Tuesday's links: What happened to Huskers defense?

The struggles of the Nebraska defense at UCLA still are resonating. What went wrong? How did the Bruins run 94 plays? How could the unit have allowed 653 yards, the second most ever in the history of the program? Aside from the cold, stark reality of the numbers, Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World Herald says how the Cornhuskers got those numbers is more disturbing. I have more links and notes in my usual Big Ten collection.

After an examination of the tape revealed 19 missed Husker tackles, we know this: tackling is an issue. But it goes deeper than that: Getting into proper position to tackle is the issue.

The result of all this: Changes could be coming to the depth chart, beginning with linebackers Zaire Anderson and David Santos getting into the lineup. Something has to change if Nebraska wants to be a factor in the Legends Division.

Badger shakeup: Bret Bielema shocked the college football world with his firing of offensive line coach Mike Markuson after just two games. How does Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal feel about bold move? He says it was a knee-jerk reaction that was the result of a bad hire.

Apparently, Markuson’s style was much different than that of the man he replaced in Bob Bostad. And Markuson’s style must not have gone over well with the players, an understatement if I ever saw one. My question: Didn’t Bielema know Markuson’s style differed from Bostad’s when he hired Markuson? Regardless, the move has been made and now a quality control assistant is coaching the team’s most vital position for a program that has won back-to-back Big Ten titles.

You can’t make this stuff up, people.

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Paging the offense: Hawkeyes fans, you may want to sit down for this: Your offense may not have as much skill-position talent as this week’s foe, FCS Northern Iowa. Yes, it’s true.

Iowa has zero touchdown passes and zero touchdowns in six trips in the red zone in 2012. Playmakers? They are few and far between. Wideouts Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley are capable, as is tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. But other than that trio? Cue the crickets.

Check out this factoid from Pat Harty of the Iowa City Press-Citizen: Iowa signed 92 players in its four recruiting classes from 2008 to 2011. However, 32 of those players, including 18 offensive skill-position players, left the program early.
Iowa never has lost a game to an FCS foe, but the Hawkeyes needed late-game heroics to seal a 17-16 win over Northern Iowa in 2009.

Well, the Hawkeyes’ perfect mark against the FCS that could change on Saturday unless the offense gets in gear. Remember: This is a Northern Iowa team that almost beat Wisconsin on the opening weekend.

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Undefeated: What does being 2-0 mean for Minnesota? The possibilities seem endless.

Yes, the Golden Gophers haven’t defeated heavyweights in their first two games (UNLV, New Hampshire), but it’s a nice start for a program under construction under second-year coach Jerry Kill. Still, why not dream big? Minnesota’s last two non-conference games are at home: West Michigan and Syracuse. Each is a step up in competition. And each is winnable. If Minnesota gets to 4-0, it could be in store for a Cinderella season.

Help wanted: There has been a lot to like about Ohio State’s offense in the first two weeks. But one issue remains: The Buckeyes need more production from the running back spot to lighten the load on quarterback Braxton Miller. Ohio State can’t afford to have him hurt.

Jordan Hall has been out all season with a foot injury, and Carlos Hyde is out with a knee injury suffered last week. Now, true freshman Bri’onte Dunn is the starter. But Hall could come back against Cal on Saturday. Miller has carried 44 times and leads the Big Ten in rushing He can’t do it alone. He needs help before the Big Ten season starts. I say, save Hall for the Big Ten season at this point. I think the Buckeyes can beat Cal and then UAB with Dunn or Rod Smith at running back.

Trick question? Which Big Ten team appears to be the best bet to reach the Rose Bowl? That’s easy: It’s Michigan State.

In other news: water is wet.

Look, the Spartans have the top defense in the nation, a great ground game and a developing passing attack. This team is special. And it needs to show it vs. a strong Notre Dame on Saturday.

Hold the line: That Michigan run defense? It has been shaky. How bad has it been through two games? The Wolverines are 117th in the nation vs. the run, allowing 522 yards on the ground. Kyle Meinke of MLive.com says the Wolverines didn’t allow their 522nd yard on the ground until the fourth game last year.

The issue has been the middle of the defensive line. Big Will Campbell is struggling with his pad level and being pushed by true freshman Ondre Pipkins. But know this, too: Michigan has played two good rushing teams in Alabama and Air Force, so the Wolverines’ numbers may be skewed. I think Michigan will have great success shutting down UMass this Saturday. Just a guess. And I don’t think the Wolverines will see a rushing attack any better than Bama’s or Air Force’s all season.

Missing in action: While the Illinois offense struggled in the loss at Arizona State, the defense was equally as culpable.

The Illinois defenders were hurt by communication issues in a loud Sun Devil Stadium. And the quick tempo of the Arizona State offense also posed issues for what’s supposed to be a strong Illinois defense. These issues can be cleared up through coaching. More to the point: Illinois needs to get starting safeties Steve Hull and Supo Sanni back from injury.


TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: You see, it wasn’t all bad for the Nebraska defense in the UCLA game.


My take: Michigan fans need to remember this. And, it makes me think the chances of the Wolverines winning the Big Ten are slim.


My take: Up is down; down is up; in is out; out is in. I’m confused. Aren’t you?


My take: I never have thought of it like that. But, Fitz is right. Expensive drops.


My take: This is great news. The Boilermaker offense needs all the playmakers it can get. And Bolden without a doubt is Purdue’s top running back.

BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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