things working against it here.

Brian Bennett: Alabama is nearly a 10-point favorite over Ohio State and I fear this is not a great matchup for the Buckeyes. Giving Nick Saban a month to prepare with a motivated team is hardly ever a recipe for success. Of course, it's also hard to bet against Urban Meyer, and I picked Ohio State to lose to both Michigan State and Wisconsin. So you really don't want to bet on my picks.
Lineman are tough to judge. No stats or real highlights of note.

Relative to others, Brandon Scherff is easy to judge.

Just watch Iowa’s senior left tackle. More precisely, watch the men who play against him. They don’t go anywhere. A former high school quarterback and tennis player, Scherff, at 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, quiets the pass rush better than any offensive lineman in college football.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Scherff
Matthew Holst/Getty ImagesBrandon Scherff could be a top-10 pick in next spring NFL draft.
For that, he deserves the Outland Trophy, presented to the nation’s top interior lineman.

Other finalists include Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown and Auburn center Reese Dismukes.

Known for his freakish strength, Scherff has drawn comparisons to former Iowa stars Marshal Yanda, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff, now starters in the NFL. In fact, Scherff likely enjoyed the best college career of any offensive lineman under Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, regarded as one the best evaluators and developers of line talent nationally.

Named the Big Ten’s top lineman and a two-time first-team all-league pick, Scherff could have left Iowa after his junior season and landed in the first round of the NFL. No doubt, that’s where he’s headed this spring.

Before his senior year, some wondered if Scherff ranked as the best player in college football, regardless of position. He fought through a knee injury this fall and provided a calming presence for Iowa on offense.

The Hawkeyes battled inconsistency, but they always had Scherff on whom to depend. Quarterback Jake Rudock rarely, if ever, faced concern over taking a hit from the blind side.

That’s on Scherff. Stats don’t reveal much about him, though a lack of sacks and hits on the Iowa quarterbacks tell part of his story.

As the regular-season finale on Nov. 28 neared an end, Iowa had a chance, tied at 34 with Nebraska, to avoid overtime. The Hawkeyes ran a desperation play, moving across midfield with no time on the clock after a series of laterals.

Near the sideline in front of the Iowa bench emerged a ball carrier. A big ball carrier. He was running well. It was Scherff. And just as the crowd at Kinnick Stadium realized what was happening, Scherff stepped out of bounds as he tried to tightrope the sideline.

He gave them hope, if only for a second. Still no stats, but a reminder of his athletic gifts. Scoring touchdowns is the job of others.

No one does Scherff’s job, though, better than him.

Big Ten morning links

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
8:00
AM ET
Well, that was sure an unexpected turn of events. Make that three new coaches for the Big Ten next season.

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. Awards season: The Big Ten is guaranteed to be stuffing at least one trophy in its luggage tonight at the Home Depot College Football Awards show, with all three finalists for the Doak Walker Award hailing from the conference. But how many more might the league win? There aren’t all that many options, but Joey Bosa is a realistic threat to claim the Bednarik for the defensive player of the year thanks to his breakout season up front for the Buckeyes. Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff may not have had his finest campaign this year, but he remains extremely well regarded as a pro prospect and could walk out with the Outland honoring linemen. But for the most part, aside from the Walker, it doesn’t figure to be an event that does a whole lot of celebrating the Big Ten.

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.

East Division
  • 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.
West Division
  • 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.

Watch B1G Show replay

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
6:00
PM ET
Join Big Ten reporters Brian Bennett, Josh Moyer, Dan Murphy and Mitch Sherman as they look at Ohio State's playoff chances, awards season, how Nebraska ran the perfect coaching search, the surprising departure of Gary Anderson at Wisconsin and much more.

B1G roundtable: Bowl thoughts, Part III

December, 10, 2014
Dec 10
3:30
PM ET
Every day this week, our Big Ten experts are weighing in on a topic related to the league's postseason lineup.

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.

Big Ten morning links

December, 9, 2014
Dec 9
8:00
AM ET
It's time to get your morning started off right. With the Big Ten morning links.

1. 0-10 this postseason?: Call it disrespect, a conspiracy, an underestimation -- or the cold, hard truth. But Vegas currently has the Big Ten as an underdog in every single bowl game. Michigan State (vs. Baylor) and Penn State (vs. Boston College) currently have the best chance to win, according to VegasInsider, as both are just three-point underdogs. The team with the biggest point spread? Maryland. Stanford is a 14-point favorite in that matchup.

The conference didn't draw an easy lot with its top-five bowl matchups, but the other five are somewhat surprising. Louisiana Tech -- which lost to both Northwestern State and Old Dominion -- is a five-point favorite over Illinois, for example. We Big Ten bloggers will submit our bowl predictions in the near future … but I can't see any of us picking the Big Ten to win zero games. That being said, even a .500 record here has to be considered a victory. These opponents certainly aren't push-overs.

2. Coach of the Year: Let's rewind for a second. Remember how Urban Meyer somehow didn't win the Big Ten Coach of the Year award last week, losing out to Minnesota's Jerry Kill? Well, we bloggers all thought that was pretty ridiculous -- but it could look even more out-of-place in the near future. Meyer was named one of eight finalists for the national Eddie Robinson Award, which is given to the nation's best coach on Jan. 10.

He's not a favorite to win, but it's certainly odd to see a coach as a national candidate but not a conference winner. Also odd: ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy recently polled coaches from around the nation on college football's best coach. Meyer placed second, behind only TCU's Gary Patterson. Kill is undoubtedly a great coach and deserves recognition, but can we all agree it was a great disservice not to name Meyer named B1G coach of the year? I still don't understand the decision …

3. Bowl swag: We offered up a list of which B1G teams are getting what gifts this bowl season. And there are three interesting tidbits to point out. First of all, the “coolest gift” award has to go to Rutgers in the Quick Lane Bowl, as each player will get a Fathead made in their likeness. Detroit isn't the best bowl destination -- just ask Central Michigan here -- but Fathead is based there. Maybe a beach destination in exchange for a Fathead would've be a better deal but, hey, it's still a cool gift. The worst gift? That'd probably go to Penn State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, where the Nittany Lions will receive a “variety of New Era products.”

I don't know about you, but hats and T-shirts only get me so excited. I don't know exactly what those New Era gift bags entail, but I can't imagine that “New Era products” beats Minnesota's or Nebraska's $440-plus Best Buy shopping spree. And a final note: What's with the Fossil watches? Half the Big Ten teams are receiving them this year. Let's be honest, wristwatches are like the candy corn of the bowl season.

East Division
West Division

Big Ten Monday mailbag

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8
5:00
PM ET
The ride isn't over yet, but that was certainly one heck of a year in the Big Ten. What can it do for an encore during bowl season? I can't wait to find out, and it's already time to start looking ahead as he dive into the mailbag.

Austin Ward: For starters, I think as a whole this entire lineup for the Big Ten is filled with competitive matchups and should provide an entertaining set of games to wrap up the season. The tweaks that were made to fill the bowl tie-ins appear to be an overwhelming success in terms of the on-field product. To take one of each, Minnesota seems to have a favorable draw against Missouri, as the league looks to claim a second victory over the SEC East champs this season. The Gophers and their disciplined defense should be able to keep the score down while David Cobb and the rushing attack control the clock, and if Mitch Leidner can hit a few play-action passes, Jerry Kill's program should finish up the year with more hardware to add to the trophy case. As for the flip side, with or without having just made a coaching change, USC was probably going to be a tough out for Nebraska. It's unfortunate to see some decorated careers come to an end this way for respected players like Kenny Bell and Ameer Abdullah, but that looks like a difficult situation for the Huskers against the Trojans.

Austin Ward: A clean sweep is probably a bit too much to ask, but if the Big Ten can take two out of three against the vaunted SEC, that would certainly qualify as a success. It would also take some of the teeth out of those tired arguments that the Big Ten has fallen too far behind the SEC competitively if it could strike back a couple times on the field. Minnesota, as mentioned, has a legitimate shot to score a victory, and even after getting steamrolled in the Big Ten title game, Wisconsin is a team to watch as well as it rebounds and tries to regain a measure of pride. Auburn figures to have its hands full with a motivated Melvin Gordon, and the Badgers are nowhere near as soft on defense as Ohio State just made them look. Iowa is a wild card because its so unpredictable, but if it can match the motivation of a fired-up Tennessee team, it certainly has the ability to pick up a bowl win as well.

Austin Ward: Maybe in an ideal world voters wouldn't take team success into account for the Heisman Trophy, but since it has really been solidified as the equivalent to the NFL's MVP award, it's really hard not to factor that into the balloting -- if not impossible. If it was given to the best overall player on the field this season, to me I think Melvin Gordon deserves it more than Marcus Mariota. But the impact that the Oregon quarterback has had on a team that is playing for a national title compared to Wisconsin sitting with three losses now makes sense as a tiebreaker if the race is close enough for others. I don't have a problem narrowing it down as the most valuable player on a top-1o team, if I'm truly being honest, because in most cases that is already happening anyway.

Austin Ward: Picking between Urban Meyer and Nick Saban is such a dilemma given their respective track records, which really makes the semifinal matchup so intriguing. There's no wrong answer, really. Prefer ruthless defense and a maniacal attention to detail? Take Saban. Love explosive offenses and a master of motivation? Meyer is the guy. The contrast between them and their ability to succeed with different styles is fascinating. Anyway, who has the edge in preparation over the next month? I think Saban is going to cook up a lot of exotic looks to throw at Cardale Jones in an effort to confuse the Ohio State quarterback in just his second start. But Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman now have some extra time to bring him along with the first-team offense, and given how well they've done over the last couple seasons zipping their young passers through the learning curve, I think the Buckeyes might make better use of the coming weeks ahead of the huge showdown in New Orleans.

Austin Ward: As the Buckeyes proved against Wisconsin, they aren't afraid to cut it loose and let Jones show off his arm strength. And the key for Ohio State is that it has one of the best home run threats in the country in Devin Smith down the field to track those passes down, and obviously Michael Thomas is no slouch, either. The top priority for Ohio State will continue to be establishing the ground game first and foremost, and while Alabama won't make that easy, Ezekiel Elliott and that maturing offensive line will be critical for Jones. But there will be chances to take advantage of the Crimson Tide in the secondary, and like they did against the Badgers, Jones and his receiving corps will absolutely have to make the most of them to score the upset.

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