Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz is breathing a little easier today.
That's because former IU wideout James Hardy inked a four-year, $4 million deal with the Buffalo Bills, providing the Hawkeyes' coach with further evidence he won't have to come up with a way to cover the 6'6" wideout when the two teams meet Oct. 11.
"We haven't covered him in three years," Ferentz said Thursday in Chicago at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. "I don't know if he had poison ivy or what it was, but we didn't come close."
In three games against Iowa Hardy totaled 24 catches for 420 yards and five touchdowns. He had at least 100 receiving yards in each of the three games, including 113 in last season's 38-20 Hoosier win in Iowa City. That victory put Indiana in position to go to its first bowl game since 1993, while the loss helped put the Hawkeyes in an early-season hole.
"We had a very tough occasion and that really kind of got us going on a downward spiral that season," Ferentz said.
When the two teams meet in October the Hoosiers will be looking for their third consecutive win against Iowa, and Ferentz said his team will have its work cut out for it to keep that from happening – even in the post-James Hardy era.
"It's going to be a tough road game in the Big Ten and we'll have to be our absolute best to compete that way," Ferentz said.
According to Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, the Big Ten won't be expanding anytime soon.
Ever since the conference brought in Penn State as its 11th member, there's been speculation about adding a 12th team and possibly going to two football divisions like many of the major conferences have done. But Delany said there's nothing like that on the table.
"There's no expansion on the horizon," Delany said at the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon. "I'll sort of pre-empt that question. I think that's come up in 19 of the 20 years. The only year it didn't come up was the year before it happened with Penn State. But I don't expect that we'll be expanding any time soon."
Ohio State freshman Terrelle Pryor was the most talked-about recruit in the nation last season, but two Big Ten coaches have very little interest in talking about him.
That's because both Penn State Coach Joe Paterno and Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez were in the Pryor sweepstakes last spring before losing out to OSU's Jim Tressel for the nation's top-ranked quarterback. Now, they're looking at the possibility of playing him for the next three or four years.
"I don't think that's my decision to make," Paterno said. "In fact, I think that's a dumb question to be honest with you, even though you are a Penn State graduate. I think that's up to Jimmy. He has got to figure out how that fits in with what his people are. I have absolutely no idea."
Rodriguez had hoped to land Pryor as part of his first Michigan recruiting class and potentially use him to replace Chad Henne under center, and he was equally uninterested in sharing his thoughts on the 6-6, 225-pounder from Jeanette, Penn.
"I only talk about the players that play for Michigan," Rodriguez said.
Tressel was a little more willing to talk about the impact Pryor could make. The Buckeye coach returns 20 starters from last year's Big Ten championship squad including quarterback Todd Boeckman, but indications are Pryor will be a part of the Buckeyes' plans.
"August 4th he gets to start practicing. He's going to be incorporated into our offense that day," Tressel said.
Paterno knows when he wants to retire from Penn State.
"I'd like to retire when I feel as if I cannot make a contribution to Penn State," Paterno said Thursday.
Of course, no one knows when that time will come, including Paterno. The 81-year-old is the second winningest coach in Division I history, and he'll get his 43rd season as PSU's head coach underway next month. While his teams haven't been as dominant in recent years as they were in the 1970s and 1980s, the Nittany Lions were picked to finish third this season by the league media.
In spite of the continued success, there's annual speculation about if and when Paterno should step down from a program that he's worked at for the past 58 years.
Whenever the time comes, Paterno says his hope is he'll be leaving behind a great situation for the next coach, as it was when he inherited the job from Rip Engle in 1966.
"When Rip Engle retired and gave me a shot, he left an awful lot of meat on the bones," Paterno said. "I inherited a really good football team, and Rip knew that and Rip didn't get out of it because it was worthless. I hope I can do the same thing whenever I decide to get out of it."
But when will that time come?
"I don't know," Paterno said when asked if there was a scenario that could play out this season that would make it the right time to step down. "I don't know. Let me spell it. I, D-O-N-T, and final – I don't know. How many times can I say it?"
Bill Lynch isn't interested in playing an games at Indianapolis' new Lucas Oil Stadium anytime soon.
The Hoosiers will be playing eight home games this year, more than any IU team has ever played in Bloomington. Some have thought the Colts' new arena might be a great venue to play a game to attract fans from Indianapolis and its surrounding cities, but Lynch is content to "Defend the Rock" for the time being.
"We want every game in Bloomington we can possibly have," Lynch said. "There's talk about that and they have a tremendous stadium built there, but…something we talk about all the time is we have to defend the rock, being our home stadium.
"Down the road you can look where you could possibly play a game, but we're proud to play in Bloomington and we want to play there as often as we can."
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