If 2016 was the year everyone recognized the Big Ten was “back,” and 2017 was the year the Big Ten was shut out of the playoff, what might 2018 be?
Pretty promising based on USA Today’s freshman All-America team. Maybe next season is the year the Big Ten gets back to being “back.”
As you probably already know, Nebraska’s JD Spielman made the 25-man team as a wide receiver. “Spielman was perhaps the lone bright spot during Nebraska’s otherwise dismal season, setting up the freshman as a future star in the Big Ten,” Paul Myerberg wrote of Spielman’s selection.
I don’t know about being the “lone” bright spot, but Spielman may have been the brightest, and he definitely does appear to be a future star. That was actually my takeaway from the list: Look at the potential future of the Big Ten.
The conference had five others make the list, including a sweep of the running back spot thanks to Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. The latter was also named an All-American (no class qualifier needed) by USA Today after leading the conference in rushing. Badgers center Tyler Biadasz also made the list on offense.
Defensively, the Big Ten’s all-freshman representation came from just one team — Northwestern. Wildcats defensive lineman Sam Miller earned a nod after tallying 8.5 tackles for loss, including 5.5 sacks. Linebacker Paddy Fisher became the first freshman linebacker in the Big Ten to have 100-plus tackles (110) since 2011 and made the team, too.
Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but 2018 should be an interesting season in the Big Ten. Ohio State will probably be Ohio State again. Michigan will get a ton of preseason love after taking its (relative) lumps this season with a young roster, and it is likely (pending a transfer waiver granting immediate eligibility) getting an upgrade at quarterback with Ole Miss’s Shea Patterson coming to Ann Arbor. Michigan State rebounded in 2017 and most of its key contributors will be back. Penn State will have some questions to answer following the departures of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead and running back Saquon Barkley, but its 2017 season, which has probably been undervalued, will earn it residual respect in the summer to come.
In the West, Wisconsin isn’t going anywhere. Northwestern should be set up well to be a division contender again. Purdue hung on to Jeff Brohm, which is the best thing it could've done, and it will be interesting to see where Minnesota goes in year two under P.J. Fleck. Nebraska might be the wild card on this half of the conference. How good can the Huskers be in year one under Scott Frost?
There’s still a lot that can change between now and next August, which is why I almost always regret even peeking ahead this early but given the young talent in the conference, not to mention an already-good group of coaches that got stronger with the addition of Frost, 2018 looks like a fun one in the Big Ten.
The Grab Bag
- ICYMI: USA Volleyball is coming to Lincoln this spring. Sticking with volleyball, Nebraska made its way to Kansas City last night for the Final Four, but not before John Cook spoke about the Penn State match.
- I spoke with Randy York of Huskers.com about Nebraska's 2017 volleyball season and some of the philosophies Cook laid out in "Dream Like a Champion." Jon Johnston of Corn Nation also reviewed the book here.
- Nebraska's top target at quarterback for the 2018 class, Adrian Martinez, spoke with his hometown paper about his upcoming decision.
- Tennessee released the memorandum of understanding it had in place with Greg Schiano.
Today's Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.