Michigan Wolverines: Urban Meyer
But when Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith sat down to discuss staff pay, Smith soon realized he needed to do more.
"I think Michigan had stepped up with their coordinators," Smith recalled last week during Big Ten spring meetings in Chicago. "So we were already going to that before Urban Meyer came, but we bumped it up a little more. Any time there's change, you have that opportunity."
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIMichigan DC Greg Mattison ranks as the highest-paid assistant coach in the Big Ten for the 2013 season.
The Big Ten is part of the change, too, as the league is allocating more money toward football assistants than ever before. The Detroit Free Press has an excellent look at Big Ten assistants' salaries, complete with a database that includes 10 of the 12 current members (Northwestern doesn't submit salaries as a private institution, and Penn State doesn't have to because of state laws).
The Free Press found that eight of the 10 schools are paying more for assistants in 2013 than they did in 2012 (only Indiana and Illinois are not). There are some significant total increases, such as Wisconsin (up $558,000), Nebraska (up $518,500), Purdue ($400,000) and Minnesota ($355,000). Staff pay had been an issue at Wisconsin, which lost six assistant coaches following the 2012 Rose Bowl, and at Purdue, which paid less for its staff during the Danny Hope era than any Big Ten school.
The total trend among the 10 schools is an increase of $1,720,852.24 for 2013.
Ohio State and Michigan remain No. 1 and No. 2 in Big Ten staff salary, as the Buckeyes allocate $3.416 million and the Wolverines allocate $2.805 million. Nebraska and Wisconsin make the biggest moves in the league for 2013, as the Huskers rise from sixth to third and the Badgers rise from seventh to fourth.
Illinois, which replaced five assistants from the 2012 team, including co-offensive coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales, dropped from third in staff pay ($2.314 million) to eighth ($2.065 million).
The database shows that nearly every Big Ten assistant with "coordinator" in his title -- whether he's the sole coordinator or a co-coordinator -- will earn north of $300,000 for 2013. Only 18 assistants listed will make less than $200,000 in 2013 -- 15 work for Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana.
- Although Wisconsin paid former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst good coin, the school has increased its commitment for Gary Andersen's staff, not only with the coordinators but with some coveted position coaches like running backs coach Thomas Hammock ($300,000).
- All of Nebraska's assistants are earning $200,000 or more for 2013, but there's a huge drop-off between Beck and the next highest-paid assistant (defensive coordinator John Papuchis at $310,000).
- Michigan State has a similar drop off between Narduzzi and co-offensive coordinators Dave Warner ($270,000) and Jim Bollman ($260,000). Warner will be the primary offensive play-caller and has been on Mark Dantonio's staff since 2006, while Bollman is a newcomer.
- Although Michigan is paying top dollar for its coordinators, the school gets its assistants for a relative bargain. Receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski will earn $225,000 in 2013, while the others all will earn $205,000. Ohio State, meanwhile, pays all but one of its assistants $286,000 or more.
- The Big Ten's three lowest-paid assistants all are in their first years: Illinois wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy ($125,000) and Purdue linebackers coach Marcus Freeman and running backs coach Jafar Williams (both at $120,000).
- Although schools like Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa ($325,000) pay their coordinators the exact same amount, others have slight differences in salary. Purdue's Shoop makes $5,000 more than defensive coordinator Greg Hudson. Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys ($340,000) makes $5,000 more than offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. Wonder if that leads to any underlying jealousy?
- Most Big Ten schools have assistant salaries in round numbers, but there are some interesting totals from Indiana, which pays co-offensive coordinators Seth Littrell and Kevin Johns $255,500.04 and new recruiting coordinator/assistant defensive line coach James Patton $173,740.08. Never know when that change can come in handy.
The Big Ten still lacks some of the OMG totals seen in the SEC -- LSU is paying new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron $3.4 million in the next three years -- but the overall trend puts the league more on par with what we're seeing nationally.
What they’re selling: A chance to rebuild a program from the ground up, beginning with four-star quarterback Aaron Bailey, who signed in 2013.
What they’re missing: Just about all of the top prospects from their own state.
What they’re selling: Indiana coach Kevin Wilson embraces the idea of a college spring break and is ready to head to Cancun with some of his players.
What they’re missing: Wilson looks like he might hold the group up in Mexico, however, as he still needs the assistance of a flotation device. Points that it is in the shape of a turtle, though.
What they’re selling: Iowa boasts one of the few staffs that can say they will be there all four years of a recruit’s career and has the history to back it up. Kirk Ferentz is the longest tenured coach in the Big Ten and it’s not even close.
What they’re missing: Out-of-state prospects tend to think Iowa is all cornfields, leaving the staff to battle that misconception countless times throughout the recruiting cycle.
What they’re selling: Michigan coach Brady Hoke looks like an outlaw patrolling the sideline on Saturdays without a headset.
What they’re missing: The player who graces the NCAA Football 2014 cover Denard Robinson. "Shoelace" was one of the Wolverines’ best recruiting tools.
Michigan State Spartans
What they’re selling: Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio is the man behind Little Giants, one of the greatest trick plays of the last few decades.
What they’re missing: A trip to a Rose Bowl under Dantonio would put Michigan State over the top when it comes to recruiting. There is already a significant difference in the caliber of player the Spartans are now getting compared to just a few seasons ago.
What they’re selling: The Gophers boast the biggest locker room in college football.
What they’re missing: They have not had a winning season since 2008.
What they’re selling: Bo Pelini whipped out “The Bernie” in the Huskers’ Harlem Shake video. Harlem Shake equals instant credibility with recruits.
What they’re missing: A lack of a strong base of in-state talent makes it tough to recruit at Nebraska, and a Harlem Shake video can overcome only so much.
What they’re selling: The new facilities are right near Lake Michigan, which, as assistant Bob Heffner is telling recruits, is a great spot for fishing.
What they’re missing: Not too many high schoolers in New Jersey have taken up fishing as a hobby. At least not yet.
Ohio State Buckeyes
What they’re selling: Urban Meyer is bringing SEC speed to the Big Ten.
What they’re missing: Has anyone actually clocked Meyer in the 40-yard dash? How fast is he really?
Penn State Nittany Lions
What they’re selling: Beaver Stadium fits more than 106,000 on Saturdays, making it the second largest stadium in the country. Inside is also one of the country’s most passionate fan bases, and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit once listed Penn State’s student section as “simply the loudest, most supportive student section in college football.”
What they’re missing: A full slate of scholarships and a chance to play for a Big Ten title the next few years.
What they’re selling: Few programs have the history Purdue does at quarterback, and former Boilermakers Drew Brees, Kyle Orton and Curtis Painter are all on NFL rosters. The Boilermakers just signed ESPN 300 QB Danny Etling, too.
What they’re missing: Brees, Orton and Painter.
What they’re selling: The Badgers have been to three straight Rose Bowls.
What they’re missing: The coach who took them there.
When you live in Louisville, horse racing and handicapping are about all you can think of this time of year, in between bites of Derby Pie. So, like last year, I've imagined what the Big Ten 2013 program would look like if the championship chase were more like a horse race. I think the odds would go a little something like this (like the Churchill Downs toteboard, our odds only go up to 99-to-1),:
Ohio State: Even
Despite being scratched from last year's race by NCAA probation, the Buckeyes are the odds-on favorites this time around. They've got big-time winners both at trainer (Urban Meyer) and on the reins (Braxton Miller), and their schedule looks like they should get a clean trip.
The Wolverines are switching running styles this year, ditching the spread for a more traditional passing offense led by Devin Gardner. No need for blinders, as Taylor Lewan has the blind side locked down. Still, this entry hasn't had enough first-place finishes in its recent past performances.
The Huskers have been like one of those tantalizing horses in the program with a huge Beyer speed figure that always disappoints when you put the big money on them. Expect them to be a major pace-setter because of their early schedule, but that defense will determine whether they can make a long-awaited trip to the winners' circle.
Pretty good value here for a three-time defending champion of the Run for the Rose Bowl. Still, the Badgers are operating under new connections this time around (new coach Gary Andersen) and will have to prove they can track down Ohio State in the Leaders Division.
Another good option for those seeking value, as the Wildcats might be the wise-guy pick after last year's 10-win season. The problem is the potential of a very bumpy trip with that schedule (Ohio State and Wisconsin as crossover opponents). And there will be a lot of jostling in that Legends Division.
Michigan State: 20-to-1
Some bettors like to look for the bounce factor, meaning they seek out otherwise successful horses who are coming off one bad outing. The Spartans look like the best bounce candidate following last year's 6-6 season, which came after two straight double-digit win seasons. They have a more favorable post position (er, schedule) this time, but their early works suggest some lingering questions about the offense.
We've reached the real long shots now. Jerry Kill has shown that his charges take off in their third year of training, and the Gophers have turned in some encouraging works. Still, they'll need to run a perfect race to factor in the money.
This would be a Giacomo-level upset. An exotic pick, at best. But with the Hoosiers' ability to score points, they could pull off a shocker if everyone else falters.
Handicappers got burned by picking Purdue as their sleeper last year. The Boilermakers might be even more of a mystery horse this year with a new trainer in Darrell Hazell. Still looks like an also-ran, but don't forget that they seem to run neck-and-neck with Ohio State lately, for whatever reason.
Failed to fire last year, and the speed figures aren't pretty. If you're betting the Hawkeyes, you're basing it on the pedigree of Kirk Ferentz. Should show more fight this time, but might be too much of a plodder to hit the board.
Stumbled out of the gate, no rally, didn't factor in 2012. Equipment changes on offense (new coordinator Bill Cubit's spread system) should help. But Tim Beckman has a lot of work to do to show he's not saddling another nag.
Penn State: Scratched
DQ'd by the NCAA. (Now accepting future wagering on 2016).
So there's how I'd write the program. What kind of odds would you give to each team, and who would you put money on in 2013?
ESPN/ABC has made its six prime-time picks for the upcoming season. One game already had been announced: Notre Dame at Michigan on Sept. 7.
Here's the full Big Ten prime-time schedule on ESPN/ABC:
Sept. 7: Notre Dame at Michigan, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Sept. 14: Notre Dame at Purdue, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Sept. 28: Wisconsin at Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
For those just joining us, we're each picking a Big Ten game to attend each week of the 2013 season. We aren't bound by a travel budget, pesky editors or anything steering us to a particular destination. If the game appeals to us, we can be there. What a world. We're trying to mix up our itinerary, and while we can stand to be in the same press box together, there are some weeks where we'll grin and bear it. Remember, this isn't our actual itinerary for the season.
There's one week left in the Big Ten season, and here's the slate for Week 14 (Nov. 29-30):
Iowa at Nebraska
Minnesota at Michigan State
Northwestern at Illinois
Ohio State at Michigan
Penn State at Wisconsin
Purdue at Indiana
Adam Rittenberg's pick: Ohio State at Michigan
The Game is the default pick for Rivalry Saturday in the Big Ten, but I also think it could be the most exciting and competitive contest on the slate. Perhaps it's wishful thinking on my part, as the Ohio State-Michigan game hasn't been a huge hit since we launched the blog in 2008. Michigan was down from 2008-10, and Ohio State backslid considerably in 2011. While last year's meeting pitted a good team (Michigan) against a great one (Ohio State), the Buckeyes' postseason ban took something away from the contest. I'm still waiting to cover an Ohio State-Michigan clash featuring two great teams in the running for a Big Ten championship. This year's game very well could meet those demands.
Michigan gets the game at home, where it has yet to lose under coach Brady Hoke. The Buckeyes had some close calls away from Columbus in 2012 -- Michigan State, Indiana, Wisconsin -- and will need an efficient performance on both sides of the ball to win. Junior quarterback Braxton Miller enters the season among the top contenders for the Heisman Trophy. His performance in Ann Arbor could make or break his campaign. The quarterback matchup between Miller and Michigan's Devin Gardner pits two exceptional athletes with varying styles who both can generate a lot of production.
I'm particularly interested to see what happens at the line of scrimmage. Ohio State boasts in my view the Big Ten's top offensive line, while Michigan is looking for difference-makers on its defensive front and hopes to spark a better pass rush. The Wolverines have arguably the nation's best offensive lineman in left tackle Taylor Lewan, who likely will go against dynamic young defensive end Noah Spence. Brace yourselves. Gardner and his receiving corps take aim at a Buckeyes secondary led by cornerback Bradley Roby, who talks big and usually backs it up. Michigan star linebacker Jake Ryan is rehabbing from ACL surgery, but hopes to return for the stretch run. Ryan could help Michigan neutralize Miller, Carlos Hyde and the Buckeye attack. The linebacker matchup between Ryan and Ohio State's Ryan Shazier would be tremendous.
Ohio State might be eying a spot in the national title game, and both teams should be in the mix for division titles and a spot in Indianapolis. The Game always has added meaning for both programs and both fan bases, but it has been too long since both teams had other goals on the table. This year's clash should be a great one, and I don't want to miss it. Who knows, maybe there will be a rematch the following week in Indy.
Brian Bennett's pick: Ohio State at Michigan
I seriously considered taking Northwestern at Illinois, since the Illini are the only team I haven't seen on this 14-week fantasy excursion. And the Land of Lincoln rivalry could be fun. But the odds are that Tim Beckman's team will be eliminated from bowl contention long before the final weekend.
Who knows? Maybe some of the other finales will have major implications, such as Wisconsin trying to win the Leaders Division, Nebraska attempting to clinch the Legends or Indiana possibly securing bowl eligibility.
Still, c'mon. This is The Game we're talking about. It's an easy choice -- even if I have to sit next to Rittenberg.
Week 1: Adam at Northwestern-Cal, Brian at Purdue-Cincinnati
Week 2: Brian and Adam at Notre Dame-Michigan
Week 3: Brian at UCLA-Nebraska, Adam at Wisconsin-Arizona State
Week 4: Adam at Michigan State-Notre Dame, Brian at Purdue-Wisconsin
Week 5: Adam at Wisconsin-Ohio State, Brian at Wisconsin-Ohio State
Week 6: Adam at Ohio State-Northwestern, Brian at Penn State-Indiana
Week 7: Adam at Penn State-Michigan, Brian at Northwestern-Wisconsin
Week 8: Brian at Iowa-Ohio State, Adam at Indiana-Michigan
Week 9: Adam at Nebraska-Minnesota, Brian at Penn State-Ohio State
Week 10: Brian at Michigan-Michigan State, Adam at Wisconsin-Iowa
Week 11: Adam at Nebraska-Michigan, Brian at Penn State-Minnesota
Week 12: Brian at Michigan State-Nebraska, Adam at Michigan-Northwestern
Week 13: Brian at Minnesota-Wisconsin, Adam at Nebraska-Penn State
Watch List offensive guard Sam Mustipher (Olney, Md./Our Lady of Good Counsel) is in that position. He knows that anytime he wears a football shirt or his varsity jacket, he’s representing more than himself.
“Pretty much anywhere in Maryland,” Mustipher said, regarding where Good Counsel gets recognized. “It’s pretty cool and a humbling experience. With that, you know you have a spotlight on your back at all times. If I’m wearing something with Good Counsel on it, people are going to look to me to set the example.”
And considering his 20-plus offers from the likes of Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida State and Notre Dame, coaches have noticed a lot more than a shirt. Recently, his game film has him being recognized further west at schools such as Oregon, USC and Stanford -- all of which he hopes to get offers from soon.
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1) Defensive end Lawrence Marshall (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) recently committed to Ohio State, then decommitted after visiting Michigan State and Michigan. Where does he eventually end up?
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The Big Ten classes are signed and sealed. You can see ESPN's final class rankings as well as grades for all the Big Ten teams .
As we put a bow on national signing day 2013, let's take a look at some superlatives ...
Biggest winner: Ohio State. The Buckeyes took a great class and made it even better with the additions of elite safety prospect Vonn Bell and four-star receiver prospect James Clark. They also held onto running back recruit Ezekiel Elliott. Plucking Bell out of SEC country made a significant statement, as Ohio State secured the nation's No. 3 class and the best in the Big Ten. Although other Big Ten programs secured strong classes -- Michigan, Nebraska, Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State -- Ohio State made the most headlines Wednesday.
Best closer: Ohio State co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Everett Withers. Although Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer is unquestionably one of the nation's top closers, Withers merits a mention here after steering Bell to sign with the Scarlet and Gray. "I've seen some really good efforts," Meyer said Wednesday. "Everett Withers from start to finish, his effort on Vonn Bell, as good as I've ever seen." Bell's high school coach called Withers the "most proficient and professional recruiter we've ever dealt with," according to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer. Withers played a major role in Ohio State securing five defensive backs ranked in the top 50 by ESPN Recruiting.
Biggest surprise: Indiana and Penn State. The Hoosiers have reached only one bowl game since the 1993 season and boast just five wins the past two seasons, but things are looking up in Bloomington. Kevin Wilson and his staff signed what appears to be a very solid recruiting class, especially on the defensive side, where IU has struggled for years. The Hoosiers signed two four-star defensive linemen from within the state -- Darius Latham and David Kenney III -- and bolstered the secondary with Rashard Fant and others. Penn State overcame NCAA scholarship sanctions and a multiyear bowl ban to sign the nation's No. 24 class, headlined by quarterback Christian Hackenberg, rated by ESPN Recruiting as the nation's top pocket passer.
Who flipped/biggest loss: The only notable intra-league flip on signing day -- and it wasn't a major surprise -- saw linebacker Reggie Spearman, a one-time Illinois commit, signing with Iowa. Ohio State (Taivon Jacobs) and Wisconsin (Marcus Ball) lost commits to Maryland and Arizona State, respectively, while Minnesota made a late flip with junior college linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, who was expected to sign with Kansas State. But for the most part, Big Ten teams played good defense on signing day.
How many times in the past 14 months have you read about the "Meyer Effect" or the "SEC-style recruiting" Meyer has brought to a stodgy league? Meyer made a splash during the weeks after his hiring by flipping several recruits who had been committed to other Big Ten programs, leading some to criticize him for violating the mythical agreement between Big Ten coaches to leave recruits alone. Meyer engaged in less intra-league recruit-flipping in the most recent recruiting cycle. He merely signed a decorated class that stacks up with any in the country.
Ohio State's recruiting is on the upswing. The same goes for the Buckeyes' archrival, Michigan, which also signed a top-10 class Wednesday. But the rest of the Big Ten isn't nearly as relevant on the national scale. The Big Ten had only four classes rank in the top 25 , according to ESPN Recruiting Nation. While some classes drew better marks from other recruiting services, no one can argue the Big Ten is the nation's bigwig recruiting conference. In fact, it's probably fourth behind the SEC, ACC and Big 12.
Andrew Weber/US PresswireUrban Meyer's success on and off the field ought to keep his Big Ten colleagues from tuning him out.
As you've likely heard by now, Meyer told 97.1 The Fan in Columbus on Thursday that the Big Ten needs to pick it up on the recruiting trail.
"Our whole conversation [at the Big Ten coaches meeting] needs to be about 'How do we recruit?'" he told the radio station. "When you see 11 of the SEC teams are in the top 25 that’s something that we need to continue to work on and improve."
He called the recruiting discussion "essential," and he'll spearhead it Monday.
How will his colleagues react? Meyer is relatively new to the Big Ten (although so are most of the league coaches), and he hasn't exactly made a ton of friends with his recruiting approach. These coaches are competitive, prideful men, and they might not respond well to a guy challenging their recruiting performance, even if that guy is, for the most part, getting the better of them on the trail. They don't want to be told how to do their jobs.
Expect a few eye-rolls in Park Ridge on Monday.
But the recruiting discussion is important, along with the many other big-ticket items -- number of league games, future division alignment, etc. -- that must be addressed. The current approach around the league doesn't seem to be working all that well. And while Meyer might not be Mr. Popular, he's also the only guy in the room to have won a national championship as a head coach (two of them, in fact). He's a fiercely competitive recruiter who emphasizes and embraces the process. And he also went 12-0 in his first season as a Big Ten coach.
How can the Big Ten collectively improve in recruiting? There's no easy answer, but there's no doubt the league has to improve. Campuses can't be relocated, but strategies can be changed. As Scott Dochterman detailed, Big Ten teams are spending more on recruiting than ever.
It'll be fascinating to see how Meyer's challenge is received. Every Big Ten coach understands recruiting is important. But the Big Ten culture is still largely rooted in player development, and there are quite a few coaches in the league who are turned off by elements of recruiting, whether it's the star system, the hat dances on signing day or recruits committing and decommitting left and right. Ask yourself: How many Big Ten coaches truly love recruiting? Now compare that number to the coaches in the SEC and ACC.
Meyer is one of the few Big Ten coaches I've covered who often references the star system when discussing recruits. Does that make him a better recruiter? No. But he's very much aware of the modern recruiting landscape -- the good, the bad and definitely the ugly -- and doesn't dismiss it as nonsense. Michigan's Brady Hoke also has this awareness, although he's much more understated about it.
Meyer doesn't have all the answers, but his approach works. Like it or not, the Big Ten coaches should embrace the recruiting discussion. Something has to change.
But before a largely forgettable 2012 Big Ten season goes up in flames, let's take one final look at the power rankings following the bowls. Ohio State not surprisingly remains on top, and the bottom three teams stay the same as well. There's a bit of shuffling among the seven bowl teams after varying performances. As has been the case most of the season, very little separates Nos. 2-6.
Here's a look at the pre-bowl power rankings.
Let's get to it ...
1. Ohio State (12-0; previously: 1): The Buckeyes will occupy this spot until they lose a game, which might be a while under coach Urban Meyer. After recording just the sixth unbeaten, untied season in team history, Ohio State sets its sights on even bigger goals as it emerges from NCAA sanctions. The Buckeyes showed major strides on offense behind sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller and improved on both lines as the season went on. Meyer exceeded most expectations in Year 1, but they'll be much higher in 2013.
2. Northwestern (10-3; previously: 5): Pat Fitzgerald's team moves up three spots after claiming its first bowl victory in 64 years. There was surprisingly little drama as Northwestern capitalized on Mississippi State's errors and won the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl by two touchdowns. The Wildcats recorded just the third 10-win season in team history and easily could have won another game or two despite a young roster. Things are headed in the right direction in Evanston.
3. Michigan (8-5; previously: 2): The Wolverines were one defensive stop away from recording the most impressive win in the Big Ten's bowl season and in the Brady Hoke era. They paced a very talented South Carolina team in the Outback Bowl and received big performances from wideout Jeremy Gallon, running back Denard Robinson and quarterback Devin Gardner. Unfortunately for Michigan, an elite pass defense couldn't get it done in the end. Four of Michigan's five losses came against top-10 teams, but an 8-5 record isn't what Hoke or his players had in mind this fall.
4. Penn State (8-4; previously: 3): Penn State and Michigan are similar in that both teams have "good" losses on their résumés (Michigan a few more than Penn State). Both teams rallied to beat Northwestern at home, while Penn State has another quality win against Wisconsin. The Lions and Wolverines didn't play one another, and we'll never know how Penn State would have fared against a team like South Carolina. Michigan gets the slight edge here, but Penn State had a terrific season behind a dramatically improved offense and a defense led by senior stars Michael Mauti, Jordan Hill and Gerald Hodges.
5. Nebraska (10-4; previously: 4): The Huskers beat the three teams ahead of them in the rankings, but the power rankings place more weight on recent results, and Nebraska finished the season with a thud. Bo Pelini's team surrendered 105 points in its last two games -- losses to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game and to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. Nebraska showed it could move the ball and score against anyone, despite being turnover-prone. But the defense was abysmal in the four losses and raises serious concerns for Pelini's program going forward.
6. Wisconsin (8-6; previously: 6): The Barry Alvarez-led Badgers showed they could hang with Stanford, but they couldn't take advantage of the unique opportunity to play in the Rose Bowl Presented by Vizio despite finishing third in the Leaders Division. The inconsistent offensive execution that plagued Wisconsin throughout the season surfaced once again against a tough and talented Stanford defense. Wisconsin just didn't have enough firepower to get over the hump, which was really the story of its season.
7. Michigan State (7-6; previously: 7): A come-from-behind win against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl takes the sting off of a season that didn't go according to plan for Michigan State. The Spartans leaned on their defense and received just enough offense from backup quarterback Connor Cook and Co. to get past a young Horned Frogs team in Tempe, Ariz. Michigan State posted its second straight bowl win under coach Mark Dantonio and said goodbye to three juniors -- running back Le'Veon Bell, tight end Dion Sims and defensive end William Gholston -- in the days following the game.
8. Minnesota (6-7; previously: 9): Minnesota appeared poised to give the Big Ten a surprising 1-0 start to the bowl season. The Gophers made strides on offense between the end of the regular season and the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, as young quarterback Philip Nelson and the offensive line looked a lot better against Texas Tech. But Minnesota still doesn't know how to finish and suffered breakdowns down the stretch in a tough loss to the Red Raiders. The team still doubled its win total in Jerry Kill's second season and could make some noise in a tough Legends Division next fall.
9. Purdue (6-7; previously: 8): The Boilermakers and Minnesota swap places after Minnesota performed much better in its bowl game than Purdue did. A mismatch on paper turned into a total whitewash on the field as Oklahoma State, which had no business being in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, outclassed Purdue from the get-go. Purdue's once-promising season ended with a thud as a veteran-laden Boilers team that kept pace with both Notre Dame and Ohio State struggled mightily against most of the good-to-great teams it faced this season.
10. Indiana (4-8; previously: 10): After going 1-11 in Kevin Wilson's first year, Indiana could only get better, and took some important steps this season. The Hoosiers showed they can score points on just about every defense in the Big Ten, and their group of skill players is among the league's best. IU's defense still isn't at a Big Ten level, and improving the talent and depth on that side of the ball is the chief challenge for Wilson and his staff entering the 2013 season.
11. Iowa (4-8; previously: 11): A bowl appearance looked like a guarantee before the season as the schedule set up favorably for eight or more wins. But the offense took a giant step backward, and injuries hurt the unit throughout the season. Iowa's defense kept it in quite a few games but also let down against better offenses like Northwestern and Michigan. The Hawkeyes will look for more cohesion on offense and more playmakers to emerge. The Legends Division seems to be getting only tougher.
12. Illinois (2-10; previously: 12): No team and no coach wants to turn the page on 2012 more than Illinois and Tim Beckman. Almost nothing went right in Beckman's first season, as the offense stalled and the defense struggled against spread offenses. The Illini dropped all eight of their Big Ten contests and lost by fewer than 14 points just once. Perhaps new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit can get the offense on track. The defense, meanwhile, must fill holes up front and in the secondary. At least Illinois gets a fresh start in 2013.
Both of the new offers were big, as one led to a commitment and the other has one of the top players in the West seriously considering the Ducks.
California commit and Under Armour All-American OL Cameron Hunt (Corona, Calif./Centennial) recently began to explore other options after Cal had a coaching change. Hunt remains committed to the Bears but is giving a good look to three other programs. Nebraska, Michigan and Oregon all offered the ESPN 300 prospect within days of Jeff Tedford being let go. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer also stopped by the week before Hunt and his Centennial squad took on Concord (Calif.) De La Salle in the state championship game.
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"I have the Under Armour Game on January 4th, then the following week is when things get really hectic," Hunt said. "I'm going to Michigan on the 12th, Oregon on the 18th and Cal on the 25th. I'm going to visit Ohio State at some point to but I need to figure that one out."
Michigan, Nebraska and Oregon offered the 6-foot-4, 274-pound Hunt after Cal fired head coach Jeff Tedford. Urban Meyer made a trip to see Hunt at his school last week, and while no offer was extended, it appears that is just a matter of time.
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