ASK CFN ... How Bad Is The Big Ten?
Ohio State's Brian Rolle
Ohio State's Brian Rolle
Posted Sep 20, 2007

How bad is the Big Ten? Is Ohio State good enough to carry the conference? How good is Florida? How bad is Texas? How good is Graham Harrell compared to Colt Brennan? These questions and more in the latest ASK CFN.

By Pete Fiutak
Fire over your questions to me at I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

For a team that hasn’t lost a game yet, the Texas Longhorns are tall in the disappointment column.  It seems like everyone is just sort of waiting for them to get beat.  Now, I bleed orange so I have a hard time being objective where the ‘Horns are concerned so my question to you is- Are they as bad as they’ve looked?  Do you think that this squad can make vast improvements throughout the season? Do you think they will?  I can’t tell if it’s just missed assignments and mistakes (i.e. things that can be corrected by watching film and good coaching) or if they just aren’t that good…. – CF

A: I’m not exactly sure what’s missing. The offensive line isn’t nearly as good as past Longhorn lines, the linebacking corps hasn’t played well, and the receiving corps full of NFL talent hasn’t made enough things happen. I don’t want to point to something as nebulous as a lack of energy, but it seems like the team is going through the motions. On the plus side, Jamaal Charles is having a nice year, and Colt McCoy has been solid. 3-0 is still 3-0, and things can change in a big hurry with a win in Dallas over Oklahoma in a few weeks.

Past ASK CFNs ...    
- Will Miles run to Michigan?
- Supersized Season Premier of ASK CFN
 The most loved & hated teams
- Is Miami still a power?
- CFN's West Virginia ranking
- Is Booty Heisman-worthy?
- The USC Schedule
- The Big Ten Network
- The most underrated head coach
- The Top Ten NFL receiver prospects 

- Why did Brady Quinn slide?
- The Virginia Tech situation

- Creating a MWest-WAC super-league
Mid-majors who should be in the bigs
The potential new superpower
The 5 best coaching jobs
March Madness for football?
Potential Bowl Shockers
Tim Brewster?
Fox's BCS broadcasts
- Is Brady really better than Russell?
Hot & Cold Bowl Programs
- How ineffective was Reggie Ball?
- A 2007 Top 10 Mock Draft
Can Michigan win a national title?
- BCS possibilities for several teams
- West Virginia schedule, BCS rules
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

- Is Temple worst ever?
- Oklahoma-Oregon fiasco
- Has Bob Stoops lost it?
- Is Colorado done?

After Iowa State's upset over Iowa, does this hurt the Big 10 reputation even more with a sleeper Iowa team losing to a weak Big 12 team.  I am a Cyclones fan, but even I wasn't expecting the win.  Also, how do you think Iowa would fare if they were in the Big 12 with Iowa State's schedule.  I'm thinking they'd be 5-7.  – RP

A: It certainly doesn’t help the cause, but this is what Iowa State does from time to time to Iowa. Remember that 2002 Iowa team that got ripped by USC in the Orange Bowl? It lost to a mediocre Iowa State squad. The 2005 Cyclone team was average, but its defense dominated the Hawkeyes 23-3. This isn’t the strongest of Iowa teams, with major issues on the offensive line, and a lousy receiving corps after getting hit by suspensions. However, the defensive line is special, and will beat a few teams by itself. The ship will be turned around if the Hawkeyes can beat Wisconsin this week. With Iowa State’s schedule, I’d say the Hawkeyes would go 6-6, maybe 7-5. (Kent State, Northern Iowa, Iowa State, in Iowa’s place, at Toledo, at Nebraska, at Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma, at Missouri, Kansas State, Colorado, at Kansas).

I know there have been some bad losses (NW to Duke, Iowa to ISU) and Michigan has sucked, but the Big Ten should get some credit for having the best out-of-conference winning percentage and best out-of-conference winning percentage against BCS conference teams. It's not the best conference , but it's no ACC. I'd also take it over the Big East and Big 12. I think the Big Ten gets ripped on because its teams aren't as "stylish", although it admittedly is a bit disappointing so far. Why are we hearing so many rip on the Big Ten and not the ACC, etc.? - Buckeye Fan in Michigan

A: Along with dumping on Notre Dame, it’s become fashionable to rip on the Big Ten after the Ohio State disaster against Florida in the national title, and Michigan’s problems with USC in the Rose, and, of course, to start out the year. The league gets so much publicity compared to all the other conferences, including the SEC, that everyone likes to dump on it when it’s not that great. However, I’m with you in that the ripping has become mostly unwarranted.

The SEC might be the best conference in America from top to bottom, but there are only two killers (LSU and Florida) and a bunch of good teams. I’d take my chances with Penn State, Wisconsin or Ohio State to finish third in the SEC this year, and I still wouldn’t put it past Michigan, Purdue or if everything broke right, Michigan State, to beat a Georgia, South Carolina or Arkansas.

The Pac 10? It’s getting a lot of love right now because of USC, and Oregon and Cal came up with big wins, but after UCLA’s embarrassment against Utah, Arizona’s loss to New Mexico, Oregon State’s blowout loss to Cincinnati, Washington’s loss to Ohio State and Washington State’s loss to Wisconsin, I’m not sure where the bandwagon is coming from.

Again, I thing the SEC is best because it’s so, so solid from 1 to 12, but the Big Ten is certainly in the mix for second. Purdue is better than you think, Michigan State is solid, Indiana has a dangerous offense (and could be comparable to Vanderbilt in the SEC), Illinois has suddenly become relevant, and Wisconsin (despite the struggles lately), Penn State, and Ohio State are all going to get better as the year goes on. Of course, it doesn’t help the cause when Northwestern loses at home to Duke, Minnesota loses to Florida Atlantic, and Iowa loses to Iowa State. Wait until bowl time, and then it should all wash out. Remember, Wisconsin beat Arkansas and Penn State beat Tennessee in the bowls last year.

What are you honest thoughts on the Gators right now?  You put them at #3 or somewhere else?  Also, I saw your top 5 for the Heisman right now.  Where do you put Tebow?  Harvin?  Thanks. – FT

A: I’m sure I’m going to get killed yet again by Gator fans, who still don’t think their 2006 national title team has gotten enough respect, but I actually like this year’s team a bit better. For all the good things Chris Leak did, an experienced Tim Tebow is an upgrade. The ground game is far better, thanks to an improved running back corps, the field goal kicking is better, and the defense, while certainly inexperienced, and without the same talent in the secondary, is just as fast, and has just as much athleticism. Heisman-wise, I wouldn’t put Harvin in there yet, but Tebow is certainly on the radar with several big games coming up. If he rocks in a win over LSU, he has to be in the top three. Team-wise, put Florida, USC, Oklahoma and LSU in a bag, pull one out, and you probably have the nation’s number one team. At least the Gators are in the discussion.

As a Tennessee fan, I watched Florida hammer the Vols and could think only one thing: why has the national media seemingly ignored Percy Harvin? Tim Tebow threw into double and triple coverage multiple times against Tennessee, but Percy Harvin made the catch. Tim Tebow is called "superman", but most of his play at the quarterback position isn't exceptional: he makes bad reads, poor decisions, is slow to react, and throws into coverage. Tebow is talented, but Harvin is the driving-force in that Florida offense. Harvin is the most dominant player I have ever seen in a Florida uniform and I believe that he is the most dominant player in the SEC. Darren McFadden is good, but Harvin is stunning to watch.
– Brian

A: Tebow’s the main man on the Gators, and he’s playing far, far better than you’re giving him credit for. He’s second in the nation in passing efficiency and tenth in total offense; what else are you looking for? As far as Harvin, yeah, he’s something very, very special. Everyone likes to try to find the next Reggie Bush, and he’s among the new wave of electrifying playmakers like Cal’s DeSean Jackson, who’s a receiver, but can be a killer as a runner, and West Virginia freshman Noel Devine. He’s not a 25-touch type of player, and he’s certainly not McFadden as far as a running back, but he’s a home run threat every time he has the ball. As opposed to being a driving force, he’s more of a momentum changer, able to kill a team with a big play.

When are you guys going to give some pub to Washington State QB Alex Brink?  The guy is about to break all of WSU's career passing records, and has nearly a thousand yards and nine touchdowns the last two weeks (albeit against weak opponents).  With the offensive weapons he has in Bumpus, Gibson, Dillon, Tardy, and Collins, he has the potential to put up some amazing numbers this year in a very strong Pac-10 conference.  Reading around, most non-west coasters probably don't know this guy exists.  If anything, he will lead his team to a bowl despite the preseason predictions of struggles.
– MD

A: Where are the wins? The numbers are certainly nice, but when compared to someone like Jason Gesser, who put up the numbers, got the Cougars to bowl games, and came up with some huge wins, you just can’t put give Brink as much love. As a starter, the best win Brink has come up with was the 37-15 blowout at UCLA last year, when he threw for 405 yards and three scores. I know it’s about the team, and it’s not just about the quarterback, but the Cougars have had so many close calls with Brink at the helm, you have to blame the passer a bit, just like you have to praise him in close wins.

Why does Colt Brennan, out of Hawaii, get mentioned on so many people's Heisman ballots, but Graham Harrell, of Texas Tech, does not?  They run basically the same offense, but only Harrell's is considered gimmicky.  Also, Texas Tech's competition is overall much tougher than Hawaii's.  Why the double standard?
  - Rob, Lubbock TX

A: Harrell is starting to get a little bit of notice. It might not be a fair comparison since the Big 12 competition is tougher than the WAC, but Harrell will only get the national love with a big win or two against the top conference teams. He caught an awful break when he engineered the epic comeback against Minnesota in the Insight Bowl on the NFL Network; no one saw it, so the buzz hasn’t been there to start the season. With that said, no, Harrell hasn’t been Brennan.

Brennan is asked to do more for his offense. For example, he has 554 rushing yards and 11 scores, compared to Harrell’s -107 and three scores. Hawaii got a huge year out of Nate Ilaoa last season, but Harrell has been helped by far, far better running back play and far, far better defense. And then there’s the history. Yeah, the two quarterbacks are comparable over the first few games, but the career numbers aren’t even close. Brennan has completed 71% of his passes for 11,112 yards and 105 touchdowns with 26 interceptions.  Harrell has completed 68% of his throws for 6,294 yards and 55 scores with 13 interceptions. Don’t forget that Brennan has often cranked out number in just a half or three quarters.

uhhh...As a speechless UCLA fan, is there any chance at all that the Bruins miraculously recovers from that beatdown they took? Can this team still play up to the level they were hyped at? And if not, is Karl Dorrell in big trouble? 
- jeff

A: Why are you so stunned? This is UCLA football. This is the program that beat USC last year, and then couldn’t handle the anemic Florida State offense. This is the program that started out 8-0 in 2005, and then got its doors blown off 52-14 by an awful Arizona team. This is still a tremendous team with a lot of big-time talent, but QB Ben Olson has to be more consistent, the defense has to generate the pass rush expected of it, and there has to be that game-in-game-out focus that it hasn’t seemed to have, for the most part, under Dorrell. Remember, that was a loss to Utah. Beat Washington and Oregon State over the next few weeks, and all will be right with the world.

Why does the NCAA have specific academic standards for football players?  Why are they a good deal lower than what the normal college admissions standards would be? Is there a socioeconomic reason for it or is it just because they feel like bending rules to let a bunch of jug heads onto our college campuses? Now why is it that Notre Dame shuns these rules and standards and only goes after kids that, while still not college material, are a cut above many of the recruits USC, LSU and Oklahoma are bringing in and is Notre Dame being forced to do so?
– MK

A: Here’s the theory, at least the one that tries to justify bringing in players who likely couldn’t make it as students. At any college campus, the idea is it to put together a collection of diverse students with a variety of talents. Universities want the best people in their respective fields, whether that’s a pianist, a chemist, or a tight end. It’s the fun debate; could LeBron James, a good student, but not Ivy material, have gotten into Harvard? After all, the school wants the absolute best in the world in the student body. As far as Notre Dame, I don’t buy into the academic excuse. You’re Notre Dame. You have every conceivable advantage, and there’s no reason whatsoever to not be able to get plenty of top level players, and smart ones, too.
After watching both Nebraska and Notre Dame struggle offensively under schemes deliberately styled after professional football playbooks, I began to question the basic assumption that translating a pro offense to college is somehow easier than translating a college offense to the pros. College coaches have less practice time, less mature players, and an entirely different level of talent available. Why should Bill Callahan be any more successful installing the West Coast offense with the Huskers than Urban Meyer would be getting the Dolphins to run the spread option?
– JT

A: Scheme, schmeme. If the talent is in place, you could run the Wing-T, or any other offense you want, and the team will win. USC could go the whole year without throwing the ball and could still finish unbeaten. Give USC the Hawaii or Texas Tech offense, and you’d have stratospheric numbers. The spread at UNLV stinks; the spread at Florida is terrific. Put Vince Young under center, and you can run any offense you want. Notre Dame’s offense was great last year with Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija and Darius Walker, and now stinks with new skill players and no offensive line. It’s a combination of style, coaching and players.

Is the loss to unranked Kentucky the end of the Heisman Hype for Louisville's QB Brian Brohm, even though he still played a good game?
- HK

A: Yup. He can still be a finalist if Louisville wins the Big East, but this has quickly become a crowded year in the Heisman hunt. He’ll have to settle for being a multi-millionaire first round draft pick next year.



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