Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 17, 2012

The second half of the Big Ten season has to be better than the first half, right? Well, that?s what Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald is thinking. There have been few-if any, honestly-impressive non-conference victories. Michigan State over Boise State is probably about it, but there have been plenty of embarrassing losses. And when the first BCS standings were released last Sunday, not one Big Ten team appeared in them.

Backup plan: If Iowa running back sensation Mark Weisman can?t play against Penn State after hurting an ankle last week at Michigan State, Hawkeye commentator and ex-Iowa star Ed Podolak is confident that true freshman Greg Garmon can carry the load.

Garmon has 14 carries for 35 yards this season and has dealt with an elbow injury that has cost him time. His backup? Jordan Canzeri, who hasn?t played this season since having knee surgery in the spring. You thinking what I?m thinking? Oh, Penn State-red hot with four wins in a row and coming off a bye–allows 128.5 yards rushing per game to rank sixth in the Big Ten.


He's back: Don?t look now, but Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is on fire. In fact, the senior may be back in the Heisman race. Check out his numbers through seven games in 2012 as compared to 2011. Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal did.

  • 2012: 172 carries for 816 yards (4.7 average) with 11 rushing touchdowns.
  • 2011: 125 carries for 768 yards (6.1 average) with 17 rushing touchdowns.

And Ball?s history says his best work comes in the second half of the season. What?s it all mean? The best is yet to come for Ball-and the Badgers.

Hands up: While discussing Wisconsin, did you notice the recent efforts of tight ends Jacob Pedersen and Brian Wozniak? If the duo keeps it up, the Badgers will have options at every skill position, making it good to be coordinator Matt Canada.

Forward, march: Yes, Michigan State has the top rushing defense in the Big Ten. Regardless, Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges still plans to run the ball.

Why not? The Wolverines? ground game has some stream and mojo. This is who Michigan is: a rushing team with a wondrous playmaker in Denard Robinson. Sure, defenses may know what?s coming ? still, running the ball is Michigan?s best option. Trying to pass was disastrous against Notre Dame.

The last two games, Michigan got back to basics. The results, according to Kyle Meinke of The Wolverines ran 105 times in the last two games, after rushing 144 times in the first four games combined. Defenses knew what was coming — and the Wolverines still averaged 6.3 yards per carry in the two games vs. Illinois and Purdue, and racked up 657 rushing yards.

And the winner is …:  David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News is a veteran scribe and Midwest native who has traveled the Big Ten circuit for years. So, when he writes something, you pay attention. On that note, check out his ranking of Big Ten venues.

Moving crew: The Ohio State ground game is gaining traction. Credit the offensive line.

Entering the season, the unit was a bit of a question. Players were being moved and a tight end was being lined up at right tackle. Sprinkle in a new coach and a new scheme and, well, you can see why there was concern. But in the last two games, the Buckeyes have run for over 300 yards in each contest.

And a visit from Purdue and its leaky defense could mean more success for the Ohio State rushing attack, which ranks No. 2 in the Big Ten (263.6 ypg). Urban Meyer credits o-line coach Ed Warinner, who has done a boffo job. And, I agree.

Just imagine if star running back Jordan Hall hadn?t been out most of the year with injury.

New assignment? When Minnesota visits Wisconsin, there?s a chance banged-up quarterback MarQueis Gray may line up at receiver.

He is taking more reps at wideout in practice this week after catching his first two passes last week. Minnesota needs help at receiver due to injuries to Isaac Fruechte and Devin Crawford-Tufts. Gray is a great athlete who can help pump up an offense that is struggling no matter where he plays.

Watch & learn: In this video, Steve Sipple and Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star tackle three questions facing Nebraska before the key game at Northwestern.


My take: I?m guessing this is gonna be something good. Why leak info about a pending announcement of a series vs., say, Western Kentucky?

My take: Why not? Nebraska gave up 63 points the last time out. Seems to me any changes to the defense would be justified.

My take: Someone explain this to me.

My take: Let?s put this in the running for ?Understatement of the Year.? senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, 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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