Michigan Wolverines: Minnesota Gophers
Josh Moyer: Hmmm ... it's a bit tricky this week since only three of 14 games don't feature huge double-digit favorites (Rutgers-Washington State, UCF-Penn State, Wisconsin-LSU). Out of those three, though, I like Wisconsin the most as an upset pick. LSU has a new quarterback and running back and its run defense shows a few cracks. The Tigers ranked 94th in the nation last season in stopping ball carriers behind the line and were No. 35 in run defense. And you know what happens when Melvin Gordon finds room on the outside (hint: touchdown). Wisconsin has fared well against better run defenses, so they should be able to keep the ball moving Saturday. We'll see if that's enough.
@ESPNJoshMoyer upset alert week 1 in the big ten?— Matt Finnigan (@Finnarious) August 26, 2014
Josh Moyer: After a sub-par freshman campaign, it sure looks as if Derrick Green is on pace to be Michigan's feature back. Brady Hoke named him the starter, although he added that De'Veon Smith will be "1A." But if you look at how Doug Nussmeier and Brady Hoke have approached running backs since 2010, the top guy has always received at least twice as many carries as the backup. (One exception: Alabama's Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon split carries in 2012 but combined for 66.5 percent of team carries.) Green had 27 percent body fat last year and naturally looked sluggish; he's at 9 percent right now. He'll be better. As for Jabrill Peppers, count me among the believers. Devin Gardner said recently that Peppers and Devin Funchess are the best athletes on the team. That's big praise. So sure, Peppers has generated a lot of hype -- but I think he'll live up to it.
Josh Moyer: In our season predictions this morning, I was the only Big Ten reporter to pick Minnesota to win fewer than six games. Everyone else said six or seven. I'll admit I waffled slightly between choosing five and six wins, but the Minnesota passing game -- or lack thereof -- really concerns me. The Gophers ranked No. 105 in the nation last season in total offense and, without a playmaker like Ra'Shede Hageman on defense, I'm not yet sold on the defense being as good as last year. In some ways, last season's 8-5 record was a best-case scenario -- especially with surprising wins against Penn State and Nebraska, and close wins against Norhtwestern and Indiana. When I look at this season's schedule, I see seven losses: at TCU, at Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa, Ohio State, at Nebraska, and at Wisconsin. Northwestern was the toss-up for me but, as it stands, I see the Wildcats winning a close one.
@ESPNJoshMoyer why so down on the Gophers? 5-7 (2-6) seems low. Not saying they are winning 9+, but no bowl? Really?— Darren Michael (@HaloKitty343) August 27, 2014
Josh Moyer: It's the biggest question mark on the team, and I think it's going to be the determining factor in whether Penn State finds success. I picked the Nittany Lions to win seven games and, honestly, I think that's even slightly optimistic with this line. (Two players who were defensive tackles in February are now starting inside as offensive guards, and absent is basically any quality depth.) This offense has for which to be excited: Christian Hackenberg, two terrific running backs, my pick for B1G tight end of the year and a plethora of talented young wideouts. The only thing that's missing is a solid O-line -- and all the talent in the world doesn't mean anything if Hackenberg and Co. can't find time. If last season's O-line returned, I might even pick Penn State to win 10 games. The potential is there, but the offensive line is going to act as the cap.
@ESPNJoshMoyer How big of a concern is the Penn State O-line?— Sean Banks (@seanbanks3) August 27, 2014
Who'll end up as the most memorable player? And who'll see time right away? Adam Rittenberg, Brian Bennett and Josh Moyer joined Big Ten recruiting writer Tom VanHaaren in discussing the big questions surrounding the freshmen.
So let's get started ...
Based on talent, which freshman is too good to leave off the field?
VanHaaren: Peppers is the first name that comes to mind. Michigan doesn't really have anyone like him on the roster. His combination of size and speed, which he displayed at a recent track meet by running a 10.52-second 100-meter dash, is something that Michigan needs in the defensive backfield. I just don't see a scenario where a healthy Peppers doesn't see the field in some capacity.
Moyer: Everyone should be familiar with Peppers, so let's forget about him for a minute. Someone whom Buckeyes fans already know -- and whom other B1G fans should familiarize themselves with -- is linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who was rated as the top inside linebacker recruit in the nation. He's already enrolled, he's already impressed Urban Meyer, and he's already a physically imposing athlete. At 240 pounds, he's bigger than all but one of OSU's 10 other linebackers. Almost every scouting report you read on the guy describes him as a "thumper," and Meyer said three months ago that there'll be no redshirt for McMillan. He should make an impact early on.
Based on need, which freshman is a lock to start from Day 1?
Bennett: I'll go with Purdue's Gelen Robinson. He's following in the footsteps, sort of, of his dad -- Boilers basketball legend Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson. The younger Robinson was Purdue's most celebrated recruit in this class, but not just because of that name. He's also an outstanding athlete who should force his way onto the field from Day 1. He'll likely play outside linebacker, which is a position of need for Darrell Hazell's team. Heck, they need players everywhere, but particularly difference-makers on defense. Robinson will get every opportunity.
Rittenberg: It's hard for true freshman offensive linemen to step in immediately, but keep an eye on Maryland's Damian Prince, the nation's No. 26 prospect in the 2014 class. The recent suspension of potential starter Moise Larose creates a need at tackle, and both Prince and Derwin Gray both have a chance to win starting jobs this summer. Wisconsin will play several of its freshman wide receivers, and I could easily see a guy like Dareian Watkins entering the starting lineup. And let's not forget about Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell. The Spartans lost a few pieces on the interior defensive line.
Moyer: Penn State wideout De'Andre Thompkins. In a normal year, he might be a redshirt candidate. He's incredibly athletic -- Bill O'Brien recruited him thinking he could be a two-way player and compete at nickelback -- but he's also a bit raw since he played mostly at running back in high school. He still needs to sharpen his routes but, between the scholarship reduction and the lack of experience at receiver this season, Thompkins will have to step up sooner rather than later. The early enrollee has already proven he's the fastest player on the roster, and he's taken reps as a return man. So he should play on Day 1, in some capacity.
When this freshman class graduates, who will be remembered as the best player?
Bennett: Peppers is the easy and safe choice here. Another possibility is Maryland's Prince. He's a mountain, and given the value of offensive tackles in the NFL, we could be hearing his name early in the 2017 or 2018 draft.
VanHaaren: It could very well be either Peppers or McMillan. It's tough to argue against those two just based off of talent and ability, and I would probably go with Peppers here. I saw him at the Under Armour All-America Game and coach Herm Edwards told me Peppers was the best high school prospect he had coached in the few years he had been coaching at the event. That's high praise for a former defensive back.
What redshirt freshman should fans keep an eye on?
Bennett: I trust the player development program at Michigan State. Guys there just seem to get better and better throughout their careers, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive end Demetrius Cooper turned a lot of heads this spring and forced himself into the rotation, even with standout returning starters Shilique Calhoun and Marcus Rush ahead of him. Cooper was just a three-star recruit, according to ESPN, but the Spartans have made a living turning moderately-rated recruits into true college stars.
VanHaaren: I don't know if this is cheating or not because he's a sophomore, but I'm really interested to see what quarterback Wes Lunt does for Illinois. I put him here because he transferred and had to sit out the last season. I think he could be a big boost to that program if he can get things rolling offensively for the Illini.
Rittenberg: Iowa wide receiver Derrick Willies. Not only did he have a breakout spring for the Hawkeyes, but he's the type of receiver Iowa has lacked for a while: tall, fast and explosive. Iowa wants to ramp up the offensive tempo even more this season, which likely means the ball will be spread around more. Expect some big plays from Willies in his first game action.
Moyer: Minnesota running back Berkley Edwards. If it wasn't for an ankle injury early last season, he probably would've played. As it is, he'll definitely see the field this fall -- and he might see it quite a bit. Jerry Kill was asked earlier this spring if Edwards might get five to seven carries a game. "We'll see," Kill said, chuckling, to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "He might need more touches." Edwards is an exciting player who has a chance to break it anytime he touches the ball, and he could end up being an important change-of-pace back for the offense. Definitely worth watching.
- A new home in the Ohio State football strength program helps a former ex-Buckeye wrestler overcome a devastating loss. Athlon Sports places the Buckeyes at No. 3 in its preseason rankings.
- Former Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan and ex-Purdue defensive tackle Dave Butz are elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. No luck this year for a trio of former Michigan hopefuls, a pair from Illinois, Eric Crouch or Trev Alberts of Nebraska and Jim Tressel.
- Penn State will practice on Sundays next fall.
- Jay Paterno criticizes today’s media culture in a speech at a Pennsylvania high school.
- Oregon QB Jake Rodrigues is looking at Michigan, among other potential landing spots.
- Incoming freshman running back Rob Martin of Rutgers has a fan in Lesean McCoy.
- Purdue president Mitch Daniels supports the Pac-12 ideas on NCAA reform.
- A top prospect in Michigan is training this offseason with ex-Purdue safety Stu Schweigert.
- A look at key offensive targets for MSU.
- Jerry Kill says the Gophers won’t beg recruits to attend Minnesota.
- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the Pac-12’s Larry Scott discuss the NCAA’s autonomy model for five major conferences.
- Charting the dream recruits for every Big Ten program in the class of 2015, according to Bleacher Report.
- Three former Michigan greats are set to receive word on their candidacies for the College Football Hall of Fame. Ex-Illinois stars are waiting, too.
- A new system allows Nebraska season-ticket holders to pick their seats at Memorial Stadium. Washington receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow is still considering a transfer to Nebraska.
- Michigan State wants to capitalize on its success to open new doors in recruiting. Ex-Spartan Micajah Reynolds looks to get a shot on defense with the Dolphins.
- James Franklin touts the Penn State brand.
- Pondering the quality of Ohio State’s defensive line, which features three possible future first-round NFL picks.
- Fifteen observations from a documentary on Rutgers’ spring practice.
- Wisconsin lands a defensive line recruit from a high school that produced two NFL draft picks this month at the same group of positions.
- From Rosemont, Ill., the Big Ten sticks to its commitment to play nine conference games, starting in 2016. League athletic directors generally still oppose alcohol sales at football stadiums.
- Strong comments from Northwestern AD Jim Phillips on the unionization issue.
- Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst finally offers a few words on coach Bo Pelini.
- Minnesota AD Norwood Teague is not a fan of the “we hate Iowa" chant, especially when it’s sanctioned by the UM athletic department.
- The league sets remaining kickoff times for homecoming next fall.
- Rutgers dismisses quarterback Philip Nelson in the wake of a felony assault charge for the recent Minnesota transfer, leaving the Scarlet Knights’ QB situation for 2015 in limbo. And the view from Minnesota.
- Nebraska linebacker Josh Banderas is charged with felony theft. A few early mock drafts for 2015 place Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory in a lofty spot.
- Ohio State coaches are out looking for quarterbacks in Georgia and California.
- More recruiting talk from James Franklin, who says the changing face of the Big Ten will not affect Penn State’s ability to recruit regionally and nationally.
- Michigan State signs up to face Arizona State in a home-and-home series, starting in 2018.
- QB Andrew Maxwell is among the latest former Spartans to get an NFL look. Same story for ex-Wisconsin QB Danny O’Brien.
- A former Iowa safety led police in his hometown on a chase and got tased.
ESPN's Paula Lavigne took a look today at the booming revenues in college athletics and how money and profits are still pouring in despite rising coaches' salaries and travel expenses. Lavigne reports that total revenue from FBS programs comes in at around $8 billion and that operating revenues have increased about 32 percent from 2007-2008 to 2012-13 (oh, for that kind of return on your 401k, huh?).
In one of the least surprising developments ever, the Big Ten had several schools among the top revenue-producing teams identified from the study. This handy-dandy graphic shows it all in easy-to-digest detail. Among some of the more interesting findings:
Wisconsin was No. 2 nationally among public schools in both revenue generated in 2012-13 ($149 million) and expenses ($146.7 million), behind only behemoth Texas in both categories. More than half of the Badgers' revenue came from areas other than football and men's basketball, which includes donations, conference payouts and other sports. Michigan was No. 4 in revenue ($143.5 million) and No. 3 in expenses ($131 million), while Ohio State was fifth in both revenue ($140 million) and expenses ($116 million). Penn State ($111 million) and Iowa ($107 million) both cracked the top 10 in expenses.
Ohio State had the nation's largest reported surplus in 2012-13 at $24 million, but that does not include $16.6 million in debt service owed for renovations at Ohio Stadium and other projects. Michigan had a surplus of $12.2 million, which ranked seventh. The Wolverines also generated more money from road games ($5.5 million) and spent more on travel (over $9.6 million) than any other school. The reporting period includes the school's trip to play Alabama in Cowboys Stadium in the 2012 season opener.
Ohio State ($28.5 million) spent more on its coaches than any other school, while Penn State ($20 million) was fifth. The Big Ten also had the top three and four of the top five schools who spent the most on visiting teams: Ohio State (nearly $8 million), Minnesota ($4.8 million), Wisconsin ($3.9 million) and Michigan State ($3.65 million). No wonder the Big Ten went to nine conference games.
This fascinating database shows that Wisconsin got more money from contributions and donations (a whopping $58.9 million) than any FBS school in 2012-13. Michigan, meanwhile, is killing it in licensing, royalties and sponsorships, raking in more than $22 million, or more than every school in the land besides Texas.
There is big, big money in college sports, and the Big Ten is at the forefront of all it.
- Braxton Miller aims to get better in the meeting room.
- Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Gordon ran well at Michigan’s pro day. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is connecting with recruits.
- Nebraska linebacker Trevor Roach is re-emerging as a leader, while senior guard Jake Cotton steps into a new role on the offensive line.
- Darqueze Dennard is out to be Michigan State’s first first-rounder in more than a decade:
- What to expect from the first spring practice of the James Franklin era at Penn State. Keys for a successful spring.
- Rutgers offers fans an opportunity to buy tickets in three-game mini-plans for its inaugural season in the Big Ten.
- A first look at Maryland uniforms that include the Big Ten logo. More trouble for Terps running back Wes Brown.
- Offensive tackle J.J. Prince learned from his first year as a contributor at Purdue.
- True freshman Michael Deiter is working with the No. 1 offensive line in his first semester at Wisconsin.
- Minnesota's battle at right tackle heats up with the emergence of Jonah Pirsig.
- Illinois gets creative with its offseason competitions.
- A breakdown of the Iowa wide receivers.
- Illinois OL Corey Lewis knew something wasn't right with his left knee and, as it turns out, he might have played the entire season without an ACL.
- Taylor Martinez is serious about pursuing his NFL dreams and, if quarterback doesn't work out, the former Nebraska QB isn't opposed to trying wide receiver.
- Michigan's student newspaper labeled the university's response to the Brendan Gibbons' incident as "shameful."
- Former Ohio State OL Nick Mangold recently took part in a video where Kate Upton took snaps from him.
- Michigan State has two or three spots left in its 2014 recruiting class, and it's still heavily pursuing about a half-dozen prospects.
- PennLive's Bob Flounders tackles the differences between Bill O'Brien and James Franklin as a recruiter.
- Rutgers' recruiting class was the third-best in the Big Ten back in August but, after a dozen decommitments, it's now 11th -- and signing day can't come soon enough.
- Jerry Kill is optimistic about his recruiting class and says he doesn't put much stock in how many stars appear next to a recruit's name.
National signing day is almost upon us and Big Ten teams have been feverishly adding prospects to their classes. Here is a look at the latest movement within the conference in the ESPN class rankings and trends from the past week.
Here is a look at what happened within the Big Ten this past week.
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There have been commitments and decommitments across the board in the Big Ten, which means there has been movement among the class rankings.
As signing day approaches, teams will be looking to fill the final spots in their class. Here is a look at trends and a few items to watch within the conference:
Trending up: No Big Ten teams moved up in the class rankings for this week, but that doesn’t mean schools aren’t improving.
Penn State has been on a tear recently with James Franklin and his staff on board. Despite losing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) to Florida and defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) to NC State, the Nittany Lions have added some big pieces as well.
The most recent was three-star athlete Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt to Penn State. McSorley was originally recruited as a defensive back by Franklin at Vanderbilt, but then the offer was switched to quarterback while he was committed to the Commodores.
McSorley will add some depth and competition at the quarterback spot for Penn State, as Christian Hackenberg and early enrollee Michael O’Connor are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.
Indiana has also been on a nice run, picking up five commitments in the past week, from linebacker Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Colerain), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita), athlete Waynedriko Smith (Orlando, Fla./Orangewood Christian) and defensive backs Zeke Walker (Cayce, S.C./Brookland-Cayce) and Tony Fields (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby).
Trending down: Michigan hasn’t lost any commitments in the 2014 class, but the Wolverines lost ESPN Junior 300 running back Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) over the weekend.
Harris is the No. 1-ranked running back and No. 17 overall in the 2015 class. Losing Harris and fellow ESPN Junior 300 member George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) is a big blow to the 2015 class.
Add in the fact that Michigan’s main remaining target for the 2014 class, Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) could end up not picking Michigan and could end up at rival Michigan State or Ohio State, that’s more bad news for Michigan.
The Wolverines haven’t landed a commitment since August and steadily have been moving down the class rankings. If the coaches miss on McDowell, that would mean they missed on three major targets: McDowell, five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) to Alabama and in-state defensive end Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs) to Notre Dame.
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Here is a look at what took place within the conference on the recruiting trail this past week:
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- Urban Meyer and James Franklin are building the "SEC North" in the Big Ten, writes Fox Sports' Clay Travis.
- Nebraska tailback Ameer Abdullah decided to stay in school for another season, and that comes as a huge boon to the Huskers.
- Philip Nelson's surprise transfer from Minnesota leaves the door wide open for quarterback Mitch Leidner.
- The son of Ohio State's new defensive line coach, Larry Johnson Sr., discusses the family's move from Penn State and why it was made.
- As part of an ongoing series on Rutgers' transition to the Big Ten, NJ.com's Dan Duggan talked to former coaches about welcoming the Scarlet Knights -- and the New York media market.
- James Franklin isn't right to poach his former Vanderbilt commits ... but he isn't wrong either.
- A way-too-early look at Michigan's depth chart on defense.
- Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is a physical corner with a chip on his shoulder, and he "should be a good corner in the NFL for a long time."
- Athlon Sports offers early predictions for the 2014 Big Ten season.
- Maryland announced three new additions to its coaching staff, including two-time Pro Bowl wideout Keenan McCardell.
1. DT Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes)
Visiting: Ohio State
Nnadi, who is ranked No. 253 in the ESPN 300, has Ohio State, Penn State, Florida State and Virginia Tech in his top group. The nation’s No. 21 defensive tackle visits Ohio State this weekend and with new defensive line coach Larry Johnson now officially hired by the Buckeyes, we’ll see where Ohio State ranks after this trip.
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- If and when James Franklin does become the new head coach at Penn State, that could spell big trouble for B1G newcomer Maryland. It also wouldn't be good news for Rutgers.
- CBS' Gregg Doyel writes how Franklin is the perfect coach for Penn State. USA Today's Christine Brennan writes how he's the wrong choice for Penn State.
- Braxton Miller is returning for his senior season, and he needs to take his passing to the next level for the Buckeyes to find success.
- OSU linebackers coach Mike Vrabel is headed to the Houston Texans, and that's bound to impact the Buckeyes' recruiting efforts.
- Michigan's new offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier, has worked in the Big Ten before and left a strong impression at Michigan State when he coached from 2003-2005.
- The Gophers have improved in each of Jerry Kill's first three seasons, and Kill once again believes Minnesota will be even better in 2014.
- Michigan State's strength coach is already trying to get the team to move past the Rose Bowl win, telling players, "I was done with that win as soon as we got on that plane."
- A look at potential names to know in Wisconsin's recruiting class and how things might play out before signing day.
- Nebraska landed New Orleans WR recruit Jariah Tolbert, who his coach said has the biggest upside of any of his players.
- Iowa is increasing the price of football tickets by a dollar, and the three hot home tickets for next season appear to be against Iowa State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
Drive Through: Big Ten Preview
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Eastern Illinois 20 Minnesota 42 Final Rutgers 41 Washington State 38
8:30 AM ET Penn State UCF 12:00 PM ET Indiana State Indiana 12:00 PM ET Northern Iowa Iowa 12:00 PM ET Appalachian State Michigan 12:00 PM ET 5 Ohio State Navy 12:00 PM ET Western Michigan Purdue 12:05 PM ET Youngstown State Illinois 3:30 PM ET James Madison Maryland 3:30 PM ET Florida Atlantic 22 Nebraska 3:30 PM ET California Northwestern 9:00 PM ET 14 Wisconsin 13 LSU