Reporting Adam Hoge
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By Adam Hoge-
CHICAGO (CBS) Believe it or not, despite all the Penn State drama, there is going to be Big Ten football played this year.
I addressed today’s developments with the recruiting of Penn State players here, but below are some football nuggets for each team from Big Ten Media Days Thursday (in order of how the coaches addressed the media):
Last year the Badgers stumbled a bit on running back Montee Ball’s Heisman campaign when they spent most of the first half promoting Russell Wilson.
Ball ended up being a finalist in New York, but lacked the buzz and never had a realistic shot to win it. This year, Wisconsin is wasting no time, launching a campaign Thursday called: ‘This Fall Belongs To Ball.”
“I’d love to be a coach that coaches a Heisman Trophy winner,” head coach Bret Bielema said.
It’s not unfathomable to think Purdue could win the Leaders Division this year if Wisconsin disappoints. The Boilermakers made a bowl game last year and there’s a good amount of talent on the roster to take the next step. Head coach Danny Hope outlined what they need to do to make that happen:
- Limit turnovers
- Stay healthy
- Be more disciplined
Purdue has been ravished by injuries the last few seasons, especially at quarterback, but now it looks like they have three experienced guys finally healthy.
Hope said Caleb TerBush will go into fall camp as the No. 1 QB, but Robert Marve’s knee is finally healthy and 2010 starter Rob Henry is back after missing last season.
Hope believes he has a fast football team with a strong defensive front and experienced secondary. If they can find some reliable leadership, don’t rule out Purdue.
Ohio State Buckeyes
Believe it or not, Urban Meyer said his team is behind on athleticism. That seems funny in Big Ten country, but remember, he’s used to the SEC.
Meyer said his biggest struggle with the NCAA sanctions is not being able to go to a bowl game, but he’s putting emphasis on the season finale against Michigan at home, calling it “the biggest game of the year.”
Meyer also said he and Bielema patched things up back in February after the Wisconsin head coach questioned his early recruiting tactics. Meyer said a lot of things reported were not true.
“We have a very, very good relationship,” he said.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Tim Beckman’s day was mostly about how he’s recruiting Penn State’s players and again, you can find out more about that here.
As for his football team, there wasn’t much, but he said Nathan Scheelhaase is his starting quarterback going into the season, but Riley O’Toole has a chance to change that.
After going 0-11 against FBS schools last season, Wilson has his hands full in Bloomington. Fans still believe he has a chance to turn the program around — the old, “you have to get really bad to get good” thinking — but he’ll have to show progress in 2012.
Penn State Nittany Lions
Bill O’Brien is calling his seven home games their “bowl games”.
He said he has no update on running back Silas Redd, who could be transferring to USC.
O’Brien also maintained that Matt McGloin is his starting quarterback.
Things got a little wacky when Pat Fitzgerald suggested the Big Ten should have a committee decide who gets to play the Legends Division winner in the Big Ten Championship Game. He’s concerned that two of the six teams in the Leaders Division are ineligible. It’s a crazy idea and almost definitely won’t happen.
Fitzgerald also said he’s a fan of eight conference games instead of nine and Commissioner Jim Delany later said the league is unanimous on that subject.
Minnesota Golden Gophers
Head coach Jerry Kill, who battled seizures last season, including one on the field, said he is “doing fantastic”. He liked how his players rallied around him as a team last year when he went down and thinks that will continue this season.
He believes quarterback MarQueis Gray will be one of the more exciting players in the country this season.
Head coach Brady Hoke is downplaying his team’s expectations, noting they were picked fifth in their division last season and went to the Sugar Bowl.
He also said he’s not concerned about the lack of competitive balance in the conference with Ohio State and Penn State not eligible for the Big Ten Championship Game.
“Whether it’s fair or not, it doesn’t matter. We have a schedule to play,” he said.
Bo Pelini thinks it will help having a year of experience in the Big Ten. He said there was a big different between seeing the Big Ten on film and actually playing the teams last year.
He also expressed a lot of confidence in quarterback Taylor Martinez, who has never been an accurate thrower and tends to make mistakes.
He’ll have his hands full with a young defense that needs to improve, but he says the secondary is more experienced and he likes a number of the younger players rising up the depth chart.
Michigan State Spartans
There’s a ton of excitement surrounding Michigan State’s defense this season, which could be the best in the conference. Dantonio was quick to point out that not only does he have eight of 11 starters returning on defense, but he has 18 of 22 of the top players returning on that side of the ball. Depth will not be an issue.
Dantonio also talked about the inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver and said he hopes they gain a lot of experience in their season opener: a nationally televised home game against Boise State Friday, Aug. 31.
“The best way to do it is put them in the light, put them in the camera, put them in the media, put them on prime time, put them in a situation where there is something to gain by playing and winning and performing well. And that’s what we’ve been able to do.”
Michigan State will also host Notre Dame in a night game two weeks later. If they win both of those games and make it to the Big Ten Championship Game, a spot in the BCS National Championship Game could be on the line.
Kirk Ferentz expressed excitement about opening the season at Soldier Field against Northern Illinois. He said the team will go to the Cubs game the day before. The only “bad news”, in his eyes, is that they are playing a pretty good Huskies team.
The big question mark for Iowa continues to be at running back where they continue to have a revolving door of players leaving the program. Someone will have to emerge in training camp.
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.