Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 21, 2013

This is a good place to start Thursday links. USAToday has a Playoff Projection it conducts each week, with media panelists from across the nation taking part in selecting a mock playoff field. And, this week, it has Baylor as the No. 3 seed ahead of Ohio State.

It?s just too bad the four-team playoff doesn?t start this season. The matchups this week would be No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State, and No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 3 Baylor. How great would that be? Exactly.


Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan isn?t a semifinalist for the Outland Trophy. I can?t say that I?m shocked. But, by the sound of this article from Nick Baumgardner of, Brady Hoke isn?t thrilled.

"Am I disappointed? Yeah," Hoke said Wednesday. "Really disappointed."

Safe to say returning for his senior season hasn?t been ideal for Lewan, as he?ll also leave Ann Arbor sans a Big Ten title. Baumgardner notes that Michigan's offensive line has come under major scrutiny this year, as the Wolverines have struggled to run the football consistently almost every week — including back-to-back negative yardage performances at Michigan State and against Nebraska.

[MORE: Week 13 predictions | Week 13 game previews ]

Speaking of turning pro early, that?s exactly what Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby is going to do, according to Urban Meyer. Please tell me you aren?t surprised.

Now, what about Braxton Miller and Ryan Shazier?


Big Ten standings
Conference Overall
Ohio State 6-0 10-0
Wisconsin 5-1 8-2
Penn State 3-3 6-4
Indiana 2-4 4-6
Illinois 0-6 3-7
Purdue 0-6 1-9
Conference Overall
Michigan State 6-0 9-1
Minnesota 4-2 8-2
Nebraska 4-2 7-3
Michigan 3-3 7-3
Iowa 3-3 6-4
Northwestern 0-6 4-6

Big game for Iowa this week, with Michigan coming to Iowa City. It has been a nice season for the Hawkeyes, who already are bowl eligible after a 4-8 debacle in 2012. Win out, and Iowa could punch a ticket to the ? Outback Bowl? Maybe. Where is this team most improved? Kirk Ferentz thinks it?s the defensive line. I?m not gonna argue, though the passing game has really come along.

The d-line has recorded 17 sacks through 10 games, after making 13 all of last year. Opponents are averaging 130 rushing yards per game. Louis Trinca-Pasat has emerged as an anchor for the front four, says

?We had a hard time against everybody last year,? Ferentz said. ?We were just inexperienced. We knew that going in.?


Stewart Mandel of answers reader mail here. Among the topics: What?s holding back Ohio State in the BCS standings?

Mandel makes many good points as to why the Buckeyes are lagging in the BCS. In one, he draws a good parallel to Cincinnati in 2009, which went 12-0. That season, Mandel points out that no one was particularly sympathetic to the Bearcats because they played in an obviously inferior conference? Well, the '13 Big Ten is the '09 Big East.

During its unbeaten regular season, Cincinnati beat two league foes ranked in the BCS top 20, No. 16 West Virginia and No. 17 Pittsburgh. If Ohio State wins out, its best conference wins will likely be over current No. 13 Michigan State (in the Big Ten title game) and No. 19 Wisconsin. One difference: Cincinnati also beat No. 18 Oregon State in nonconference play.

So there is that. Makes senses to me. Any questions? Didn?t think so.


This may have snuck up on you. It did me: Penn State?s Christian Hackenberg is approaching the third-best passing yardage season in school annals. How good is this guy gonna be? Future No. 1 overall pick kinda talent? Hmmmm.


Some holes in the Michigan State defense were exposed by Nebraska last week. So, the Spartans have taken this week to patch them-at least that?s the idea.

The Spartans allowed 392 total yards, yielding 182 on the ground, the first time an opponent had gone over the 100-yard mark all season on the Spartans.

"It's all about what we're doing," defensive line coach Ron Burton said Wednesday. "As we make that transition to guys being in there, we want to make sure they're gap-sound. It doesn't take very long with a quick back like that (Ameer Abdullah) where you can cover in some situations, (but) with a kid  like that who's dynamic it's a little bit tougher. You gotta get in there quicker."


The numbers don?t lie: Illinois? defense has struggled. But coordinator Tim Banks wants another chance, according to Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times.

But Greenberg wonders if Banks will be back. In fact, he says, some believe it?s a foregone conclusion Banks will be fired regardless of the status of coach Tim Beckman. The defense has been the most-glaring weakness of a team that carries the massive burden of a 20-game losing streak in the Big Ten. Nationally, the Illini rank 114th (out of 123 teams) in total defense and 108th in scoring defense.

?To say it doesn?t have an effect on me would be disingenuous,? Banks said. ?It?s difficult.?


On that note, Illinois and Purdue face-off Saturday, and Tim Beckman and Darrell Hazell find themselves in similar spots. And, it can?t be comfortable.

Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune notes that the former Mid-American Conference coaches earned their Big Ten jobs based on their ability to resurrect programs - Beckman at Toledo, Hazell at Kent State. And both are in the midst of messy rebuilding processes while trying to instill faith in skeptical fan bases that they are the right guys for their jobs.

The good news: Someone is gonna win on Saturday in Ross-Ade Stadium. Now, how many people will be there to watch it?



He?s got that right.

Amazing, huh?

Very deserving.

The Badgers are like the 1980s Denver Nuggets!

No doubt, Roby didn?t look good vs. Abbrederis.

I don?t think it will happen this Saturday, either. The Badgers will just run, run, run.

Wow! A road win over BYU is more impressive than a home win over. Michigan. Interesting.



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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