Big Ten web links: About that controversial play

Lots to digest after a tantalizing weekend of action. Front and center was the Penn State at Nebraska game. The Cornhuskers’ 32-23 triumph kept them in the driver’s seat to win the Legends Division. But Penn State denizens still are miffed that tight end Matt Lehman’s lunge across the end zone was ruled a fumble instead of what would have been a game-changing touchdown. Read about that, and more, in my daily links.

The Lehman call may fuel more conspiracy theorists who think some have it out for the Nittany Lions. David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News doesn’t buy that—and neither do I–but he thinks the call makes it tough to refute that viewpoint.

But instead of just focusing on the call, Penn State also should look within to see what issues it can correct and what it did wrong in the loss.

Bob Flounders points out the flap over the review masks a major Penn State deficiency. The Lions’ offense and defense have really struggled in the second halves of four games. Penn State has scored a total of 28 points after halftime in their four losses. Bill O’Brien’s team was shut out by Ohio, held to nine points by Virginia, scored 16 against Ohio State (while allowing 28) and added three points against Nebraska.

But, it’s easier to just blame game officials for a loss, right?

Speaking of Penn State-Nebraska, Sam McKewon of the Omaha World-Herald says Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck is earning his $365,000 salary. I have to agree.

Facing two of the Big Ten’s better defenses the last two weeks in Michigan State and Penn State, Beck’s attack flourished. The Huskers averaged 412 yards in the two games vs. the formidable defenses that combined give up an average of 312 yards this year. And those defenses allowed just 17.7 points per game. Nebraska scored an average of 27.7 points vs. MSU and PSU. Take a bow, Beck.

GOING IN THE WRONG DIRECTION: Pat Harty of HawkCentral.com says Iowa is spiraling in the wrong direction.

He has a point. The 27-24 home loss to Purdue also marked the fourth consecutive game in which the Iowa defense has allowed at least 400 yards and the 10th consecutive game – which is all the games this season – in which Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg has thrown one or fewer touchdown passes. Worst of all, the Hawkeyes loss at home to Purdue was their fourth in a row. And Iowa needs to win its last two games—and they are tough ones, at that, vs. Michigan and Nebraska—to get bowl eligible. This is gonna be interesting.

WHY THEY’RE PERFECT: The great Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer offers 10 reasons why Ohio State is unbeaten.

The Buckeyes will be put to the test these last two weeks, with games at Wisconsin and vs. Michigan. Can they finish 12-0? In case you were wondering: Ohio State has had just five unbeaten seasons—1916; 1944; 1954; 1968; 2002. I like the Buckeyes’ chances. But, that’s just me.

LOOKING AHEAD: Michigan plays host to Iowa this week, but Kyle Meinke of MLive.com already is looking ahead to the visit to Ohio State on Nov. 24. Meinke thinks the Wolverines’ weak perimeter defense could prove costly vs. Ohio State.

For as good as the defense has played this year, Meinke says, the Wolverines have struggled against teams that spread the field and can run with the quarterback. Air Force did it. Nebraska did it. And Northwestern really did it. And Ohio State, no one needs reminding, has Braxton Miller and a high-powered spread attack under first-year coach Urban Meyer. They run a version of Northwestern’s offense, but they do it better.

Uh-oh.

GRADING PHILLIPS’ PERFORMANCE: How would you grade Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips’ first start, a 62-14 win at Indiana? The fifth-year senior said he was “average.”

He’ll need to get better in a jiff with Ohio State coming to town. And he likely will need to throw more than the seven passes he did vs. Indiana to beat the Buckeyes. Bottom line: Ohio State is just a smidge better than Indiana.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: This is revealing, right?

My take: The players are correct. I never think one call decides a game. Penn State did plenty wrong to contribute to its loss, but fans never want to look at that. Easier to blame refs.

My take: Guy did a great job on Saturday at Iowa and deserves more credit.

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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2 Comments

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bob jones on 11/12/2012 @ 3:29pm EDT Said:

Not an easy task for Ohio St to finish out with, Michigan has a good club and Wisconsin has been playing better every week, they look very formidable, in fact I see that they are actually a 2 pt favorite over Ohio St right now. Work cut out for them, if they finish undefated it will certainly be a job well done and put Urban Meyer in the thick of coach of the year talk.

David Puckett on 11/12/2012 @ 9:01pm EDT Said:

just be thankful you’re playing football.