Recently, former Big Ten player and coach turned analyst Glen Mason was interviewed by the Big Ten Network on the behalf of DISH. With the Big Ten season upon us, Mason shares his candid thoughts on everything Big Ten, from Heisman predictions and teams to watch, to his take on the best players in the conference and even his favorite stadiums to visit.
- Last season the Big Ten missed the College Football Playoff. What is your expectation for this season in terms of a Big Ten team returning to the College Football Playoff – Do you have any preseason favorites that you expect to be in the hunt?
Glen: “Well, first of all, I do anticipate that we’ll have at least one team in the college football playoff. I think it is almost universally recognized that the Big Ten is the toughest and most competitive conference in football this year with the East Division being the most competitive division in college football, and I think it’s going to be quite a race. If I had to pick a team right now, which is not easy to do, I would say Wisconsin. They have an outstanding football team coming back, they play in the West Division which is a little bit easier than the East Division, they’ve made a habit of finding their way to Indianapolis and if they can win that game – they’ve been knocking on the door for an awful long time now – I think this is the year they’ll get it open.”
- The Big Ten East Division always seems to come down to a key handful of must-win games. What matchups do you have an eye on as you look at the schedule?
Glen: “I think most weeks are going to be very interesting but a couple weeks jump at me: September 29, Ohio State at Penn State. That’ll be Ohio State’s first real test of the year on the road, Happy Valley, playing at night, White Out game. They’ve had trouble with Penn State in that environment in recent history and I think that’ll be critical to them as far as achieving what people expect. October 22, Wisconsin at Iowa. Kinnick Stadium is tough to play. Most people think that for Wisconsin, the West Division is theirs to lose, but if there is a team that could contend, it would be Iowa. Then last, but not least, October 20, Michigan at Michigan State. All of these games are relatively early in the year but Michigan has an awful, awful tough schedule. If they lose that game I think they’re history and I think for Michigan State, with all the returning players they have coming back for them, to be able to really make a run of it in November, they’ve got to win that game.”
- Wisconsin has been a consistent powerhouse in the Big Ten West Division and fell just short of a Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff appearance. Given their consistent performance – do you expect a similar run by the Badgers in 2018 and do you think this could be the year for Wisconsin to take that next step towards appearing in the playoff?
Glen: “Yeah, I do. Consistency is the key word here. You know, they’ve had some great years, but I can’t remember a stretch that they’ve had where they’ve been that consistent. You know, three years running, ten games, eleven games, thirteen games winning and they’ve got some outstanding players and I think maybe the X-factor is two-fold: one, can they continue to play the consistent defense that they’ve been playing, because they lost a lot of guys there, and then at quarterback, Alex Hornibrook, who’s a talented guy, has lacked some consistency. If he can get consistent and quit throwing interceptions I think this could be their year.”
- Which players around the league do you expect to be Heisman Trophy contenders?
Glen: “I tell you, there’s a number of guys that come up, but it’s hard to overlook Jonathan Taylor, the running back from Wisconsin. I mean, you know, I think there will be a watchful eye, how fast can he get to 2,000 yards rushing this year? Why? Because he’s awful good. They might possibly have the best offensive line in football and they feed off that run. I think you’ve got to look at Trace McSorley at Penn State, if they can continue to win the way that they’ve been winning. Then I think that there’s some other names that’ll get thrown around that do not play typical positions that get that serious contention. Nick Bosa at Ohio State playing defensive end, a lot of people are saying that he’s better than Joey Bosa, which is a mouthful. I think it’ll be an interesting year.”
- Which Big Ten team do you expect to make the biggest improvement this season, compared to 2017? Why?
Glen: “I look for Nebraska, and I say that for one reason: Scott Frost. He understands Nebraska. I think that the last couple of years Nebraska has very much been an underachiever based on the talent that they’ve had, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I think they’ll be well-coached, they’ll play with a true-freshman quarterback, but I really believe they’ll play better defense, they’ll be fundamentally more sound and more consistent and I look for them, not to be great, not to get back to where all the Cornhuskers want them to get, but I think that they’ll be very, very respectable this year which hasn’t been the case in previous years.”
- Which player from around the league do you expect to have a breakout year? Any freshman or newcomers to keep an eye on?
Glen: “I know there’s three teams that’ll be hoping that some freshman will have a breakout year because we have three teams that are starting true-freshmen. Then the other end of the spectrum you’ve got one team, the University of Michigan, that has a transfer quarterback from Ole Miss in Shea Patterson and I think for Michigan to be able to contend – and to contend will be tough because they’ve got maybe the toughest schedule in college football – Shea Patterson is going to have to be as good as advertised.”
- You’ve traveled to every campus as a head coach and calling games for BTN. What is your favorite Big Ten town and why?
Glen: “My favorite Big Ten town? I like ‘em all, you know, you’re trying to get me in trouble here. It’s hard for me not to say Columbus, Ohio and Ohio State because, you know, that’s my alma mater. But I can tell you working for BTN, when I get assigned to Happy Valley, I love it. When I get assigned to Madison and go do a game at Camp Randall, I love it. I love going to Nebraska, I think that they’ve sold out every game since 1962 which is truly amazing and they’re all dressed in red. I think that the University of Iowa with Kinnick Stadium is a really unique place, so it’s hard for me just to choose one.”
- In your opinion, what’s the biggest value that Big Ten Network provides to college football fans?
Glen: “Access. Not only the ability to watch their favorite team play all sports. One of the byproducts of having our own network was the sports that normally wouldn’t get on TV, non-revenue sports, both men and women, now they’re getting their exposure but I also think BTN does an excellent job of giving our loyal fans a look behind scenes a lot of times, and I think they really appreciate it.”
Catch Glen Mason every Saturday by tuning in to the Big Ten Network on DISH. Find out more info. about the Big Ten Network here. Keep up on all the Big Ten action during the day with DISH’s Gamefinder feature and track multiple games at once so you can follow all Big Ten action. DISH and the Big Ten Network make a winning combo.