Today's Big Ten Links: News, notes & more

Here’s a question to ponder before logging off today and heading to Joe’s American Bar and Grill for some margherita flatbread, ahi tuna salad and karaoke: Can Ohio State go unbeaten this season? I’m serious. The guys at ESPN.com are asking. Also in today’s Big Ten headlines, I can’t think of a better way to end your work week than by reading this fantastic story on Penn State coach Bill O’Brien and the son who helps him keep life in perspective. A moving piece by the great Matt Hayes.

Now, here’s more on that Ohio State question. I think it’s a possibility. This team will be motivated and hungry to run the table—or come darn close—with no specter of a Big Ten title or bowl bid because of NCAA probation. Think Auburn 1993.

More reason to think big things may loom in Columbus: A schedule that doesn’t include any heavy lifting in the non-conference. Miami (Ohio)? UCF? Cal? UAB?

Say “hello” to 4-0.

The Big Ten menu has its challenges, as it opens with a trip to Michigan State and visit from Nebraska. But, it you are gonna get the Spartans, get them early while their offense still is breaking in a new quarterback and receiving corps. And can the Huskers win in Columbus in Bo Pelini’s return to his alma mater?

The toughest trips? To Penn State and Wisconsin. Still, not impossible.

Personnel-wise, it may be asking too much from a team that’s breaking in a new offense to go unbeaten, but it could finish 10-2 or maybe 11-2. But, if Braxton Miller takes to Urban Meyer’s spread scheme, the passing game develops and the defense is as good as I think it can be … who knows?

From 1-85, I think this may be the most talented team in the Big Ten.

Plan ahead: It’s never too early to start prepare to face the Alabama defense, is it? Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges is already ahead of you. In fact, in the time it took me to type this, he already has broken down the Crimson Tide’s zone blitzes.

Still, no amount of scheming and planning likely can combat the most deadly aspect of Nick Saban’s defense: speed.

I can’t wait for that season–opening tilt in Arlington, Texas, between these iconic programs on Sept. 1. Somebody get me an orange Shasta and bag of Funyuns!

Ballot box: Michigan coach Brady Hoke confesses that he fills out his own coaches’ poll. That’s refreshing.

Hoke says he spends about 30 minutes filling out the ballot each week, getting input from SID Justin Dickens. Is 30 minutes long enough? But, more to the point: Does Hoke—or any coach, for that matter–really have enough of a national perspective to do the job?

It long has been a debate—and it’s a debate that matters because the coaches polls counts as one-third of the BCS formula used to determine the national championship matchup.

“I don’t get to watch a lot of football,” Hoke says. “I’m watching Michigan football, I’m watching our opponents.
“I don’t watch a lot of (other) football. My wife could tell you, because that girl loves football. And so does my daughter.”

Bottom line: A playoff can’t get here soon enough.

Am I right, people?

Board games: You’ve read in this space about the monstrous scoreboards at Michigan and Michigan State. Well, Ohio State also is in the Scoreboard Arms Race.

The school is in the midst of a $7 million project to upgrade the scoreboard and sound system at the famed Horseshoe. The new high-definition monstrosity will measure 42 feet by 124 feet, replacing one that is a scant 30 by 90.

Bigger isn’t always better. But, when it comes to scoreboards it is. Ask Jerry Jones.

More playoff talk: Would the Big Ten stand in the way of progress? The good folks at Grantland think the Big Ten will … if it can.

Me? In the end, I still think we will have a four-team playoff—despite that bizarre rhetoric during the Big Ten teleconference on Monday that left many pundits miffed.

What will the playoff look like? Sit tight. We should know before the first ball is kicked off this fall … I think.

He’s back: Where have you gone, Roy Roundtree? That’s what some people wondered last season, when his reception total fell to 19 after he grabbed 72 for 935 yards in 2010. But all reports are that Roundtree is poised for a big senior sendoff.

Maybe changing jersey numbers from No. 12 to the No. 21 Desmond Howard wore during his 1991 Heisman season will help.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: News of the arrest of incoming Iowa running back Greg Garmon adds more fuel to those who believe in an “Iowa running back curse.” The position does seem to be hexed. Within the last year, the Hawkeyes have seen Marcus Coker and Mika’il McCall transfer. And projected starter Jordan Canzeri suffered a spring knee injury that will keep him out for the 2012 season. Now, this news on Garmon, who many felt would play a big role as a true freshman this fall. He likely still will, but this is no way to start. So, for now, Iowa’s starting running back is … Damon Bullock?

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at btn.com/tomdienhart, and you can subscribe to it all via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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