The season is halfway over. There have been surprises. There have been disappointments. The second half of the season is thick with storylines: Who will win the rugged Legends Division? Can Ohio State finish unbeaten? Can Buckeye quarterback Braxton Miller win the Heisman? Buckle up. It’s going to be a fun ride over the next month and a half.
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Saturday is almost here. Here are my most pressing questions for each school as we kick it into overdrive and head into the second half of the 2012 football season. Also, catch “The Football Report” tonight at 7 p.m. ET as I’ll be making an appearance with Mike Hall, Rosevelt Colvin, and Tony banks.
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A week or so ago, it would have been crazy to entertain such a topic. But with a 4-3 record and a grueling slate of games remaining, will Michigan State get bowl eligible? It’s a fair question, especially when one takes a look at the team’s final six games: at Michigan, at Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern and at Minnesota.
In today’s batch of Big Ten Links, I open with a good look at Ohio State’s struggling defense, which allowed a combined 87 points the last two weeks. That’s no secret, and as Bill Rabinowitz writes today in the Columbus Dispatch, a big reason for the struggles is the lack of strong linebacker play. Attrition through transfers, injuries, and position switches has chipped away at the unit’s depth.
You have Big Ten questions, and I have answers. In this week’s Mailbag, I offer my prediction on who will meet in the second annual Big Ten title game and address Ohio State’s struggling defense. And don’t be afraid to send questions for future Mailbags. Or you can send them my way on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart).
Every week, BTN.com’s Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) and Tom Dienhart (@BTNTomDienhart) offer their predictions for each Big Ten football game. We also provide a poll for all of the games so fans can vote for their winners. After seven weeks, it’s Dienhart on top, one game ahead of BTN.com fans and three ahead of Yarina. See our Week 8 predictions and choose your winners in this post.
Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller continues to strengthen his Heisman candidacy—not just in the Big Ten, but nationally. West Virginia’s loss at Texas Tech hurts the resume of quarterback Geno Smith, but he remains in the race. Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein continues to roll, and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o also is in the mix.
Nebraska plays at Northwestern this Saturday in Evanston, but that venue could change in the future. Why? Money. A lot of people could make a lot of it if Nebraska played Northwestern in venerable Wrigley Field. And, it could happen, according to Tom Shatel of the Omaha World-Herald.
This shapes up as an interesting week, with two key Legends Division clashes on a Big Ten menu that has six games. The headline clash is Nebraska at Northwestern.
Northwestern became the first Big Ten team to reach bowl eligibility with its 21-13 win at Minnesota. Wisconsin also enhanced its bowl prospects with a dominating 38-14 win at Purdue, as the Badgers now look like the clear favorite to represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten title game.
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Looks like the Iowa running back hex continues. Sophomore sensation Mark Weisman didn’t appear on the depth chart released today by the school. He apparently hurt his right ankle in the Hawkeyes’ 19-16 double-overtime win at Michigan State last week after running 26 times for 116 yards.
My first Big Ten Links of the weeks takes a look at how Wisconsin reloads on the offensive line. Losing star left tackle Ricky Wagner with a knee injury at Purdue hurts, but the Badgers front didn’t skip a beat with left guard Ryan Groy slipping into the spot. The result: Wisconsin ran for almost 500 yards on the Boilermakers.
Montee Ball and the Wisconsin offense sure look like they are back. While still not nearly as explosive as last season’s unit, the offense has found its footing. After all, it went for 645 yards of offense in its 38-14 win at Purdue.
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Before we turn our attention to Week 8, we need to review how BTN.com fans, Tom Dienhart and yours truly did with our Week 7 predictions. Dienhart led the way, at 4-1, good enough to move him into sole possession of first place in the season standings. BTN.com fans and myself both went 3-2.
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Another week of Big Ten football in the books, another chance to offer some thoughts from around the conference. See my 10 observations—some whimsical, some fact based, some opinionated—from Week 7.
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It’s safe to say, the two teams in Michigan are headed in opposite directions. And it’s happening just in time for the annual rivalry game. Fresh off a 45-0 victory over Illinois, the Wolverines are beginning to assert themselves, while the Spartans suffered their third home loss of the season. See what else I learned in Week 7 Big Ten action in this post.
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Every Saturday during the Big Ten football season, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart offers his Snap Reactions to all the Big Ten games. Get Dienhart’s thoughts from today’s earlier games here and read his analysis from Michigan’s 45-0 victory over Illinois in this post.
Wisconsin sent a loud message today. Did you hear it? Surely you did. I know it resonated with me.
The time is now for Michigan State. There is a sense of urgency around this week’s visit from Iowa. In fact, the game almost has a “must-win” aura about it. The Spartans are 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten. After this game with the Hawkeyes, Michigan State will embark on its most arduous phase of the season, playing at Michigan and at Wisconsin before coming home to play Nebraska and Northwestern.
Is there a conspiracy theory as to why Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti was snubbed by the Lombardi Award in the quarterfinal round of balloting? Or maybe it wasn’t a snub. Maybe it was just plain, good old incompetence. David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News explores as only David Jones can. That’s one of the many Big Ten Links I present to you on this wonderful Friday.
Having taking a long, hard look at each Saturday’s five Big Ten football games, I’m offering up my weekly rankings of the games here. Wisconsin at Purdue is a big one in a weird season for the Leaders Division while Iowa at Michigan State offers up two Legends Division teams looking to stabilize their seasons.
You have questions, I have answers in my weekly mail bag. Keep the great questions coming as we enter Week 7 of this Big Ten season.
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