On Badger QBs, referees & an old rivalry

Happy Election Day, Big Ten denizens! But before you get out and vote—if you haven’t already—read these Big Ten links. Fittingly, they begin with a big decision that has to be made at Wisconsin. See what I just did there? Big. Decision. It’s Election Day. OK, forget it and read on.

The big question looming at Wisconsin: Who will start at quarterback?

It’s between Curt Philips, who has had three surgeries on his right knee and hasn’t thrown a pass in 2012, and Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien, who has three starts this year but hasn’t looked great—especially in the second half of a loss to Michigan State. Would Bret Bielema play two quarterbacks? He says he’d consider it but doesn’t want to. I know I wouldn’t. Just pick one.

But, honestly, it won’t matter who is under center for the Badgers if the entire offense doesn’t execute better. A late sequence in the overtime loss to Michigan State is a perfect example. Wisconsin was clinging to a 7-3 lead in the fourth quarter and had a first down at the Spartans 18-yard line after a turnover. But it only managed a field goal.

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The always entertaining David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News has some fun with the officiating calls in the Nebraska at Michigan State game. Is there a conspiracy at work? Play a laugh track while reading this. It will help.

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That concern that Brady Hoke had for his offensive line is deepening. The result of the struggles up front has pushed the Wolverine tailbacks into an even deeper funk, putting an already struggling offense into an even worse spot.

“I think we had some protection breakdowns that we can’t have last week — that we haven’t had, to some degree,” Hoke said at a recent press gathering. “I think us moving the line of scrimmage (is an issue).

“We got to do a better job at the point of attack.”

Kyle Meinke of Mlive.com outlines how bad it has been: Fitz Toussaint is averaging just 48.9 yards rushing after averaging 118.0 in six games as Michigan’s featured back last year. He had 70 yards on 13 carries against Minnesota, but more than half those yards came on a late 41-yard touchdown run. Thomas Rawls had 16 carries for just 43 against the Gophers. What’s it all mean? Scoring points—and winning—may be issues downs the stretch for a team that still has Legends Division title hopes.

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When Purdue plays at Iowa, someone will have to win. It says so in the rule book. But it may not be pretty, as the teams have a combined eight-game losing skein.

According to Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, if Purdue loses, there will be no bowl and maybe a new coach for the Boilers. If the Hawkeyes lose, they will need to sweep at Michigan and Nebraska, the Legends Division leader, to qualify for a bowl. So, yes, there will be some drama in Kinnick this Saturday. Just not championship drama, but bowl desperation, if that does it for you.

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The issues for the Illinois offense are many. One of the biggest is the lack of a downfield passing game. But passing deep is a big issue if the line can’t protect the quarterback—and that has been at the heart of the issue for the Fighting lllini. The front was an issue in training camp. And it hasn’t gotten any better now that the calendar says “November.” Will Illinois win again?

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College football fans, rejoice: It looks like Oklahoma and Nebraska will meet in 2021 and 2022.

These were iconic rivals who played many great games during their days as Big Eight and Big 12 rivals. Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald says the first game likely will be played in Norman, Okla., in 2021 — the 50th anniversary of the 1971 “Game of the Century,” also played at Owen Field. Then it’s back to Lincoln in 2022. Now, if the Football Gods can just get Texas and Texas A&M to kiss and make up.

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It’s true: Even with a losing record, Indiana is smelling roses.

It’s enough to make Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal wonder if this is the punch line to what some feel has been a joke of a season for the Big Ten. Follow along. If the Hoosiers beat Wisconsin on Saturday, they still could lose their last two games (at Penn State and at Purdue) and make it to the Big Ten title game if the Badgers also lose their last two tilts. And that’s possible, considering Wisconsin plays host to Ohio State and finishes at Penn State. So, the Hoosiers could take a 5-7 record to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game. I wish Couch was making this all up.

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Lastly, it seems Michigan State hoops coach/icon Tom Izzo isn’t pleased with the students’ poor attendance at the recent Nebraska football game. And he says so in this video.


TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: I still will be shocked if Danny O’Brien isn’t the guy, given his experience.


My take: Hey, that’s pretty good!


My take: You see, the Big Ten isn’t so bad this season … maybe.


My take: The Huskers have been doing just fine without Rex. Amazing.


My take: Ah, if it only was that simple.

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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bob jones on 11/6/2012 @ 12:35pm EST Said:

Miss the Nebraska/Oklahoma games, they were the highlight of the year most of the time and often college football’s game of the year. One thing about the NU/OU matchup was that both teams and fanbases respected each other and the rivalry wasn’t spoiled by hatred for the other school, just mutual respect for the most part. Unfortunately other rivalrys like Oklahoma/Texas, Ohio St/Michigan and Alabama/Auburn, tend to get a little overheated at times. Also, really loved the great Tom Osborne/ Barry Switzer chess games, what great memories.