Daily Links: QB decision looms for Badgers

Wisconsin is off this week. And that’s undoubtedly a good thing when you consider it needs to replace quarterback Joel Stave, who is out for eight weeks with a broken left collar bone suffered in the loss to Michigan State on Saturday. Read about what the Badgers are thinking and other hot topics in my daily links.

Bret Bielema needs to decide if he’ll go with Danny O’Brien, who started the first two games before giving way to Stave, or Curt Philips, who has had three surgeries on his right knee. The rub for staffers: The quarterbacks really aren’t similar. O’Brien is more like Stave, a passer. Philips is more of a runner. This is gonna be interesting.

***

If you think Bo Pelini is getting some breaks in his quest to lead Nebraska to the Big Ten title game, well, he probably deserves some, says Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald.

Shatel points out that Braxton Miller left during the Nebraska-Ohio State game last year with an injury. Denard Robinson tweaked a nerve injury in his arm and never returned to last week’s game. Want more? Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible to play in the Big Ten championship game. So if the Huskers get there, they could see a Wisconsin team that just lost quarterback Joel Stave for the season. Unless it’s Indiana. No doubt the timing for the Cornhuskers looks good. And, as they say, timing is everything in life, but this still is a pretty good Nebraska team.

***

Are Penn State’s prospects for the near future better than Illinois’? Loren Tate of the Champaign News-Gazette thinks so.

Tate says on Sept. 1, when NCAA sanctions were ringing in their ears and the Nittany Lions were losing to Ohio, prospects in State College, Pa., looked grim. Now, about two months later, the Nittany Lions look solid and possibly able to brace through the worst in coming years. Illinois? The mojo of new coaching staff seems to have worn off, as the Fighting Illini are riding a 10-game losing skid.

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We all know that Ohio State is on probation and can’t play in a bowl or win the Big Ten. But the Buckeyes’ run at perfection could set them up for a championship in 2013.

Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer say that at 9-0 and ranked No. 6 in the AP poll, with the chance to clinch the top spot in the Leaders Division on Saturday with a win over Illinois and a Penn State loss at Purdue, Ohio State has done all it can. If the Buckeyes were eligible for the BCS standings, projections by The Plain Dealer have them No. 6. It’s just too bad that Ohio State opted to go to a bowl after last season. Had it taken pass—and it had a choice—this team would be primed for a Rose Bowl run this fall. Still, this may go down as one of the greatest seasons in Ohio State history.
Speaking of the Buckeyes, Urban Meyer finally has given his blessing to Braxton Miller being a Heisman contender.

My question: What took Meyer so long?

***

For Penn State, it must get over the loss to Ohio State and focus on winning out, says Bob Flounders of the Harrisburg Patriot-News.

The Nittany Lions can win out, with games left vs. Purdue, Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin. It’s true. If it happens, Penn State will have finished with a 9-3 record. And that would be a tremendous accomplishment for a program that’s dealing with never-before-seen obstacles. A big finish only will add fuel to the recruiting speeches of the coaches, who must continue to deftly navigate the probation waters. So far, so good, in what has been an amazing job by Bill O’Brien.

***

The Michigan offense is sputtering. A big reason why: Lack of production from the running backs.

Kyle Meinke of MLive.com points out that Michigan tailbacks had accounted for 1,081 yards rushing by this time last year. This year, the number is 660 yards, a 39 percent drop despite receiving only 12 fewer carries than at this time last season. To say Fitz Toussaint is struggling is an understatement. His best game this year was an 85-yard effort vs. UMass, and he’s averaging just 3.3 yards per carry.

But Brady Hoke says a big reason for Toussaint’s recent struggles has been a line that’s not finishing blocks. Bottom line: Without a better ground game, the Wolverines will struggle down the stretch and could have issues keeping pace with Nebraska in the Legends Division.

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Check out this video of Minnesota football and volleyball players getting their heads shaved to raise money for pediatric cancer. Gopher player Connor Cosgrove is dealing with leukemia.

Being bald isn’t so bad. Believe me.

***

Purdue A.D. Morgan Burke issued a statement of support for Danny Hope, but pressure seems to be mounting as the losses and empty seats grow. Mike Carmin of the Lafayette Journal-Courier provides details of what it would cost Purdue if it made a coaching change.

Hope’s contract runs through 2016 after he was awarded a two-year extension in December. He’s guaranteed to earn a minimum of $950,000 in 2012. If Burke elects to dismiss Hope after this season, the university would owe him an additional $600,000. The buyout amount decreases by $100,000 each year through 2016.

The university is also required to pay six months of salary to each assistant coach, according to their contracts. No doubt, these last four games are key for Hope. The 3-5 Boilermakers need to get to a bowl with games remaining vs. Penn State, at Iowa, at Illinois, vs. Indiana. Stay tuned.


TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: This is good news in Lincoln. Nice to see how the defense has responded to those poor efforts at UCLA and at Ohio State.


My take: I know Damon Bullock played well at Northwestern, but Weisman brings something different to the table and is needed.

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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