Don't ignore new quarterbacks like Wes Lunt and Tanner McEvoy, or newcomer defenders like Jabrill Peppers and Jihad Ward, but the real gauge for some teams will take place in the trenches. There are several revamped lines in the Big Ten that will be under the microscope in Week 1.
Let's take a look:
Wisconsin defensive line versus LSU (in Houston): The Badgers will start three new players up front -- ends Chikwe Obasih and Konrad Zagzebski, and tackle Warren Herring -- against talented Tigers running backs Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard and Leonard Fournette, the decorated incoming freshman. Herring and Zabzekbski have five combined career starts, while Obasih, a redshirt freshman, makes his debut on a huge stage.
"I really feel that in the pass rush aspect and in the containing the quarterback aspect, we are a little bit more athletic and we have a little bit more speed," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda told me last week.
Penn State offensive line versus UCF (in Dublin, Ireland): Only one healthy starter (tackle Donovan Smith) returns for PSU's line, which has heard all about its depth issues throughout the offseason. The group will be tested right away by a UCF defense that returns nine starters, including the entire line. You can bet Knights coach George O'Leary will put Penn State's line under duress from the onset.
Ohio State offensive line versus Navy (in Baltimore): Like Penn State, Ohio State brings back just one line starter (tackle Taylor Decker) from last year, and the unit's task became a lot tougher after the season-ending loss of quarterback Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes' new-look front must protect freshman signal caller J.T. Barrett and create some running room against a smaller Navy defensive line.
Northwestern defensive line versus Cal: Both Wildcat lines have question marks entering the season, but the defensive front enters the spotlight after dealing with injuries throughout the offseason. Veteran defensive tackle Sean McEvilly (foot) is out for the season, and tackles Greg Kuhar and C.J. Robbins will get an opportunity to assert themselves against a Cal offense that racked up 549 yards against Northwestern in last year's game.
Purdue offensive line versus Western Michigan: The Boilers simply weren't strong enough up front in 2013 and couldn't move the ball for much of the season. They should be better on the interior with center Robert Kugler leading the way. This is a great chance for Purdue to start strong against a Western Michigan defense that ranked 118th nationally against the run in 2013.
Michigan offensive line versus Appalachian State: This isn't the Appalachian State team that shocked Michigan in 2007, but the Wolverines need to gain cohesion and confidence up front and with their run game. After a lot of line shuffling in camp, Michigan tries to get backs Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith going in the opener before a Week 2 trip to Notre Dame.
To the links ...
- Some bad news for Iowa's defensive line, as tackle Darian Cooper posts that he had season-ending surgery.
- Prove-it time has arrived for Nebraska's supposedly improved defense.
- It's Mitch Leidner's show at Minnesota, and that's a very good thing, Chip Scoggins writes.
- Melvin Gordon spills the beans about Wisconsin's not-so secret starting quarterback. Coach Gary Andersen expects both signal callers to play this fall. A former Badgers recruit is sentenced to a year in jail for sexual assault.
- Illinois could use its two backup quarterbacks as wide receivers.
- After two pick-sixes last year against Cal, Northwestern linebacker Collin Ellis aims for an encore against the Bears.
- The Gold & Black staff weighs in on a simple but important question: Will Purdue be better?
- Michigan isn't electing captains until after the season. The Wolverines and Nebraska are on Jeremy Fowler's list of sneaky playoff contenders.
- Ohio State still has at least four starting spots up for grabs this week.
- Notes and nuggets from Penn State's coordinators before the team departs for Ireland.
- Indiana has implemented an NFL-style tackling system to help its defenders.
- Spartan Stadium gets a facelift.
- A closer look at Maryland's Week 1 depth chart.
- Dan Duggan lists 10 under-the-radar Rutgers players to watch this season.
BARNARD, Vt. -- Former FBI director Louis Freeh was seriously injured in a single-car crash in Vermont, authorities said.
State police said Freeh was taken by helicopter to a New Hampshire hospital following the crash Monday in Barnard, a small town about 120 miles northwest of Boston.
The hospital says it can't acknowledge that Freeh is a patient there.
Freeh apparently drove his SUV off the road shortly after noon and struck a mailbox and a row of shrubs before coming to a stop on the side of a tree, state police said. He was wearing his seatbelt.
Police said Tuesday a preliminary investigation indicated that drugs and alcohol were not factors in the crash. The investigation is continuing. No one else was hurt.
"The thoughts and prayers of the entire FBI remain with former Director Freeh and his family tonight," FBI Director James Comey said in a statement Monday.
Freeh, 64, was a federal judge in New York before serving as FBI director from 1993 to 2001. He previously served six years as a special agent. He founded his consulting firm, Freeh Group International Solutions LLC, in 2007.
In 2011, Penn State hired Freeh to examine the handling of child sex abuse complaints involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and to recommend changes aimed at preventing abuse.
Following an eight-month, $6.5 million investigation, Freeh issued a blistering report contending that legendary head football coach Joe Paterno and other top Penn State officials concealed what they knew about Sandusky's sexual abuse of children for more than a decade ago to avoid bad publicity.
Sandusky was convicted in June 2012 on 45 criminal counts.
Freeh also has handled other high profile matters, including a bribery case involving the presidential election within FIFA, soccer's international governing body, and a review of the financial settlement program for Gulf Coast residents affected by the BP oil spill.
With the season about to begin, let's take at a few teams outside the top expected Big Ten contenders (Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska) who could get off to fast starts in 2014:
1. Michigan: Does Michigan have issues? Yes. Have the Wolverines underachieved for a while now? Check. But if things break right, the Wolverines could wind up building some early momentum, the way they did in opening 6-0 in the Sugar Bowl season of 2011.
The Notre Dame game on the road in Week 2 is challenging, but the Fighting Irish have some serious problems of their own right now. Michigan plays four of its first five games at home and then opens conference play at league newbie Rutgers. A 6-0 record when Penn State comes calling under the lights on Oct. 11 is certainly possible.
2. Penn State: Assuming the Icelandic volcano doesn't wreck the opener, the Nittany Lions will be in for a tussle against UCF in Ireland on Saturday. But if they get past that one, the path opens up a bit with games against Akron, at Rutgers, UMass and Northwestern. A 5-0 Penn State vs. a 6-0 Michigan? Dare to dream.
3. Minnesota: The Gophers have that key game at TCU in Week 3, but the rest of the nonconference schedule reads like this: Eastern Illinois, Middle Tennessee and San Jose State at TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota opens Big Ten play at Michigan but then has Northwestern, Purdue and at Illinois. A second straight hot start might be in the cards for the Gophers, who went 4-0 and then 8-2 last season.
4. Purdue: OK, we're talking relativity here. With this week's opener against Western Michigan, a team that like the Boilermakers only won one game last season, Purdue could snap its 12-game losing streak against FBS opponents. Central Michigan and Southern Illinois give Darrell Hazell's team a chance to triple its 2013 win total before the end of September.
"It's huge," Hazell told me last month about the importance of getting off to a good start. "Because you can always ask one question: which comes first, the confidence or the success? Right now, our guys are walking around with some confidence, but I think it's really important for us to have some early success."
- Expectations have tumbled for Ohio State since Braxton Miller's injury.
- An unproven set of receivers is ready to step up for Rutgers.
- Indiana enters a crossroads season.
- Lawrence Thomas, a former can't-miss recruit, is still looking for his breakthrough at Michigan State. Ten predictions for the Spartans in 2014.
- Devin Gardner has matured and looks ready to lead Michigan this fall. Season predictions for the Wolverines.
- Some key questions for Penn State as the season approaches.
- A pair of Maryland regulars face assault charges.
- Ameer Abdullah is beyond ready for his final go-round with Nebraska. The 2014 season could be different for the Cornhuskers, but Tom Shatel says he'll believe it when he sees it.
- Wisconsin receiver Reggie Love has come on strong after an honest talk with head coach Gary Andersen this offseason. Year 2 of the Andersen era should look a lot different than last season, Tom Oates writes.
- Trevor Siemian has stepped forward as Northwestern's leader.
- Can the Iowa passing game make significant progress?
- A look back at Minnesota's upset of Nebraska last year and how it can help the Gophers going forward.
- Tim Beckman's seat is undeniably warm entering the 2014 season.
- Purdue looks for a fresh start.
They weren't predictions but instead a broad (sometimes comically so) look at the potential highs and lows for each club. Now that we've examined each individual team, let's take a look at the best and worst scenarios for the Big Ten as a whole in 2014.
It's like 2006 all over again.
The Big Ten makes immense strides as a conference and asserts itself once again as a major power in college football. The season gets off to a promising start when Wisconsin beats LSU in Houston in Week 1, establishing the Badgers as a national title contender and dinging the SEC along the way.
Nebraska easily handles Miami at home, and Indiana notches an upset on the road at defending SEC East champion Missouri. Meanwhile, new members Rutgers and Maryland sweep their nonconference games, leading to Big Ten fever on the East Coast. Penn State learns in September that its bowl ban has been lifted, and James Franklin leads the Nittany Lions to their first postseason game since the 2011 season.
"GameDay" has no choice but to set up shop for two marquee Midwestern matchups: No. 1 Michigan State hosting No. 3 Ohio State on Nov. 8 and 11-0 Wisconsin at 11-0 Iowa on Nov. 22.
Both Michigan State and Ohio State -- the latter of which suffers little dropoff without Braxton Miller -- make the Playoff field and win their semifinal games to set up a rematch for the national title. The Big Ten also does very well in its other bowl games, as Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota all defeat Power 5 conference opponents. Maryland and Rutgers both reach bowls, too, proving naysayers wrong about their ability to compete in their new league. New York City goes gaga for the Scarlet Knights, as Kyle Flood guest hosts for a week on Jimmy Fallon's show. President Obama leads a wave of new Terps fans in Washington.
The SEC fails to place a team in the Playoff, and Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn and Kevin Sumlin all leave for NFL jobs after the season. Using the new NCAA autonomy measures, the Big Ten is able to force major recruiting changes that favor its schools.
Global warming and drought in the South and on the West Coast lead to millions moving to the Midwest, as steel mills and auto plants crank back up. The Big Ten plays in two regions and owns the attention of America. Notre Dame asks to join the conference. Jim Delany says thanks, but no thanks.
People are already predicting doom and gloom for the Big Ten after Miller's injury. They are not wrong.
With so many teams struggling in nonconference play, the Big Ten is basically irrelevant nationally before October. Maryland and Rutgers have rough first years in the league; the Scarlet Knights go 2-9, while Maryland finishes 4-8. Worse, no one on the East Coast cares, as they are swept up by the surprising ACC success of Pitt and Syracuse and a resurgent Notre Dame.
Penn State stays on probation, and depth issues make it a long first season for Franklin. The West Division beats up on each other, and as November rolls around, none of the teams on that side is ranked. The showdown between Michigan State and Ohio State fizzles as they bring a combined five losses into the game and play to a lackluster 10-7 final score.
Nebraska, Michigan, Illinois, Purdue and Rutgers are all embroiled in heated debates about their head coaches' future. Northwestern is split apart by the union movement after it's revealed that the final vote was an even 50-50 split. The league's highest-rated team in the selection committee's final poll is No. 14.
Three SEC teams make it to the inaugural playoff, with two of them squaring off in the Rose Bowl. The Big Ten finishes 0-10 in its bowls, the best of which was the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
Autonomy serves to allow only leagues like the SEC and ACC to conspire and change even more rules in their favor, like oversigning. They push through a ban on all official visits when it's not snowing north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Mike Slive is named commissioner of college football.
Another polar vortex grips the upper Midwest, and freezing temperatures continue well into June.
Meyer hasn't spent his entire career in the Big Ten, but the Ohio State coach has a pretty good handle on the quarterback landscape in college football. Informed last month that a Big Ten quarterback hadn't been selected in the first round of the NFL draft since Penn State's Kerry Collins in 1995, Meyer's jaw dropped.
"You're kidding me? Wow," he said. "That shouldn't be. Man, there hasn’t been a first-rounder? [Terrelle] Pryor probably would have been. Well, Tom Brady should have been. I never ...
"You've got me shocked."
Even a few questions later, Meyer couldn't get past the flabbergasting factoid.
"Wow," he said. "Twenty years?"
Several factors have contributed to the Big Ten's downturn, but quarterback play belongs high on the list. The league hasn't had an All-American quarterback since 2006, when Ohio State's Troy Smith won the Heisman Trophy. Only one Big Ten quarterback has been selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft since 2008. That player, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, started his career in the ACC.
"It's been awhile since the Big Ten had a top-drawer guy," former Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "An elite-type quarterback certainly would help the conference."
To be clear, a first-round designation isn't the best way or the only way to measure a conference at one position.
"So Drew Brees sucks just because he was 5-11 and three quarters and he goes Pick 32?" Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. "You would never want Tom Brady, ever. He's horrible! You’ve got to take Akili Smith or somebody."
Brees slipped to the first pick of the second round in 2001 because of his height. Brady is among the best to ever play the position, and Wilson just helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl. At least five NFL teams will start Big Ten quarterbacks this season.
But the volume isn't there.
"Drew should have been a first-round guy, but let's say he was," Tiller said. "Hell, him and Kerry Collins, for cryin' out loud? That's a long time [without more]."
The Big Ten doesn't have as much trouble churning out elite linemen and running backs. Does the league's ground-and-pound image turn off top quarterbacks? Does the weather? Coaches say no.
"The weather is a positive," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "When the NFL scouts are going to grade these people, they want to know how they're going to play in all these different conditions."
Although many Big Ten programs use offenses that fit the league's stereotypes, those who emphasize quarterback-friendly systems can find the pieces. When Mike White came to Illinois in 1980, he brought with him two junior-college quarterbacks from California, Dave Wilson and Tony Eason. That fall, Wilson set an NCAA record with 621 yards against Ohio State. He was a first-round pick in the NFL supplemental draft in 1981. Two years later, Eason was the No. 15 overall pick, 12 spots ahead of a guy named Marino.
"I had the confidence when I hit the Big Ten that it wasn't a passing conference and I probably had an edge," said White, who coached at Illinois from 1980-87. "We proved that you could throw the ball in the Big Ten. Our kids loved it."
So did the fans. On Illinois' first play of the season, Wilson launched the ball downfield ... nowhere near his intended receiver.
"I think we got a standing ovation," White said.
Quarterback-friendly programs such as Illinois, Iowa and Purdue produced stars during that time. The Big Ten had six first-round quarterbacks between 1982-90. In 1997, Tiller arrived at Purdue and introduced a pass-driven spread offense. Brees began shattering league records.
But those were the exceptions, not the rule. Big Ten teams have often used run-driven offenses with game-managers under center.
"More and more guys just went back to the system that they had confidence in," White said. "I don't think they came in with a passion for the forward pass and how you can make it work, so consequently, it just became Big Ten football again."
Kevin Wilson notes some Big Ten teams haven't built around the quarterback spot and that, more than weather or league reputation, might hurt the strength of the position. But things appear to be improving.
Wilson runs a fast-paced, pass-heavy spread offense at Indiana. Michigan, which has great tradition at quarterback, is back to using a pro-style offense. Michigan State has a nice run of quarterbacks with Brian Hoyer, Kirk Cousins and now Connor Cook. Penn State returns Christian Hackenberg, the Big Ten's freshman of the year in 2013.
"I don't think people can be fairly critical of the quarterbacks in the Big Ten," said Big Ten Network analyst Gerry DiNardo. "It's a pretty good group this year. Hackenberg could be the first guy taken, whenever he decides to go.
"He's a rare talent."
A few more rare talents at quarterback -- along with the right coaches and systems -- could give the Big Ten the boost it needs.
"We got after 'em pretty good after we got back from the bowl game," Kill told ESPN.com. "I think it was a wake-up call."
One of the players who answered that call the loudest was senior safety Cedric Thompson, who felt those same hunger pains Kill talked about. What stuck out to him about 2013 wasn't the 8-2 start but the 0-3 finish. Minnesota was actually in the Legends Division title chase before losing back-to-back games to Wisconsin and at Michigan State.
"It was so sickening to see how close we were last year," Thompson said. "I'm tired of people saying the Gophers are this close or that close."
Thompson told Kill right after the bowl that he wanted to be a captain this year, and that he was going to "make sure nobody slacks off."
"I feel like we didn't hold each other accountable last year during the summer, spring and even in practice during the season," Thompson said. "We worked hard, but when somebody did something wrong, we didn’t hold them to the standard we wanted."
Thompson took that responsibility on himself this offseason. He was never afraid to chew out a teammate if he saw something he didn't like. Kill, in turn, says Thompson is "the best leader on the defensive side that we've had since we've been here."
That internal leadership -- with quarterback Mitch Leidner playing a key role on the offensive side -- is one of the reasons the Gophers' staff is so excited about its 2014 prospects.
"That's what happened for us at Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois," Kill said, referring to his staff's previous successful tenures. "When the players start holding themselves accountable, that's when you’ve got a chance."
We'll see how much that makes a difference for Minnesota very soon. The Gophers will be the first Big Ten team to take the field this season when they host Eastern Illinois -- and FCS quarterfinalist last year -- on Thursday night at 7 ET.
- An Indiana wide receiver was suspended after he got involved in an early-morning scuffle.
- Maryland kicker Brad Craddock is taking his game up a notch.
- Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner is doing more pre-snap reads now and, surprisingly, says he never read a "mike" (or middle linebacker) before Doug Nussmeier showed up.
- Michigan State has sympathy for Braxton Miller. The Spartans named their captains -- Kurtis Drummond, Travis Jackson and Shilique Calhoun -- as well as a pair of defensive starters.
- Ohio State believes it can still win the Big Ten championship without Miller.
- James Franklin was a hit at his first Penn State radio show.
- Rutgers got a commitment from Paul James' younger brother.
- The combo of Wes Lunt and Bill Cubit makes for an intriguing team at Illinois.
- Dallas Clark sizes up the latest crop of Iowa tight ends.
- Minnesota's left tackle and top returning wide receiver are ailing right now.
- A final camp stock report on Nebraska.
- Northwestern says it has better team unity, but will that lead to more wins?
- A Purdue season preview.
- Vonte Jackson's career is over, Wisconsin will go with a freshman kicker and more Badgers notes.
That’s what I asked the 65 coaches from the Power Five conferences and Notre Dame to do. Describe their team in one word.
Some coaches were one-word wonders, but a few insisted they needed two words. That’s fine because the descriptions shed some insight into how coaches view their team and/or what they want the public perception of their team to be.
In all, the 65 coaches used 44 different descriptions.
Well, here’s to taking it one “word” at a time. My word: Enjoy.
Illinois’ Tim Beckman: Family
Indiana’s Kevin Wilson: Cusp
Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz: Developmental
Maryland’s Randy Edsall: Hungry
Michigan’s Brady Hoke: Together
Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio: Committed
Minnesota’s Jerry Kill: Hungry
Nebraska’s Bo Pelini: Exciting
Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald: Focused
Ohio State’s Urban Meyer: Fast
Penn State’s James Franklin: Perseverance
Purdue’s Darrell Hazell: Hungry
Rutgers’ Kyle Flood: Hungry
Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen: Youthful
Could they still win? Could they still recruit? Better yet, just how many players would leave?
One of the biggest ramifications of the sanctions was a penalty that allowed Penn State players to transfer to any other program without sitting out a year. In the end, only nine players transferred that summer.
Penn State fared just fine the past two seasons. But whatever happened to those nine transfers anyway -- and how did they end up faring?
Let's take a look:
QB Rob Bolden
Transferred to: LSU (then Eastern Michigan)
Claim to PSU fame: He became the first true freshman quarterback to start a PSU opener since Shorty Miller in 1912. He later lost the job to walk-on Matt McGloin.
How he’s fared since transferring: LSU moved Bolden to wide receiver, but he did not play a single game for the Tigers. So, last month, he transferred to Eastern Michigan. He’ll be eligible immediately, but he’s no lock for the starting quarterback spot. No starter has yet been named.
Grading the move: D. Transferring was the right move for Bolden; transferring to LSU was not.
WR Justin Brown
Transferred to: Oklahoma
Claim to PSU fame: He was an important part of the passing game in both 2010 and 2011 and was initially projected to be the top PSU wideout in 2012.
How he’s fared since transferring: He did well for the Sooners in 2012, his final season of eligibility, by catching 73 balls for 879 yards and five touchdowns. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in the sixth round a year ago, and he has two catches this preseason.
Grading the move: B. It was high-risk, high-reward. He met his goal of being drafted, so it looks as if it paid off.
DT/OG Jamil Pollard
Transferred to: Rutgers
Claim to PSU fame: He was the only true freshman who signed with PSU and headed elsewhere.
How he's fared since transferring: After suffering what was termed a "career-ending injury," Pollard returned to the team just six months later. He was moved from defensive tackle to offensive guard over the offseason, and he’ll be fighting for situational time in 2014.
Grading the move: Incomplete. It’s difficult to rate someone who never played for Penn State. Plus, it’s still pretty early in his career.
OL Ryan Nowicki
Transferred to: Illinois (then Northern Arizona)
Claim to PSU fame: He drew the ire of fans and teammates when he transferred to another Big Ten school. Said cornerback Stephon Morris: “That’s a coward move.”
How he’s fared since transferring: He didn’t play for Illinois in the 2012 season and then decided to move closer to home by transferring to Northern Arizona last June. He played in six games last season, and he’s not expected to start this season.
Grading the move: C. He wasn’t going to see much time at Penn State, so his transfer made sense. But maybe he should’ve just picked Northern Arizona first.
RB Silas Redd
Transferred to: USC
Claim to PSU fame: He was the Nittany Lions' star offensive player after rushing for 1,241 yards as a sophomore. His transfer, at the time, was the biggest blow to the team.
How he’s fared since transferring: Injuries stalked Redd and he never quite lived up to the hype generated in Happy Valley. Through nine games in 2012, when he was at his healthiest, he averaged 81.3 yards a contest while splitting carries. Redd played in just six games in 2013, went undrafted this past May and signed with the Washington Redskins. He’s already fought his way up to No. 4 on the depth chart.
Grading the move: D-. Penn State fifth-stringer Zach Zwinak actually outrushed Redd in 2012 -- 1,000 yards to 905 yards -- so it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where Redd wouldn’t have been better off at PSU.
TE Kevin Haplea
Transferred to: Florida State
Claim to PSU fame: He left PSU with six catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.
How he’s fared since transferring: He saw significant time for the Seminoles in 2012 as a run-blocking tight end, and he redshirted last season due to a knee injury. He’s back for one final season, and he’ll be a key backup at the position.
Grading the move: A. He’s seeing more time on the field than he likely would have at Penn State. Plus, he’s on a team that won the national title last season and is the favorite to win it again this season.
K Anthony Fera
Transferred to: Texas
Claim to PSU fame: He was the first Penn State player since Chris Bahr in 1975 to be the starter for field goals, kickoffs and punts.
How he’s fared since transferring: Fera battled with a groin injury in 2012, but he really came on strong when his health improved for 2013. He was a consensus All-American and a Lou Groza Award finalist. He tried out for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two weeks ago but is not yet on the roster.
Grading the move: B+. He likely would’ve done just as well if he stayed at Penn State, but he performed incredibly well at Texas.
S Tim Buckley
Transferred to: NC State
Claim to PSU fame: He was a former walk-on and became the first Penn State player to transfer.
How he’s fared since transferring: He mostly played special teams in 2012, but he competed in all 12 games last season and even registered a start against East Carolina. He finished last season with 25 tackles. He's no starter, but he's also a redshirt junior.
Grading the move: A-. Not bad for a former walk-on. There’s no guarantee he would’ve received as much playing time in Happy Valley.
LB Khairi Fortt
Transferred to: Cal
Claim to PSU fame: He had 33 tackles in 2011, and he was in line to be the top backup in 2012 and a starter in 2013.
How he’s fared since transferring: He sat out the 2012 season due to knee surgery but rebounded in 2013. He was one of 12 semifinalists for the Butkus Award but suffered a season-ending injury in Game 9. He declared early for the NFL draft and was taken in the fourth round by the New Orleans Saints. He’s currently listed as the second-team outside linebacker.
Grading the move: C-. Cal won just a single game last season, and Fortt almost certainly would’ve started for the Nittany Lions’ in 2013. At least he’s flying high now as an NFL rookie.
And here they are:
QB: Connor Cook, Michigan State: Braxton Miller's injury opened up this spot on the first team. Penn State's Christian Hackenberg and Indiana's Nate Sudfeld were potential choices here too, but Cook's Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl MVP finish earn him the nod.
RB: Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin: Well, sure. He could lead the nation in rushing, unless ...
RB: Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska: ... Abdullah, his good friend, beats him to it. In a league blessed with great running backs, these two stand out the most.
WR: Stefon Diggs, Maryland: There is a lot of uncertainty in the Big Ten at receiver heading into 2014. This much is certain: If Diggs can stay healthy, he'll be one of the nation's best.
WR: Shane Wynn, Indiana: Wynn scored more touchdowns than any other Big Ten receiver the past season, and now he steps into a more featured role.
TE: Devin Funchess, Michigan: Funchess might play wide receiver almost exclusively, in which case this should be viewed as a third wide receiver spot on the team. The matchup nightmare looks poised for a big season.
OT: Brandon Scherff, Iowa: He might just be the best left tackle in college football in 2014. He's definitely got NFL scouts drooling.
OT: Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin: An enormous road grader at right tackle. Trying to shed him and catch Melvin Gordon is just not fair.
OG: Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers: He thought about leaving for the NFL after the past season but instead gave the Scarlet Knights a boost by returning. He has started 37 straight games.
OG: Kyle Costigan, Wisconsin: He could be the next rising star in Wisconsin's offensive lineman factory.
C: Jack Allen, Michigan State: A second-team All-Big Ten pick the past season, the former high school wrestling champion has no let up in his game.
DE: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State: He’s the returning Big Ten defensive lineman of the year and could become the conference’s defensive player of the year in 2014, unless ...
DE: Randy Gregory, Nebraska: ... Gregory edges him out for the honor. The pass-rush specialist outpaced Calhoun in sacks (10.5) the past season, and Bo Pelini said Gregory has “only scratched the surface of what he’s going to be down the line.”
DT: Michael Bennett, Ohio State: He anchors the best defensive line in the conference and was named to the All-Big Ten’s second team last season.
DT: Carl Davis, Iowa: He still thinks Scherff would get the best of him if they squared off, but Athlon thought highly enough of Davis to make him a fourth-team preseason All-American.
LB: Chi Chi Ariguzo, Northwestern: The quiet Ariguzo likes to let his play do the talking, and it chatted up a storm this past season -- to the tune of 106 tackles and four interceptions.
LB: Mike Hull, Penn State: He was a coin-flip from transferring to Pittsburgh during the sanctions, but now he’s the leader of this revamped defense.
LB: Jake Ryan, Michigan: Ryan shocked onlookers last season by taking less than seven months to go from ACL surgery to playing in a Big Ten game. Hopes are higher now for the healthy redshirt senior, as he has registered a stop in the backfield in 25 of his past 30 games.
CB: Trae Waynes, Michigan State: He’s taking over at Darqueze Dennard's boundary cornerback position, but he’s up for the challenge. He’s already on the watch lists for the Bednarik and Thorpe awards.
CB: Blake Countess, Michigan: He tied for the Big Ten lead in interceptions (6) the past season -- despite battling lower abdominal pain most of the year.
S: Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State: The blue-collar DB started 21 straight games and was a Sports Illustrated All-American the past season.
S: Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern: A smart and instinctive player, Campbell has been remarkably consistent for the Wildcats. He’s a three-time all-academic B1G player and has eight career interceptions.
K: Michael Geiger, Michigan State: As a freshman in 2013, he made 15 of his 16 field-goal attempts.
P: Mike Sadler, Michigan State: An ESPN.com All-American in 2013, Sadler combines with Geiger to give the Spartans the best 1-2 kicking tandem in the league.
KR: Kenny Bell, Nebraska: He led the Big Ten in return yardage the past season (averaging 26.5 yards per kick) and took one 99 yards for a touchdown at Penn State.
PR: Kevonte Martin-Manley, Iowa: He averaged 15.7 yards per return in 2013 and scored on two punt returns in the same game.
Selections by school:
Michigan State: 7
Ohio State: 1
Penn State: 1
I'm not a doctor and know Ohio State didn't take Miller's situation lightly, but the whole thing seemed odd. He initially hurt the shoulder in the Orange Bowl but didn't have surgery until late February, as Ohio State hoped the injury would heal on its own. Ohio State called the surgery "minor" and said Miller would be limited in spring practice. He sat out the whole session.
He started throwing in early July and was making good progress. But when camp began, he threw on a limited basis and sat out scrimmages to rest the shoulder. Monday morning, offensive coordinator Tom Herman acknowledged Miller "had a little bit of a setback with some additional soreness that we weren't expecting." Miller, not surprisingly, declared himself 100 percent. But later that day, on a seemingly benign rollout pass, he reinjured the joint. Season over.
Some, like colleague Austin Ward, are calling it a fluke. But it's not as if there wasn't concern before he was re-injured. Miller already had been experiencing considerable soreness.
From Cleveland.com's Doug Lesmerises:
The Buckeyes will move forward. On the outside, there may be some dwelling though, especially since Miller was calling himself "100 percent" hours before Monday afternoon's practice even though he hadn't been allowed to really let it go on consecutive days in practice.
"Oh, I second-guess everything," Meyer said about what could have been done differently since February.
"When I say second-guess, I just ask the questions, because I'm not a doctor," Meyer said. "And I don't know. But I've been around long enough, things happen and it's unfortunate.
"I have great trust in our medical stuff, but sure, will you second-guess? I wouldn't say second-guess, just make sure in the evaluation we're doing the best we can."
So the Buckeyes tried to limit Miller in the last few weeks. And then it went wrong.
Maybe Miller should have been completely shut down. Maybe the re-injury was just bad luck. Either way, it will be interesting to see how Ohio State handles Miller this time around.
Taking a spin around the league ...
- Being named Illinois' starting quarterback was a "dream come true" for Wes Lunt.
- According to Vince Biegel, Wisconsin's banged-up linebackers will be good to go for the LSU game.
- D.J. Foster's transition to defensive tackle is going smoothly so far for Nebraska. In case you missed it, Bo knows fun.
- An excellent piece on Cedric Thompson's path to becoming a leader for Minnesota's defense.
- Iowa CB Jordan Lomax responds well to losing his starting job last season.
- Purdue's kicking competition is far from over, while Northwestern's kick game looks a bit shaky.
- A DUI arrest in April led to Macgarrett Kings' spring suspension at Michigan State, but the wideout appears to have avoided playing-time penalties.
- Pete Thamel is there as Ohio State begins life A.B. (After Braxton).
- Michigan's starting offensive line is finally taking shape. The Wolverines have a two-man race at running back.
- Indiana coach Kevin Wilson wants to see more from top quarterback Nate Sudfeld.
- Penn State's Week 1 trip to Ireland presents some unique challenges. James Franklin expects "a handful" of Lions freshmen to play right away.
- We're a week away from football, and Rutgers has started its preparation for the opener against Washington State
- Michael Dunn has had quite a journey to possibly starting for Maryland at left tackle this fall.
- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany takes on the Ice Bucket Challenge. Well done!
The potential eruption of an Icelandic volcano. Seriously.
The staff probably just wanted to watch some film on UCF quarterback Pete DiNovo or wideout Rannell Hall. Now, it's keeping an eye on Bardarbunga, the name of the volcano that kind of looks like it belongs to a defensive tackle. A real eruption could lead to some potential travel issues.
"We're aware of that, and we're monitoring that situation," said Michael Hazel, Penn State's director of football operations. "That's kind of out of our area of expertise."
Sadly, this isn't the synopsis to a terrible B-movie. Iceland evacuated the largely uninhabited area around the volcano, and its meteorological office raised its threat level to orange --which is the second-highest alert.
But don't go trading in those Croke Park tickets just yet. It's still too early to say whether the volcano will really erupt. And, even then, there's no telling whether the ash will create enough of a hazard to impact flights like an eruption did in 2010.
It could wind up as absolutely nothing. But the fact we even have to discuss a volcano -- and that Penn State is monitoring it -- sure is surreal. Normally, we just have to stick to following wind, rain and snow. Maybe we should start adding volcanoes and earthquakes to our Big Ten game-day weather reports?
ORLANDO, Fla. -- UCF's season opener in Ireland next week against Penn State may be in peril because of a possible volcanic eruption in Iceland.
Iceland's Civil Protection Department said Wednesday that about 500 people were evacuated from the highlands part of the Vatnajokull glacier. The action was taken as a precaution following thousands of small earthquakes recently near Bardarbunga, a sub-glacial stratovolcano under the glacier.
UCF departs for Ireland Aug. 26 for its Aug. 30 game. Athletics spokesman Andy Seeley said school officials are monitoring the situation.
Iceland is separated from Ireland by the Atlantic Ocean and about 900 miles, but a volcanic eruption in Iceland could produce volcanic ash and potentially affect flights to Europe. More than 100,000 flights were cancelled following the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokul volcano.
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BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Eastern Illinois 20 Minnesota 42 Final Rutgers 41 Washington State 38
8:30 AM ET Penn State UCF 12:00 PM ET Indiana State Indiana 12:00 PM ET Northern Iowa Iowa 12:00 PM ET Appalachian State Michigan 12:00 PM ET 5 Ohio State Navy 12:00 PM ET Western Michigan Purdue 12:05 PM ET Youngstown State Illinois 3:30 PM ET James Madison Maryland 3:30 PM ET Florida Atlantic 22 Nebraska 3:30 PM ET California Northwestern 9:00 PM ET 14 Wisconsin 13 LSU