Thursday links: Huskers need big plays vs. Spartans

It’s Thursday, and that means we are one day closer to Saturday, which means we are one day closer to the Michigan State at Nebraska game. Thank goodness! Let’s start links right there, shall we? Nebraska has a big task on Saturday trying to beat Michigan State. No doubt, big plays will be needed for the Cornhuskers to emerge victorious. But, big plays have been rare with Taylor Martinez out of the lineup.

Where will Nebraska get its big plays on Saturday? Dirk Chatelain of Omaha.com notes in an era when most defenses are content with “bend, but don’t break,” the Spartans opt for aggressiveness. They pack the box with linebackers and safeties, daring opponents to beat their cornerbacks.

Huskers Offense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 4014 (47)
Passing Yards: 1793 (90)
Rushing Yards: 2221 (16)
Points per game: 35.9 (26)
Yards per game: 446.0 (39)
Touchdowns: 39 (31)
Field Goals: 8 (76)

“Their philosophy,” said Nebraska wideout Kenny Bell, “is we’re gonna man you up. If you can beat us, which they don’t think anybody can, they’re gonna take that chance. They’re gonna stop the run.”

As a result, it’s a big week for his position group, Bell said.

“We’re gonna win or lose the football game depending on if the receivers make plays.”

We’ll all be watching, Kenny.

Who is Michigan State’s most valuable offensive player? Mlive.com has its answer.

Spartans Defense (FBS Rank)
Yards: 1893 (1)
Passing Yards: 1501 (3)
Rushing Yards: 392 (1)
Points per game: 11.6 (2)
Yards per game: 210.3 (1)
Touchdowns: 12 (2)
Field Goals: 7 (18)

How about left guard Blake Treadwell? Really. On an offensive line with heavy rotation, Treadwell has been the anchor. And I like the choice. The o-line has been the most consistent part of the mercurial MSU offense in 2013.

“The one staple that can be said,” offensive line coach Mark Staten, “I think the offensive player of the game, the offensive lineman of the game in seven out of our eight victories has been Treadwell.”

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Pretty fun read here from David Jones of Pennlive.com, who makes a compelling case as to why no one-loss team—not even Alabama—should make the BCS title game over an unbeaten Ohio State team.

As Jones notes, if neither Bama nor FSU loses, Ohio State would become the first major-conference team in the 16-season BCS era to start No. 1 or 2 in the AP poll, remain unbeaten and still not play for the national title. The Buckeyes would also become the only eligible major-conference team in that time other than Auburn in 2004 to finish unbeaten and be left out of a title game. That’s probably as it should be. Both Alabama and Florida State look better than Ohio State.

Along that same line, Cleveland.com has a piece on why no team—including Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State-deserves to play in the BCS title game. The article pokes holes in arguments for each team in contention for the “big game.” Good stuff. Here is the case for/against Ohio State.

  • Ohio State: 9-0, BCS No. 3 (.8926)
  • Three best wins: 31-24 vs. Wisconsin, 40-30 @ Northwestern, 40-20 vs. Buffalo
  • Tests remaining: @ Michigan, Big Ten Championship
  • Non-conference slate: vs. Buffalo, vs. San Diego State, @ California, vs. Florida A&M

The conference schedule hasn’t done the Buckeyes any favors. Wisconsin will likely be the only BCS-ranked team Ohio State faces before the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis. There, the Buckeyes could encounter an 11-1 Michigan State squad.

The Buckeyes didn’t exploit their overmatched competition until recent weeks. Their first three conference wins came by a total of 27 points. Granted, they then thumped Penn State and Purdue by a combined 119-14 score.

No matter the competition, the Buckeyes claim the nation’s longest winning streak, having won 21 consecutive games. Urban Meyer has worked magic with a less-than-flawless team, but Ohio State’s resume probably doesn’t quite stack up with Alabama or Florida State.

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Lee Barfknecht of Omaha.com has his weekly look around the Big Ten. Illinois and Michigan? They are falling. Wisconsin and Minnesota? They are surging.

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What has to happen for this to be a successful season for Penn State? The players explain here. I think a 6-6 or 7-5 season would qualify as success. But, that’s just me.

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Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner says fans can hate on him all they want, that “it’s not about them.”

Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com points out that Gardner says he hasn’t literally received any hate mail, or email, from fans. But has heard plenty of unsavory things via Twitter from Michigan fans — especially lately, as the Wolverines are in the midst of their first regular-season losing streak in the Brady Hoke era.

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Not a good night for Penn State hoops, which lost to Bucknell. Cory Giger of the Altoona Mirrors says it’s not a good sign.

Giger says Penn State is supposed to be better, and Bucknell is supposed to be worse. The Bison are well coached, but it has three new starters and was picked to finish fourth in the Patriot League. Even Bucknell’s coach, Dave Paulsen admitted, “This is a relatively inexperienced team.” If the Nittany Lions are going to lose at home and play as poorly defensively as they did against the fourth-best team in the Patriot League, then it’s hard to like their chances against just about anybody in the Big Ten.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Impressive.

My take: A good factoid.

My take: It’s a reality in today’s world, unfortunately.

My take: Frustrating, I’m sure.

My take: Fear this Ohio State defense.

My take: I think they’ll add to that total this Saturday. Just a hunch.

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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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