What shall become of the majestic Land Grant Trophy?
Afternoon links as I tap away on Wednesday's donuts. Mark Dantonio expanded today on his claim that this team's chemistry may be as good as any he has encountered. Here are some first-day notes and an interesting revelation from Mark Hollis -- he wants to be in Northwestern's division.
So let's talk a little bit more about that. Hollis wouldn't say much about his plan (he also says he never wrote down his divisions because he doesn't want it to be FOIA'd. Dastardly!), but he did say he doesn't want protected games between divisions. And as our assistant sports editor Barry Kiel pointed out (because I was too dense to figure this out on my own), that means Hollis' plan has MSU in the same division as Michigan and Ohio State. Either that, or he's proposing an end to the annual Buckeyes-Wolverines saga -- something even an MSU guy wouldn't dare utter, I presume, unless he were a masochist who wanted to see how hard Gene Smith can punch.
If the only protected games are within divisions in Hollis' plan, he has MSU with rival Michigan, and Michigan with rival Ohio State. And that's why I'm guessing his plan also has Penn State in the other division. Just a guess, and I know Hollis said that rivalry is "very important" to MSU, but he didn't call it untouchable. I just can't see how he would propose to be stuck with U-M, Ohio State AND Penn State. Penn State's out, Northwestern becomes a newfound rivalry of emerging programs and MSU plays in Chicago every other year. That's my guess, and now I have to figure out a way to FOIA brain waves.
Today involved two hours of round tables with players and coaches, lots of info gathering for the coming weeks. Two more interesting tidbits from Dantonio -- DT Anthony Rashad White is finishing up a class at LCC and then will be good to go for the fall, and he will have three years of eligibility remaining. And Dantonio really talked up walk-on DE Johnathan Strayhorn, who is in much better shape entering camp than he was a year ago. Dantonio said Strayhorn could remind people this season of Jonal Saint-Dic, and that he is a real contender for a starting job.
Now, Top Ten Impressions From Chicago:
1. Jim Delany is going to make a nine-game schedule happen, some coaches aren't happy about it and most programs will probably end up sacrificing a quality nonleague game in response -- although some, such as MSU (Notre Dame), Michigan (Notre Dame) and Illinois (Missouri) have nonleague rivalries and will have to get rid of a cupcake.
2. More expansion is years away.
3. Much was made of Delany's comment Monday that Notre Dame is "not a player," but that just reinforces point No. 2. If and when the move to 16-team leagues happens, Notre Dame will have to find a home, and the Big Ten's arms will be wide open.
4. Ron Zook looks really nervous. As he should.
5. Mark Dantonio is more confident in this team's chances to succeed than he was a year ago for a team that was picked third by Big Ten media (not by me, by the way, as I remind you for the 93rd time).
6. Joe Paterno is very close to the end of an incredible career. Of course, I say that coming out of here every year.
7. The Big Ten people are feeling good about things. The network is flourishing, Nebraska is on the way, the league is coming off a strong bowl performance, the bowl lineup gets better this year, and the Big Ten has been (mostly) scandal-free of late, while trouble pops up rapidly elsewhere.
8. I'd like to see Bill Lynch make it at Indiana. That's reinforced every time I hear the guy talk.
9. Dantonio, Jones and I'm sure many others in the MSU football building are very anxious to see William Gholston throw on some pads and run around next week.
10. Kirk Cousins is already thinking about that Oct. 30 Iowa game. He called last season's loss to the Hawkeyes "probably as tough a loss as I've taken in my athletic career." And don't forget, Cousins grew up on Iowa football -- his grandfather played there and is now an Iowa booster with 50-yard line seats. This will be Cousins' first time at Kinnick Stadium not cheering for the Hawkeyes. He spent many an afternoon in that capacity as a kid. His grandparents, by the way, have promised to provide a green-and-white speck in the middle of the sea of black and gold.