Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Conference play kicked off last week, with Wisconsin blasting Purdue. This Saturday, there are two more Big Ten games: Iowa at Minnesota and Wisconsin at Ohio State.
The season is four weeks old, and I’m not sure who is going to win the Legends Division. True, the race looked muddled before the season began, with pundits typically tabbing Michigan or Nebraska to take the banner. But, cases also could have been made for Northwestern and Michigan State. Conversely, the Leaders Division looks like a two-team race between Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Coming off a 4-8 season, Iowa faced many questions as 2013 dawned. One of the biggest: Who would play quarterback with James Vandenberg gone? Jake Rudock emerged from a three-man battle in training camp. And the Hawkeyes haven’t looked back in forging a 3-1 start.
It wasn’t long ago when many felt Penn State would be an afterthought for a decade after severe NCAA sanctions were handed down. Well, news that the NCAA was going to ease scholarship limitations initially in place as part of penalties for the Jerry Sandusky scandal means that notion already may be antiquated.
It’s time for me to reach into my mailbag to answer the questions that are pressing your mind as we chug into the teeth of Big Ten season. The cards and letters keep streaming in. Thanks. Keep ‘em coming. Now, let’s get to your latest Big Ten queries, ranging from Kenny Guiton’s NFL prospects to Sam Ficken’s improvement.
The NCAA has taken a lot of criticism of late, and rightly so, with the Miami (Fla.) case feeding the fury of NCAA critics who howl for reform or the organization’s outright banishment.
Heeeeee’sssss baaaaccckkk! Ohio State superman Braxton Miller has been cleared to play Saturday vs. Wisconsin. If he practices well this week, he’ll start, says Urban Meyer. Miller’s timing is great, as Ohio State has a big game vs. Wisconsin on Saturday in Columbus. Miller has missed the last two-plus games with a MCL injury to his left knee. In fact, he’s played just one series in the last three games.
We have reached the one-third mark of the 2013 season. Where has the time gone? Last time I looked up from my keyboard, the kids still were splashing in the neighborhood swimming pool and the Cubs were eliminated from playoff contention. Wait, that last item happened back in June. Forget it. You get the point.
No big shakeups in my weekly bowl projections. The biggest is Wisconsin leaping past Michigan into the Capital One bowl, clashing with LSU. Of course, these schools will meet in season-opening games in 2014 (at Houston’s Reliant Stadium) and 2016 (at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field). Minnesota also has moved up to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, where I have it playing Baylor.
Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE
Let the hype begin on this week’s Wisconsin at Ohio State game! It’s a massive showdown in the Leaders Division. In fact, let’s go ahead and call it what it is, OK? A de facto Leaders Division championship game. That’s correct: The winner of this game almost assuredly will win the division and advance to the Big Ten title game to play who knows who?
It was a busy Saturday in the Big Ten, with 10 games taking place. Michigan continues to live dangerously, no team runs like Wisconsin, Nebraska still loves Bo and the Michigan State offense still has a ways to go. I learned a lot. Take a look.
Week Four in the Big Ten is over. And, it was a mixed bag in what was the last big full-blown Saturday of non-conference action. The headliner game was Michigan State at Notre Dame. The Spartans came up short, as the Fighting Irish won despite notching a scant 221 yards in a 17-13 victory.
It’s time to get powered up with my Sunday Big Ten rankings. This Saturday didn’t provide any dramatic victories or stunning losses, so my ranking didn’t shift dramatically. But, Wisconsin did make a move, as did Minnesota, Penn State and Iowa, while Michigan State sinks the most.
Kenny Guiton continues to be America’s top super sub. Today, he was at his best yet. The senior captain hit 24-of-34 passes for 215 yards with a school single-game record six touchdown passes—all of which came in the first half—in a 76-0 romp over Florida A&M.
I had this ninth grade English teacher named Mr. Trent at West Lafayette High School. And every Friday, he’d give us a “Super Quiz.” Only he spelled Quiz “Kwiz.” Man, I hated that. And I hated his quizzes even more. They ruined the Friday of every 14-year-old. So, it is in the late Mr. Trent’s honor that I present you with this week’s B1G grid quiz. Good luck. You’ll need it—or maybe not.
It’s that time of the week again, time for Four Downs, an informative and fun look at the Saturday ahead.
Happy Friday, Big Ten Nation! Game day almost is here. Don’t you love those words? Sure you do! Let’s start here with daily links. The last two seasons, Michigan has had issues with turnovers in its first road game. How bad has it been? Michigan has 16 turnovers in five recent road losses. Will those issues persist with this year’s maiden voyage away Ann Arbor, at UConn this Saturday?
There aren’t many high-calorie contests on this 10-game Big Ten menu for Saturday, just light fare for the most part.
Game day is drawing near. Thank goodness, as the Big Ten needs to get back onto the field after last Saturday’s disappointing 7-5 mark. Michigan State has the headliner game, as it travels to Notre Dame with the nation’s No. 1 defense that coordinator Pat Narduzzi calls “average.” If the Spartans defense is average, I’d like to see good. But, Narduzzi may have a point. After all, the combined record of Michigan State’s first three opponents against FBS competition is 0-7.
There are 10 games on the schedule this Saturday. And, at first glance, it’s not a great lineup of contests. No doubt, Michigan State’s visit to Notre Dame is the headliner. Lots of good storylines around the Spartans, who think they have found their offense. We shall see. Also, Big Ten play opens, with Purdue traveling to Wisconsin.
Is there a better offense in the Big Ten than Indiana’s? The stats say there isn’t. The Hoosiers are No. 1 in the league in total offense (571.3 ypg) and No. 1 in scoring (50.0 ppg). The attack came out of the game ablaze, registering 632 yards in a 73-35 win over Indiana State.
Bo Pelini has to feel better knowing he has the support of Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman and A.D. Shawn Eichorst. The duo issued a joint statement Wednesday in support of Pelini. So, too, did Nebraska legend Tom Osborne.
We all know Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner had a bad game vs. Akron. Brady Hoke’s advice: move forward. Well, that’s often easier said than done. I have to think Gardner has some self-doubt in his mind. And, the only way to get over it is to have some turnover-free games—starting with Saturday’s visit to UConn.
The weeks are flying by, and my mail is backing up. Keep those cards and letters coming! There is much to talk about after three weeks of action. Like, what should Ohio State do at quarterback this week. Or, what’s wrong at Nebraska? So, let me big into my mailbag and get after it!
Pelini-gate is sweeping the nation, as a secret recording of Nebraska coach Bo Pelini surfaced yesterday. And, it wasn’t flattering to the Cornhusker boss. In addition to crude language, Pelini is heard disparaging Nebraska fans. The reactions have been interesting.