Big Ten: Purdue Boilermakers

Big Ten morning links

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
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Bowl season is a tricky time for coaches to motivate players.

“You can grind guys up if you occupy them too much mentally,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said this week.

Read more from Fitzgerald and others Friday on ESPN.com about motivation in bowl season. His Wildcats, sitting home this month, would trade places with any of the 10 Big Ten bowl teams. And with that wonderful time of year to start on Saturday -- the first Big Ten bowl game is still a week away -- it makes sense to look at the factors motivating conference teams.

Here’s a ranking of Big Ten teams with the most for which to play in the postseason:

Ohio State (Allstate Sugar Bowl, vs. Alabama, Jan. 1): A clear leader in this category as the Big Ten representative in the College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes carry the weight of the league on their shoulders. What else is new? Ohio State is flagship program of the Big Ten under Urban Meyer, who had a lot to say Thursday about his team's daunting task against the Crimson Tide.

Michigan State (Goodyear Cotton Bowl, vs. Baylor, Jan. 1): The Spartans lost to a pair of playoff teams, yet they're largely forgotten nationally. A business trip to Texas to face Baylor, the next best thing to a playoff opponent, offers a chance for MSU to finish on a high note nearly equal last year's Rose Bowl win.

Minnesota (Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, vs. Missouri, Jan. 1): A victory in Orlando would give the Golden Gophers a nine-win season for the first time since 2003 and the second time in more than a century, and it would represent the school's best two-year run in over 50 years. It won't come easy against the two-time SEC East champ. The Gophers must run the ball effectively, their bread and butter, now and in the future.

Penn State (New Era Pinstripe Bowl, vs. Boston College, Dec. 27): The Nittany Lions, exposed in the second half of this season for a lack of overall talent, can end on a high note in this much-awaited return to the postseason after a two-year bowl ban. A visit to New York against a regional recruiting rival heightens the stakes.

Rutgers (Quick Lane Bowl, vs. North Carolina, Dec. 26): The Scarlet Knights exceeded expectations to make it this far. After an inspiring comeback win over fellow Big Ten newcomer Maryland to close the regular season, confidence is high, though the uncertain injury status of star receiver Leonte Carroo threatens to put a damper on the excitement around this bowl trip.

Wisconsin (Outback Bowl, vs. Auburn, Jan. 1): Motivated by the embarrassment of a 59-point loss in the Big Ten title game, the Badgers got knocked down another step by the surprise departure of Gary Andersen. But the return of Paul Chryst has boosted the spirits of players, who will look to impress their new coach as he observes in Tampa. Against Auburn's multi-faceted offense, Wisconsin must use everything at its disposal, including QB Tanner McEvoy on the defensive side.

Nebraska (National University Holiday Bowl, vs. USC, Dec. 27): The Cornhuskers are also playing to catch the eye of a new coach, as Mike Riley figures to watch closely. Riley's new staff will start fresh though, so what happens in San Diego stays in San Diego. Still, Nebraska players, amid a dramatic exit from their former coach that has sparked more debate, want to provide a fond farewell for their old staff of assistant coaches.

Illinois (Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, vs. Louisiana Tech, Dec. 26): With victories over Penn State and Northwestern to get bowl eligible, Illinois has won simply by making it this far. No marquee opponent awaits, and Dallas isn't exactly a winter paradise, though maybe the man of the hour, QB Reilly O'Toole, can rally the Fighting Illini once again.

Maryland (Foster Farms Bowl, vs. Stanford, Dec. 30): Did the Terrapins run out of gas in the second half against Rutgers? It was a long season, packed with several highlights, in Maryland's first season of Big Ten play. But a visit to face Stanford, which is coming off four consecutive major bowls, near its home turf, looks like another significant challenge for Randy Edsall's team.

Iowa (TaxSlayer Bowl, vs. Tennesssee, Jan. 2): The Hawkeyes need someone to step up, a habitual practice in the postseason, or they face a dull ending to a disappointing season that set up well in Iowa City.

Around the rest of the league:

Purdue Boilermakers season review

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
2:00
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Our week-long review of the 2014 regular season for every Big Ten team continues now with a look at the Purdue Boilermakers:

Overview: Purdue definitely made progress in Year 2 of the Darrell Hazell era. The team increased its win total from one to three, won its first Big Ten game under Hazell, at Illinois, and generally was much more competitive. Still, the results weren't anywhere near what anyone in West Lafayette wants, and after a promising stretch that saw the Boilermakers push Michigan State to the wire and almost beat Minnesota on the road, the bottom fell out with three straight losses by at least 18 points. Purdue lost its last six games of the season and showed that it still lacks enough depth and playmakers on both sides of the ball to be any kind of factor in the Big Ten. Year 3 looks like a pivotal one for Hazell and this program.

Offensive MVP: He got lost in the shuffle of all the other great Big Ten running backs this season, but Akeem Hunt turned in a very nice season. He ran for 949 yards and six touchdowns, and also led the team with in catches with 48 for 293 yards and a pair of scores. Purdue found better ways to use its speed on the outside this season, something it needs to continue to develop.

Defensive MVP: It's a little hard to believe safety Landon Feichter began his career as a walk-on, because all he does is make plays. He led the Boilermakers with 105 tackles, and his five interceptions tied for the second most in the Big Ten this season. The senior will be hard to replace in 2015.

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

ESPN's Big Ten all-freshman team

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
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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
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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

Big Ten morning links

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
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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.

Big Ten morning links

December, 11, 2014
Dec 11
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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.

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 morning links

December, 8, 2014
Dec 8
9:15
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Welcome to the postseason -- and a world where the Big Ten can play for a national title again. Some thoughts to start your morning:

1. The Big Ten promised freshness and better matchups with its new bowl lineup, and for the most part, the league delivered.

Minnesota is doing back flips about finally having an attractive bowl destination and its first New Year's Day game since 1962. Wisconsin heads to Tampa for the first time since 2008. Nebraska is going to a familiar spot in the Holiday Bowl, but at least the Huskers aren't traveling to Florida for a fourth straight year (and who could complain about a trip to San Diego?). Iowa will play in Jacksonville for the first time since 1983. Maryland gets a San Francisco treat.

The matchups are appealing as well, not to mention extremely challenging. Add in the major bowls, and Big Ten teams will face Alabama, Baylor, Auburn, USC, Missouri and Stanford, among others. Few if any of these games will be easy, and the Big Ten figures to be an underdog in most of them. That, actually, is not all that new.

2. The College Football Playoff selection committee could have chosen Baylor or TCU over Ohio State and made a perfectly reasonable case for it. The difference between those three teams and their credentials is razor thin.

But all along, we were told that conference championships would matter, and so would strong nonconference schedules. The Big 12 chose to not have a conference title game and further muddled things with its co-champions controversy. Even more damning was Baylor's nonconference schedule (SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo). Though the committee's objective is to select the four best teams and not send messages, choosing a team with Baylor's schedule would have hurt the entire sport. At least Ohio State tried to schedule decent teams, playing Virginia Tech, Cincinnati and Navy. If Baylor's approach had succeeded, you could have looked forward to a lot of canceled high-profile matchups and more patsies.

A month ago, with Mississippi State riding a cupcake schedule toward the top at the time, I questioned whether the Big Ten's strategy of adding tough nonconference teams still made sense. We got our answer on Sunday. And it was an answer that will ultimately be good for all of college football.

3. I was very quick to forgive Cardale Jones for his infamous tweet in 2012 ("Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL we ain't come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS"). He was young and dumb, and I am eternally grateful that social media wasn't around when I was that age.

There have been no indications of any problems with Jones since, and he earned a place in Buckeyes lore on Saturday night by leading Ohio State to its 59-0 win against Wisconsin in his first career start.

Still, the fact that Jones hoisted the Big Ten title game MVP trophy literally just a few blocks away from NCAA headquarters was at least a little ironic, no? I doubt he will be asked to star in one of those "Most of us are going pro in something other than sports" ads any time soon.

More links ...

East Division
West Division

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 15

December, 7, 2014
Dec 7
10:00
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Big Ten morning links

December, 5, 2014
Dec 5
8:00
AM ET
Too bad it's such a quiet week in the Big Ten.

Check that.

Let’s get ready for a weekend like college football has never seen by hitting the three stories burning hottest in the league.

First up, Nebraska hired a coach. Mike Riley flew into Lincoln on Thursday night and headed straight to a meeting with the Cornhuskers. The former Oregon State coach will introduce himself to the state of Nebraska on Friday morning with a press conference at Memorial Stadium.

If Riley has any doubt about the level of obsession in his new position, he won’t after going through the ringer of obligations in his first full day on the job. I realize he coached in the NFL for three seasons. But he coached in San Diego, where, if fans get disinterested in the Chargers, they head to the beach of the golf course. If they lose interest in Nebraska, it’s statewide emergency.

Lost in the news on Thursday: How did Nebraska Athletic Director Shawn Eichorst keep everyone in the dark? Riley’s name never surfaced among the dozens of coaches in mainstream speculation for the Nebraska job this week, perhaps because he was 5-7 this season and 61 years old.

The recent whereabouts of Eichorst also remain a mystery. Either he conducted the entire search from the depths of his office or he ought to think about moonlighting as a Homeland Security operative.

A few opinions:
  • Eichorst is taking a risk with Riley, writes Dirk Chatelain, but it’s one that illustrates the AD’s apparent lack of a big ego.
  • Lee Barfknecht writes of the widespread respect Riley has earned among peers and how his skill at developing quarterbacks could hold the key in the coach’s bid to elevate Nebraska.
  • According to George Schroeder, Riley is a great fit at Nebraska. Writes Schroeder: "He's unlikely to be overwhelmed by the expectations or surprised by the obstacles." A rare combination, indeed, that perhaps offers insight into the nature of Eichorst's outside-the-box hire.
  • The Lincoln Journal Star compiles more reaction from media and current and former Nebraska players.
  • And after some Nebraskans wondered about the star power of their new coach, it’s worth taking this advice: Just chill.
Not much news out of Michigan on first full day of its coaching search. Interim AD Jim Hackett seems intent to take his time. Unless, that is, a slam-dunk candidate is ready to say yes.

Maybe Les Miles is that slam dunk. Or maybe not. A pair of Louisiana writers provide contrasting opinions: Scott Rabalais tells Miles that the time is right for him to go back to U-M, while Jeff Duncan writes that Miles would be foolish to leave.

Or is Greg Schiano the most realistic of the high-profile candidates?

Regardless, this is a critical hire for Michigan, where fresh starts are getting old. Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, no doubt, agrees. He’s not happy with the firing of Brady Hoke and has no interest in the job in Ann Arbor.

Meanwhile, Hoke lands on a list of potential candidates at Colorado State.

Back on the field, Wisconsin and Ohio State battled different kinds of adversity this season to earn trips to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game.

Don't expect the Buckeyes to hold back on offense because of its quarterback issues. And amid all the talk of Cardale Jones' steep learning curve as he replaces injured J.T. Barrett, the Ohio State defense faces a huge challenge on Saturday. The reason? Melvin Gordon, of course.

The Badgers have concerns with the depth on the offensive line, to the point that Gary Andersen would consider removing the redshirt from freshman Michael Deiter in this 13th game of the season.

On the other side of the ball, Wisconsin's No. 2-ranked defense is again an underappreciated collection of talent.

Looking for predictions? The Cleveland.com writers deliver in their weekly outrageous fashion. And they're bullish on the Buckeyes.

Finally, if Ohio State beats Wisconsin and Michigan State remains ahead of Mississippi State in the playoff rankings, the Big Ten looks set to leave one of its eight-bowl eligible teams at home this postseason. Here's an explanation.

Around the rest of the league:

East Division
West Division

Big Ten morning links

December, 4, 2014
Dec 4
8:00
AM ET
The silly season can wait. With the Big Ten title game just two short days away, and plenty of time when it’s over to talk about coaching searches, let’s focus on Wisconsin and Ohio State.

1. Heisman pose vs. The Shrug: The Big Ten’s top offensive player lines up opposite the league's top defender with a conference title on the line. Sure, the marquee lost a little bit of star power with the injury to the league’s top freshman, J.T. Barrett, but that won’t diminish the entertainment value of seeing Melvin Gordon collide with Joey Bosa. Gordon and Bosa, both freakish athletes, officially won Big Ten offensive and defensive player of the year awards on Tuesday night. With Barrett now out of the picture, the pressure is on Bosa to perform. The sophomore is going to have to be at his best to lead a defensive unit that has struggled some at stopping elite running backs -- and Wisconsin’s offensive line might be the best he’s faced all season. On the flip side, Gordon might be able to win over a few more Heisman voters if he can put together another vintage performance against a club with no shortage of talented defenders alongside Bosa.

2. Coaching connections: Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen worked for Ohio State coach Urban Meyer. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman joked about sleeping on the couch of Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda when they were in college together. In a profession that typically demands switching jobs and working with new faces for different programs throughout a career, it’s no surprise for there to be ties between Wisconsin and Ohio State. But there clearly won’t be many secrets with Andersen facing off against Meyer or Herman trying to outsmart his buddy Aranda. It could come down to which staff can come up with the best wrinkles, and it will almost certainly come down to whether the Badgers or Buckeyes are able to adjust on the fly in a high-pressure setting in Indianapolis. But more than just having some buddies on the other sideline, what should make Saturday night so fascinating is the impressive collection of some of the most respected names in coaching that Wisconsin and Ohio State have collected over the last couple seasons.

3. Bad blood?: Before the questions shifted to Michigan State as an unofficial secondary rival for Ohio State these days, Urban Meyer was getting them a year ago about Wisconsin. Considering the competitive games the programs have played recently and some of the high stakes that have accompanied those matchups, Meyer and the Buckeyes largely gave the Badgers the same treatment as the Spartans, with former center Corey Linsley calling it a “physical war.” For Meyer’s part, he downplayed any bad blood between the programs and then instead called it “intense respect,” while customarily refusing to refer to anybody other than Michigan as a rival for his program. But however it’s referred to, the series has been extremely entertaining recently, with the last three games all decided by 7 points or less, with one going to overtime and another decided in the closing seconds on a come-from-behind bomb from Braxton Miller in 2011. The Big Ten can only hope for another competitive classic between the two programs, particularly since there wasn’t one on the schedule during the regular season this year.

East Division
West Division

Watch: B1G Show (2 p.m. ET)

December, 3, 2014
Dec 3
5:30
PM ET
Join Big Ten reporters Brian Bennett, Dan Murphy, Mitch Sherman and Austin Ward as they breakdown the Big Ten championship game between Ohio State and Wisconsin, the coaching searches at Michigan and Nebraska and much more.

Big Ten morning links

December, 2, 2014
Dec 2
8:00
AM ET
Good morning, Big Ten fans. Looks as if we might be in store for an interesting day ...

1. Writing on the wall for Brady Hoke?: It sure seems that way. Our Dan Murphy reported that Hoke will meet with the athletic director at 2 p.m. Tuesday, which just so happens to come before a 3 p.m. meeting with the players. It’d definitely be odd if no decision was made to keep or fire Hoke by then. But, then again, stranger things have happened -- like a 5-7 season by Michigan, for instance. Stay tuned ... we could have an answer soon.

2. And the Big Ten Coach of the Year is ...: The conference will announce the winner of the McClain/Hayes-Schembechler Trophy on Tuesday night, and it’s really the only award up for debate. I picked Urban Meyer in the preseason -- really, the only good preseason pick I made -- and I think he deserves to win over Jerry Kill. The Buckeyes didn’t have 2013’s leading quarterback, running back or wideout, but their offense was still arguably the best in the conference. If Meyer doesn’t get the trophy this year, then Buckeyes fans are right: An Ohio State coach is never getting this award.

3. Wideout questions on the All-B1G team: Both the coaches and the media agreed Tony Lippett belonged on the first team -- that was a total no-brainer -- but there was no common ground to be found with the other picks here. The coaches liked Kenny Bell on the first team, with Stefon Diggs and Devin Funchess on the second team. The media preferred Leonte Carroo on the first, with Mike Dudek and DaeSean Hamilton on the second. Count me among the camp that especially thinks Carroo was snubbed by the coaches; the Rutgers wideout was second in B1G receiving yards (1,043) and second in receiving TDs (10). Surely, he deserved at least a second-team nod by the coaches. Give me Lippett and Carroo on the first team, Dudek on the second ... and I’ll let Diggs and Hamilton fight it out for the last spot.

Now, on to the links ...

Big Ten championship
East Division
  • Mark Dantonio has previously felt -- and overcome -- heat from Michigan State fans.
  • Sanctions helped to sink Penn State to 6-6, writes the Reading Eagle's Rich Scarcella.
West Division
  • Firing Pelini has fueled reflection for Iowa, which hasn't beaten an FBS program with a winning record this season.

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