Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, October 22, 2014

It's always fun to monitor this: Nebraska broke out the Blackshirts yesterday for the first time this season. As if it needs to be said, this is a really cool tradition.


Penn State has its issues on offense, with a struggling line being the most pressing concern. But the defense has been outstanding, playing well enough to backstop a league champ.

The Nittany Lions are No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring defense (15.2 ppg); No. 1 in total defense (283.3 ypg); No. 1 in rushing defense (60.8 ypg). Not bad.


The Ohio State offensive line has been coming together nicely after some early-season struggles breaking in four new starters. Credit line coach Ed Warinner. But this week?s meeting with aforementioned Penn State and its strong front will pose a nice test to see how far along this unit is.

Ohio State has had three straight games of at least 500 yards and 50 points. This is gonna be fun.


Speaking of Penn State ? Remember Tom Bradley, the former long-time Penn State defensive coordinator? He is working on the West Virginia staff. And he?s making a difference.


Illinois is looking for something, anything, to jump start its season. So, it wasn?t a big shock to hear that the Fighting Illini will play both quarterbacks this week when Minnesota visits: Reilly O?Toole and A

Tim Beckman says a script will dictate when each QB will play. I?m not so sure I like the sound of this. And, neither does coordinator Bill Cubit.

?I don?t know, sometimes you tell a guy he?s going in at a certain point and things are going really well for the first guy and that just doesn?t make sense,? said Cubit.

?To me, you just tell them to be ready and when the time?s right you say, ?Hey, it?s your turn. Let?s go.? ?

Asked Monday how he?ll handle rotating two quarterbacks, Cubit admitted he?s unfamiliar with the concept.

?I don?t know,? he said. ?I?ll be honest with you, I?ve never done it before.?


Everybody needs a mentor, right? Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner has one in Vikings QB Chandler Harnish, who was Northern Illinois? signal-caller when Jerry Kill coached the Huskies.

Leidner continues to make strides in his first year as the starter. Since missing the San Jose State game, Leidner has completed 33-of-55 passes (66 percent) for 485 yards with three touchdowns and one pick. He?s a huge key to any hopes of a West Division title the Gophers possess.


A lot of things went wrong for Rutgers in its loss at Ohio State last week. One issue was poor tackling.

"We did a very poor job of tackling," defensive tackle Darius Hamilton said. "Not shooting our guns when we had the chance, not making the tackles when we had the opportunities. There's things we watch on film. We had people wrapped up for maybe 2-yard gains, 3-yards gains and they're breaking tackles for first downs and 8-yards gains. I think that's the biggest thing. We've got to be better at tackling and we've got to finish."


The great Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette wonders if Iowa was a player for a playoff spot prior to last week?s loss at Maryland.

Sure it was. If the Hawkeyes had gone 12-1 and won the Big Ten, I think they would have had a great shot to make the playoff. By the way: The first poll by the playoff committee will be released next Tuesday.


The Northwestern offense has its share of issues, from a line that struggles to block to a set of skill-position players that lacks big-play ability. Another issue: Second downs.

NU averages 4.5 yards per attempt on second downs and 7.4 yards per completion. points out that while the yards per attempt numbers are bad, the yards per completion numbers are really of interest here. They show that even when Northwestern's receivers are catching the ball, the passes are incredibly short.

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.

And if you want to leave a comment on this post, use the box below. All comments need to be approved by a moderator.