Monday's Links: Spin around today's headlines

Upon closer inspection after a spectacular effort in a win at Minnesota, Michigan’s Devin Gardner may be a quarterback after all even though the uber talent was moved to receiver in camp.  I’m not gonna argue that. But some feel despite Gardner’s standout effort on Saturday, the Michigan offense still needs Denard Robinson. Read about that and other hot Big Ten topics in my daily links.

Let’s get to them …

***

What does a sixth win do for Penn State, you ask? Nittany Lions safety Malcolm Willis says it opens eyes everywhere. Check him out in this video. No doubt, my eyes have been opened. I thought six wins was this team’s ceiling. But three games remain—and along with more big possibilities.

***

Bill Livingston of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says that at 10-0, this Ohio State team has carved out a special place in football history.

Livingston points out that in Ohio State history, nine previous teams made it to 10-0. Only three, in seasons in which at least 10 games were played, got through unbeaten and untied (1954, 1968, 2002). However, here is the kicker: None of the nine was as deficient in playmakers as this one. It’s true. Aside from quarterback Braxton Miller, who do you think defensive coordinators fear? Exactly. Before I leave Ohio State, here’s a look at the Buckeyes’ 10, 10-0 teams. Which one is your fav?

  • 1954: Finished 10-0, AP national champions (UPI, UCLA) 
  • 1968: Finished 10-0, consensus national champions 
  • 1975: Finished 11-1, lost to UCLA in Rose Bowl, fourth in AP 
  • 1979: Finished 11-1, lost to USC in Rose Bowl, fourth in AP 
  • 1995: Finished 11-2, lost to Michigan and Tennessee in Citrus Bowl, sixth in AP 
  • 1996: Finished 11-1, lost to Michigan, second in AP 
  • 2002: Finished 14-0, consensus national champions 
  • 2006: Finished 12-1, lost to Florida in BCS title game, second in AP 
  • 2007: Finished 11-2, lost to Illinois and to LSU in BCS title game, fifth in AP
  • 2012: 10-0 with games at Wisconsin, home vs. Michigan remaining 

Note: The 1973 Buckeyes tied Michigan in the 10th game, then won the Rose Bowl and finished 10-0-1.

***

Fear the mobile quarterbacks. They do in the Big Ten. And swift and athletic Taylor Martinez is a big reason why Nebraska is atop the Legends Division and in control of its destiny.

It was because of Martinez’s ability to run that Nebraska had an edge down the stretch in its rally to victory at Michigan State. Other Big Ten programs are thriving with similar signal-callers, including the likes of Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Michigan’s Denard Robinson and Northwestern’s Kain Colter. Even Minnesota has gotten a boost from true freshman Philip Nelson and his athletic skills. So, get an athletic quarterback or get left behind.

***

The Big Ten title game is in Wisconsin’s sites for a second season in a row. And it has two possible paths, one more rewarding the other, says Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The first path is easier, though less rewarding than the second. A victory at Indiana, a 24-21 winner over Iowa on Saturday, would give Wisconsin a two-game lead over the Hoosiers with two games to play, the head-to-head tiebreaker and a berth in the title game. In that scenario, however, the Badgers would be in danger of finishing third in the division and advancing to the title game only because the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions are ineligible.

The second path is more difficult and Wisconsin would need help. If the Badgers sweep their final three games and Ohio State loses its regular-season finale against Michigan, they would earn a share of the division title as they did last season by routing Penn State in the regular-season finale. In that scenario, the Badgers could claim to be a legitimate Leaders Division representative in the title game.

In the end: Does it really matter how Wisconsin gets to Indy? Uh, no. Just get there, win, advance to the Rose Bowl and celebrate another successful season. Because making it back to Indy and Pasadena will become much more difficult in 2013 and beyond with Ohio State ramping up under Urban Meyer.

***

When Iowa needed to swing on Saturday at Indiana, it left the bat on its shoulder when it faced a fourth-and-less-than-one at the Hawkeye 28 with less than five minutes to play—and punted. From there, Indiana nearly drained the clock en route to hanging on to victory.

Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette points out that this Iowa team isn’t 4-5 because of one questionable in-game decision here or there. The Hawkeyes aren’t without talent, but may not have enough playmakers on either side of the ball to be much more than what they are: An average team that likely won’t make a bowl.


TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: It has been that kind of season for Gholston—and Michigan State. Coincidence?


My take: Funny what a difference a year makes, huh?


My take: In some ways, it has been a long—and at the same time fast—year.


My take: The Gophers look like they have a special quarterback.


My take: Maybe going on the road this week to Iowa will help a beleaguered Purdue team that has lost five in a row and needs to win its last three games to get bowl eligible.

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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