Spartan Nation talked to various Coaches around the Big Ten, Tuesday.Â Here are highlights and insight from around the league to get you ready for the Conferenceâ€™s opening weekend.
On the key matchups of the Michigan St.-Wisconsin game:
â€œObviously when you play Wisconsin, youâ€™re going to have to win up front.Â Theyâ€™re going to look to establish the runâ€¦Their run sets up their pass situations sometimesâ€¦(Scott) Tolzien is an outstanding Quarterback, a very high percentage thrower.Â When you look at them Offensively, weâ€™ve got to win with our â€œfront sevenâ€ against their running attackâ€¦Weâ€™ve got to put them in long yardage situations at some point, and win there.
On the Offensive side of the ball, we have to control the tempo, we have to stay balanced, as we have, and use all our skill.Â I think we have outstanding skillâ€¦Special Teams is obviously going to be key, and I think the â€œX Factorâ€ is playing at Spartan Stadium, with our fans. â€
On whether he learned anything new about his team from the unique perspective of watching the Northern Colorado game on television:
â€œI donâ€™t know if itâ€™s, â€œdid I learn anything,â€ or did it basically cement what we already knew, that there is a system in place here.Â Our coordinators have been with us now, or with me as a Head Coach, for seven years.Â Iâ€™ve known these guys for a long time, our Assistants, and the way we do thingsâ€¦This is a program, this is not one person, and I think thatâ€™s the important thing to remember.â€
On his impressions of the Spartan Offense:
â€œI felt that theyâ€™re much improved in Offensive Line play.Â Number 77 (Rs.-Sr. Jâ€™Michael Deane) is as good a lineman as weâ€™ve seen to this pointâ€¦They have a Tight End, 83 (Rs.-Sr. Charlie Gantt) who does a really good job in a variety of different ways for them, and thatâ€™s a position thatâ€™s always been a strength.Â As receivers, 82, Keyshawn, (Martin) does everything for them.Â (Kirk) Cousins is playing as high as Iâ€™ve seen him on film: the execution, the touch is on the ball, the finesse, the detailâ€¦The biggest jump from what I can tell from a year ago to this yearâ€¦is the three Running Backs (The BBC), they all kinda have a little different twist on the game, but theyâ€™re all young and theyâ€™ve got really good talent.â€
On the importance of matching a Home teamâ€™s intensity when playing on the road in the Big Ten:
â€œWhat we really try to stress here is that no matter where you play, itâ€™s the 100 yards on the field, and end zones on both ends, and 11 guys that go out for both sides of the field, that are going to determine itâ€¦but you canâ€™t be obliviousâ€¦weâ€™ll definitely educate them (his team) on the finer points of winning on the road in the Big Ten.â€
On how his program avoids complacency despite their recent Big Ten domination:
â€œThe thing that we try to teach within everything that our kids are a part of is that passion to become the best you can beâ€¦and that there are certain things that you have to do, and certain things that youâ€™d better not do.Â One of those things that youâ€™d better not do is become satisfied or complacent.Â If you do, youâ€™re going to see that youâ€™ll have trouble progressing.Â But weâ€™re all humanâ€¦sometimes â€œlifeâ€ teaches it, other times you try to get it across and they (players) can logically understand itâ€¦Itâ€™s a great challenge, but itâ€™s fun.â€
On the importance of having a QB with an â€œeven keeledâ€ mentality to handle the expectations and attention of Ohio St. Football:
â€œThat will be our key, leadership across the board, most especially from the Quarterback position.Â When Terrell was a young guy, as a Freshmen pretty much thrust into an older huddle, he was just trying to figure out what the plays were and where our guys were going.Â Then as last year came along, he had a good handle on what we were doing and he was trying to figure out what Defenses were doing.Â Now as a veteran guy, you hope that heâ€™s got a decent handle on what weâ€™re doing and what they (Defenses) are doing, and he can also be a consistent, even keeled guy, so that as other players look at him and look to him, that he exudes that confidence that perhaps, even though itâ€™s not going wonderfully at this moment, just stick with our fundamentals and we can get betterâ€¦Thatâ€™s the natural progression we need him to makeâ€¦We need him to be very good.â€
On whether he tends to game plan more based on the Wolverinesâ€™ strengths, or directly at an opponentâ€™s weaknesses:
â€œI think itâ€™s a little bit of both.Â Normally, you look within firstâ€¦What can you execute well, what do you need to do, what kind of players do you have, what can they do?â€¦But youâ€™ve gotta pay attention to what theyâ€™re (an opponent) doing well, because they can alter some of your thinking.â€
On whether he views playing the Big Ten schedule differently in year 3 than he did in year 1 as the Michigan Head Coach:
â€œNoâ€¦I think every coach, when youâ€™re involved in a conference, probably views your league games as having added importanceâ€¦Most schools will set their goals as competing for their league championship first and foremostâ€¦Iâ€™ve always done that everywhere Iâ€™ve beenâ€¦You talk about your league games the most in the offseasonâ€¦and certainly this yearâ€™s been the same as the last few years for us.â€
On the value of a game changer like WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos to the Iowa Offensive attack:
â€œUnless you just run the ball every snapâ€¦but even with â€œoptionâ€ teams Iâ€™d argue itâ€™s probably trueâ€¦itâ€™s good to have good receiversâ€¦Itâ€™s really hard to do just one thing (run or pass exclusively), so youâ€™d better have some help on the outside.â€
On an assessment of the Iowa run Defense heading into a stretch of games against the Big Tenâ€™s best rushing teams (Penn St., Michigan, Wisconsin, Michigan St.):
â€œWe really havenâ€™t faced anybody (yet) that was really committed to running the footballâ€¦Weâ€™re going out find out this week (how good the Iowa run Defense is), weâ€™re playing a back (Penn St. Sr. RB Evan Royster) thatâ€™s not only all-league, but all world, so weâ€™d better be ready to go.â€
On how heâ€™s coping with the Gophersâ€™ poor 1-3 start:
â€œIâ€™m so immersed in my job and trying to help these kidsâ€¦You know, I live and die with these players.Â Obviously at 1-3, thereâ€™s great disappointment there, but again thereâ€™s great hope there because weâ€™re close.Â Those 3 losses very easily couldâ€™ve been victoriesâ€¦Iâ€™ve got great conviction and belief in what weâ€™re doing, and most importantly I believe greatly in our players.Â Weâ€™re gonna have a chance to make a run here in the Big Ten, and we couldnâ€™t be more excited to get it started on Saturday.â€
P.A.T. (Perhaps Another Thoughtâ€¦)
- The NFL should change its scheduling policy to be more like the NCAAâ€™s Big Dance by having games end throughout the day Sunday.Â NFL games should start games at 1:00 and 4:00 local time, based on the time zone, instead of universally kicking off at 1:00 and 4:00 Eastern, no matter what the time zone.Â Instead of the dayâ€™s early and late games all going at the essentially the exact same time, games should start and end at different times throughout the afternoon.Â Remember how the first weekend of the Big Dance seems like it features dramatic ending after dramatic ending?Â Thatâ€™s not totally by accident.Â Itâ€™s also by design, with the varied tip off times.Â The NFL should not fear the different mainland time zones, but rather embrace them to build an even better and more accessible product for their fans.
- The NFL should reform their Pass Interference (PI) rule.Â Instead of Pass Interference penalties always being spotted at the point of the foul, the NFL should categorize the infraction to make things a bit fairer to the Defense.Â If the line of scrimmage is on the Offenseâ€™s side of the 50, any PI penalty should be 15 yards and an automatic 1st down only, essentially mirroring the NCAA rule.Â But if a PI call is made with the line of scrimmage past the 50 (on the Defenseâ€™s side of the field), the penalty should remain â€œat the spot of the foul.â€Â This would discourage the outrageous 50+ yard PI penalty, and encourage a Defense to play more aggressive without the overwhelming fear that theyâ€™re always on the edge of a game changing penalty.