Web links: Can Big Ten flip script on Pac-12 this week?

This week’s schedule features four games vs. Pac-12 teams: UCLA at Nebraska; Ohio State at Cal; Wisconsin at Arizona State; Illinois vs. Washington at Chicago. But recent history tells us the Pac-12 should win these games.

Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal notes that the Big Ten had a 5-20 record in true road games against the Pac-12 dating back to 2000, but the pendulum might finally be swinging the other way. After going 0-3 at Pac-12 opponents last season, the Big Ten is 1-0 this season, with Northwestern winning at California in the opener. Nebraska and Wisconsin have the toughest tasks. In fact, Arizona State is 8-0 against Big Ten teams in Sun Devil Stadium, winning those games by an average of 40 to 13.9.

***

How desperate is Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio to figure out his quarterback conundrum? True freshman Damion Terry is taking reps with the second team this week behind Connor Cook, the starter.

Hey, I like it. At least Dantonio is showing a willingness to try anything to kick start this moribund offense. Possible negative consequences? Heck, there are many. But Dantonio has to try something. Bravo!

***

Oklahoma State is the centerpiece of a Sports Illustrated exposure that alleges wide-spread misconduct in the program.

Illinois coach Tim Beckman once was the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys from 2007-08 under Mike Gundy. But he told Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times that he did nothing wrong.

So there is that. Whew!

***

Tough blow for Minnesota, as Briean Boddy-Calhoun has been lost for the season with a torn ACL.

He was playing the best among the Gophers cornerbacks, so this is a blow. Derrick Wells and Eric Murray need to step up their games for a defense that has shown some promise through two games.

***

Rick Brown of HawkCentral.com says the Iowa offense is in need of discipline.

Brown notes that the Hawkeyes’ offense looks downright acceptable through two games. Iowa is averaging 474.5 yards of total offense, up from 310.4 a year ago. Three pass plays have gone for 40 or more yards; there were two in the entire 2012 season. And after averaging 67 plays a game last season, Iowa’s up-tempo, no-huddle attack has gotten off 83 plays against Northern Illinois and 86 a week later against Missouri State.

The numbers yell progress. But penalties and dropped passes have made it hard for Iowa to build momentum and develop confidence. Ten penalties last week against Missouri State turned a dominating performance on paper into a struggle on the field.

***

Mlive.com tackles Michigan’s issue of the week: Can the defensive line rebound after a shaky start?

Michigan’s defensive line has one sack (Mario Ojemudia) in the team’s 2-0 start, one year after having just 12 as a group last season. This won’t be a top-shelf defense until the line can get some heat and sacks.

***

Penn State is challenged to manage a roster that has about 65 scholarship players. Audrey Snyder of Pennlive.com has a nice piece on how the staff decides who to redshirt and who to play among the freshmen.

“We look at our depth and where we’re at injury wise and all those things and say okay, is this guy a red light, a green light or a yellow light?” Bill O’Brien said. “If he’s a red light that means that as it relates to freshmen, we’re not playing him no matter what happens. If he’s a yellow light, that means hey, look it depends on what happens. If two or three guys go down then this guy is going to have to play.

“If he’s a green light, he’s playing. We definitely communicate with the player and try to communicate with the parents as it relates to what we’re thinking about the player.”

***

It looks like Nebraska is getting a grasp on its tackling.

Why are the Huskers confident? Three reasons.

1. Better technique

2. More team speed

3. Fresher athletes

OK. This is all well and good. Now, go out and hold UCLA to around 350 yards of offense and 24 points in a win on Saturday. THEN I’ll believe all of that. You know what they say: Action, not words.

***

Yes, Indiana got beat last week vs. Navy. But developing a program is a process. And one area that needs to keep developing is the defense.

Players like tackle Darius Latham and safety Antonio Allen are among six freshmen listed on the Hoosiers’ defensive depth chart. The others are linebackers T.J. Simmons, Marcus Oliver and Clyde Newton, and redshirt tackle Ralphael Green. Another top freshman is former Pike defensive end David Kenney, who fell behind in training camp but did play in the opener against Indiana State.

I like these young players. They just have to grow up—quickly—these next two weeks vs. Bowling Green and Missouri. IU can’t lose both of these games and hope to go bowling.

***

Cal’s offense plays at a go-go, break-neck tempo that can wear out defenses. And the Bears think some defenses fake injuries to slow down a Cal offense that has run a national-best 194 plays. Would Ohio State do such a thing?

“There’ll be none of that faking stuff,” linebacker Joshua Perry said. “Just go out there and play the game that we play.”

OK, I’ll be watching.

On the subject of Ohio State, Urban Meyer is “fairly optimistic” that Braxton Miller will play at Cal on Saturday.

Even if he doesn’t, OSU will be fine with Kenny Guiton at the controls.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: I bet he had some nightmares, too.

My take: That’s what makes MSU’s struggles under center all the more frustrating.

My take: Well, Kyle Kalis has a chance to be a great one, too.

My take: The best is yet to come, too.

My take: Ding, ding! Fewer penalties and dropped passes would help.

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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