Eric Crouch is a college football icon and a Nebraska legend, the winner of the 2001 Heisman Trophy who led the Cornhuskers to the BCS national title game the same season. The guy knows his football. And he’s bringing that knowledge to BTN as an analyst.
That’s why I wanted to catch up with Crouch to get his thoughts on a variety of topics. Among them: Who will win the Big Ten? Could Ohio State beat Alabama if it reaches the BCS title game? Who would he pick: Braxton Miller or Taylor Martinez? Would he like to play in this go-go Nebraska offense?
Q: Let’s cut to the chase—How do you see the Big Ten playing out?
A: When you look at the Legends, Nebraska is on top of the table because of how much experience they have on offense. I think they will be better defensively by cleaning the slate and getting some young, hungry players in there who want to make statements. So, I like Nebraska.
In the Leaders, I think Ohio State is the team to beat. Overall, I probably have Ohio State winning the Big Ten. I don’t think it will be easy for Ohio State. I think people think they will easily breeze through. But now the pressure is on. They are off their probation now. It’s for real. It will be interesting. But Ohio State should win that division and the Big Ten.
Q: Can Ohio State beat Alabama if they meet in the BCS title game?
A: It has been amazing what Alabama has done. Coach Saban has put together a unique program. Two titles in three years. It is like what Nebraska did in the 1990s. If Ohio State can stop the run, it can beat Alabama. They have to be able to stop the run—and pressure the quarterback. If they can do those two things, they would have a real chance to win the national title. If Bama can run, it will be a problem.
Q: What was the last team that went unbeaten in back-to-back seasons? It was Nebraska in 1994-95.
A: That was a long time ago. It will be hard to go unbeaten two years in a row. They have good teams they’ll be playing in that division. Penn State will be good. You never know. A team could sneak up on them out-of-conference. Going to Northwestern won’t be a gimme game. I have been really impressed with Penn State. This could be the year the lack of scholarships hurts them. But I am really impressed with what Bill O’Brien has done with this program. I never thought I’d say this, but Penn State is one of my favorite programs in the Big Ten right now.
Q: If you are drafting Big Ten quarterbacks, who would you take first: Taylor Martinez or Braxton Miller?
A: Oh, wow. That’s a tough call. To be honest, they both are extremely talented. It’s hard to say. If I’m a scout, and I had to get real nit-picky at things, I’m gonna wanna see more consistency out of Braxton Miller in the throwing game. I’d like to see him make all the throws on a consistent basis. He has great throwing motion and can run.
If I am a scout looking at Taylor Martinez, I say he has a little different delivery. He drops his arm a little bit, he kind of has this arc in his abdomen before he throws it. It’s a little unnatural. But he throws a good ball. And he’s pretty consistent. But he can’t run like Braxton. I know he has the speed, but Braxton has the ability to make people miss.
It’s a really tough call. It would have to be a situational thing for me. If I have the first draft pick and I’m taking a quarterback, he has to fit my offense. I think they are different players. Braxton brings a running ability to the table and Taylor brings that short, quick intermediate passing that he is pretty consistent with.
Q: Can you throw it better than Taylor Martinez?
A: I always felt I had a really good arm, a strong arm. Taylor’s numbers speak for themself. I don’t know if I could have come close to his numbers. But if you would have given me the opportunity to throw the ball 30-40 times a game, I would have put some good yards up. It’s not that I would have done better than Taylor, but I would have made things happen in the passing game.
Q: Would you have liked to have played in this Tim Beck Nebraska offense?
A: I would have liked it. I think it would have been a fun offense to run. I’m sure I would have run less. And I would have thrown more. I loved to run the option, but there was a small part of me that wished I could have thrown more to show people I could really throw the football.
Q: Why do you think the Nebraska defense will be better this year?
A: I feel that when there is no chemistry on defense, when there is no real leadership, you have a defensive year like they had last year. They weren’t able to overcome adversity well. There were games where they gave up 500, 600 yards and a lot of points. And that’s out of characteristic of a Nebraska defense.
I think Bo (Pelini) understands that. I don’t think he’s afraid now to put the young guys in who can play and let them go after it and be natural athletes. Try to put them in position to win and maybe simplify the defense a little bit so these guys can go out there and react to the football and play with a high energy level and fly around the ball. If the young guys are thinking, they aren’t able to use the energy they bring. And you put your team at a disadvantage. That’s where Nebraska will have an advantage.
They will let the young guys play. And I think they have some real leaders in the secondary and it will be a different game. I think the defensive line has to come through strong. And the linebacking corps will be better, which will be a big improvement for Nebraska because they need to be able to stop the run and own the line of scrimmage.
Q: How has the game changed since you played?
A: They play in space now. We used to play in your face. It used to be mano-a-mano, crush heads physical football. Every play, you were gonna hit somebody. I don’t think that’s the mind-set anymore. I think the mind-set is to outsmart a defense, break them down, find out where the weaknesses are and get to places where they aren’t. I think it’s a simple philosophy. And you can tell defenses are struggling to find ways to stop it.
|About Tom Dienhart||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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