Inspired, I took that question around all day long, to current coaches, former coaches, former players and some of the suits who help run the nation’s most powerful athletic conferences. What’s the best head coaching job in college football and why? These were the five that came up the most, ranked in order of most desirable.
1. Texas Longhorns
Of the 24 people I polled in Pasadena, every single one mentioned Texas among their top five and more than half ranked it No. 1. “As a head football coach, you want to be put in position where football is priority one,” former Oregon Ducks coach and current ESPN analyst Mike Belotti said Monday. “At Texas, the numbers are just so overwhelming, whether you’re talking about the fan base, the size of the school itself, the tradition of winning, the massive number of recruiting talent in the state and, of course, the money.”
Ah yes, the money. No one spends more or makes more than Texas.
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Here's our Big Ten All-BCS team.
Coach: Jim Tressel, Ohio State -- Tressel led Ohio State to the 2002 national title, the Big Ten's only championship in the BCS era, as well as seven Big Ten titles (one vacated).
QB: Drew Brees, Purdue (1997-2000) -- He led Purdue to the 2000 Big Ten championship and finished his career with league records for passing yards (11,792), touchdown passes (90), total offensive yards (12,693), completions (1,026), and attempts (1,678). Brees won the Maxwell Award in 2000.
RB: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin (1996-99) -- The 1999 Heisman Trophy winner set the NCAA's career rushing record with 6,397 yards (not including bowl games). He won all the major national individual awards in 1999 and became the first player to repeat as Rose Bowl MVP.
WR: Braylon Edwards, Michigan (2001-04) -- The Big Ten's most recent Biletnikoff Award winner holds the league record for career touchdown receptions (39) and ranks fourth in career receiving yards (3,541). He's the only Big Ten receiver to record 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
WR: Lee Evans, Wisconsin (2000-03) -- Evans twice led the Big Ten in receiving yards, eclipsing 1,500 yards in 2001 before rebounding from an ACL tear to record 1,213 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2003.
TE: Dallas Clark, Iowa (1999-2002) -- Clark earned the John Mackey Award in 2002 after recording 43 receptions for 742 yards as Iowa went undefeated in the Big Ten.
OL: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05) -- One of the more decorated Big Ten linemen in the BCS era, Eslinger won the Outland Trophy in 2005. He was a two-time first-team All-America selection and a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection for one of the nation's top rushing offenses.
OL: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2003-06) -- Another Outland Trophy winner (2006), Thomas earned unanimous consensus All-America honors that year. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in each of his final two seasons and was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft.
OL: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- In 1998, Raiola became the first Nebraska freshman offensive lineman to start a game in seven years. He went on to earn the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center, first-team All-Big 12 honors in his final two seasons and consensus first-team All-America honors in 2000.
OL: Robert Gallery, Iowa (1999-2003) -- Gallery claimed the Outland Trophy in 2003 as well as first-team All-America honors. He twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as the anchor of a nationally elite offensive line.
OL: Jake Long, Michigan (2003-07) -- Although Long didn't win the Outland, he twice earned consensus first-team All-America honors (unanimous selection in 2007) and twice earned Big Ten offensive lineman of the year honors (beating out Thomas in 2006). Long was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
DE: LaMarr Woodley, Michigan (2003-06) -- Woodley claimed the Rotary Lombardi Award in 2006 as the nation's top lineman. A first-team All-American that season, he finished his career with 10 forced fumbles, tied for seventh on the Big Ten's career list.
DE: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue (2007-10) -- Unlike most of the men on this list, Kerrigan never played for any BCS bowl teams at Purdue but still had a remarkable career that ended with unanimous consensus first-team All-America honors in 2010. The Big Ten defensive player of the year tied the NCAA record for forced fumbles (14) and recorded 33.5 sacks and 57 tackles for loss.
DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- The most dominant defender in recent years finished fourth in Heisman voting in 2009 (should have been higher) and earned several awards, including the Bednarik, Nagurski and Outland. Suh finished his career with 24 sacks, 57 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 41 quarterback hurries.
DT: Devon Still, Penn State (2008-11) -- Penn State produced a string of outstanding defensive tackles including Still, the Big Ten's defensive player of the year in 2011. Still earned consensus first-team All-America honors after recording 17 tackles for loss.
LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08) -- Laurinaitis won major national awards in each of his final three seasons, including the Nagurski Trophy in 2006. The two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year became just the third Ohio State player to earn consensus All-America honors in three seasons.
LB: Paul Posluszny, Penn State (2003-06) -- Posluszny is one of only two players (Pat Fitzgerald) to twice win the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defender. He became the first Penn State linebacker to twice earn AP All-America honors.
LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99) -- A freakishly athletic linebacker at Linebacker U., Arrington twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and won the Bednarik and Butkus Awards as a junior in 1999. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.
CB: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin (1998-2000) -- Fletcher claimed the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back in 2000, won Big Ten defensive player of the year honors that year and was a three-time first-team all-conference selection. He's tied for fourth in league history with 21 career interceptions and holds the league record for interception return yards (459).
CB: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (2010-13) -- Dennard also claimed the Thorpe Award as he helped Michigan State to its first outright Big Ten title in 26 years and a Rose Bowl victory against Stanford. The two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection recorded 10 career interceptions and led the "No Fly Zone" Spartans secondary.
S: Tyrone Carter, Minnesota (1996-99) -- The only Big Ten safety to win the Thorpe Award, Carter also twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and earned unanimous All-America honors in 1999. He set the FBS record for career tackles by a defensive back with 528.
S: Mike Doss, Ohio State (1999-2002) -- A three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Doss earned unanimous consensus All-America honors in 2002 as Ohio State won the national title.
K: Mike Nugent, Ohio State (2001-04) -- Nugent won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2004 and claimed consensus All-America honors in both 2002 and 2004. He holds the Big Ten record for consecutive made field goals with 24.
P: Brandon Fields, Michigan State (2003-06) -- His name is on the Big Ten's punter of the year award for a reason. Fields earned consensus All-America honors in 2004, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors three times and twice led the league in punting, tying for third in career average (45 ypp).
Returns: Ted Ginn, Ohio State (2004-06) and Steve Breaston, Michigan (2003-06) -- Ginn holds the Big Ten single-season records for kick return average (25.6 ypr) and career punt return touchdowns (6), while Breaston claims the league mark for career punt return yards (1,599) and is tied for third in punt return touchdowns (4).
It's tough enough putting together these teams for one season, much less 16 seasons. You can't please everyone, and many exceptional players didn't make the cut.
We decided to go with five offensive linemen rather than a center, two guards and two tackles, in order to recognize the best overall players in the trenches.
There was some debate for a second receiver alongside Michigan's Edwards, as the Big Ten hasn't exactly mass-produced superstars at the position. Several players had great seasons like Michigan State's Charles Rogers in 2002, but we put more stock into overall career output and went with Wisconsin's Evans, who led the league in receiving in 2001 and 2003.
Cornerback created some debate among Fletcher, Dennard and Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, also a Jim Thorpe Award winner. We faced another tough decision at safety between Ohio State's Doss and Iowa's Bob Sanders.
Surprisingly, the defensive tackle spot produced few bona-fide superstars. Nebraska's Suh, who played his entire career in the Big 12, was an obvious choice but a second choice proved to be tough.
Arguably the toughest choice came at kicker between Nugent and Iowa's Nate Kaeding. Both won Lou Groza Awards and set numerous records. We gave the nod to Nugent, but not by much.
Bowls are basically chamber-of-commerce ventures designed to fill hotel rooms and sell tickets. So teams whose fan bases historically travel well often have a leg up and can get picked ahead of other teams who might be more deserving based on their on-field results.
Times could be changing, as leagues will claim a much bigger say in the bowl process starting next season. The Big Ten wants to ensure fresh bowl destinations and attractive matchups. Conferences are also demanding lower ticket guarantees from the bowls. So fan travel history might matter less in the future, though bowls will always want the team most likely to fill their stands.
With all that in mind, we're taking a look today at how Big Ten teams fared in moving their bowl tickets this postseason. Numbers have been down across the board for bowl attendance, especially when it comes to the official allotments. Some of these trips are very expensive -- you were lucky to find a non-fleabag motel in South Florida over New Year's for less than $300 per night, for instance -- and smart fans will buy their tickets through brokers or other sources to save money (and often score better seats). The numbers here only represent the tickets the school officially sold, as there's really no way to account for fans who purchased tickets through outside means. Iowa, for example, says that as many as 15,000 Hawkeyes fans attended the Outback Bowl without buying through the school.
So here are the numbers that we got through the schools, media reports and the bowl games themselves, along with the official attendance at each bowl:
Sold 3,375 tickets out of a 12,000-ticket allotment to the Texas Bowl.
Texas Bowl official attendance: 32,327
Reliant Stadium capacity: 71,500
Sold about 6,500 tickets out of an 11,000-ticket allotment to Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Wings Bowl official attendance: 53,284
Sun Devil Stadium capacity: 71,706
Sold about 3,000 tickets out of a 12,500-ticket allotment to the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. Gave away 4,000 tickets, including 1,000 to veterans.
Gator Bowl official attendance: 60,712
EverBank Field capacity: 67,164
Sold about 11,000 tickets out of 11,500-ticket allotment to Outback Bowl.
Outback Bowl official attendance: 51,296
Raymond James Stadium capacity: 65,857
Sold 3,627 tickets out of a 12,500-ticket allotment to Capital One Bowl. Distributed another 1,357 tickets to players, band, athletic department, etc.
Capital One Bowl official attendance: 56,629
Florida Citrus Bowl capacity: 70,000
Sold all of its 24,000-ticket allotment to the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.
Rose Bowl official attendance: 95,173 (sellout).
Sold 8,500 out of a 17,500-ticket allotment to the Discover Orange Bowl
Orange Bowl official attendance: 72,080
Sun Life Stadium capacity: 76,100
Quick thoughts: The numbers bear out what bowl officials have been saying for years: Teams that finish the regular season strong have better turnouts. Iowa was the best of the non-BCS bunch in ticket sales after ending the regular season on a high note, and Hawkeyes fans were eager to travel after their team missed the postseason in 2012. ... Wisconsin's turnout seemed to be really affected by the loss to Penn State in the regular-season finale. ... Nebraska fans probably weren't real hungry to follow their team, especially as the Huskers went back to Florida for a rematch. ... Michigan about half its official tickets, but the Wings bowl was happy with the attendance. ... Minnesota actually sold a bit more tickets to the Texas Bowl than it did in 2012 when it played in the same game. ... I was at the Orange Bowl, and Ohio State obviously had more than 8,500 fans in attendance as Buckeyes backers dominated the crowd. There sure looked to be more than just 4,000 empty seats in that stadium, however. ... No surprise Michigan State sold out its Rose Bowl allotment in the blink of an eye, and there some estimates of as many as 50,000 Spartans fans in Pasadena. The big question going forward is whether that game will maintain its allure when it's not a semifinal in the new College Football Playoff.
Indiana landed ESPN 300 receiver Dominique Booth (Indianapolis/Pike), when he announced his decision on Jan. 7. Booth had been committed to Tennessee, but he decommitted and will now enroll early for the Hoosiers.
He is a big pickup for the Indiana offense and is a high ranking in-state prospect who coach Kevin Wilson and his staff are keeping home.
Nebraska also secured a wide receiver with Jariah Tolbert (New Orleans/Edna Karr) on Thursday. Tolbert joined his teammate, athlete Jaevon Walton, in Nebraska’s 2014 class.
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- James Franklin smiled when he took the dais here Saturday as he was formally introduced as Penn State's 16th head football coach.
"I'm excited to come here," he said during an hourlong news conference. "I'm a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart."
The former Vanderbilt coach met with Commodores players at 9 a.m. ET Saturday before hopping on a twin-jet to Happy Valley. About two dozen fans and photographers stood behind an airport gate at Penn State to greet the new coach. The Pennsylvania native, who grew up in Langhorne, Pa., shouted to fans there: "It's good to be home!"
Franklin signed a six-year deal worth $25.5 million in total guaranteed compensation, with a buyout starting out at $5 million and gradually decreasing to $1 million by the last year of the contract. Penn State's newly formed Compensation Committee unanimously approved the deal, 6-0, at a Saturday morning meeting.
"I'd still be at Vanderbilt if it wasn't just such an unbelievable opportunity," he said. "We're coming with the mindset we're going to build this program. ... We plan on being here a very, very long time. This is my dream job; this is where I want to be."
Franklin, who coached at Vanderbilt the last three seasons, entertained overtures this offseason from the NFL's Houston Texans, Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns before agreeing to a deal with Penn State. He replaces Bill O'Brien, who left for the Texans earlier this month after two seasons.
Don't forget: Twitter!
To the inbox ...
Josh from NYC writes: I know, I know, offensive MVP of the Rose Bowl and Big Ten Championship game. However had those very catchable INTs gone through, Cook could just as easily come out the villain rather than the hero. That said, when, if at all, do you think we start seeing some Damion Terry action over there in East Lansing?
Adam Rittenberg: Josh, Connor Cook lived on the edge for most of the season with his throws, and he certainly had fortune on his side. But what I loved is that he'd respond from a near-interception with a great throw on the run in traffic or a nice deep ball. If you get the breaks, you have to capitalize, and that's what Cook did. He deserves to be the starting quarterback entering the 2014 season. That said, Terry should be part of the offense, and I could see Michigan State employing a package of plays to get Terry more involved. Mark Dantonio understands the need to have more mobility and play-making skills from the quarterback spot. Terry certainly can help in that area.
Adam Rittenberg: It falls mainly on offensive line coach Darrell Funk, especially because he directly recruited the linemen. The coordinator must create schemes catered to players' strengths and make the right play calls and the right times, but when you can't convert third-and-1 on a consistent basis, there's not much a coordinator can do. I'm interested to see how Michigan's blocking schemes change under Nussmeier, who clearly knows the run game is a priority after the past two seasons. But the development of individual players falls more on Funk.
Brian from Raleigh, N.C., writes: As the dust clears from the 2013 season, Northwestern loses "QB 1A" Kain Colter. Predictions, please: Does Trevor Siemian take over as a full-time QB in a 2009 Kafka-style offense? Is there open competition in the spring between Siemian, Zack Oliver, and Matt Alviti? Or does NU try to replicate 2012's success/take advantage of differing skill sets with another multiple-QB system?
Adam Rittenberg: Brian, I'm glad you brought up the 2009 offense, and I'd even throw in (pun intended) the pass-heavy 2008 offense led by C.J. Bacher. If Siemian is the starter, and it seems likely he will be, Northwestern should shape the offense more around his skill set, which is pocket passing. Assuming a two-quarterback system will work every year is risky, and assuming one quarterback will get hurt every year because of how much Northwestern runs its quarterbacks isn't a long-term formula for success in my view. There should be a competition this spring and Siemian shouldn't be handed the job. But if he stays healthy and develops with the receiving corps, which should be pretty good, I think Northwestern ditches the 2-QB deal and goes back to the 2008/2009 offenses, except this time with better running backs.
Casey from Dublin, Ohio, writes: I think the West division from top to bottom will be better than the East in 2014. After Mich St and tOSU they don't have anybody to compete. Michigan still has to prove it can get back. Penn St loses the top playmaker and will break in a new head coach. The West has Neb, Wisky, Iowa, Minny and possibly NW competing for the title in the west if they can get strong QB play and Mark can return to the Mark of 2 seasons ago.
Adam Rittenberg: Casey, the West undoubtedly has more parity entering 2014 and could be a more exciting divisional race. Will it be top-to-bottom better than the East? A lot depends on Michigan, which must rebound from a very disappointing season, and Penn State, which once again welcomes a new coaching staff. If those two programs both improve, the East should be stronger overall. Every West team has potential flaws, as Wisconsin loses a huge senior class, Minnesota has quarterback problems, Iowa needs to show more on offense, Nebraska must overcome long-term erratic play, and Northwestern comes off a brutal 5-7 year. I feel pretty comfortable writing that MSU and OSU will be pretty good in 2014. There are more unknowns in the West, but it should be a lot of fun to watch.
Greg from Philadelphia writes: Really Adam? Christian Hackenberg isn't a star to watch in 2014?! You're ridiculous.
Adam Rittenberg: I've been called worse, Greg. It's a national list and you can't include everyone. Penn State's uncertain coaching situation at the time the story ran played a role in not including Hackenberg, who has given every indication he'll return but still faces a decision on his future with the new staff. He certainly looks like an eventual superstar, but he'll have to adjust to a new set of offensive coaches under James Franklin.
Adam Rittenberg: Meyer will be a busy man next week at the American Football Coaches Association in Indy as he must not only replace Withers but also defensive line coach Mike Vrabel, who is joining Bill O'Brien with the NFL's Houston Texans. Both Withers and Vrabel were exceptional recruiters, so Meyer has to find candidates who not only can develop young players in both areas but get it done on the trail. I think it's important to get an assistant with ties to the South like Withers had. Could Ohio State bring back former coordinator Jim Heacock as defensive line coach? Extremely underrated assistant, in my view.
Nathan from San Antonio writes: Hey Adam, did you happen to see that next years MSU @ Oregon game was moved from week 3 to week 2? I have only read it in one location and wondered if it was true and if so, how come?
Adam Rittenberg: It has been moved, Nathan, to accommodate national television and a certain time slot, which won't be at night. The TV plans aren't final, but the game needed to be played Sept. 6 rather than Sept. 13. So Michigan State won't have an extra week to prepare for the Ducks after the opener against Jacksonville State, but it also won't have to deal with Autzen Stadium at night, which is never fun for the visiting team.
Donnie from Atlanta writes: Hey Adam/Brian, when will the Maryland & Rutgers additions be league official and when will you guys bring them in as part of the blog? Excited to learn more about the newcomers and the new stadiums/fan bases my Buckeyes will be going up against.
Adam Rittenberg: Donnie, we typically make the transition around national signing day, so check the blog in February as we'll officially welcome Maryland and Rutgers.
James Franklin is expected to receive a contract from Penn State worth up to $4.5 million a year, according to a source, making him the Big Ten's second-highest-paid coach behind Ohio State's Urban Meyer.
Former coach Bill O'Brien made $3.82 million a year while Franklin reportedly made about $3 million a year at Vanderbilt.
Penn State has scheduled a news conference for 4:15 p.m. ET Saturday to make a "major announcement." Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has called a team meeting for early Saturday morning, a source told ESPN's Josina Anderson.
The Penn State compensation committee is scheduled to meet in a closed session at 8:30 a.m. ET Saturday to discuss a "matter of compensation," school spokeswoman Lisa Powers said. Sources told ESPN that meeting is about Franklin, who spent the past three seasons at Vanderbilt.
Powers said that following the meeting a brief public session would be held. The committee members are chairwoman Linda B. Strumpf, Kathleen L. Casey, Mark H. Dambly, Karen B. Peetz and Paul H. Silvis.
A source told ESPN on Thursday that Franklin would not officially accept the Penn State job until the contract was approved Saturday.
Franklin was given a contract extension in December 2012 designed to keep him at Vanderbilt for years to come. Asked whether the Commodores have worked to restructure Franklin's deal since the end of the 2013 season, Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said they have an ongoing process to remain competitive.
- 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.
Replace the kicker: Meyer at times seems allergic to kicking field goals, but he could at least feel somewhat comfortable when he did settle for a 3-point try with veteran Drew Basil around and hitting 90 percent of his attempts. But that security blanket is gone now, and while that might make Meyer even less inclined to kick a field goal moving forward, in the short term he'll have his attention focused on the candidates to fill the void. Walk-on Kyle Clinton will have a crack at the job, though his current experience is limited to 3 extra points and a handful of kickoffs in his career. Incoming freshman Sean Nuernberger, the No. 9 player in the country at the position, could wind up being the solution for Ohio State.
Dial up the FreakShow: The loss of Bradley Roby at cornerback is obviously pressing, but not having him around to lead the FreakShow punt-block unit could be just as significant given how dramatic an impact he had during his career attacking the football on special teams. Few things in a game mean more to Meyer than coming up with a momentum-swinging block in the kicking game, and Roby had the instincts and athleticism to do it perhaps as well or better than anybody the coach has ever had at his disposal. Doran Grant has shown a flash of that ability, but the Buckeyes will be looking hard at the young talent it has been stacking up in the secondary to find another guy or two capable of blazing deep into the backfield, getting a hand on the football and then potentially turning a block directly into points the way Roby did with the program.
Previous to-do lists: Offense | Defense
Worst game: You have to wonder if the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl would have picked Michigan ahead of Nebraska had game organizers known that quarterback Devin Gardner wasn't going to play. Probably so, since the attendance was still very good. But the Wolverines were noncompetitive in the desert, needing a touchdown and two-point conversion with 1:15 left just to make the final score 31-14.
Best play: This one's an easy call. On third-and-long from its own 1-yard line, Nebraska opted to throw the ball against Georgia in the third quarter of the Gator Bowl. Tommy Armstrong Jr. found wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, and the result was a 99-yard touchdown pass, the longest play in Cornhuskers and Gator Bowl history.
Best surprise: Minnesota coach Jerry Kill left the press box at halftime of the Texas Bowl against Syracuse and coached the rest of the game from the sideline, something he hadn't done since Sept. 28. Having Kill back on the sidelines gave the Gophers a spark as they erased a halftime deficit, but Syracuse still went on to win the game.
Worst bowl week: Ohio State enjoyed an oceanside hotel at the Discover Orange Bowl, but the buildup to the game was no day at the beach. A stomach bug swirled through the team, leaving several players nauseous and vomiting for about 12 hours each. The school found out that defensive end Noah Spence would be suspended for the game against Clemson and the first two contests of 2014. And cornerback Bradley Roby couldn't recover from his knee injury. It's a wonder Ohio State came so close to winning the game with all that went wrong leading into it.
Worst early celebration: Iowa safety John Lowdermilk intercepted an LSU pass and ran it back 71 yards in the third quarter of the Outback Bowl. But just before he crossed the goal line, Lowdermilk -- who had no defenders around him -- casually dropped the ball out of his right hand. The play was ruled a fumble, and luckily Iowa went on to score the touchdown. But not before some embarrassment for Lowdermilk. “I don’t know what I was doing," he said. "I really regret it and apologize. If I’m lucky enough to get in that situation again, I’ll probably put two hands around the ball and go to the back of the end zone, just to make sure."
Worst late celebration: Michigan State players tried to give coach Mark Dantonio a Gatorade shower near the end of the Rose Bowl. But Dantonio skipped out of the way, and the players' effort was embarrassingly off mark. Dantonio had already shown that he's light on his feet this year with all his dancing to Rich Homie Quan. It's way past time we retire the Gatorade bath, anyway, and come up with something a little more clever.
Best overlooked achievement: Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon and James White both ran for more than 100 yards in the Capital One Bowl against South Carolina and set a FBS record in the process. They finished the season with a combined 3,053 rushing yards, surpassing the top total for a pair of teammates that Nevada’s Cody Fajardo and Stefphon Jefferson established with 3,004 yards in 2012. Gordon and White also were the first teammates to each rush for more than 1,400 yards in the same season. But the Badgers didn't feel much like celebrating as they dropped their fourth straight bowl game.
Wildest finish: The Orange Bowl had more endings than "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." The game looked like it was over when Braxton Miller fumbled on a big hit by Clemson's Bashaud Breeland with 3:12 left. But then the Tigers threw an interception on a questionable call three plays later. Miller then returned the favor with an interception of his own with 1:18 remaining. It was a fitting conclusion to a game that contained all kinds of wild momentum swings.
Worst clock management: This one goes to LSU, against Iowa. The Tigers took possession with 1:42 left, and even with Iowa holding one timeout, they should have been able to run out the clock. But with confusion on the sideline and at quarterback, LSU called its own timeout with eight seconds left and had to punt. When Les Miles and clocks are involved, things are never boring.
Jim Delany wasn't easy to spot in the headgear, and one could argue that the Big Ten commissioner wisely disguised himself on a day that hasn't been kind to his league in recent years. But for the first time in four years, and for just the second time in 14 years, Delany walked out of the Rose Bowl with a smile on his face.
The Spartans won a team-record 13 games and completed the best season for a Big Ten team in recent memory, finishing No. 3 in the final polls. Nebraska provided the other bright spot, upsetting Georgia in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl thanks to a stingy red-zone defense and several standout performances from seniors.
Elsewhere, the Big Ten felt the familiar postseason sting of what might have been. The league easily could have had a better record in the Florida bowls, but Wisconsin and Ohio State had sloppy performances and Iowa's offense never got on track against LSU.
Wisconsin never punted in the Capital One Bowl against South Carolina and had two 100-yard rushers in Melvin Gordon and James White, but the Badgers committed four turnovers and scored just 17 offensive points. A team that had been so solid through the first 11 games unraveled in the regular-season finale against Penn State and in the bowl, failing to capitalize on a great chance to build on a 17-13 third-quarter lead. Dave Aranda's defense was shredded for the second straight game as South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw accounted for five touchdowns (3 pass, 1 rush, 1 receiving). A decorated Wisconsin senior classes ended 0-4 in Jan. 1 bowls.
Ohio State also finished the season on a surprising losing streak, squandering two second-half leads in a 40-35 loss to Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl. Like Wisconsin, the Buckeyes also were doomed by turnovers, particularly a muffed punt by Corey Brown in the third quarter with a nine-point lead. A depleted Ohio State defense couldn't stop Clemson's big-play receivers, the coaches once again avoided running back Carlos Hyde in crunch time, and a banged-up Braxton Miller committed turnovers on Ohio State's final two possessions.
Injuries and personnel issues were a theme throughout the Big Ten during the bowl season. Wisconsin and Iowa saw their starting quarterbacks hurt during games, while Michigan's top signal-caller, Devin Gardner, showed up in Arizona on crutches and didn't play in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Michigan State overcame the loss of starting middle linebacker and co-captain Max Bullough, as Kyler Elsworth and Darien Harris filled in well. Ohio State played without top cornerback Bradley Roby (injury) and top pass-rusher Noah Spence (suspension).
A little more offense could have put Iowa and Minnesota over the top in their bowl games. Minnesota didn't reach the end zone for three quarters in the Texas Bowl, eventually falling 21-17 to a mediocre Syracuse team. Iowa's only touchdowns came on drives of 1 and 4 yards, as the Hawkeyes had just 11 first downs and 233 total yards against LSU.
It wouldn't have taken much for the Big Ten to post a winning record in the bowls. The league had only one non-competitive performance, coming from Michigan in the Wings Bowl, as the Wolverines ended a disappointing season on a down note. The defense never gave first-time starting quarterback Shane Morris much of a chance, allowing touchdowns on Kansas State's first three possessions. Morris held his own but Michigan didn't reach the end zone until the 58th minute in what proved to be the final game for beleaguered offensive coordinator Al Borges.
Nebraska started New Year's Day on a good note as wide receiver Quincy Enunwa triggered the win with a 99-yard touchdown reception, while defensive linemen Jason Ankrah, Randy Gregory and Thad Randle limited Georgia's offense. Michigan State capped the afternoon by rallying past Stanford behind a suffocating defense and quarterback Connor Cook, who collected another postseason MVP honor and his second straight 300-yard passing performance.
The Spartans boost hope for the future after another Big Ten postseason rife with missed opportunities. The league has another team capable of competing for a national championship.
The playoff arrives in 2014, along with a more palatable Big Ten bowl lineup and most likely more bowl-eligible teams. The Big Ten took a small step in the postseason after a historically bad 2012 campaign, but more progress must be made for the rest of college football to start tipping its cap.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Braxton Miller still has a lot he wants to get done at Ohio State.
That's why the junior announced Thursday night he'll return for his senior season. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder, a two-time Big Ten MVP, had been contemplating jumping into the NFL draft a year early.
"I want to help this team win a Big Ten championship next year," Miller said in a statement issued through the university. "Plus, I want to improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game. I'm looking forward to working for another year with (coach Urban) Meyer and (quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Tom) Herman. And I want to graduate, so this will help get me closer to my academic goal."
An acclaimed recruit out of Springfield, Ohio, Miller has started for almost three full seasons. After taking over during a 6-7 season in 2012, under Meyer he led the Buckeyes to a school-record 24 consecutive wins before losses in the Big Ten championship game to Michigan State and Discover Orange Bowl to Clemson.
"He has been an extremely valuable member of our team," Meyer said in the statement. "His desire to lead our team to a championship, to earn his degree from The Ohio State University next spring and to continue to improve as a quarterback are his motivation."
Even though Miller missed almost three full games with a sprained knee in 2013, he passed for 2,094 yards and 24 touchdowns with seven interceptions and ran for 1,068 yards and 12 scores.
"I want to help this team win a Big Ten championship next year," Miller said in a prepared statement. "Plus, I want to improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game. I’m looking forward to working for another year with Coach [Urban] Meyer and Coach [Tom] Herman. And I want to graduate, so this will help get me closer to my academic goal."
Miller, who has won Big Ten offensive player of the year the past two seasons, always had been expected to stay but did consider a jump to the NFL, in part because of his young son. Miller has a record seven individual Big Ten awards, including back-to-back Silver Football league MVPs. No Big Ten player has won three Silver Footballs or offensive player of the year awards.
Miller needs 2,256 passing yards and six more passing touchdown to become Ohio State's all-time career leader in both categories.
So no surprise here, but good news for Ohio State entering the long offseason.
Vrabel was one of the best recruiters in the country and helped the Buckeyes reel in plenty of prospects over the past few years.
While Ohio State won’t likely lose any commitments from this departure, it is a big blow to the recruiting efforts overall. Vrabel was well liked among recruits and had a lot of success with his targets.
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According to multiple reports, and as first reported by BuckeyeGrove.com, Buckeyes defensive line coach Mike Vrabel is leaving the team to take a job with the Houston Texans. O'Brien, of course, was named the new Texans coach last week.
He'll leave the program in great shape at the defensive line position, with Bosa, Spence, Michael Bennett and Jamal Marcus -- who had a strong performance in the Orange Bowl in place of the suspended Spence -- among a deep group returning for 2014. Where Vrabel's departure could really hurt is in recruiting.
He was named the 2012 ESPN.com recruiter of the year and was one of Urban Meyer's best closers on the recruiting trail. That is no surprise, since he has a strong personality and the credibility to back it up thanks to his success as a player with the New England Patriots. Flashing a Super Bowl ring never hurts in living rooms.
With Vrabel's NFL background, it's no surprise that he'd be attracted to a job at the next level, though he did seem pretty comfortable in the college game. Some Ohio State fans, unhappy with Luke Fickell's performance, wished he'd eventually be promoted to defensive coordinator in Columbus.
O'Brien certainly saw up close what Vrabel was able to do with his defensive line, and one of Vrabel's major recruiting wins was wooing Spence away from Penn State. Now O'Brien can return the favor to Ohio State, in a sense. O'Brien was an assistant with the Patriots when Vrabel was a player there.
Vrabel is the second defensive assistant to leave Ohio State this year, following co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach Everett Withers, who left to become the head coach at James Madison. This offseason is the first time Meyer will have to replace assistants at Ohio State, as he asked each of his coaches to give him a two-year commitment.
But that's coaching. Good assistants leave for better jobs. This presents Meyer an opportunity to rework his defensive staff and make changes after that side of the ball collapsed late in the season. But Vrabel is not a guy he or Ohio State wanted to see go.
Braxton Miller, Ohio State Begin Spring Drills
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35