Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, September 19, 2013

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.

Let's look at some other links this morning …

Looks like Devin Gardner has a fan in Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who sent the junior Wolverine signal-caller an encouraging text after his rough outing vs. Akron that saw him toss three picks and lose a fumble.

?(Texas A&M quarterback) Johnny Manziel texted me, (Clemson quarterback) Tajh Boyd, I got a chance to talk to those guys,? Gardner said. "It's really cool that they're friends like that. When you have a good game, they texted me after Notre Dame, and when you have a game like that.

"They told me to keep my head up, and keep moving forward."

Nice to see stud QBs have each other?s backs. Wonder what else they text about?


Nebraska legend Tom Osborne has sounded off on the Bo Pelini tape. Here is his take.

So there is that. The biggest revelation is the fact T.O. knew about the tape last fall and talked to Pelini about it. No doubt, it helps Pelini to have Dr. Tom in his corner. If Osborne is one thing, it?s loyal.


What annoys Ohio State coach Urban Meyer more: big plays or missed tackles? Big plays. What annoys me? The mania over alternate uniforms ? and Flo from Progressive.


Northwestern is trying to end two streaks this year. The Wildcats haven?t won the Big Ten outright since 1995. And NU hasn?t averaged 40,000 attendance since 1998.

Which is most likely to happen? Ah, heck, both could happen, right? OK, my money is on the attendance.


How about true freshman Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg? He?s making it look easy.

"He's a calm guy, which is great for me, because I'm not a calm guy," Bill O'Brien said. "It's really good. Matt (McGloin) and I last year, sometimes obviously we had similar personalities.  Christian is a calm guy and that's good.  I think the team feeds off of that."

More Penn State: The great Bob Flounders has four keys for Penn State getting back on track after the tough loss to UCF.

No. 1: reduce the big plays. The Nittany Lions allowed 10 plays of 20 or more yards in a 34-31 loss to Central Florida. That's about seven too many.

No worries. Penn State may not see a better quarterback all season than UCF?s Blake Bortles. Years from now when Bortles is in the NFL, PSU fans can say they saw him in Beaver Stadium beat the Nittany Lions. (Sigh)


For a second week in a row, the world watches and waits to see if Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller will play this Saturday.

Miller still isn?t ?full speed,? according to Urban Meyer. And even if Miller does play, it sounds like he?ll be ?diminished as a precaution.?

My suggestion: Don?t play Miller. It?s FAMU, for crying out loud. Ohio State could beat the Rattlers with the tuba player at quarterback.


Where would Iowa be without Mark Weisman? Yes, it?s a scary thought.

Weisman, who is seventh nationally in rushing at 141.7 yards heading into Saturday?s tilt vs. Western Michigan, has averaged 28.3 carries in three games. The school record for a season is 26.3 carries by Sedrick Shaw in 1995. I like Weisman?s chances to top it.


Entering the season, Wisconsin was looking for a complement to wideout Jared Abbrederis. Well, it looks like it may found one in Jeff Duckworth.

More Bucky: I don?t care how anyone spins it in Madison, Badgers quarterback Joel Stave has to play better.

Hitting 50 percent of your passes (as Stave did at Arizona State) isn?t good, especially when you consider the attention the Wisconsin ground game commands. That-you?d think-would open up the passing game and make it a bit easier. Stay tuned.

Remember ex-Hawkeye Tim Dwight? Well, it looks like he can rappel. Check him out zooming down this building in Des Moines for Special Olympics, a noble cause.

I?m not sure what is more surprising: That Dwight can rappel or that there is a building big enough in Des Moines to repel down.

Who are the Big Ten?s best teams for the time being? Ohio State and Michigan, according to a quarterly report by Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times.

But what about Northwestern?



My take: This is a bit surprising. Wouldn?t you think Pelini?s bosses would want to know back then? Ya know, just in case it became public?

My take: LOL

My take: Meyer and about 20 million Buckeye fans.

My take: Anyone else confused about this quote?

My take: It seems all parties involved could have made more money with this game played in a big stadium in a large metro area.

My take: Yep.

My take: Don?t laugh. It?s true.


About Tom Dienhart 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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