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Sunday offseason one-liners

Gary Andersen

Some links from around college football on a Sunday… 

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Denied admission by Wisconsin, four-star 2015 RB visiting Miami

Jordan Stevenson

Not surprisingly, there’s not a lack of suitors lining up to woo Jordan Stevenson.

This past weekend, Stevenson spent a couple of days visiting Nebraska.  Beginning Tuesday and going on into Thursday, 247Sports.com is reporting, the running back is taking a visit to Miami.

There’s also a possibility that Stevenson, who’s reportedly being personally recruited by Nick Saban, could take an official visit to Alabama after his Miami trip, although it’s been reported that the Texas product would like to make a decision on a new school by the end of this week.

Last week it was reported that Stevenson, a 2015 Wisconsin signee, was officially denied enrollment at UW this past week even as he met NCAA enrollment standards.  What the UW issue is and the reason why this happened so close to the start of summer camp hasn’t been detailed, although the school has given the player a complete release from his scholarship.

Regardless of where Stevenson ultimately lands — indications are that the Cornhuskers are the favorites at the moment — he will be eligible to play immediately in 2015.  others that have been mentioned as a possibility are Florida, Oklahoma State, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The interest from myriad Power Five programs is understandable as Rivals.com had the Texas high school product as a four-star prospect, rated as the No. 27 running back in the country and the No. 34 player at any position in the state.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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No decision on Dalvin Cook’s status until case clears

Dalvin Cook =, Jimbo Fisher

Whether or not Dalvin Cook is available for the start of Florida State’s season remains to be seen.

As one of the ACC head coaches getting the ESPN “car wash” treatment Tuesday, Jimbo Fisher very plainly stated that Cook will remain indefinitely suspension his misdemeanor case is resolved.  The running back was charged with battery after a female claimed that he punched her in the face while both were at a Tallahassee bar.

Cook’s initial court date is set for Sept. 2, a date that was pushed back to the frustration of the player’s attorney.  As FSU opens the 2015 season Sept. 5, and as the lawyer has very loudly proclaimed that his client will not take a plea deal, it means Cook could very well be sidelined for the opener against Texas State.

If the case drags deeper into the month of September, games against USF (Sept. 12) and Boston College (Sept. 18, ACC opener and first 2015 road game) could be in jeopardy as well.  There’s also the chance that, once the case is resolved, Fisher could decide to suspend Cook for one or more games.

For now, though, any attempt to guess at what future punishment may be meted out is pointless.

“We’ll wait to make decisions based on facts,” Fisher said when asked about Cook’s status. “And when the case gets concluded and all the facts are in, then Florida State will make a decision based off that and whatever’s going on. But it’s an ongoing investigation so we can’t really say much about it.”

Cook, who led the team in rushing as a true freshman last season, was indefinitely suspended by the football program shortly after the incident.  Cook’s attorney lashed out publicly at those assuming his client’s guilt, while the release of the alleged victim’s 911 call added further questions regarding what actually happened that night in June.

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After considering USF, ex-Auburn DB Mackenro Alexander to go JUCO

Auburn Spring Game

When Mackenro Alexander received a release from his Auburn scholarship in late January, it was thought that he could very well end up at USF. Instead, the defensive back has dropped a couple of rungs of competition to restart his playing career.

According to NFLDraftScout.com‘s Dane Brugler, by way of al.com, Alexander (pictured, being draggedhas decided to transfer to Northeast Mississippi Community College. Because Alexander will be playing at the JUCO level, he will be eligible immediately for the upcoming season.

Because of its geographic location — USF is located in Tampa, Fla., a little over a two-hour drive from Alexander’s home in Immokalee — it was surmised that the AAC Bulls would be a likely landing spot for Alexander.

The defensive back saw very little playing time after coming to Auburn as a three-star member of the Class of 2013.  He played in eight games as a true freshman, then none in 2014.

Originally verbally committed to Florida State, Alexander, rated as the No. 43 safety in the country, ultimately chose AU over his other finalists, Clemson and Mississippi State.  Alexander’s four-star cornerback brotherMackensie Alexander, signed with Clemson in 2013 and, after redshirting, was named as a freshman All-American by several outlets coming off a season in which he started 13 games.

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Media hands out preseason MWC honors, picks

Jay Ajayi, Bryan Harsin

As we roll on toward the start of summer camps and, ultimately, a new season, the Mountain West becomes the latest to unveil its preseason selections.

The media that covers the MWC has tapped defending champion Boise State as its favorite to win the Mountain division, while San Diego State is the favorite in the West.  The Broncos received 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes, while the Aztecs garnered 27.  The other three West votes went to Fresno State, which claimed that division in 2014 but fell to Boise in the conference championship game.

Individually, Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins was named as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year; Utah State linebacker Kyler Fackrell the Defensive POTY; and San Diego State kicker Donny Hageman the Special Teams POTY.

Below is the media’s predicted order of finish in bot divisions, followed by the first-team all-conference squad.

Mountain Division (First-Place Votes), Total Points
1. Boise State (28) 177
2. Utah State (2) 150
3. Colorado State 108
4. Air Force 90
5. Wyoming 64
6. New Mexico 41

West Division
1. San Diego State (27) 177
2. Fresno State (3) 141
3. Nevada 113
4. San José State 91
5. Hawai‘i 70
6. UNLV 38

Defense
DL Eddie Yarbrough* Sr. Wyoming
DL Alex Hansen** Sr. Air Force
DL Kamalei Correa* Jr. Boise State
DL Ian Seau** Sr. Nevada
LB Tanner Vallejo** Jr. Boise State
LB Kyler Fackrell Sr. Utah State
LB Nick Vigil* Jr. Utah State
DB Weston Steelhammer* Jr. Air Force
DB Donte Deayon** Sr. Boise State
DB Darian Thompson* Sr. Boise State
DB Damontae Kazee** Jr. San Diego State

Offense
QB Chuckie Keeton Sr. Utah State
WR Rashard Higgins* Jr. Colorado State
WR Devonte Boyd** So. UNLV
RB Donnel Pumphrey* Jr. San Diego State
RB Marteze Waller** Sr. Fresno State
OL Marcus Henry* Sr. Boise State OL Rees Odhiambo** Sr. Boise State
OL Alex Fifita Sr. Fresno State
OL Ben Clarke Sr. Hawaiʻi
OL Pearce Slater Sr. San Diego State
TE Steven Walker* Sr. Colorado State

Specialists
P Alex Boy** Sr. Nevada
PK Donny Hageman Sr. San Diego State
Ret. Carlos Wiggins Sr. New Mexico

* – member of the 2014 All-Mountain West first team.
** – member of the 2014 All-Mountain West second team.

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Syracuse dismisses leading receiver from 2013

Ashton Broyld, Steele Divitto

A productive 2013 season led to high hopes within the Syracuse football program when it came to Ashton Broyld. Unfortunately, injuries and, ultimately, the player himself derailed the senior’s career with the Orange.

Tuesday morning, head coach Scott Shafer announced that Broyld has been dismissed from his football team. The only reason given, of course, was violating unspecified team rules.

In 2013, Broyld led the team in both receptions (52) and receiving yards (452). Broyld was the Orange’s leading receiver through the first three games last season before a lower-leg injury caused him to miss eight of the last nine games.

Even as he’s listed as a running back, Broyld finishes his ‘Cuse career with more receptions and receiving yards (74, 679) than carries and rushing yards (38, 173). Oddly enough, his lone career touchdown came on the ground.

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Sonny Dykes gets defensive in completing Cal coaching staff

Stanford v Cal

Back in May, wide receiver coach Pierre Ingram‘s arrest on a charge of solicitation of a lewd act and subsequent dismissal led to a vacancy on Cal’s coaching staff. With the start of summer camp growing larger on the horizon, Sonny Dykes has filled the hole — with, oddly enough, someone from the other side of the ball.

In a press release, Cal announced that John Lovett has been hired and will serve as the cornerbacks coach on Dykes’ staff. Lovett spent the past two seasons as a defensive backs coach with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, while he spent the year prior to that coaching the same position at Texas Tech.

In 2009 and 2010, Lovett was the defensive coordinator at Miami (Fla.). He was the special teams coordinator at North Carolina the two years prior to that, as well as Auburn’s defensive coordinator from 1999-2001 and holding the same title at Clemson from 2002-04.

In a coaching career that began back in the mid-seventies, the school writes in its release, “Lovett is a veteran college and NFL coach with nearly four decades of experience that include 18 seasons as a collegiate defensive coordinator and 14 as a defensive backs coach at the collegiate and NFL levels.”

With Lovett’s hiring, five of the offensive-minded Dykes’ nine full-time assistants are defensive coaches. That appears to be a calculated decision on the coach’s part.

“We are thrilled to be able to add someone with John’s level of experience and expertise to our coaching staff,” Dykes said in a portion of his statement. “He is a proven coach who has had success at the highest level of football. His addition to our staff certainly makes us better as a unit. …

“By hiring John it allows us to put needed resources into our defensive coaching staff to work with a young group of players that we know need to continue to improve. I am especially excited to have a pair of highly-respected coaches like John and Greg working together with our defensive backs. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the improvements our defensive staff has already made in our defense and hiring John should help us speed up the process even more.”

In a five-win 2014 season, Cal finished No. 125 in passing yards allowed — 367.2 yards per game; pass-happy Washington State was No. 124 at 296.6 ypg — and, at 39.8, No. 120 in points allowed per game. On the NCAA’s official stat website, there are 125 teams listed for the 2014 season.

As for who will take over Ingram’s wide receiver duties? “Dykes will provide instruction for the team’s outside receivers, a position he coached for nine seasons (1999-2006) including his final two as a co-offensive coordinator at Texas Tech,” the release explained.

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UCLA transfer QB Asiantii Woulard seeking immediate USF eligibility

UCLA v Virginia

When Asiantii Woulard announced late last month that he would be transferring into the USF football program from UCLA, it was assumed that the quarterback would be forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. While that assumption may ultimately be proven correct, it’s not yet a certainty.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Woulard is pursing a waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to become eligible to compete immediately in 2015. The Times writes that “[i]t is believed Woulard, who starred at Winter Park [Fla.] High [School], is pursuing a waiver based on family reasons.” Just what those family reasons are, whether they be health-related or otherwise, was not divulged.

The paper does, though, acknowledge that the odds for a successful appeal for a waiver are long. Should the appeal be denied, Woulard would have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2016.

A four-star member of UCLA’s 2013 recruiting class, Woulard was rated as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the country; the No. 23 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 141 player overall according to Rivals.com. During his first and only two years with the Bruins, Woulard didn’t see any game action.

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Paul Johnson was on fire talking Ohio State, Georgia, Notre Dame and SEC

Paul Johnson

Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was not the only ACC coach sharing some hot takes today while going through the annual ESPN carwash in Bristol. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson also made some heads turn with his comments about Ohio State getting in the College Football Playoff and rival Georgia. Well, they were not so much boiling hot takes, but still bringing enough sizzle to make it worth sharing and reacting.

Johnson’s Georgia Tech team put Florida State to the test in last season’s ACC Championship Game. With the win in the conference title game, Florida State locked down a perfect regular season to help grab a firm hold on one of the four playoff spots in the College Football Playoff. Meanwhile, Ohio State made one last case to get in ahead of Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU. As has been suggested by some, including TCU’s Gary Patterson, Ohio State may have gotten in due to being a more recognizable brand in the college football landscape compared to either Big 12 co-champ. Johnson seems to agree.

Asked if brand names come into play with the playoff, Johnson said “It already came into play with TCU and Ohio State. It’s the world we live in.”

Johnson also sees little difference between Georgia and top ACC programs like Florida State and Clemson.

“I can assure you Georgia isn’t any different than Clemson or Florida State or some other teams we play,” Johnson said at one point during his carwash experience. Johnson has some merits to back up his statement, having coached Georgia Tech to victories over both Georgia and Mississippi State last season.

Johnson was also asked whether or not the SEC champion will definitely be rewarded a spot in the College Football Playoff (why this question was posed to Johnson is beyond comprehension).

Why so? I don’t get it,” Johnson said.

Just for good measure, Johnson joined Swinney in commenting on Notre Dame’s independence, saying the Irish should be in the ACC. “It’s another brand program to strengthen the conference,” Johnson said.

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Mark Dantonio says RB Delton Williams will return for fall camp after firearms charge

Delton Williams, Ryan Russell

Michigan State running back Delton Williams is expected to return to the team in time for fall camp. The school announced the timeline through a released statement early Monday evening. This was suspected to eventually be the case earlier this month.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said Williams “has satisfied the University’s, court’s and football program’s expectations.” Michigan State confirmed Williams violated a university ordinance by possessing a weapon on campus last March. He has been away from the program since that time after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor firearms charge stemming from a road rage incident.

“Delton comprehends the severity of the situation and understands that decisions have consequences,” Dantonio went on to say in his statement. “He also appreciates the fact that wearing the Michigan State uniform is a privilege and not his right.”

Dantonio is spot on with that last statement, and it holds true in every football program around the country. What is unknown at this time though is whether or not Williams will miss any playing time as well. No information regarding any potential suspensions to be served during the season was revealed, although Dantonio could very well be asked about that later this week at Big Ten media days.

Williams appeared in 13 games for Michigan State last season, in which he rushed for 316 yards and five touchdowns. Both of those numbers were good for third on the team behind Jeremy Langford and Nick Hill. With both having moved on, Williams is Michigan State’s leading rusher returning in 2015.

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Dabo Swinney calls for Notre Dame to join a conference

Dabo Swinney

Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel made it clear what he thought of Notre Dame and the playoff discussion. They need to join a conference to be in consideration. Apparently Pinkel is not alone on this stance.

Enter Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney, who echoed the belief Pinkel shared that suggested it is time for Notre Dame to join a conference. Swinney said if Notre Dame is to remain independent, then they should be playing a 13th game on the schedule.

Notre Dame is a partial member of the ACC, competing in the league in all sports except football and ice hockey. The Irish retain their football independence as part of the ACC agreement, but set aside a handful of games against ACC opponents every season on a rotating basis. Among Notre Dame’s rotating ACC opponents this season is Clemson, with the Fighting Irish traveling to Death Valley on October 3.

The importance of a 13th game was put on display last season with Big 12 co-champions Baylor and TCU each being left out of the College Football Playoff in favor of four conference champions that played a 13th game. Most notably, perhaps, was Ohio State jumping into the fourth and final spot after demolishing Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Buckeyes, of course, went on to win the national championship, while Baylor and TCU were left to wonder “What if?”

The only way to play a 13th game in college football without having the luxury of a conference championship game is to schedule a road game at Hawaii. Teams that do that are allowed to schedule one additional home game on top of a traditional 12-game schedule to make up for travel expenses.

I’m getting to the point where I just want Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly to start dropping names of programs and saying they need to go independent, just to mix things up.

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Uniform round-up: Air Force, Bowling Green and USF show off new looks for 2015

Navy at Air Force

While we hit an off day on the college football media day calendar on Monday, some athletics programs were busy pumping out some photos and video of new uniforms to be worn this upcoming season. While the tease continues for the new brand look of Arizona State presented by Adidas, Air Force, Bowling Green and USF gave fans a glimpse of what is to come this fall with their programs.

AIR FORCE

This is the kind of look you want to see from a service academy program. It is clean, sharp and nowhere close to being an embarrassment gone overboard just to attract some buzz. Air Force’s new uniforms are the latest in the line of Nike’s Pro Combat series (appropriate name of course). The Mach Speed line features lightweight fabric and allows for maximum ventilation for the players. Let’s stick to the basics though, because that is what Air Force did here. The signature white helmet with the blue lightning bolt is untouched. The uniforms for home and away are either blue with gray numbers and letters reading “Air Force” across the chest or white with numbers and lettering in blue. Nothing out of the ordinary, and Air Force even looks good with switching up the pants at home. When it comes to uniforms, Army, Navy and Air Force just seem to get it right every time by sticking to their individual programs and characteristics. It’s nice to see.

BOWLING GREEN

So here’s the thing I never understood with Bowling Green. The color green is right there in the name of the school, yet the school continues to emulate the look of the Cleveland Browns with orange and brown. This isn’t like the Netherlands adopting orange as the nation’s color either. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Cleveland Browns uniform is actually rather good, but why does Bowling Green have to use the same basic look? Whatever the case may be, if these are the colors Bowling green is going to rock, then at least they seem to do it well. I am not a fan of the all-brown attire, but the orange jersey seems to look pretty good. The helmet, both orange and white, are pretty solid as well.

USF

OK, there is a lot to digest here, and there are actually more combos that were shared that I left out. First off, kudos to the folks at Under Armour for giving USF so many decent uniforms. Is it too much? Yeah, it may be. A program attempting to establish an identity can get a little distracted along the way to trying to be Florida’s version of Oregon, but hey, whatever works. As far as the uniforms go, we see a home uniform with a white helmet that looks legit. I have been a big fan of USF’s white helmet and it seems to pair well with the uniform shown here, even if the side of the uniform seems to be getting a little busy. We also see a home uniform paired with the green matte helmet with reflective chrome logo that has been blown up in size. I was never a huge fan of that helmet, but it is far from the most offensive helmet out there. That chrome helmet though, is a thing of beauty. It seems hard to mess up a chrome helmet.

The uniform that may catch your eye the most may be the retro-style USF uniform. Mind you, this is not a throwback, but more of an attempt to give the USF uniform a 1970s vibe on the shoulder pads. That’s my reaction to it at least. You know what? I kind of dig it. The photos pair it with the white USF helmet, but I would love to see USF throw together a 1970s style logo on a matte-finish helmet to complete the look.

What do you think about these new uniforms for Air Force, Bowling Green or USF?

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UNC QB Marquise Williams, WR Quinshad Davis cleared for fall practices

Marquise Williams

North Carolina’s dual-threat quarterback has been cleared to go for fall practices. That is a very good sign for UNC head coach Larry Fedora and his offense.

Fedora confirmed quarterback Marquise Williams and wide receiver Quinshad Davis have each been 100 percent cleared by medical staff to participate in fall camp. That gives the Tar Heels two key players on the offense that is expected by some to have a strong season in the ACC Coastal Division, perhaps even helping North Carolina to make a run to the ACC Championship Game.

Williams suffered a hip injury that kept him out of spring practices. Williams is coming off a 3,000-yard passing season, going for 3,073 passing yards with 21 touchdowns to nine interceptions. In addition to his passing production last fall, Williams also rushed for a team-high 783 yards and 13 touchdowns to give opposing defensive coordinators a little more to think about.

Davis, rebounding form a leg injury, was UNC’s third-leading receiver last fall, accounting for 470 receiving yards and six touchdowns (good for second on the team). The senior is expected to be another contributor on offense this season along with Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins, UNC’s two leading receivers in 2014.

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Boise State carries Group of 5 banner with it to Mountain West media days

Mountain West Championship

Boise State has gone from perennial BCS busting candidate to the new team to beat in the Group of Five conversation. The postseason format may have evolved to open a door for the non-power conference schools, but Boise State remains the program the rest are chasing in pursuit of a spot in the New Years Six line-up. As the Mountain West Conference gets ready to begin its annual media day event in Las Vegas, Boise State will be under a familiar spotlight.

The preseason Mountain West Conference poll will be released tomorrow. When it is, expect Boise State to be on top. We won’t hear from Boise State head coach Bryan Harsin and the Bronco player representatives until Wednesday, but questions about being the favorites and the New Years Six figure to be fired in their direction when they do meet the press. This has become the norm for Boise State. While dreams of receiving an invitation to the Big 12 will be left unfilled, Boise State has established itself as a program  in a terrific spot to be in the big money bowls at the end of the season under the new postseason format with the College Football Playoff. The strength of the Mountain West Conference plays in Boise State’s favor, as the champion out of the conference figures to have a healthier profile than a conference champion from Conference USA or the Sun Belt Conference, and more often than not the champion out of the MAC.

Who will be the biggest threat to Boise State this season? Outside of a healthy Chuckie Keeton and Utah State and perhaps San Diego State out of the West Division, Boise State fans should be paying close attention to the developments in the American Athletic Conference. Cincinnati and Houston could be the biggest challengers competing indirectly with the Broncos. As Boise State fans are well aware, there is no time to waste comparing what Boise State does with what happens in other conferences if Boise State does not take care of its own business.

Boise State coudl make for a very interesting conversation as the season plays out if it gets off to a strong start. Ironically, that begins with a home game against Washington, coached by former Boise State coach Chris Petersen. If Boise State can send its old coach back home with a loss, and follows that with road wins at BYU and Virginia, the thought of a 12-0 Boise State making for a heated College Football Playoff debate will become all the more likely. Forget about locking up a spot in the New Years Six. Boise State fans will be thinking about the playoff itself, and they will even have a conference championship game to help boost them into the field.

There will be much to watch in Boise this season, and the mentality of the potential favorites will be shown this week.

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Football writers and National Football Foundation continue weekly poll in 2015

Urban Meyer, Eva Parziale

In case you thought there were not enough polls in the world of college football, the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation will once again cook up another weekly poll this season. The two organizations announced today the continuation of the Super 16 Poll, which will rank the top 16 teams in the country as determined by a poll of selected sportswriters, College Football Hall of Famers and NFF board members. The first poll will come your way on Tuesday, September 8 and will be released on a weekly basis every Sunday morning during the course of the regular season.

“We are proud to continue our partnership with the FWAA on the Super 16 Poll,” said NFF President & CEO <Steve Hatchell. “We received lots of positive feedback during the 2014 season from fans on how much they enjoyed the poll’s release each week, and we’re looking to expand upon that momentum. We believe that our voters offer an extremely credible set of opinions, and we hope that the combined respect of both our organizations will continue to provide a compelling reference point for fans to follow during the season.”

The cast of characters voting in this year’s weekly poll have not been announced yet, but should be released prior to the start of the season.

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Big Ten has momentum leading into media days, but will it last?

Jim Delany

For the first time in what seems like a generation, the Big Ten seems to be sitting high and mighty in the world of college football as it prepares for its annual media day event in Chicago later this week. After hearing coaches and players and more from similar media day events in the SEC, ACC and Big 12, the Big Ten will finally get a chance to respond and address some of the larger discussions regarding college football in 2015. The Big Ten has plenty of reason to be proud this season, but the big question should be how the Big Ten can follow up the success of a season ago.

Ohio State will roll into Chicago as the defending conference and national champions, and high expectations for Urban Meyer, Joey Bosa, Ezekiel Eliott, Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett (and position-changing Braxton Miller) and company in the playoff hunt with a target on their backs in 2015. Michigan will introduce new head coach Jim Harbaugh to the Big Ten world. Wisconsin and Nebraska will once again be top threats out of the Big Ten West, although with new head coaches leading the charge. The conference’s newest additions, Rutgers and Maryland, are entering year two and looking to prove last season’s bowl trips were no fluke. Yes, commissioner Jim Delany has much to brag about following the Big Ten’s most successful bowl season in years, headlined by Ohio State’s championship run with Michigan State’s Cotton Bowl victory (not to mention a winning bowl record against the ACC and Big 12 and breaking even with the SEC (the Big Ten went 1-2 against the Pac-12, but that one was pretty noteworthy).

Delany will once again sit in front of a microphone before the media to present his annual state of the Big Ten address, at which time he has been known to delve into some American history as a tangent to his overall points about the NCAA and the Big Ten. Delany will be expected to offer his latest comments on the College Football Playoff (bank on him being fine with things the way they are), the dreaded satellite camp issue and defend the stature of the Big Ten after the conference was the target of some SEC folks in recent weeks. In other words, expect the usual. Even with a national title and a second New Years Six bowl victory, the Big Ten will have to defend its image to some. But media days will not be the place to do it properly. That test must be taken int he early going of the 2015 college football season.

bigtenlogoMany were quick to write the Big Ten off last season just two weeks into the year after a dreadful Week 2 showing by the conference in its biggest spotlight games. Ohio State lost at home to Virginia Tech. Michigan State let one get away at Oregon. Michigan was taken down by Notre Dame. It was a rough week, but the conference rebounded along the way and flew under the radar until the bowl season. Now the Big Ten must look to avoid a slow start this fall in order to keep the momentum going forward, instead of taking a step back.

Wisconsin faces Alabama in Arlington in the Cowboy Classic. Michigan opens at Utah. Ohio State begins at Virginia Tech. Minnesota hosts TCU in the season opener. Nebraska will welcome BYU to Lincoln. These are the noteworthy tests for the Big Ten early on. Going 4-1 in these games alone would be a respectable start to the new year. A 3-2 mark would still be a step in the right direction. Anything less would not be so kind in the eyes of some critics. There will be  other notable games as well (Illinois at North Carolina, Iowa vs. Pittsburgh, Nebraska at Miami, Maryland at West Virginia, Michigan vs. BYU) well worth paying attention to, as the reputation of the Big Ten will be put to the test by more than just Ohio State and Michigan State (who hosts Oregon in Week 2).

Will the Big Ten jump ahead of the rest of the power conferences in the opening weeks, or will some be quick to cast the Big Ten aside once more? That should be the message Delany sends to the conference this week. The work is just beginning.

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