Rutgers Scarlet Knights

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 15: J.T. Barrett #16 of the Ohio State Buckeyes carries the football during the first quarter of the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers on November 15, 2014 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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CFT Previews: The Big Ten

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If there was ever a season the Big Ten looked like the Big Two and the Little Ten, this was it. Michigan State is reloading, while the rest of the conference scraps for space amongst themselves as Ohio State and Michigan take off into their own stratosphere.

Here’s a quick glance at how we think the Big Ten shakes out.

EAST
1. Ohio State (12-1 overall in 2015, 7-1 Big Ten): Losing all but six of your 22 starters would be a problem for anyone but Ohio State. If the 2014 team played like a pack of lions, the 2015 bunch was a pack of lions playing with a belly full of antelope: the ability was there, the desire wasn’t. This year’s group is just as talented, they just haven’t had the chance to prove it yet.

2. Michigan (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Many think next year will be The Year for Michigan. Jim Harbaugh doesn’t like working on other people’s timelines. I like this year’s team to lose to Ohio State but still reach the College Football Playoff.

3. Michigan State (12-2, 7-1 Big Ten): Seemingly every year Michigan State reaches a height previously thought to be unattainable, but last year’s second-in-three-years Big Ten championship and CFP appearance feels like the farthest Mark Dantonio can take this team now that Michigan is no longer out to a decade-long lunch.

4. Penn State (7-6, 4-4 Big Ten): With college football’s most miserable marriage of James Franklin and Christian Hackenberg at long last over, this should be the year Penn State starts to look like the Penn State Franklin wants it to be, especially with Joe Moorhead running the offense. The residual effects of the sanctions, though, say 2017 may be more like it.

5. Maryland (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten): Might as well place a giant “Under Construction” sign out side the program as D.J. Durkin works to build Maryland into a program after Jim Harbaugh‘s image.

6. Rutgers (3-9, 1-7 Big Ten): Ditto as above, but with an even larger “Under Construction” sign and Harbaugh’s mug crossed out from it and Urban Meyer‘s pasted crudely on top.

7. Indiana (6-7, 2-7 Big Ten): Kevin Wilson has done some nice things in Bloomington. He’s run the ball as well as anyone in the conference, he put a scare into Ohio State last season and he took the Hooisers to a bowl game. The rest of the Big Ten East is getting better, though, and Indiana is, well, Indiana.

WEST (A.K.A.: THE BIGGEST TOSS-UP IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL)
1. Nebraska (6-7, 3-5 Big Ten): In a division that will largely come down to who gets lucky at the right time, go with a team whose luck is due to flip after losing six one-score games in 2015.

2. Northwestern (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Normally Northwestern takes a tumble after Pat Fitzgerald‘s bunch builds to a 10-win peak, needing to reload after losing the bulk of a senior-laden team. The 2016 Wildcats bring back enough to contend again.

3. Iowa (12-2, 8-0 Big Ten): Kirk Ferentz‘s teams zig when they’re supposed to zag, and zag when they’re supposed to zig. Last year’s undefeated regular season, coming one stop shy of an improbable Cotton Bowl run, was a zig. Most expect the Hawkeyes to zig again this year. We know better.

4. Wisconsin (10-3, 6-2 Big Ten): Feels like Paul Chryst, while a solid coach, will only take the Badgers to heights seen previously under Gary Andersen and Bret Bielema, but not above them.

5. Illinois (5-7, 2-6 Big Ten): New AD Josh Whitman made a bold move in hiring longtime NFL coach Lovie Smith to head a program to which he had no prior connection. Building the Illini to a contender will take time, but keeping Wes Lunt healthy may be all Illinois needs to reach a bowl game this fall.

6. Minnesota (6-7, 2-6 Big Ten): ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit has the Gophers winning the Big Ten West. I’m willing to be wrong in saying he’ll be way, way wrong.

7. Purdue (2-10, 1-7 Big Ten): Make no mistake: this is a make or break year for Darrell Hazell, especially with new AD Mike Bobinski now in place. I think he’ll break.

Washington announces three-game suspension for WR Brayden Lenius

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 17:  Cornerback Ugo Amadi #14 of the Oregon Ducks intercepts a pass against wide receiver Brayden Lenius #81 of the Washington Huskies in the fourth quarter on October 17, 2015 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Ducks defeated the Huskies 26-20.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Washington will be missing one of its top returning pass-catchers for the first quarter of the upcoming season.

Brayden Lenius, head coach Chris Petersen announced, “will not make a contribution the first three games” of 2016.  Other than your standard unspecified violations of team rules, no reason for the three game suspension was given.

The suspension means the wide receiver will miss the opener against Rutgers Sept. 3, and the next two weeks against Idaho and Portland State as well.  Provided he has crawled out of Petersen’s doghouse by then, the 6-5, 231-pound junior would be eligible to return for the Pac-12 opener against Arizona in Tucson Sept. 24.

Last season, Lenius, who started six games, was fourth on the Huskies with 26 receptions and fifth in receiving yards with 307.  His three receiving touchdowns tied with two other players for the team lead.

With the departures of leading receiver Jaydon Mickens (58 catches) and second-leading receiver Joshua Perkins (36) for the NFL, Lenius is UW’s second-leading returning receiver.

B1G announcements: Michigan State, Purdue, Rutgers name starting QBs

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 21:  Quarterback Tyler O'Connor #7 of the Michigan State Spartans looks for running room in the third quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 21, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. Michigan State defeated Ohio State 17-14.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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A trio of Big Ten programs have officially clarified the quarterback position with the season fast approaching.

In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, Michigan State has named Tyler O'Connor as its starter under center.  A senior, O’Connor started MSU’s win over Ohio State last year, replacing the injured Connor Cook.

In 14 career games, O’Connor has completed 34-of-54 passes for 374 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. In the win over OSU, O’Connor hit on seven of his 1 attempts for 89 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, he didn’t turn the ball over.

O’Connor’s main competition for the job had been junior Damion Terry. Mark Dantonio didn’t, however, commit to O’Connor as the season-long starter.

“I think Tyler O’Connor’s our quarterback right now,” the head coach said. “He’s the number one guy, he’s had a good enough camp to say that right now.”

MSU opens the season Sept. 2 against Furman.

Over at Rutgers, Chris Laviano has won the Scarlet Knights’ quarterback competition. Laviano, RU’s returning starter, beat out TCU graduate transfer Zach Allen.

Last season, Laviano completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 2,247 yards, 16 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The completion percentage was the best for an RU player since 2008, while the yardage was good for eighth in school history.

RU will travel to No. 14 Washington Sept. 3 for its opener.

And finally, at Purdue, David Blough was tapped as the starter for the Sept. 3 opener against Eastern Kentucky.  The redshirt sophomore overcame a challenge from Elijah Sindelar to retain his job.

Last season, Blough started eight games for the Boilermakers.

Blough taking over the reins continues the history of change at the position in West Lafayette.

Report: Jim Delany to retire as B1G commish in 2020

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 26:  Commissioner of The Big Ten Conference Jim Delany speaks at The Big Ten Network Kick Off Party at Cipriani 42nd Street on June 26, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Ben Gabbe/Getty Images for Wink Public Relations)
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One of the most powerful men in collegiate athletics is nearing the end of his reign.

During his time at the podium during Big Ten Media Days Tuesday, commissioner Jim Delany hinted very strongly that he would not be around when the conference’s new media rights deal expires in 2022.  In fact, the 68-year-old commish sounded fairly positive that he’ll be somewhere other than the league’s headquarters in Rosemont, Ill., when that deal comes up for negotiations.

“I have a lot of energy and a lot of interest in what’s going on in the college space today,” Delany said. “I will be around for a bit. Whether I’m around here for six years is probably a little bit beyond how I see it.”

A short time later, Nicole Auerbach of USA Today, citing a person with direct knowledge of the situation, reported that Delany will step down in 2020.  Jut when in 2020 Delany would ceded control after more than three decades on the job isn’t clear.

Delany took over as commissioner of the conference in 1989.  Arguably his greatest accomplishment in that role was helping the league to develop the Big Ten Network, an in-house ATM that has helped the conference stay in step with the SEC financially.

During his tenure, he also helped shepherd the Big ten through the maze of expansion, first with Penn State in the early nineties and then with Nebraska in 2011 and Maryland and Rutgers three years later.

2016 early enrollee decides to transfer from Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 21: The mascot of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights leads the team onto the field before their game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
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Jonathan Pollock began his collegiate career early, but he apparently won’t continue it where it started.

After multiple media outlets had reported it, nj.com confirmed through Pollock’s father that his son has decided to transfer away from Chris Ash‘s football program.  Pollock had committed to former head coach Kyle Flood, and remained committed after a conversation with Flood’s replacement, Chris Ash.

Now, though, he’s gone.

“He’s literally on a 6 o’clock flight out [of] there [Thursday],” Al Pollock told the website. “He loves Rutgers. He loves Chris. He loves his teammates. He’s going to miss them. He was committed there for a year and a half and he loved his time there.

“It just didn’t work out.”

Pollock was a three-star member of the Scarlet Knights’ 2016 recruiting class.  He was an early enrollee who participated in spring practice a couple of months ago.

In addition to RU, Pollock held offers from, among others, Indiana, Mississippi State, North Carolina, SMU and USF.

Pollock is the fifth player to transfer (HERE and HERE for two of them) since Ash took over the program last December.  He’s also the second in two days, joining tight end Charles Scarff.