Big Ten Links: Digging into Tuesday's football headlines

We take a look at stories on one offensive line and one defensive line in today’s installment of Big Ten Links. Also, Urban Meyer is keeping an eye on the AP poll while Illinois fans are taking a long, hard look at Tim Beckman. One longtime Big Ten writer breaks out some wild stats from the season so far while another continues to grade the units at Penn State. Let’s get to the roundup of stories in this post.

Peaking line: People are throwing roses at the feet of the Michigan offensive linemen, who are coming off their best effort of the season in dominating what was thought to be a strong Purdue defensive line in helping the Wolverines run for 304 yards.

But praise wasn’t being heaped on the big fellas earlier this season. Nope. The linemen were getting some heat, as Brady Hoke even called out the unit at halftime of that ugly loss at Notre Dame. But now, the Wolverine front is a glowing strength.

Up fronts: Speaking of lines, Wisconsin has a solid defensive front. Are there any J.J. Watts or O’Brien Schofields? No. But this is a capable unit that has played pretty well most of the season.

On the subject of the Badgers, they want to get reserve quarterback Curt Phillips more involved when Wisconsin plays at Purdue this weekend. Before last week against Illinois, Phillips hadn’t played since the regular-season finale in 2009 because of multiple knee injuries.

The staff wants to use Philips in some spread packages to take advantage of this athletic ability. Plus, Michigan was able to gouge Purdue from spread sets. And, the Badgers would like to do the same on Saturday in this huge Leaders Division tilt.

AP Rankings
Rankings as of 10/7/2012
Rank School Votes Prev Rank
1 Alabama (5-0) 1500 (60) 1
2 Oregon (6-0) 1435 2
3 South Carolina (6-0) 1359 6
4 Florida (5-0) 1265 10
5 West Virginia (5-0) 1260 8
6 Kansas State (5-0) 1217 7
7 Notre Dame (5-0) 1176 9
8 Ohio State (6-0) 1053 12
9 LSU (5-1) 938 4
10 Oregon State (4-0) 873 14
11 USC (4-1) 812 13
12 Florida State (5-1) 800 3
13 Oklahoma (3-1) 756 17
14 Georgia (5-1) 733 5
15 Texas (4-1) 711 11
16 Clemson (5-1) 657 15
17 Stanford (4-1) 587 18
18 Louisville (5-0) 494 19
19 Mississippi State (5-0) 450 20
20 Rutgers (5-0) 331 22
21 Cincinnati (4-0) 205 NR
22 Texas A&M (4-1) 153 NR
23 Louisiana Tech (5-0) 129 NR
24 Boise State (4-1) 114 NR
25 Michigan (3-2) 82 NR

Voting season: Most coaches say they don’t give a hoot about polls. But not Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. At least not this year.

Since the Buckeyes are on probation and can’t win the Big Ten or go to a bowl, all they have to cling to is the AP poll (the coaches poll doesn’t rank teams on probation). So, the challenge is to finish as high as possible in that. Could the Buckeyes end up finishing the season No. 1 in the AP? No other team in a similar situation has. But, Meyer wants his team thinking big—and monitoring the poll. Hey, it’s something to be motivated about, right?

Talk amongst yourselves: Champaign News-Gazette Illinois beat writer Bob Asmussen conducted a chat yesterday for concerned Illini fans. Turns out, many are fretting about the direction of the program after a third consecutive loss. The only wins this year? Against Western Michigan and FCS Charleston Southern. And Illinois has been outscored 163-59 in its four losses.

But if you think Illinois A.D. Mike Thomas is wavering in his support of Tim Beckman … well, you are wrong.

Go figure: The great Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette takes a look at some whacky Big Ten stats. You may want to sit down before reading this stuff.

Gopher questions: Yes, Minnesota is 4-1 after going 3-9 in Jerry Kill’s debut last season. But Kill isn’t ready to schedule any parades.

The great Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune says the Golden Gophers still have some questions to answer. Among them: Are there any game-changing playmakers in addition to quarterback MarQueis Gray? How much of a load can Gray—who is out with a sprained left leg and ankle–tote? Can the defense create more pressure? Is the defense strong enough up the gut? Will the punting be fixed?

Making the grades: Nate Mink of StateCollege.com takes a look at Penn State’s receivers and tight ends in his latest installment of midseason player evaluations.

I will just say this: How about wideout Allen Robinson? Where was this guy under the Paterno regime? We all knew Bill O’Brien liked to use tight ends. And, he has followed through on that for the Nittany Lions as Kyle Carter and Matt Lehman—who seemingly has come out of nowhere–have excelled.

Breaking it down: Still haven’t gotten enough of Ohio State’s whipping of Nebraska? Dirk Chatelain of the Omaha World-Herald offers 62 random thoughts from the 63-38 Buckeye triumph. You may want to look away, Herby.


TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Just put that record on the pile with every other one Robinson already has.


My take: Good to see the players trying to take charge of things and enact change. There still is time to get the season on track. Really.


My take: I would say this is the time to play Ralph Bolden, as Purdue faces a virtual must-win situation vs. Wisconsin.

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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