Penn State is putting together one of the nation's top recruiting hauls in 2015, and the Class of 2016 is off to a quick start as well now with Saturday's pledge from ESPN Junior 300 No. 190 Miles Sanders.

Sandusky's family stands by him

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
5:20
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HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Other members of Jerry Sandusky's family say they're standing by him after one of his adopted sons described to Oprah Winfrey allegations of sexual abuse by the former Penn State assistant football coach.

The family released a statement on Friday saying none of them ever saw abuse or any indication of inappropriate activity.

Matthew Sandusky said in Thursday's broadcast that his adopted father subjected him to a range of sexual abuse, including oral sex.

The statement is from Sandusky's wife, Dottie, and the couple's other five adopted children.

It says attacking Matthew will provoke him and they're worried about what he'll say about the family.

Jerry Sandusky is serving a prison term for sexual abuse of 10 boys. He has not been charged with abusing Matthew Sandusky.


(Read full post)


Big Ten Friday mailbag

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
5:00
PM ET
The weather feels like fall already in Columbus. The only thing missing is a football game, but at least we have some Twitter questions to bring us one day closer to the season. Be sure to follow me here to get a jump on the next mailbag.

Austin Ward: There is no reason to think Rutgers won't eventually be able to compete in the Big Ten if it is able to use the league's resources to its advantage, but it certainly seems like it's going to be a difficult transition in the short term. For starters, joining the East Division did the Scarlet Knights no favors, and on top of that they drew both Nebraska and Wisconsin from the West to give them about as rude of an introduction to the league as possible. Considering their struggles in a weaker conference a year ago, a sub-.500 finish thanks to their bowl-game loss to Notre Dame and some lingering questions about how explosive the offense can be, I think even climbing into contention for a postseason appearance might be a stretch for the Scarlet Knights this fall.

Ward: Typically, sizing up the quarterbacks is a pretty handy way to forecast the favorites, but the West is something of an exception this offseason. Nebraska has some uncertainty even with Tommy Armstrong Jr. returning, and Wisconsin doesn't exactly have Russell Wilson under center this fall either, yet the running games those two programs boast are strong enough that they have generally been accepted as the top candidates to advance to the Big Ten title game on that side of the league. Wes Lunt's physical tools and the dynamic offense he will lead if he can finally, officially win the starting job make him an intriguing pick as the best of the bunch, and it seems a safe bet that he will put up impressive individual numbers. But don't count out Jake Rudock as somebody capable of giving Iowa steady production and turning that team into a threat in the West, provided he can cut down on the turnovers and the coaching staff actually does open up the attack a bit more this season.

Ward: The recruiting work Urban Meyer has done on the defensive side of the ball is starting to show up on the roster, and the Ohio State Buckeyes are going to need some of their younger, highly touted players to have a big impact if they are going to make a serious run at the playoff this season. Joey Bosa, as mentioned, might be one of the most destructive defensive linemen in the country this fall, and he is obviously going to be critical in generating a pass rush that could take some pressure off the revamped secondary. But it is a new full-time starter in the back end that might actually have the greatest influence in restoring Ohio State's proud defensive tradition, and Vonn Bell already raised the sky-high expectations when he snagged that one-handed interception in the Discover Orange Bowl. His spring was cut short by injury, but Bell is a young guy the Buckeyes desperately need to deliver..

Big Ten lunch links

July, 18, 2014
Jul 18
12:00
PM ET
If anybody needs me this weekend, you can find me here. First, let's rock out to these links:

Jerry Sandusky's son details abuse

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:27
PM ET

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.


(Read full post)


Big Ten lunch links

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
12:00
PM ET
Better Big Ten Bane: Braxton Miller or Shilique Calhoun?

Big Ten sleeper picks: Teams, units

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
6:28
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SEC | ACC | Big 12Pac-12

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?

Iowa Hawkeyes

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."


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Matt Sandusky tells of dad's 'ritual'

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
4:35
PM ET
[+] EnlargeMatt Sandusky
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMatt Sandusky, one of six children adopted by the Sanduskys, alleges he was sexually molested by his father.

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.


(Read full post)


The moment you all have waited for has finally arrived. Nothing creates quite the angst and anticipation among Big Ten blog readers like the announcement of kickoff times and TV plans for the first few weeks of the upcoming season.

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 ...

Aug. 30

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

Sept. 6

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

Sept. 13

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.

Big Ten lunch links

July, 16, 2014
Jul 16
12:00
PM ET
Every pitch is grooved for the links.
  • 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.

Big Ten Tuesday mailbag

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
5:00
PM ET
Howdy. My journey to the World Cup is over, and it is time to really get rolling on the Big Ten blog. This is my first time with the mailbag, so thanks for taking it easy on me. I'm expecting more heat the next time around and questions are accepted any time on Twitter, so follow me right here.

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..

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Jesse James is a freak of nature.

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."

Jesse James
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsThe 6-foot-7 Jesse James can bench-press 225 pounds 27 times and he runs the 40-yard dash in about 4.6 seconds.
James lived up to that billing during Saturday afternoon's annual Lift for Life event, which pit the offense and defense against one another in seven strength competitions while helping raise money to fight kidney cancer. During the 225-pound bench press, the weights exploded off James' chest so quickly it was as if they came from a balloon stand. The tight end's spotter called out "Seven!" before his defensive end opponent reached three.

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."

Big Ten lunch links

July, 15, 2014
Jul 15
12:00
PM ET
Hey, kids, it's link time:
Sometimes, math is fun -- and today is one of those days.

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:

Indiana Hoosiers

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.

 




Maryland Terrapins

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.

 




Michigan Wolverines

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.
video
After reviewing performances at The Opening last week, here are a few quick hits on how each Elite 11 quarterback performed:


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Recruiting reporter Tom VanHaaren discusses the top storyline to watch in 2015 college football recruiting within the Big Ten. Penn State leads the way and, despite sanctions, could finish atop the conference.
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