Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 27, 2013

We are a day closer to ?The Game.? And, there is a lot on the line for each team. So, let?s start these pre-Thanksgiving links here. For Ohio State and its quest to reach the BCS title game, it must beat Michigan and then topple Michigan State in the Big Ten title game while hoping Alabama or Florida State loses down the stretch.

For Michigan, it needs a big upset to help get the program back on track after what has been an, ahem, uneven season.

The Wolverines? biggest headache? Dealing with Braxton Miller, who Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison says is ?by far the most complete quarterback that we?re going to face this year.?

I?m not gonna argue with him. Miller has thrown only four interceptions in 2013. His pass efficiency rating is 165.79. Always known as shifty speedster, Nick Baumgardner of says he?s grown through his junior season into a balance of run and gun. He?s gained consistency. After completing 58.3 percent of his passes last year, Miller?s completion percentage is now 67.7 — ranking 13th nationally. Impressive, huh? And you thought he only could run. Silly you.

After Ohio State takes on Michigan, it will battle Michigan State in the most-anticipated Big Ten title game yet. It will be the first time in 71 years that the Buckeyes will have a game the week after battling the Wolverines.

?It?s a one-game season right now,? OSU left tackle Jack Mewhort said. ?All we?re worried about is the one in front of us. It?s The Game, and that?s all we?re focused on right now. We?ll handle the other stuff when we get there, but right now there?s only one that matters.?


This is interesting: Minnesota coach Jerry Kill thinks the Gophers and Badgers need to discuss ?axe protocol.?

As you recall, Wisconsin won the Axe for the 10th consecutive year last Saturday and pretended to chop down the west goal post at TCF Bank Stadium. The Badgers waited until the Gophers players finished singing "Hail! Minnesota" with the band, and then moved in on the east goal post and wanted to pretend to chop it down. The Gophers didn?t like that and wouldn't let them get to it. This led to a standoff, and security had to help separate the teams.

"Whether we go around the field, or they go around the field, and our team needs to get off, or we sing the song and get off — the administrations know we need to handle it in a different way on both sides,? Kill said. So we?ll let them work it out, and I?m sure they?ll get it right, and then they?ll pass it along to both coaches."

What makes celebrations great is the fact they are spontaneous. Trying to set up a protocol is a big buzz kill. Me thinks Minnesota is more upset about losing the Axe 10 times in a row than how Wisconsin wants to celebrate.


Who is Iowa?s unsung hero this season? It?s the fullback, a position that?s not used at many schools anymore.


Bob Flounders of takes a look at Penn State?s best players and top moments through the first 11 games of 2013.

The most improved player? Running back Bill Belton. The most improved player on defense? Tackle DaQuan Jones. The most valuable player overall? C?mon ? do you have to ask?


Who is more deserving of a BCS at-large bowl spot: Michigan State or Wisconsin? Of course, this is assuming MSU loses the Big Ten title game to Ohio State. Mark Dantonio chimed in this week on how he?ll stump for his team.

"Oh yeah, I'll campaign, we've beaten Wisconsin the last three out of four years, we can start with that," Dantonio said. "But we'll worry about that later on. We're not going to deal with that now. Our focus needs to be on Minnesota, that's where it is.?

Beating the Badgers three out of the last four times is all well and good. But that?s recent history. And it has nothing to do or any bearing on 2013. Period. End of story. It?s like citing who won the MSU-Wisconsin series in the 1990s as proof for who should get a BCS bowl spot in 2013. Just silly. Just irrelevant. Stop it. Now.


Tom Shatel of says Taylor Martinez?s career is a series of special snapshots. Hey, it?s a good time to reflect, as T-Magic?s career is over. It?s too bad his senior season was ruined by injury.

Shatel?s No. 1 Martinez moment is mine, too:

?The brilliance and wonder at the beginning. For me, it was captured on that Thursday night, Oct. 7, at Kansas State. Martinez had shown his speed at Washington, but that night he kept running sprints down the field, like Forrest Gump. It just seemed so easy back then. I'll never forget the image of K-State coach Bill Snyder slamming his play sheet to the ground as Martinez glided down the field on another 80-yard jaunt. Who was this guy??


Good read from the AP, as Big Ten trophy games this week could impact coaching staffs.


My take: Let?s enjoy the rest of the season first, OK?

My take: He likely will be on my ballot. No way A.J. McCarron is on Lynch?s level.

My take: Interesting.

My take: Inspiration.

My take: Good thing!

My take: What?

My take: A win for Purdue would ease the pain of 2013 ? at least some of it. Well, a tiny, tiny bit of it.

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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