Ohio State Buckeyes: Jim Tressel
- Ohio State's Kenny Guiton just wants a shot at the NFL. Jim Tressel likely will have to wait on getting into the Hall of Fame.
- Wisconsin's Dave Aranda is reshaping his defense into a smaller, faster unit. A speedy Florida receiver committed to the Badgers.
- Five Penn State players to watch this spring. John Urschel is a semifinalist for the Sullivan Award.
- Ryne Reeves might provide some answers to the Nebraska offensive line questions. Imani Cross and Terrell Newby are battling to be the No. 2 back behind Ameer Abdullah.
- Minnesota quarterback Chris Streveler has recovered from a thumb injury.
- Max Bullough is still not talking about his Rose Bowl suspension. Mark Dantonio says Michigan State has built a "culture of confidence."
- New Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier has brought a simpler, more downhill approach to the running game.
- Previewing the running back position this spring for Iowa.
- Brian Knorr says he isn't making major changes to the Indiana defense.
- A look at the top players in Illinois for the Class of 2015.
To the inbox ...
AIS from Madison, Wis., writes: I seem to remember that Minnesota had a returning 1,000-yard rusher last year in Donnell Kirkwood, before he was limited by injuries. David Cobb put together a great season in his time as the featured back but had to split carries for a while before separating from Rodrick Williams. I'm not a Minnesota fan, but I believe that all three of the runners I mentioned will be back in 2014. Is Jeff Jones that good to expect immediate contributions with a healthy stable of more experienced (and to varying degrees, capable) backs?
Adam Rittenberg: We'll soon find out, AIS, but running back is a position in which freshmen can contribute immediately, and Jones arrives at Minnesota with more fanfare than any of the other backs. You bring up a good point about Kirkwood, who had 926 rushing yards in 2012 but was largely forgotten after his injury and with Cobb's emergence last year. Williams also quietly averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year. Jones clearly won't walk into a major role. He'll have to earn it. But he had a great senior year and has the talent to produce right away and push older players.
Adam Rittenberg: Todd, it's not that simple, and you're missing my larger point. First, trying to get all those schools on board with what amounts to an exclusive nonconference scheduling agreement -- few of them would play another marquee nonleague opponent because of minimum home-game requirements -- is very tough. Remember the ill-fated Big Ten-Pac-12 scheduling alliance? You would run into similar issues, especially with a school such as USC, which isn't giving up its annual series against Notre Dame for one with Michigan. The larger point is this model prevents variety in scheduling. Wouldn't fans rather see different marquee opponents every few years than the same group (non-con rival, MAC opponent, other small-conference opponent)? I know I would.
Adam Rittenberg: It's interesting to see him on the ballot, Dan, and it's largely because of his accomplishments at Youngstown State. He's actually listed under "divisional coaches" on the ballot, and they're highlighting his achievements at YSU more than those at OSU. Tressel's overall achievements in coaching merit a spot in the Hall of Fame, regardless of how things ended in Columbus. Will he coach again? Many of those close to him think he will, but he also really enjoys his administrative position at Akron. I think it all depends on what opportunities come his way.
Adam Rittenberg: You can't completely forget the past when judging a player, Jeff, but the injury, which made an impact on his footwork on throws, along with poor offensive line play, must be factored into the equation. Siemian has been pretty solid when given time to throw and a system that puts him in position to succeed. Northwestern's two-quarterback system worked in 2012, but I think you'll see a more confident Siemian as the clear starter, especially if the offense goes back to what we saw from 2007-10 (pass heavy). Northwestern has veteran receivers, a good tight end and plenty of options at running back. If the offensive line holds up, Siemian should be improved this fall.
Adam Rittenberg: Much bigger fan of Washington's tricorn than the other one, Scott, mainly because I'm not sure many people know what the surveyor's transit actually is (not a bad-looking item, though). Imagine the pictures players would get wearing that headgear after victories. Maybe Penn State and Maryland could just play for the right to own Delaware?
Selections will be announced in May.
To be eligible, players must have been named a first-team All-American by a major national outlet, played their final season at least 10 years ago, played within the past 50 years and not currently be playing professional football. Coaches must have coached for a minimum of 10 years and 100 games, won at least 60 percent of their games and be retired for at least three years (unless they're older than 70).
Here's the Big Ten contingent for 2014 (in alphabetical order):
- Trev Alberts, LB, Nebraska (1990-93)*
- Larry Burton, SE, Purdue (1973-74)
- Dave Butz, DT, Purdue (1970-72)
- Shane Conlan, LB, Penn State (1983-86)*
- Tom Cousineau, LB, Ohio State (1975-78)
- Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska (1998-2001)*
- D.J. Dozier, RB, Penn State (1983-86)*
- Tim Dwight, WR/KR, Iowa (1994-97)
- Jumbo Elliott, OT, Michigan (1984-87)
- Kirk Gibson, WR, Michigan State (1975-78)
- Dana Howard, LB, Illinois (1991-94)
- Clinton Jones, RB, Michigan State (1964-66)
- Tim Krumrie, DT, Wisconsin (1979-82)
- Rob Lytle, RB, Michigan (1973-76)
- Mark Messner, DL/LB, Michigan (1985-88)
- Tom Nowatzke, FB, Indiana (1961-64)
- Jim Otis, FB, Ohio State (1967-69)
- Antwaan Randle El, QB, Indiana (1998-2001)
- Simeon Rice, LB, Illinois (1992-95)
- Lorenzo White, RB, Michigan State (1984-87)
- Steve Wisniewski, G, Penn State, (1985-88)*
- Darryl Rogers, Michigan State, 1976-79 (also coached at Cal-State Hayward, Fresno State, San Jose State and Arizona State)
- Jim Tressel, Ohio State, 2001-10 (also coached at Youngstown State from 1986-2000, listed under divisional coaches on ballot)
Fourteen of the players, as well as Rogers, appeared on last year's ballot, and 13 (as well as Rogers) appeared on the 2012 ballot. The Big Ten newcomers this year are Penn State's Conlan, Iowa's Dwight, Michigan State's Jones, Wisconsin's Krumrie, Michigan's Messner, and Illinois' dynamic linebacker tandem of Rice and Howard.
Tressel also makes his first appearance on the ballot and will be a fascinating candidate to watch, given his success at both Youngstown State and Ohio State and how things ended for him in Columbus.
It's no coincidence that a historic downturn in Big Ten football has coincided with a historic stretch of instability among the league's coaches.
The Big Ten coaches that year had combined for four national championships, five Rose Bowl titles and seven BCS bowl victories.
Since 2005, the Big Ten has gone through 17 coaching changes (not counting Nebraska's after the 2007 season). Seven teams have made multiple changes, including Penn State, which introduced new coaches earlier this month and in January 2011 after not doing so since February 1966. Last season, Indiana's Kevin Wilson was the longest-tenured coach in the Leaders division. He was hired in December 2010.
As the Big Ten invests more in its coaches, it also must ensure it has the right leaders in place for the long haul.
"If you believe strongly in the person you have," Iowa athletic director Gary Barta told ESPN.com, "continuity is invaluable."
Few programs value continuity more than Iowa, which has had two coaches (Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry) since the 1978 season. Ferentz, who just completed his 15th year at the school, has been at his post eight years longer than any other Big Ten coach. He's one of only four FBS coaches to start before the 2000 season (Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Troy's Larry Blakeney are the others).
Iowa awarded Ferentz with contract extensions both in 2009 and 2010, the latter a whopping 10-year deal with a salary of $3,675,000. The Big Ten hasn't set the pace nationally in coach compensation, but Iowa's pledge to Ferentz, often the subject of NFL rumors, jumps out. Ferentz's salary is frequently debated and scrutinized, especially when Iowa struggles like it did in 2012, but Barta's loyalty to him hasn't wavered. Iowa rebounded to win eight games last season.
"Because of that commitment, we made our statement," Barta said. "We're going to fight through this with the person in whom we have great confidence and trust. There's no guarantees in life, but because of Kirk's past performance, because of his long-standing approach at Iowa and his proven success, it was a risk I was willing to take. Knock on wood, so far it has worked out terrific."
Barta sees a similar approach from Big Ten schools like Michigan State, which won Big Ten and Rose Bowl titles in Mark Dantonio's seventh season as coach. Dantonio in 2011 received a contract designed to keep him a "Spartan for life," and his newest deal is expected to more than double his salary from $1.9 million in 2013.
"Continuity breeds success," Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said, "and that's the hardest part sometimes on the institutional side, to keep that commitment, keep that contract whether it's an assistant or a head coach. … It requires a high level of confidence and a high level of trust."
“There have been similar long-term commitments at other Big Ten schools. Northwestern awarded coach Pat Fitzgerald a 10-year contract in 2011. When Indiana hired Wilson, it gave him a seven-year contract, longer than the initial deals new coaches typically receive. Athletic director Fred Glass links Indiana's lack of continuity -- the school has had five coaches since 1996 -- with its on-field struggles (only one bowl appearance since 1993) and knows the school needs a more patient approach.
The day of playing musical chairs with coaches, of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right.” Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon
"Stability is an important thing in our league," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, who applauded recent moves like MSU retaining Dantonio and Penn State hiring James Franklin. "The best example I'll use is men’s basketball where we're having tremendous success, in large part, because of the stability we have in a number of our programs. I think we need to get that in football."
While Big Ten football has struggled in recent years, the league is surging on the hardwood, in large part because of veteran coaches like Michigan State's Tom Izzo (19th year), Wisconsin's Bo Ryan (13th year) and Ohio State's Thad Matta (10th year). Six of the league's 12 basketball coaches have been in their jobs for at least five seasons.
Continuity doesn't guarantee success, but it often correlates. Barta has tried to create "an environment of longevity and long-term commitment" at Iowa, while also recognizing the pressure to win and, in some cases, the need to part ways with a coach.
"The day of playing musical chairs with coaches," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said, "of making change just for change's sake, is over because any changes you make are going to be expensive and important. You've got to get them right."
After several years of transition, the Big Ten hopes it has the right men at the top -- and the ability to keep them there.
- Northwestern's Mr. Everything, Kain Colter, is trying to impress scouts at the Senior Bowl. He assumes he'll be a slot receiver in the NFL.
- Here's a closer look at the two Big Ten defensive tackles at the Senior Bowl, Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman and Penn State's DaQuan Jones and where they're projected to go in the NFL draft.
- Iowa TE C.J. Fiedorowicz owes a lot to one specific person who helped nurture his NFL potential -- his assistant coach and the brother of former New England TE Aaron Hernandez.
- Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon played football for the Wolverines in the early 1970s, and that experience helped prepare him his current role.
- Vanderbilt's athletic director opened up about James Franklin moving to Penn State and reflected on their relationship.
- A 2015 Michigan State quarterback commit was charged with assault and battery for allegedly body-slamming a security guard at his high school. Video was captured of the incident.
- Four Michigan State walk-ons earned spring scholarships, including two redshirt freshman receivers.
- With Larry Johnson taking over assistant coaching duties at Ohio State, the Buckeyes' defensive line could end up being "real disruptive."
- A columnist for Ohio State's student newspaper says Jim Tressel would be a "perfect fit" for the NFL.
- The mystery surrounding Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez's injury is over: It's a "plantar plate tear," and it means Martinez won't lose his speed.
- Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg sat down with new coach James Franklin shortly after he was hired, but he wasn't looking for a sales pitch.
- The Michigan secondary didn't grade well at all in 2013, and it's clear it will need to show marked improvement in defending the pass in 2014.
- Former Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough has no plans to make himself available to the media, and not only is that at odds with his reputation as a stand-up leader, it's become an "elephant in the room," writes Mike Griffith.
- An ability to communicate and build relationships with his players has been at the heart of new Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson's success.
- Ohio State's schedule didn't impress many people around the country during debates about its merit as a national-title threat in 2013. Next season presents a few more challenges.
- Could the "Year of the Blackshirt" be just what the Nebraska program needs to give it a jolt of life?
- Minnesota wide receiver Jamel Harbison announced on Twitter that he will transfer.
- Purdue defensive lineman Langston Newton, a transfer from Kentucky, could potentially be eligible right away and provide some help for the Boilermakers up front.
- Josh Klecko, son of a NFL great Joe Klecko, is leaving Rutgers.
- Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand, a Michigan man, had an interesting idea for a tattoo from a rival school if Jim Tressel joins the staff and helps the organization win.
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.
Darin from Lyme, N.H., writes: The Buckeyes don't need to worry about making the national title game if they win out. If you look at the BCS historically, only one out of 15 years has an undefeated team from a major conference not made the game (Auburn 2004). The odds are extremely long that we will end up with more than two undefeated teams.
Adam Rittenberg: Darin, you make a good point. The BCS usually works itself out to where undefeated teams from major conferences aren't on the outside looking in. Oregon's loss to Stanford on Thursday night certainly helps Ohio State, as the Ducks once again won't be going to the national title game. Baylor's big victory against Oklahoma helps the Bears' chances, but I still don't think Baylor runs the table. Ohio State won't jump Florida State or Alabama if both teams win out, and FSU's path to the title game certainly looks easier than that of Alabama, which still has LSU, Auburn and most likely South Carolina or Missouri in the SEC title game. The Buckeyes simply need to keep winning, ideally in impressive fashion, and hope teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State also continue to win. Ohio State already has beaten Wisconsin and would benefit from facing an 11-1 MSU team in the Big Ten championship game.
Bob from Forest, Va., writes: I realize you don't know much about the Rutgers program. Regarding coaching salaries you said "fairly or unfairly" the fact that RU is paying the football coach 800-900K per year leaves the perception that RU doesn't belong in a league like the Big Ten. Do you recall what they paid Coach Flood's predecessor? Also I always thought it was on-field performance that determined whether or not a team belonged. Outside of Ohio State, is there really a single B1G team RU can't compete with? We've held our own vs the Big Ten if you take out Penn State pre-B1G with a .500 record. What I don't get are the jabs from you. Is it an ESPN thing or are you just writing what you think your readers want to hear?
Adam Rittenberg: Bob, you're absolutely right that on-field performance, and not coach salary, determines whether a team like Rutgers will sink or swim in the Big Ten. It always comes down to winning, and Rutgers has an excellent opportunity to prove itself in a loaded East Division with Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Michigan State. You say Rutgers has held its own with the Big Ten outside of Penn State. Who else has Rutgers played? Rutgers hasn't played a Big Ten team since 2006 (Illinois) and has never faced seven current Big Ten teams (Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin). Your argument is therefore irrelevant.
I realize Rutgers paid more for Greg Schiano, and that Flood is a young coach who doesn't demand a huge salary. But like I wrote, the perception looks like Rutgers is small time when every other Big Ten coach is making at least $1.2 million. Placed in the larger context of what major conference coaches make, it looks pretty low. Purdue faced the same perception when it paid coach Danny Hope less than $1 million. That's just the way it is. But you're right that Rutgers can improve its perception by beating teams coached by guys making four times as much as Flood does.
Anthony from New York writes: Why didn't you include Michigan in your list of BCS at-large candidates? We know from 2011 that a two-loss Michigan team will be attractive to BCS bowls if ranked in the top 14. As you've said, Michigan is better off not making the B1G title game if it wants an at-large bid. It is perfectly plausible to see Michigan beat Nebraska, Iowa, and Northwestern (though none are easy games). Add in an upset of unbeaten Ohio and you've got a top-14 Michigan team coming off four straight wins. Wouldn't they be a very attractive team?
Adam Rittenberg: Anthony, as I specified in the top of the post, I'm not including any unranked teams in the conversation for at-large berths at this point. If and when Michigan re-enters the BCS standings, it will appear as a candidate. But even then, how attractive would Michigan be? The Wolverines would have to look a lot better in their final four games than they have in their first eight. You and your fellow Michigan fans won't agree, but it would be a real shame if a Michigan State team that went 11-1 in the regular season and lost in the Big Ten title game to Ohio State missed out on a BCS berth in favor of a team like Michigan, which the Spartans embarrassed last week. I also wonder whether Michigan would get into the top 14 of the final BCS standings and be eligible for selection. An Ohio State win certainly would help, but it would depend on what other teams do elsewhere. Let's see how things play out, but I don't see a top-15 team in Ann Arbor this year.
Pat from East Lansing, Mich., writes: You both always pretty much have the same predictions week to week. Can we get creative?
Adam Rittenberg: We have to pick the teams we think will win, Pat, and sometimes they'll all be the same. I've differed from Brian in one game in each of the past two weeks and lost both times, as Nebraska's Hail Mary got me last week. One chatter Thursday suggested we incorporate score prediction into the race, which isn't a bad idea. We might look to do something with that next year. I think you'll see a few more disagreements down the stretch, but we're not going to be contrarians here, especially with an expensive dinner in Indianapolis on the line.
Charley from New York writes: Is it a journalist's job to lobby for millionaires to paid even more money? I must admit my jaw dropped when I read from you: "Both Wilson and Kill earn less than coaches from Colorado State, Navy, South Florida and Central Florida. That seems a bit troubling for teams in a loaded league like the Big Ten." Troubling? I notice you haven't been much of an advocate for paying the kids who actually generate the millions of dollars colleges earn from football, but you have always been an advocate for higher head and assistant coaches' salaries. Is this your way of trying to brown-nose your sources or do you really believe that educational institutions should devote more and more of their budgets to football coaches' salaries?
Adam Rittenberg: Charley, do I believe college football coaches make ridiculous salaries for university employees? Yes. But they also bring in a ton of money, and the market is dictating what they're making. We can have a discussion on the larger issue of coach salaries if you want, but the pay structures are what they are in major conferences. People look at why the Big Ten is struggling right now. It's hard to completely dismiss the fact that SEC head coaches are making much more on average (SEC assistants are, too). As I wrote last month, money isn't the problem in the Big Ten, even though the league sponsors more sports than the SEC. From a perception standpoint, not necessarily reality, it doesn't look like Minnesota and Indiana are that invested in their programs when you look at the league they're in and the market rates for college coaches.
Chris from Knoxville, Tenn., writes: I know most people, myself a Michigan fan, included, favor Ohio State over Michigan later this month. But so many people are calling it to be a blowout. I disagree -- even in 2011 a downtrodden Ohio State kept that game close, and I expect this year's game to also be close, especially since it's at the Big House. Teams tend to preform better in rivalry games. Who do you think is right, the many people mentioned or my pick of a close game?
Adam Rittenberg: It's way too soon to call for a blowout in The Game. It's still three weeks away, we don't know the injury situations for both teams and we don't know how the teams will be playing entering that one. I don't expect Michigan to magically become a top-10 team by Nov. 30, but the Wolverines could remedy some of their issues before Ohio State comes to town. You're absolutely right that teams perform better in rivalry games. Michigan likely is out of the Big Ten title mix, so beating Ohio State is really the only major goal left for Brady Hoke's crew. More important, as you mention, Michigan plays much better at home under Hoke, never losing a game in his two-plus seasons. I'm not sure of my prediction for The Game, but I doubt I'll pick Ohio State to win by more than 10 points. Michigan will give its best effort on that day.
Grant from Cincinnati writes: Is it just me, or is Luke Fickell's stock much higher than it should be? His track record as a recruiter and positions coach is well documented, and he seems to be a high quality, character guy. However, in his only season as head coach, he went 6-7. It's not as though the cupboard was bare for him, as that year was sandwiched between a Sugar Bowl victory and an undefeated season. Also, his defense has underachieved for much of this season, though it seems to be getting back on track a bit. Now he's interviewing for a head coaching gig and you're mentioning that you expected him to hold out for a major conference head coaching position. In short, Fickell seems like a good guy, but why the love fest?
Adam Rittenberg: Some fair points here, Grant. Fickell's stock certainly seemed higher before he became a head coach -- albeit under very difficult circumstances -- or a defensive play-caller (Jim Heacock handled those duties until last season). I don't think you can judge him too much for the struggles in 2011, as the program was rocked by Jim Tressel's resignation and had a tough situation at quarterback because of Terrelle Pryor's departure. Fickell handled himself well overall, although the on-field product left much to be desired. There have been some valid criticisms of him as a defensive coordinator, as Ohio State hasn't been a salty as it used to be on that side of the ball. But I think Fickell could thrive as a head coach because of his personality and recruiting ability. He might be a better CEO type than a coordinator, and I think fans and players would rally around him. It needs to be the right situation, unlike the one in 2011.
Nick from East Lansing, Mich., writes: How likely is it that MSU has to look for a new coach in the offseason? It would be hard to turn down if Texas came calling.
Adam Rittenberg: Sure, Texas certainly has its perks, but I highly doubt Mark Dantonio is going anywhere. He's in a great situation at Michigan State, works for a great athletic director (Mark Hollis) who he loves, and has roots in the Midwest as an Ohio native. Dantonio definitely is due a raise at Michigan State, although it's more important to him to pay his assistants, which the school has been doing. At this stage in his career, I don't think Dantonio wants to deal with all the excess stuff at a place like Texas. You never say never, but I'd be very surprised if he's not back at MSU in 2014.
Matt from Michigan writes: I am a little confused after reading the "rooting interests" article. Why would Michigan want Minnesota to lose? If Michigan State loses to Minnesota and either Northwestern or Nebraska and if (big IF) Michigan were to win out and finish 6-2 along with MSU finishing 6-2, it would be MSU winning the tie breaker. However, wouldn't Michigan still have a chance to represent the Legends in a three-way (or even four-way) tie at 6-2? Looking at the schedule, I think it is possible to have MSU, Michigan, Nebraska and Minnesota ALL finish at 6-2. Not saying likely, but that would make for a compelling last weekend!
Adam Rittenberg: Indeed it would, Matt. My rationale for the Minnesota loss would be to knock the Gophers out of the race, but if the tiebreaker is Michigan's best chance to win the division, which it may well be, it would make sense for Minnesota to win out. The key obviously is for Michigan State to start losing games, beginning next week against Nebraska. If Michigan State loses out -- highly unlikely -- and Michigan wins out, the Wolverines would go to Indy.
A team once best known for owning college football's longest losing streak can point to Big Ten titles in 1995, 1996 and 2000, five consecutive bowl appearances, and, finally, a bowl victory this past Jan. 1. But there's a scarlet and gray asterisk next to Northwestern's name. Of all the hurdles -- real or perceived -- the Wildcats have cleared since 1995, one opponent consistently trips them up and leaves them lying flat on their faces.
Ohio State hasn't merely dominated the all-time series against Northwestern, holding a 59-14-1 edge, including wins in the past four meetings and 28 of the past 29. Most of the matchups haven't even been competitive, beginning with the first, a 58-0 Buckeyes win a century ago.
Since a 60-0 win in 1973 at Ohio Stadium, the Buckeyes own 13 victories against Northwestern by 40 points or more and 21 victories by 20 points or more. Single-digit losses to Ohio State are almost as uncommon as wins for Northwestern. Even the Wildcats' championship seasons in 1995, 1996 and 2000 occurred without Ohio State on the schedule.
The dark days are over at Northwestern. No reasonable person could dispute that. But Ohio State remains a dark cloud hovering around the program. Saturday night, the fourth-ranked Buckeyes storm into Ryan Field for the most-anticipated regular-season Northwestern game in recent memory. The forecast, by the way, calls for showers.
"It's going to be a big measuring stick for us, to see where we’re at," Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter said Monday.
Nine years earlier, Noah Herron sat in the same room as Colter, discussing Northwestern's upcoming home game against an Ohio State team ranked No. 7 nationally. Herron, the Wildcats' running back at the time, and several of his teammates made comments that were true then and are true to this day but that still created a stir in Buckeye Country. Wide receiver Mark Philmore described the Buckeyes as "kids just like you out there."
"It was along the lines of, 'They're just Ohio State. They're the same guys that we are, playing for their school. They're no different than us,'" Herron recalled in a phone interview with ESPN.com this week. "It became poster-board stuff for their locker room, which is not what it was intended to be, but it was supposed to look at it from our approach. We're not playing their tradition, we're playing them. We're playing the current roster for 2004, not Archie Griffin and all these other great names that they've had."
Brett Basanez, the Wildcats' quarterback at the time, had a similar feeling. Despite playing with a separated throwing shoulder suffered the previous week, Basanez passed for 278 yards and two touchdowns and added 53 rushing yards, including a 21-yard dash to set up Herron's eventual winning TD.
Basanez had watched Ohio State's game against NC State and saw similarities between NC State's offense and Northwestern's.
"You're not playing Eddie George," Basanez said. "You're playing normal guys. Just play your game and win. We knew if we came out and played, we could score with them, we could score more than them. And that came to fruition as the game started."
Herron might have violated Big Ten etiquette by not paying homage to the Buckeyes. Ohio State came to Ryan Field eager to put Northwestern in its place.
Instead, the Wildcats won 33-27 in overtime. Herron scored the winning touchdown in what one Northwestern fan website calls the "33 game" -- Herron wore No. 33, scored the team's 33rd point on his 33rd carry and helped snap a 33-year losing streak to the Buckeyes.
"We weren't intimidated by them from the very beginning," Herron said. "Offense, defense, special teams, everybody played with that same kind of swagger, that, 'Hey, we're playing this team right now, nobody else.' Sometimes you catch a little heat for saying some things, but nevertheless they're true and they prove to be true. They're college kids just like us.
"Just because they’re Ohio State, they don't get a free pass."
The current Northwestern players had nothing inflammatory to say this week about Ohio State. Colter praised the Buckeyes' coaches and said Ohio State has "athletes all over the board."
But the Wildcats also aren't in awe of Ohio State, which might have been a problem for Northwestern teams of the past.
"If you grow up watching college football, you hear about tradition, you hear about the successes that programs have had," Herron said. "You can be enamored by it. You can even be intimidated by it."
Herron acknowledges that, from top to bottom, Ohio State had more talent than Northwestern in 2004 and still does today. Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald agrees, saying Monday, "I think there's a talent gap between anybody in the top five and everybody else, including us. ... But we're pretty darn talented."
The talent gap has narrowed for Northwestern, as recruiting is on the rise under Fitzgerald. The are-you-kidding-me losses that used to plague Northwestern, particularly in nonleague play, have gone away. The Wildcats actually can stay ranked for more than a week.
But there are steps to legitimizing a program, and beating the Big Ten's most talented and visible program is one Northwestern eventually has to take, especially if it intends to return to the Rose Bowl.
Saturday night's opportunity, Basanez said, is more about Northwestern's future than its past.
"If you're judging your football program in the Big Ten, especially with [Buckeyes coach] Urban Meyer, with the tradition that [Jim] Tressel and other guys have had there, yeah, that's a measuring stick," he said. "It's very important to beat Ohio State because they're a Big Ten foe, but it's just as important to beat Michigan or Iowa. Everyone just thinks of Ohio State, but you beat them, arguably right now you're the best in the Big Ten."
Herron, who played five NFL seasons with four teams, calls the touchdown run in overtime against Ohio State his best moment on a football field. Personal achievement played a small role, as the win resonated for a team and a school still trying to escape its putrid past on the gridiron. The Ohio State win turned out to be the high point for the 2004 Wildcats, who went 6-6 and missed a bowl, thanks to a 1-3 mark in nonleague play.
The program since has been elevated. So have the stakes Saturday night.
"It is a measuring stick because it's the main stage, and it's seemingly been a team that Northwestern has had a hard time beating," Herron said. "Two ranked teams, game of the week, 'GameDay' is going to be there.
"What more can you ask for, not only for that team but for the program?"
- Gary Andersen is with a big program at Wisconsin, but he’s still pretty anonymous, writes Pete Thamel. Andersen has solid options at quarterback between Curt Phillips and Joel Stave.
- Senior defensive tackle Ryan Isaac missed spring ball but has caught up in fall camp. Both the offense and the defense are making major strides according to both coordinators. Accountability and discipline are being stressed this season for the Boilermakers, writes Matthew Thomas.
- Bill O’Brien stresses health, keeping several players in red, no-contact jerseys. Penn State players received a history lesson as the team prepares for its opener. O’Brien’s QB philosophy from Year 1 to Year 2 is quite different.
- Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman is convinced he has the nation's two top tight ends in Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett. Rusty Miller goes back to the basics and looks at the ABC’s of Ohio State football … really, he goes A through Z. Urban Meyer is using puzzles as a recruiting tool. Former coach Jim Tressel is now teaching a class entitled called “General Principles of Coaching” at Akron.
- Senior right tackle Paul Jorgensen is finally putting it all together, writes Teddy Greenstein. Episode 2 of “The Hunt” is now on YouTube and you can watch the Wildcats run through drills as well as go swimming after practice.
- Nebraska and Michigan are No. 1 and No. 2 when it comes to discrepancies between football and men’s basketball success. The success of Taylor Martinez rests a lot on Ameer Abdullah, and vice versa.
- Sophomore Philip Nelson will be the Gophers’ starting QB. WR Andre McDonald violated team rules and will not practice the rest of fall camp. The Minnesota helmets are getting ready to go and the matte look is pretty nice.
- OL Jack Conklin seems like a quiet kid but is a big trash talker on the field, writes David Drew. Mark Dantonio is forging a connection with Canadians who play American football. MSU took a “fun” team photo after their serious one and it looks like a mosh pit.
- The least expensive ticket on Ticketmaster you can get to Michigan-Notre Dame is $314.15. Michigan will be better with Devin Gardner as QB, says Adam Biggers. Four Michigan players made the 2014 Senior Bowl watch list.
- There are a lot of questions for the Hawkeyes this season, says Tom Dienhart. Kirk Ferentz was almost a baseball player instead of a football coach.
- Indiana is eyeing a bowl game this season, writes Chris Johnson. Shannon Ryan previews the IU football team.
- Illinois went to a water park on its off day and the belly flopping photo will terrify you.
But just in case a little offseason kick was needed to get the juices flowing for the next edition of "The Game," BuckeyeNation and WolverineNation are teaming up for a week of content looking at some moments from the past and forecasting what will happen a few short months into the future.
Today, we peek back into series history and identify some of the top heroes and villains from the blood feud. Here are Ohio State's villains for the Wolverines:
1. Jim Tressel, coach: From the moment he was introduced and grabbed a microphone to address the Ohio State faithful, Tressel’s mission was clear -- get the program back on top in The Game. The Buckeyes backed up their new coach with a road upset in 2001, and the next decade was completely dominated by The Vest, who posted a 9-1 record before scandal ended his run on the sideline. Even his exit might have twisted the knife in the Wolverines since it helped Ohio State land Urban Meyer, who knocked off Michigan in his first Game to finish an unbeaten season in 2012.
2. Troy Smith, quarterback: At the height of that dominant run under Tressel, it was the prolific signal-caller inflicting the majority of the damage on the Wolverines. Smith became just the second Ohio State quarterback to beat Michigan three times, with the last couple coming in unforgettable fashion. There was the late comeback in 2005 keyed that included 386 passing yards from Smith, and another virtuoso performance in the epic showdown in 2006 that individually clinched a Heisman and sent the Buckeyes to the national title game.
4. Mike Doss, safety: Working on a 14-year drought in Ann Arbor and trying to live up to the goal Tressel established when he took over, Doss was instrumental in snapping the skid and setting the tone under Ohio State’s new coach in 2001. A pair of interceptions helped set up scoring drives, and an unranked group of Buckeyes snatched a 26-20 win over the No. 11 Wolverines to start building the momentum that would last for pretty much the entire decade.
5. David Boston, wide receiver: After coming up short in 1997 and hearing all about it from Charles Woodson, Boston exacted some revenge a year later with a massive individual performance as the Buckeyes knocked off the Wolverines 31-16 for one of John Cooper's two wins in the series. Boston was already an enemy for his brash comments before his final season with the Buckeyes, but he could be easily dismissed without ever winning a game. He changed that with 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns, finally backing up his mouth and getting the best of Michigan where it counted -- on the field.
Bonus pick -- Bob Ferguson, fullback: The message apparently hadn’t been delivered emphatically enough, despite Ferguson already having scored three times. He would finish the game with 151 yards. The fourth touchdown by the All-American rusher, though, set the table for the Buckeyes to rub a 50-20 win and a national championship in Michigan’s face in 1961 by going for a 2-point conversion with the outcome well in hand.
Endless support, boundless enthusiasm for athletics? No problem.
Fundraising skills, entertaining personality and trademark fashion? Sure, the Ohio State president had that as well.
The leadership is already in place when it comes to the most visible parts of the university. And while that's not to diminish Ohio State's reputation as an academic institution, football and men's basketball will always generate more attention and keep alumni engaged better than anything else on campus. And when it comes to those two sports and the boss those coaches report to, it's hard at this point to envision a change in president shaking the foundations already firmly in place.
Gene Smith has faced his share of criticism as athletic director, but particularly with the NCAA sanctions and scandal from the end of Jim Tressel's tenure in his rearview mirror, it's difficult to imagine his job as anything less than secure.
And the résumés of Urban Meyer and Thad Matta speak for themselves.
That stability in leadership alone should keep the athletic department from having any difficulty navigating the water while the waves rock in the president's office, but that's certainly not the only reason the Buckeyes are likely to continue with business as usual on the field and the hardwood.
The money is pouring in for the Big Ten, and Ohio State isn't suddenly going to turn its back on one of the proudest, largest athletic departments in the nation. Regardless of how skilled Gee was at raising funds, donors aren't likely to slow down their giving when the high-profile teams are winning at such an elite level, particularly if a segment of that population was starting to tire of the stream of apologies that Gee had to issue after offending rival coaches or entire religious denominations.
And perhaps most important, the entire saga with Tressel, and even Gee's jokes about his job status then, helped establish a basic principle for the school that is more applicable now than ever. Nobody is bigger than Ohio State, and it is more than willing to move on and more than capable of finding somebody else to continue its traditions.
Ohio State’s lineup was loaded with Glenville products under the former Buckeyes coach as he tried to keep a budding pipeline strong. During his stay, Tressel managed to get 16 Tarblooders to sign national letters of intent.
He had his hits with players such Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr. and Donte Whitner. He had his misses with Jonathan Newsome, Shawntell Rowell and Freddie Lenix.
When Urban Meyer took over, the two-time national champion made sure that direct line to Columbus stayed strong.
While Cardale Jones and De’Van Bogard technically weren’t initially recruited by Meyer, they did sign with the recruiting class of 2012 so they became his.
The Class of 2013 saw Christopher Worley sign with Ohio State, while 2014 already has Marcelys Jones as a commitment.
Quick math shows 20 Glenville athletes either signed or committed to the Buckeyes since 2002 and four under Meyer.
If there was any doubt as to the importance of Glenville under Meyer, he has squashed that notion early.
“Let’s put it this way,” Glenville coach Ted Ginn Sr. said. “If he needed blood, that blood would come from Glenville.
“The business is the business. If you’re working at Ford Motor Co. on eight-cylinder motors, you can’t have anything different because the motor won’t work. Why change the blueprint if the style works?”
That’s exactly what Meyer thinks, and he might not be done as Marshon Lattimore and Erick Smith have already been offered. Both juniors could be budding stars at the next level.
The Glenville mystique
What makes Glenville so important to college coaches is more than just the name. It’s almost hard to keep up with how many athletes Ginn has sent on to the next level. What’s not hard to see is why they’ve reached the college ranks.
“They’re stacked from the first guy to the last guy with talent,” St. Ignatius safety Dameon Willis Jr. said. “Every guy on that team has talent. Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes, but they all bring great skill and talent to the table.
“That’s what makes them appealing. You really have to prep and beat them with fundamentals. You might not be as athletic, but you have to stick with it as much as you can.”
Worley says the Tarblooders, with sophomores like Matthew Draper and Milen Golden, are ready to take the next step.
“We have young guys coming up as well,” Worley said. “It’s like a machine. Coach Meyer is the type of coach and recruiter that if you show skill, he’ll go after you. The Glenville kids fit right into the Ohio State scheme.”
What Meyer means
It’s not just Glenville that attracts Meyer. Meyer attracts Glenville, too.
When Meyer took the job, he made it a point to seek out the school. That went a long way with the Tarblooders.
“That means everything,” Ginn said. “Most of the kids from this area grow up with the dream of going to Ohio State.
“It means a lot, but the kids know what Ohio State means to them. For him to want them and for the kids to know what that means is important. Urban Meyer and Jim Tressel are different only in the fact they have different names.
“When you talk about how are they different, I don’t see a difference in either one of them. They’re the head coach at Ohio State, and you have to have a certain mindset to be there. When you’re the right fit for the school, it works.”
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin running back Montee Ball's highlight tape of touchdowns might as well be a full-length feature. He entered Saturday with 77, one shy of the FBS all-time record.
Unfortunately for Ball, Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier watched most of the movie in the week leading up to Saturday's game.
"He scores plenty of touchdowns," Shazier said. "I watched film on him, and I saw when he gets around the [1- or 2-yard line], he likes to jump. So once he jumped, I jumped, and I punched the ball out."
Shazier's forced fumble against Ball late in the fourth quarter -- just the second lost fumble in Ball's record-setting career -- ended up not meaning much. Wisconsin scored on its next possession to tie the game before Ohio State went on to win 21-14 in overtime.
But Shazier's play epitomized Ohio State's victory, one fueled by defense with a sprinkle of special teams, thanks to Corey "Philly" Brown.
Braxton Miller won't be on "SportsCenter" tonight, but Shazier should be. So should defensive end John Simon, who tied a career high with four sacks. So should cornerback Bradley Roby, who had to cover two players after a teammate blew an assignment and batted down a sure-fire touchdown catch by Derek Watt.
The silver bullets stood tall at Camp Randall Stadium, helping Ohio State secure a Leaders Division title, maintain a perfect 11-0 record and set up a chance for perfection in The Game next week against Michigan.
"Our offense kind of struggled a little bit, but at the same time, it's a team sport, so the defense, we needed to go out and do our thing," said Roby, who wore a Leaders Division championship T-shirt. "Defense wins championships. We thrive on that."
He knew plenty about Meyer and the spread from Meyer's time as Florida's coach. Hyde also knew he wanted no part of it, even though he said Florida offered him a scholarship to play in Gainesville.
"When I saw this offense, it was little running backs," Hyde told ESPN.com. "Little scat backs running around, Percy Harvin-type dudes, Jeff Demps-type people. I wasn't sure I'd be able to fit in."
There was only one problem: Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel, who had featured power backs like Chris Wells and Maurice Clarett in his offense, resigned in the spring after Hyde's freshman season. Although Ohio State kept a similar offense in 2011, the school changed coaches and brought in Meyer.
"I was excited," Hyde said. "I knew Coach Meyer, his track record. He's won big games. He's won some national championships. I knew when he was coming here, I was like, 'I'm going to have a huge chance to get to play in the national championship before I leave college.'"
But his excitement was tempered by the same anxiety about whether he could fit into the spread as a bigger back.
"I never played in a spread offense, so I really didn't have a feel," Hyde said. "I wasn't sure. I never really saw a big back in the spread."
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