10 Big Ten stories to know today

News flash: The Ohio State defense has holes, but Urban Meyer thinks coordinator Luke Fickell can fill them. We shall see. A big Orange Bowl clash vs. Clemson and its high-flying offense looms on Friday. I am expecting a shootout. How can the Buckeye defense be fixed in a few weeks? Exactly. It can’t.

Doug Lesmerises of Cleveland.com says that teams like Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Michigan State seemingly threw at will on the Buckeyes, with a loss to the Spartans finally costing Ohio State its shot at a national title.

“Pass defense, we didn’t rate very high, but we won a bunch of games,” Meyer said. “We weren’t up to standard and it hasn’t been up to standard for a while. So you have to look at scheme, you have to look at development, you have to look at personnel. That’s what I’m doing right now. It’s certainly not what we expect. I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Luke Fickell. He’s a very unselfish coach, a very good coach and we’re going to get this thing fixed.”

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Who is the best receiver in the nation? It’s Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. Just ask him. Hey, Watkins has a point. He’s pretty darn good. Hope we get to see him square off with Bradley Roby, who is nursing a bone bruise on knee.

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With Nebraska primed to play its 50th bowl, the great Lee Barfknecht of Omaha.com shares some of his favorite memories. My fav: The time Tom Osborne took a lie detector test. You have to read it. You can’t make up stuff like this.

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This story on Stanford lineman Conor McFadden is pretty cool. He can memorize an opposing team’s defensive formations, adjustments and play calls in a real time. Not bad for a backup center. He’s … Rainman.

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The Outback Bowl hasn’t even been played, but Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette already is looking toward 2014 for Iowa. And, he likes what he sees. So do I. So do I.

Morehouse makes an apt comparison: Iowa is the Pittsburgh Steelers of college football, as far as longevity goes across the board for all major decision-makers within the program. Iowa has had three athletics directors since 1970. Iowa has had two head coaches since Hayden Fry was hired in 1979. Iowa has had four defensive and offensive coordinators since 1979.

“It’s fitting that I grew up in Pittsburgh,” Kirk Ferentz said. “It’s a little bit like the Steelers. They [Iowa] don’t change things when there is a bump in the road. They address problems instead of panic. I appreciate that.”

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Melvin Gordon is about to punctuate a stellar sophomore season. And, he hopes to use it as a launching pad for a big 2014 that he hopes will include a Big Ten title and maybe a … Heisman? Hmmm. Why not? It’s only December.

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The Bill O’Brien-to-Houston chatter is growing louderand louder.

Oh, and ex-Penn State great LaVar Arrington says he won’t believe O’Brien is leaving until anything is made official. I’m not sure why this is newsworthy. But, what the heck. And if O’Brien bolts, Vandy’s James Franklin could be a top target. But, most think Franklin is NFL-bound … or maybe bound to Texas.

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Some hoops for you on the eve of a football frenzied New Year’s Day. Amelia Rayno of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wonders if the Golden Gophers are ready for Big Ten play. Regardless, Richard Pitino’s debut so far has been strong, as the players seem to have embraced his up-tempo style. What’s not to like? Andre Hollins is playing well, people.

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This isn’t good news for Michigan: Mitch McGary is slated to undergo back surgery soon, according to John Beilein. He’s eligible for a medical redshirt. But that doesn’t do the Wolverines any good this season.

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It’s not even January yet, and Indiana already has a kid transferring from the hoops team: Luke Fischer.

Fischer, a 6-foot-11 freshman center from Germantown, Wis., had solidified himself as Indiana’s best post player off the bench. He played his best basketball in the Hoosiers’ final non-conference games, looking improved as a scorer, rebounder and defender. His departure will hurt depth for a team that lacks quality big men.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: It could be a Big Ten team. Just pick one. Anyone.

My take: Yeah, well, I can’t think of any offense that would not need what Wilson brings. I think the lack of need may have been more a product of the lack of quality competition.

My take: I know this: Shazier can play. And size is overrated.

My take: That’ll do.

My take: He’s correct. And, I have a solution: Whip Stanford.

My take: Mark Dantonio always hovers above the fray. Class.

My take: That would be something.

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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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