Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 26, 2013

It?s Tuesday, two days until Thanksgiving. Until then, feast on a Heisman race that got turned sideways last Saturday with losses by Texas A&M (Johnny Manziel), Baylor (Bryce Petty) and Oregon (Marcus Mariota). And Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston has a potentially murky future due to legal issues. Could Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller get back into the race? notes Miller won?t win the honor. That?s correct. Missing almost three games has killed that dream. But, he could earn an invite to NYC. If the Buckeyes finish 12-0, I think Miller should be a top 3-5 finisher. I may put him on my ballot. Others in the hunt are Alabama?s A.J. McCarron, Northern Illinois? Jordan Lynch, Boston College?s Andre Williams, Clemson?s Tajh Boyd and Louisville?s Teddy Bridgewater.


Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette says the Big Ten has its best possible title game matchup. I don?t think anyone will argue with that. Let him count the ways for you.


Brady Hoke says he?ll be disappointed if Michigan fans sell their tickets to Ohio State fans for this Saturday?s game.

But fans selling tickets should be the least of Hoke?s problems. Some are questioning the direction of the program. Yes, I know, it seems silly just three years into his tenure. Hoke stands by what he?s doing.


I knew there was a reason why I liked Bill O?Brien so much. It seems he?s a proponent of an eight-team playoff. Me, too!

Big Ten standings
Conference Overall
Ohio State 7-0 11-0
Wisconsin 6-1 9-2
Penn State 3-4 6-5
Indiana 2-5 4-7
Illinois 1-6 4-7
Purdue 0-7 1-10
Conference Overall
Michigan State 7-0 10-1
Nebraska 5-2 8-3
Iowa 4-3 7-4
Minnesota 4-3 8-3
Michigan 3-4 7-4
Northwestern 0-7 4-7

Four teams just aren?t enough for a playoff. I can only hope in time, the powers-that-be will see the light and adopt an eight-team format. This season alone, Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Auburn, Missouri, Clemson and Oklahoma State are worthy of competing for the national crown in a playoff.

"I would prefer a final eight," O'Brien told "If you go more than that, it's too much. If it's a final eight, it's more along lines of crowning a true champion."


Andrew Logue of doesn?t think Iowa-Nebraska is a rivalry yet. But, I think it will get there. A few wins by the Hawkeyes certainly would spice up the proceedings. Will they get their first vs. the Huskers in Big Ten action this Friday? Hmmmm.


Count Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen among those who thinks the Badgers are BCS-worthy if they finish with a win vs. Penn State. I?m not gonna argue with that notion.


Zack Meisel of takes a look at how Ohio State turned things around after sinking to a new low in a loss at Michigan in 2011. The last time in Ann Arbor, the Buckeyes suffered a 40-34 defeat.

"It was heartbreaking," said safety C.J. Barnett. "We let the great state of Ohio down."

Meisel notes the loss snapped the Buckeyes' seven-game win streak against the Wolverines and it sunk Ohio State as low as it had been, record-wise, since 1999. Throw in the looming NCAA sanctions and a coaching situation in flux and the Buckeyes had reached the nadir of the post-John Cooper era.

"After that game, everybody was kind of just like, 'Man, we haven't lost to these guys in forever,'" said center Corey Linsley. "There were classes that went through and never lost."

A listless loss to Florida in the Gator Bowl five weeks later stuck the Buckeyes with a 6-7 showing for 2011. Ohio State hasn't fallen short since. Look at Ohio State now. A lot has gone on in the last two years, huh? Fascinating.


The tension between Wisconsin and Minnesota was high as the teams left the football field Saturday in Minneapolis. But were the Badgers and Gophers "all good" after Wisconsin?s 20-7 win? Badgers defensive back Dez Southward doesn't think it'll ever be that way in this rivalry. Check out this video.


Yes, the Michigan State defense may be slipping a bit, but the offense is coming on. The Spartans are second in the Big Ten and 21st in the nation with a 48-percent third-down conversion rate, even after a 4-of-12 effort against Northwestern. Check out the numbers in this story. Pretty impressive.


Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times says the Legends Division hasn?t measured up to the Leaders Division.

Gould says the Legends Division race was supposed to be more interesting than the Leaders. But what looked to be a tight four-way race has deteriorated into disappointment for many of the contenders. Michigan, a popular pick to square off against rival Ohio State twice, didn?t take care of business against its in-state rival in a 29-6 loss at Michigan State.

That started a November spiral salvaged only by a miracle comeback at Northwestern. And on it has gone for fellow Legends teams Northwestern and Nebraska. But, hey, the surprising rises of Minnesota and Iowa have been fun.


Penn State may finish 6-6. But Ben Jones of doesn?t think that would such a bad thing. Really.

Jones notes that Penn State has been competitive and in all but one game in the past two seasons (at Ohio State this season), 22 out of the last 23 contests the Nittany Lions could exit feeling like on a better day they could have won in the nine of 23 times Penn State failed to do so thus far. That?s not bad, when you consider the circumstances of the program.


Rumors and speculation continue to swirl around Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who says he?s ?not coaching to save my job.?

?At the end of the day, I want to be here. I want to be here if they want me here,? Pelini said this week. ?If they don?t, if somebody doesn?t want me here - and I?m not saying Shawn does, doesn?t, whatever - if they don?t want me here, I?ll move on. I?ll go on my way.?

But does Pelini think he?s made a compelling case for future progress under his leadership?

?That?s not for me to decide,? Pelini said. ?I can say this: I can look myself in the mirror and feel good about what I?ve done for this program.?



That is a good selection of running backs. No shame in getting shutout.

I think Nebraska will be just fine with Ron Kellogg under center.

The guy is a stud. He should have been a Ray Guy finalist.

So there is that.

I can sympathize.

I agree. Florida State?s resume isn?t overly impressive.

It will be a shame if the Badgers are left out of the BCS if they finish 10-2.

It was a huge oversight to not have Chris Borland among the Butkus finalists.

I don?t know if Indiana has as far to go as Illinois and Purdue. But, all three are struggling.

Bad vs. bad.


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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