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B1G Uglies: The 3 Big, Big Ten Talking Points
Each Week Phil Harrison, Bart Doan, and Terry Johnson take a look at three hot topics within the Big Ten. It's three writers, each with their own opinion, each a little of his rocker, but always entertaining. It's the weekly B1G Uglies.
The B1G Uglies: 3 BIG TEN HOT POTATOES TO DISCUSS AROUND THE WATERCOOLER
(i) Postseason ban aside, where would you stack-rank Ohio State in the national landscape?
It’s going to be hard to tell even if OSU runs the table in the Big Ten because of the state of affairs in the league. Still, it’s not a stretch to think that Ohio State is a legitimate top-ten team. But that’s where it stops.
Rather shockingly, as good as the Buckeyes looked last week against Nebraska, they have not been able to put a complete game together, and have been inconsistent on both sides of the ball. Also surprising is the the uncharacteristic warts on defense that have popped up. OSU has given way to the big play on both the ground and through the air, and have whiffed on tackles all too often.
Still, it appears as though Ohio State is ahead of schedule in the Urban Meyer plan with talent and scheme beginning to come together. The Buckeyes are likely the best team in the Big Ten, and could put up a fight against almost anyone outside of an Alabama, Oregon, or other (insert top five SEC team) because of the defensive lapses.
They’re a back end top 10 team right now. I know people are down on the B1G, but as with everything in sports these days, it’s overblown, dragged around through nine miles of gravel road, and then beaten with a stick until something else comes along to take the attention away., just like a Tim Tebow story.
Either way, Urban Meyer is in the class of the most elite coaches in the nation, and one of the top, if not the top offensive mind from this recent generation. That’s a guy that has his fire back and has a talented squad that can score on anyone.
The defensive issues are a little bit alarming considering you always think of Ohio State as a defensive bruising, tackling team, but in the spots where it’s needed enough defense, it’s been there.
It’s easy to say “well, OSU’s no better than the least worst of the B1G” when you never have to worry about your argument being proven wrong (since the Buckeyes don’t play in a bowl game). One thing about them though, is that they seem to keep getting better, which means by the end of the year I deviate from Phil’s thought and think they could probably give chase to teams currently ranked in the top 5. Remember, not even half the season is over. There are imposters up there, for sure.
Phil and Bart sound like they’re running for office playing both sides. Make no mistake about it: Ohio State should be No. 8 in the AP Poll. The Buckeyes are 6-0, including wins over Michigan State and Nebraska. That’s as impressive as any other team that’s currently in the Top 10.
The only argument against OSU’s lofty ranking is that the Buckeyes struggled against a relatively soft non-conference slate. While this logic appears sound, bear in mind that the Bucks were still learning the intricacies of Urban Meyer’s spread offense. As with any new system, it takes time to pick things up, which explains the early season woes.
However, once Big Ten play started, Ohio State’s offense ran like a well-oiled machine. The Buckeyes average 441 yards per game in conference play, including an amazing 288 yards on the ground. More impressively, the offense didn’t earn these gaudy stats with a big game against Nebraska; they ran for 204 yards against an aggressive Michigan State team that has the tenth-best rushing defense in the nation.
As long as the offense keeps firing on all cylinders, OSU will remain in the top ten. No other team in the conference has the firepower to trade scores with the scarlet and gray.
(ii) Can Purdue still make its way to Indianapolis despite the awful showing last Saturday?
No question, the answer is yes. I’m stubborn as baseboard, but I have football reasons too. The caveat is that at some point, either the playbook has to open up or the concession needs to be made that Robert Marve should get more tick.
Danny Hope politely “educated” a caller on his radio show that fans don’t see what’s going on in practice and therefore have no real analysis of sorts on who should start. Well, if TerBush really is the better guy, than something’s wrong with the playcalling. I was there Saturday when the place was a powder keg waiting for Marve to warm up and get in there. Finally he did when the game was hopelessly out of hand, much to the Bronx cheer.
Purdue just does not throw the ball downfield against good football teams. Once, I recall it throwing more than 20 yards downfield, in spite of being down multiple possessions quickly. The Boilermakers have the best starting corners in the B1G and at least two NFL players on the DL. But the bubble screens and safe play calls are hamstringing them, and people are noticing.
So if it’s not TerBush, it’s Gary Nord’s calling. It has to be something. Because maybe TerBush is practicing better, but it’s clear as day that Marve needs some sort of role. I say Purdue jabs Wisconsin this week at home and get it done. One thing about Hope and Nord? For all their critics, they’re not shy about yanking someone in game if it’s not working.
It’s a one game playoff, perhaps, in October for the Leaders. Purdue by five.
Playoff?!! Are you kidding me, playoff?!!
No, Purdue will not represent the probation-riddled Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship game despite Bat’s continued attempt to get a lifetime pass to Ross-Aide stadium.
Regardless of what Danny Hope says publicly, the Boilermakers still have problems on offense. While anyone can hang half a hundred on teams like Eastern Michigan and Marshall, only a good offense can do it against a quality opponent.
That's where Purdue comes up short. The offense has stunk against AQ opponents this year, mustering just 15 points per game against Michigan and Notre Dame.
Does that sound a like a team that's capable of beating Wisconsin, which ranks 28th in the nation in total defense?
Even if the Boilermakers manage to beat the Badgers on Saturday -- and that's a big if considering that Wisconsin has won the last six meetings -- they still have a tough road ahead with Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa still on the schedule. Purdue would have to win at least one of those games just finish .500 in conference play.
Could a team with a 4-4 record actually go to the conference championship?
However, given the what's happened in the Big Ten this year, maybe it's time to start expecting the unexpected.
I’ll agree with both Terry and Bart--kinda, sorta.Yes, but not because of some huge bounce back the Boilermakers will enjoy. The reality is that Purdue only has to finish ahead of Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin to punch a ticket to Lucas Oil Stadium.
It’s a near shoe-in that Danny Hope will get his guys through games against the Illini and the Hoosiers because of the discrepancy in talent. That means this upcoming week is the sad elimination tale taking place on the forbidden island that is the Leaders division. Beat Wisconsin, and its like having a two game lead on--well....nobody.
I personally like Wisky to steal the game in Ross-Aide Stadium on Saturday, but then there’s the bigger issue of the Boilermakers having to travel to Columbus to take on an ever-improving Ohio State squad. That means things are looking more unstable than a Charlie Sheen rehab assignment. Still, the chance is alive and well because the game against Wisconsin is at home and could go either way.
You’d be wise not to hedge bets on it though.
(iii) Name one thing that folks should be talking about in the Big Ten, but aren’t?
This one’s simple: Iowa’s newest offensive weapon, Mark Weisman.
Unless you’re a Hawkeye fan, you’re probably asking, “Who’s that?”
Weisman is one of the most positive stories in college football this season. The former walk-on started the season at fullback, and only ran the ball twice during the first two games. However, once Damon Bullock went down against Northern Iowa, Kirk Ferentz turned to Weisman to carry the load.
The switch to TB paid dividends for the offense right away. Weisman finished the game with 114 yards and 3 TDs. His workload increased over the next two weeks as he rushed for 217 yards against Central Michigan, and 177 yards against Minnesota.
In addition, he also leads Big Ten running backs (minimum of 10 carries per game), with a whopping 6.96 yards per carry.
It’s very surprising that more people aren’t talking about Weisman’s story. The tale of a young man that started at the bottom, worked his tail off, and is now reaping the rewards of that hard work is something that should inspire people from all walks of life, not just football fans.
Weisman is a great story, but how about the play of Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin?
The senior appears to have put his beleaguered past behind him this year. Quietly, very quietly, McGloin now leads the Big Ten in passing, has led his team to four straight victories, and has displayed blossoming leadership qualities instead of the hot-tempered antics of the past.
Perhaps we can attribute it to Bill O’Brien’s arrival at Penn State, or maybe its simply a case of McGloin finally realizing his potential through maturity. Whatever the reason, the Nittany Lions are finding a way to delay the slide to the abyss of college football because of the surprising efforts of its signal caller.
And by so doing, the ‘Staters are an actual, real-live threat to do some serious cooking in the Leaders division where the meals are being served ice cold. There is still a long way to go, but McGloin is buying all of the groceries....
Terry and Phil just won’t come over to the dark side. How about those Wolves? Long a soap box of mine, I’ve opined that tougher OOC games come back to help you in the long run, even when you get gutter clubbed, as Michigan did by Alabama and on offense, Notre Dame. Both of those teams are top 10 clubs that Michigan met away from the friendly confines. And now look. One game into a watered down B1G, the Wolves destroyed on the road, what had emerged as sort of the chick pick to win the Leaders (unless you’re me, and you had them first all along because I’m a visionary).
So it’s back to the past, when Michigan entered the season as the favorites now that Nebraska and Michigan State have both taken it hard on the chin in the conference season. Denard Robinson looks back to his old self, and Brady Hoke admitted this week on Dan Dakich’s radio show that Robinson is much better when he looks for those runs. Someone wrote that here last week. Hmmm.
Anyways, chest thumping aside, Michigan’s defense again looks to be peaking in conference season, and with the B1G watered down of sorts in many places, the team everyone had forgotten about by midnight the opening Saturday of college football looks perched to hoist the B1G crown and earn the coveted Rose Bowl bid.
Follow Phil on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN, Bart @Bart_CFN, and Terry @TPJCollFootball