HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Hearing the first victim to take the witness stand against Jerry Sandusky helped push the former Penn State coach's adopted son Matthew to come forward with his own allegations of abuse, he said in a television interview.
Matthew Sandusky said in a Thursday broadcast of "Oprah Prime" that he recognized elements of his own abuse when he sat through testimony by a young man described in court as Victim 4, someone he knew better than any of the other seven who testified at the trial. Sandusky was convicted of various types of abuse involving 10 boys, including all eight who testified.
"But his story isn't his story -- it's my story," Matthew Sandusky told Oprah Winfrey about Victim 4. "At this point, that's where the door really opened up and it kind of just hit me from every single detail that this man is talking about."
He said he wonders if it wouldn't have been easier to simply keep quiet and not turn against his adopted father, knowing it would alienate family members who helped him in many ways over the years.
Winfrey asked him how people can know that what he's saying is the truth and not an adaptation of Victim 4's experience.
"I would say my story has been well-documented," he said. "And if you really want to find out what my story is and you really can objectively look at it, it's in the record."
Matthew Sandusky said his sexual abuse at his adopted father's hands consisted of oral sex, a more serious allegation than he made to detectives two years ago.
He said Jerry Sandusky would tickle him, blow on his belly and wrestle on the floor, and the encounters would gradually become more sexual.
- Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff is drawing comparisons to former Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Hawkeyes players try to avoid talk about their seemingly favorable schedule.
- Oklahoma is expanding its scheduling reach into Big Ten country.
- An in-depth piece on former Penn State president Graham Spanier from The New York Times Magazine.
- In case it wasn't obvious, The Game isn't moving to prime time anytime soon. Former Michigan star Taylor Lewan appears in court on Thursday regarding his assault case.
- A former Michigan State quarterback says the key to 2014 is the development of current Spartans signal-caller Connor Cook. The Michigan State-Ohio State rivalry is blossoming, Mike Griffith writes.
- Offensive line coach Ed Warinner is Ohio State's security blanket.
- Closer looks at Purdue's running backs and Indiana's running backs entering 2014.
- Five things to know about Illinois' new offensive line coach.
- InsideNU.com analyzes which young Northwestern running back sees the field first.
- Athlon wonders if it's panic time at Michigan.
- The Daily Gopher ranks Minnesota's road trips this season.
There's no argument that the SEC has been the nation's top conference over the last, well, forever. And there's no argument that the group sorest about that subject has been the Big Ten. So what will it take for the B1G to get over the hump -- of their own making and of their image nationally? Perhaps it needs a conference member to make an Auburn/Missouri/Florida State destiny-type run to the postseason to capture the public's imagination. We know that Ohio State will be good. It always is. We also know that Michigan State should be in the College Football Playoff conversation.
But which team among the others has the best chance of waking up as a big-time sleeper ? Here's two to think about, along with a breakout player and sleeper unit.
Which Big Ten teams are best fit to surprise in 2014?
That grinding noise you hear coming from the Hawkeyes football office is Kirk Ferentz throwing last year's schedule into the shredder. In 2013 Iowa played Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State. This year the Hawkeyes face none of the above. From the Big Ten East, they get Indiana and Maryland. And within their own division, they will host their three biggest threats -- Northwestern, Wisconsin and Nebraska -- all in Iowa City.
They are also experienced, returning eight offensive starters, including quarterback Jake Rudock and Mark Weisman, who leads a group of six -- yes, six! -- running backs who received at least some playing time in 2013. And there's always plenty of power in the trenches.
"As long as they are playing football in Iowa, there will be a room full of big offensive linemen, but they kind of lost their way for a while up front," says a former Big Ten defensive coach. "But now they are back to strength. Their three guys on that line, Brandon Scherff, Jordan Walsh and the center [Austin Blythe] who are back to looking like typical Iowa bulldozers."
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- An adopted son of convicted child molester Jerry Sandusky is providing details of the alleged sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.
Matt Sandusky, who was initially a foster child of the Sanduskys, tells Oprah Winfrey in a TV show airing Thursday night that his overnight visits with the family as a child were good "except for one part, bedtime."
At bedtime in the Sandusky's home in State College, he said, Jerry Sandusky's "ritual began."
"The overnight visits were -- they were good. I mean, except for that one part, bedtime. Bedtime was the bad part. But any other time that we were in the home, that we were doing anything in the home with the family, it was fine and it was -- again, you would look at that family and you would say, wow. Like I wish that I had brothers and sisters that cared about me. I wish that I had a mother who cooked dinner every night for the whole family. I wish that I had all of these things. But then at bedtime, his ritual began," Matt Sandusky told Winfrey in a brief clip released by the network.
The network said Sandusky discusses the grooming, methodical control and manipulation he faced as a child.
He had also discussed the alleged abuse in a documentary, "Happy Valley," shown earlier this year, and in an audiotape of a 29-minute interview with police detectives that NBC obtained at the time of Jerry Sandusky's 2012 trial.
The announcement comes your way a little later than normal, but it's here! Stop everything you're doing immediately!
As a reminder, these are only games taking place in Big Ten stadiums. Kick times and TV plans for road games already have been announced by the leagues controlling those contests. Also, Big Ten-controlled prime-time games also have been announced and won't appear in this list.
OK, here's the list of new announcements ...
Appalachian State at Michigan, noon ET, ESPN2
Indiana State at Indiana, noon ET, ESPN News
Youngstown State at Illinois, noon ET, BTN
Northern Iowa at Iowa, noon ET, BTN
Western Michigan at Purdue, noon ET, ESPNU
Florida Atlantic at Nebraska, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
California at Northwestern, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional (ESPN2 in outer markets)
James Madison at Maryland, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Akron at Penn State, noon ET, ABC regional (ESPN or ESPN2 in outer markets)
Western Kentucky at Illinois, noon ET, BTN
Central Michigan at Purdue, noon ET, ESPN News
McNeese State at Nebraska, noon ET, ESPNU
Western Illinois at Wisconsin, noon ET, BTN
Howard at Rutgers, noon ET, BTN
Ball State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Middle Tennessee at Minnesota, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Northern Illinois at Northwestern, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
West Virginia at Maryland, noon ET, BTN, Noon EDT
Kent State at Ohio State, noon ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Miami (Ohio) at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. ET, BTN
Iowa State at Iowa, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN or ESPN2
Few of you like the noon ET (11 a.m. CT) kickoffs but they're a reality in the Big Ten. We're seeing more variety in kickoff times with BTN and other broadcast platforms.
Northwestern once again gets later time slots after playing its first six games in the late afternoon or evening in 2013. Minnesota also gets afternoon or evening kickoffs for at least its first three games (Eastern Illinois and TCU are the others). Maryland and Rutgers both make their BTN debuts against FCS opponents.
The small group of games on Sept. 13 is due to five non-league Big Ten road games and three teams -- Michigan State, Northwestern and Wisconsin -- having open weeks.
There you have it. Mark those calendars.
- Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash weighs in on the progress of the defense and his relationship with Luke Fickell.
- There was already plenty of attention on Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones before he was named to a preseason watch list.
- James Franklin provided some insight on a pair of injuries Penn State is dealing with during the offseason, updating the progress for Miles Diffenbach and Ben Kline.
- Maryland is trying to use LeBron James' decision to go home to its advantage in recruiting.
- The jump to the Big Ten has produced a bump in ticket prices for Rutgers and Maryland.
- Another hot ticket: Nebraska's visit to Fresno State is generating excitement for both fan bases.
- Loren Tate writes that academic standards at Illinois are part of the reason the program is falling behind competitively.
- An in-depth look at Northwestern asks if the program is really trending upward.
Austin Ward: That would certainly provide an interesting test case for how the selection committee views the Big Ten, and in some ways a playoff appearance likely would not come down to what Iowa itself had accomplished. The Hawkeyes really don't have true high-profile games outside of the league to make a big statement, which could be a problem in this scenario as the strength of schedule starts to play a more significant factor. That doesn't mean wins over Iowa State or on the road against Pittsburgh should be overlooked, but Iowa might be counting more on Wisconsin or Nebraska to have been impressive throughout the year before that closing two-game stretch at the end of the regular season to help give the Hawkeyes a bit more credit for what doesn't appear like that grueling of a schedule. Chances are, this season a one-loss Iowa team with a loss to Maryland would probably be on the outside of the top-four spots.
Austin Ward: For projecting just one upcoming season, historical performance in terms of wins and losses probably has limited usefulness. That should come as no surprise considering all the numerous factors that go into making a team successful during a given season, from the composition of the roster, to injuries, lucky or unlucky bounces and everything else that make the game so unpredictable and fun to watch year after year. But in a broader sense, a program's all-time record I think does have value in understanding which teams are most likely to be annual contenders or at least primed to bounce back if some rough patches have come along. Teams like Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten, for example, have won a lot of games because they have huge fan bases that bring in money, traditionally have had recruiting areas that sustain them and invest their resources in ensuring a product that wins over time. That doesn't mean in each individual season they are guaranteed to win at a championship level, but long term I would think there is more evidence to suggest the chances of it happening are pretty high.
Austin Ward: See, I told you guys that you were taking it easy on me for the debut mailbag. The conference takes over the national spotlight on July 28-29 in Chicago, and the whole Big Ten blog crew will be in attendance for wall-to-wall coverage. In fact, we are all so excited that we have already started previewing the hot topics and burning questions for every team in the league. It feels like it's been forever since there was live football to cover, and though doing a bunch of interviews isn't quite the same as being in a stadium, at least the game will be a topic of conversation again. The countdown is on..
Really, there's no other way to describe the 6-foot-7, 272-pound tight end. Coaches and teammates tried their best Saturday to brainstorm other fitting adjectives or ways to encapsulate the junior's ability. But, without fail, they kept returning to that same phrase.
"Jesse is just a freak of nature," fellow Penn State tight end Adam Breneman said. "I don't know how else to describe him."
Added strength coach Dwight Galt: "He's a freak. ... Athletically, talent-wise, there's not another tight end in the country better than him, for sure. He's got speed, he's got strength, he's got agility, he's got size. He's got everything."
The reps came so quickly, it was easy to lose count. Once finished, a Penn State trainer turned to James' spotter and asked about the final tally. Upon hearing the answer, he just shook his head and looked confused: "What? ... Twenty-seven?" James' teammates alternated between head-shaking and patting him on the shoulder.
Had James reached that number in any of the last 10 NFL combines, he would've placed within the top five at his position -- and he would've been at the very top in 2008 and 2011. Compared to the most recent combine, his 27 reps were two fewer than first-round offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and one more than first-round defensive tackle Dominique Easley.
"He'll surprise you every day. You never know what's coming with Jesse," Christian Hackenberg said. "It's actually interesting when you get out there with what he does, just how good he is and how fast he is and how strong he is."
It's not easy to overthrow James, who reportedly runs in the 4.6 range and stands as the second-tallest player on the 121-man roster. That might have something to do with his recent addition to the Mackey Award watch list. Of course, the fact he's Penn State's leading returnee with 25 catches and 333 yards doesn't hurt either.
Put simply, yes, the guy's a freak.
"To get a guy that big that does what he does, I haven't seen that," Galt said. "I've been really lucky. I had five tight ends in the NFL at one time, including Vernon Davis and Dan Gronkowski, Rob's brother, and I'll tell you what -- I'll put Jesse James up there with any of them. The kid is really that athletic and that good of a player."
Players spoke in such revered and hyperbolic fashion about James that, at times, it seemed as if they were discussing Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. Tailback Akeel Lynch just laughed when asked about what impressed him most about James and cautioned that it might not sound believable.
While most players dead lift with five or six plates and let out painful groans between each lift, Lynch said, Penn State's tight end takes it a step further. Lynch smiled, bent his knees and pantomimed lifting up and down with ease. "And he puts the max weight you can on a bar," Lynch said. "He's a freak. He's a good guy, but he's a freak."
On Saturday, James performed 12 reps on the dead lift at 495 pounds. And he promised before the event that he planned to take it easy since this was for charity. ("I won't put too much on today, but it'll be fun.") So what exactly is the max weight the junior can dead lift?
"I have no idea," he said matter-of-factly, with a slight shrug. "We haven't found it."
James is one of the last players who would exaggerate his talent. The aw-shucks kid from the small, blue-collar borough of Glassport, Pennsylvania, didn't mind dissecting Hackenberg's improvement or waxing poetic on how the freshman receivers were coming along. But it was as if his white T-shirt grew itchy whenever he was asked about himself.
"I'm not really the person to talk to about that," James said. "That's just how I was raised."
Added offensive guard Miles Dieffenbach: "That's the way he is. Modest guy, really good guy."
Humility might serve him well, but the Nittany Lions need someone to step up in a big to make up for more than 125 receptions of lost production from last season. (Allen Robinson, who caught 97 balls in 2013, is now in the NFL.) James is certainly a candidate to be that player, at least in the end zone, and expectations are soaring for the junior.
It's still to be determined how James' speed and strength will transfer over to the gridiron this season. But at least one thing is for certain.
"He's a freak," Dieffenbach said. "A freak of nature."
- Five ways Penn State can defy the odds against Ohio State this season. Akeel Lynch is ready for whenever his big opportunity might arrive.
- A Michigan quarterback commit made a big impression at a recruiting camp. There could be fireworks at the Big House for two games this year.
- A defensive end signee won't make it to Nebraska after all.
- A closer look at Virginia Tech from an Ohio State perspective.
- Iowa is looking for two new recruiting assistants.
- Indiana's backup quarterback job is wide open.
- Flozell Adams is going into the Michigan State Hall of Fame.
- Purdue's Rod Woodson is overdue to be inducted in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame.
- The Big Ten Network ranks the top quarterback-receiver duos in the league.
Based on our preseason Football Power Index (FPI), ESPN Stats & Info came up with projections for conference and overall records, in addition to the odds for specific games and winning the conference. One thing to note, as well: The projected overall wins and losses won't always add up to 12.
We covered the West Division on Monday. So, without further ado, here is the East:
Strength of schedule: 45
Projected overall record: 7.03 wins, 5.01 losses
Projected conference record: 4.01 wins, 3.99 losses
Odds of winning the Big Ten: 1.8 percent
Three interesting games: vs. Michigan State – 49.9 percent predicted chance to win; vs. Penn State – 62.8 percent predicted chance to win (win by 5 points); at Michigan – 24.6 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 10.6 points)
Synopsis: It’s safe to say Hoosiers fans would take this projected record, since 7-5 would be Indiana’s best record since at least 2007. Indiana was favored over both Maryland and Rutgers, but the most surprising matchup was definitely Michigan State. Somehow, the Hoosiers were only slight underdogs as the numbers gave them a chance that nearly amounts to a coin-flip.
Strength of schedule: 26
Projected overall record: 6.42 wins, 5.60 losses
Projected conference record: 3.47 wins, 4.53 losses
Odds of winning the Big Ten: 1.3 percent
Three interesting games: vs. Iowa – 57.6 percent predicted chance to win (win by 2.9 points); at Penn State – 45.7 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 1.7 points); vs. Michigan State – 49.3 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 0.3 points)
Synopsis: The Terps are favored in their first four games, all of which are nonconference matchups, but it gets a lot more difficult after that. If Maryland can end up making it to a bowl, it’ll be a huge positive. But, according to these numbers, they might wind up right on the bubble.
Strength of schedule: 44
Projected overall record: 8.87 wins, 3.35 losses
Projected conference record: 5.45 wins, 2.55 losses
Odds of winning the Big Ten: 12.7 percent
Three interesting games: at Notre Dame – 54.7 percent predicted chance to win (win by 1.8 points); at Michigan State – 52.4 percent predicted chance to win (win by 0.9 points); at Ohio State – 29 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 8.6 points)
Synopsis: The numbers here really like the Wolverines, as they’re favored in the first 11 games. (The lone exception on the season, of course, is Game No. 12 against Ohio State.) Michigan will hope to avoid déjà vu in the opener by pounding Appalachian State, unlike in 2007. The odds of a Michigan loss to the Mountaineers this time around are about 167 to 1.
Michigan State Spartans
Strength of schedule: 52
Projected overall record: 7.79 wins, 4.32 losses
Projected conference record: 4.72 wins, 3.28 wins
Odds of winning the Big Ten: 5.9 percent
Three interesting games: at Oregon – 9.9 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 19.9 points); at Indiana – 50.1 percent predicted chance to win; at Maryland – 50.7 percent chance to win (win by 0.3 points)
Synopsis: If sportsbooks started using these odds, something tells me there would be quite an avalanche of bets on Michigan State. For one reason or another, the Spartans just aren’t getting much love here. The Wolverines are actually projected to win more games. Overall, Michigan State is favored in nine contests but is only a 55-percent favorite or better in six of those. ESPN Stats & Info plans to update these numbers once the season starts, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to think these odds will end up changing in the Spartans’ favor. But, for now, the odds just don’t like MSU.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Strength of schedule: 38
Projected overall record: 10.46 wins, 2.15 losses
Projected conference record: 6.46 wins, 1.54 losses
Odds of winning the Big Ten: 40.9 percent
Three interesting games: at Penn State – 76.7 percent predicted chance to win (win by 11.2 points); at Michigan State – 65.7 percent predicted chance to win (win by 6.2 points); vs. Michigan – 71 percent predicted chance to win (win by 8.6 points)
Synopsis: Only three teams in the nation -- Florida State, Oregon, Marshall -- are projected to win more games than the Buckeyes. So, once again, Ohio State is favored to win the Big Ten and do big things on a national scale. It’s given a 7.6 percent chance to win out, and it’s favored by at least 65 percent in every game it plays.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Strength of schedule: 50
Projected overall record: 6.85 wins, 5.15 losses
Projected conference record: 3.57 wins, 4.43 losses
Odds of winning the Big Ten: 0 percent
Three interesting games: vs. UCF (neutral field) – 51.8 percent predicted chance to win (win by 0.6 points); at Michigan – 21.1 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 12.4 points); at Indiana – 37.2 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 5 points)
Synopsis: Expectations are varied for the Nittany Lions, but the numbers favor them in eight individual games. (The reason the projected record is lower because they’re narrow favorites in several matchups). If PSU can finish with seven wins, it should be a positive season for the program. On a side note, against newcomers Rutgers and Maryland, the Lions are favored by less than two points.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Strength of schedule: 20
Projected overall record: 4.81 wins, 7.19 losses
Projected conference record: 2.30 wins, 5.70 losses
Odds of winning the Big Ten: 0.1 percent
Three interesting games: at Washington State – 33.1 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 6.8 points); vs. Penn State – 47 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 1.1 points); at Maryland – 27.7 percent predicted chance to win (lose by 9.2 points)
Synopsis: Rutgers has the hardest schedule in the conference, according to ESPN Stats & Info, which might explain why it’s the only team in the division to be projected to win fewer than six games. The odds it wins the Big Ten are 1,000 to 1, and it’s favored in just two matchups – against FCS Howard and Tulane.
- A good look inside the Big Ten's officiating clinic from Joe Rexrode.
- Michigan State assistant Harlon Barnett on the Oregon game: "We're gonna show up. I promise you we'll show up."
- Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg is training to become "bulletproof," Mark Wogenrich writes. The Nittany Lions' freshmen are gaining notice quickly.
- Brian Christopherson looks at the 14 biggest Big Ten games in 2014.
- The Big Ten's addition of Rutgers is all about the future, Todd Jones writes. Ryan Dunleavy ranks Rutgers' opponents from easiest to hardest.
- The Michigan-MSU rivalry stood out most to retiring Big Ten referee Bill LeMonnier. Wolverines QB Devin Gardner spent the weekend at the Manning Passing Academy.
- Nebraska won't be joining the group of schools updating their fight songs.
- A closer look at the Ohio State-Penn State matchup this fall in Happy Valley.
- Purdue adds a third linebacker to its 2015 recruiting class.
- Illinois gets a D-plus for the 2013 season. The Illini top BTN.com's list of backup quarterback rankings.
- Why a home night game at Nebraska is a very good thing for Northwestern.
- Jesse Temple educates Rutgers fans about Wisconsin in 2014.
- Iowa punter Connor Kornbrath is being pushed throughout the offseason.
Quarterback is a position that likely needs to improve throughout the Big Ten in order for the league to start winning championships. But the good news there are some stars returning at the position in 2014. Taking a page from our ACC blog friends, we're previewing all the positions this preseason, and none are more important than this one:
Best of the best: Ohio State
Several teams return productive starters under center, which is a good thing for the league. But no one else has a player quite like the Buckeyes' Braxton Miller. The senior is coming off two straight Big Ten offensive player of the year awards, and is now in his third season of the same system under Tom Herman and Urban Meyer -- he should feel extremely comfortable. There is some slight concern about his offseason shoulder surgery, which left him sitting out of spring drills, and an inexperienced offensive line. But Miller has showed the ability to make magic practically on his own, and few are better in the clutch. His absence this spring meant important reps for youngsters Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett, who would have to step in this season if anything happens to Miller.
Next up: Penn State
Christian Hackenberg passed for 2,955 yards as an 18-year-old true freshman and led impressive comebacks against Illinois and Michigan. The Nittany Lions' young star does have a new coaching staff and system and won't get to enjoy the talents of Allen Robinson any more, but his talent is immense. Penn State and Ohio State aren't the only teams in great shape at quarterback, though. Michigan State's Connor Cook was the MVP of the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl and should continue to improve. Michigan's Devin Gardner finished second in the league in total offense in 2013 despite little help from the run game. Indiana's Nate Sudfeld has the job to himself after Tre Roberson's transfer and could easily surpass 3,000 yards in the Hoosiers' prolific system. Jake Rudock is a solid leader for Iowa who should have better weapons surrounding him this fall.
Possible sleeper: Maryland
C.J. Brown is a fifth-year senior entering his third year of starting after an injury cut down his 2012 campaign. He needs to stay healthy and improve on his 58.9 completion percentage from 2013. But with arguably the best pair of wideouts in the Big Ten at his disposal in Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, Brown has a chance to put up some strong numbers in his first go-around in this league. Keep an eye also on Illinois and probable starter Wes Lunt; Bill Cubit's offense helped turn Nathan Scheelhaase into the Big Ten's surprise leading passer a year ago.
Problem for a contender: Nebraska
Problem is far too strong of a word here, but the Huskers don't have a sure thing at quarterback. Tommy Armstrong Jr. is a good leader and owns a burning desire to improve, so there's reason to be optimistic that the sophomore will handle the job just fine. Still, he completed only 51.9 percent of his passes last season, had eight interceptions against nine touchdown passes and wasn't the running threat that Taylor Martinez used to be. Wisconsin has its own quarterback issues, but Joel Stave -- the subject of much offseason hand-wringing -- is far more proven than Armstrong. Nebraska will need solid quarterback play in early tests against Fresno State and Miami (Fla.).
- Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck visited the Purdue campus for a youth camp and met with some of the current Boilermakers quarterbacks, one of whom admitted to taking a "selfie" with Luck in the background.
- Ohio State's group of linebackers might have been on the decline the past few seasons, but Urban Meyer is helping to rebuild this position by loading up on top-tier recruits.
- After three years of watching its offensive coordinator work game days from the coaches' booth, Michigan announced it will have Doug Nussmeier coaching from the sideline. MLive's Nick Baumgardner offers an inside look at the Wolverines.
- Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah will deliver the keynote speech at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon later this month.
- A look at James Franklin's top 22 tweets since arriving in Happy Valley. One Penn State commit arrived at The Opening with an interesting haircut.
- The "Ultimate Big Ten football road trip" and what games to check out, according to the Des Moines Register's Andrew Logue.
- Michigan State QB commit Brian Lewerke was "solid all week" at the Elite 11 and had the chance to work with the Spartans' Connor Cook. MSU grabbed a commitment from four-star RB L.J. Scott.
- Examining whether Melvin Gordon can do it all for Wisconsin this season and fill the void of departed No. 2 James White.
- Rutgers AD Julie Hermann discusses fundraising and facilities, including the possibility of creating an "athletes' village."
- How well do Rutgers and Maryland bloggers know their Big Ten culture and history? An Indiana Hoosiers blog finds out in a fun way.
You won't find them in comic books or out in the Big Ten footprint fighting crime. But even opposing fans won't find it all that difficult to root for this cast of characters. Some overcame injuries or other obstacles, some have been wronged, and others just seem like genuinely good people.
There are certainly plenty of other athletes and coaches whom this could apply to, so it wasn't easy just picking a handful. But true heroes don't expect media attention for their good deeds … plus, we had to cut this list off somewhere.
So, in alphabetical order, here are the unmasked Big Ten heroes:
Adam Breneman, tight end, Penn State: Forget the fact he remained loyal and committed to the university throughout the sanctions, when he could've bolted to the likes of Florida State or Notre Dame. He's also used his football celebrity to champion a few charitable causes, something more common for coaches than players. In high school he started “Catch the Cure,” which helped raise more than $200,000 to fight Lou Gehrig's Disease. During his Under Armour jersey presentation two years ago, he even helped man a booth outside the auditorium to seek donations. Currently, he's the secretary of Penn State's nonprofit chapter of “Uplifting Athletes,” which raises money for the Kidney Cancer Association. You don't have to like the Nittany Lions, but you have to like what Breneman's doing.
Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator, Rutgers: Underappreciated. Underestimated. Underdog. That's why Friedgen is under two other heroes on this list. It's easy to root for someone who appeared to be unfairly punished – and is now seeking out justice on the gridiron. Friedgen is just about the only head coach to win conference coach of the year and then be fired that same season. It happened with Maryland in 2010; now, he's helping oversee a Rutgers offense that people aren't expecting a lot from. He's in the same division as the Terps -- heck, they're on the schedule this year -- and Friedgen has a chance to show Maryland it made a mistake. He certainly could've handled the dismissal better, but it's hard to blame him and easy to wish him well. As long as you're not a Terps fan, that is.
Jerry Kill, head coach, Minnesota: Stop me if you've heard this before. “I'm rooting against them when they play us, but I'm wishing all the best to ________ the rest of the season.” Chances are Kill's filled in quite a few of those sentences the past few years. He has refused to let epilepsy get the best of him, and his longevity's been a testament to his toughness. He's been a coach since 1985, and he just led the Gophers to back-to-back bowls. Plus, he recently started a new epilepsy foundation for young patients, and he put $100,000 of his own money toward that. How can you not root for this guy?
Jake Ryan, linebacker, Michigan: Torn anterior cruciate ligaments are usually big setbacks, something that means missed seasons or at least gradual returns. Not for Ryan. The Michigan linebacker, a team captain last season, was on crutches last spring and returned in time for the Oct. 12 game against Penn State. Said defensive coordinator Greg Mattison: “If he ever truly logged the hours of extra treatment and extra rehab that he has done since the day that happened, I think it would floor you.” Nothing has really been handed to Ryan, as he wasn't a highly sought-after recruit. But he's worked hard and now finds himself on the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik and Nagurski awards. It's his final season at Michigan, and big things are expected from him.
Heroes on deck: Tracy Claeys, Stefon Diggs, Herb Hand, Jeremy Langford, Venric Mark
Drive Through: What's Wrong With The Big Ten?
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET Iowa Pittsburgh 12:00 PM ET Eastern Michigan 11 Michigan State 12:00 PM ET Western Illinois Northwestern 12:00 PM ET Southern Illinois Purdue 12:00 PM ET Bowling Green 19 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET Maryland Syracuse 3:30 PM ET Utah Michigan 3:30 PM ET Rutgers Navy 4:00 PM ET Massachusetts Penn State 4:00 PM ET San Jose State Minnesota 4:00 PM ET Texas State Illinois 4:00 PM ET Indiana 18 Missouri 8:00 PM ET Miami (FL) 24 Nebraska