College Football Insider: Let the real season begin

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 26, 2013 - 8:00 PM

Saturday's Wisconsin-Ohio State game will have postseason ramifications.

hide

Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde scores the game-winning touchdown against Wisconsin in overtime of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, in Madison, Wis. Ohio State won 21-14. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

It’s still September, but the Big Ten Leaders Division title could be decided Saturday night, when Wisconsin visits Ohio State.

The Legends Division looks wide open, with key matchups sprinkled throughout November, but Wisconsin and Ohio State know Saturday’s winner can pretty much punch its ticket to Indianapolis.

The past three matchups between Wisconsin and Ohio State were good theater. In 2010, the Badgers knocked off then-No. 1 Ohio State in Madison. Two years ago in Columbus, with 20 seconds remaining, Braxton Miller hit Devin Smith with a 40-yard touchdown pass, giving the Buckeyes a 33-29 triumph. Last year’s game went to overtime, with Ohio State prevailing 21-14.

“I was here [as an assistant coach at Ohio State] a long time ago, and it was not a rivalry,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “But you have to give credit to Wisconsin. I think it all started with Coach [Barry] Alvarez, and then the following coaches have done a great job. They are one of, if not, the best programs in the Big Ten right now, and because of that, it’s become a very good rivalry.”

The first four weeks featured so many matchups void of meaning for Big Ten teams that it’ll be good to ratchet up the intensity this week.

According to Jeff Sagarin’s computations in USA Today, which compare all 251 FBS and FCS teams, here’s where Big Ten teams rank in strength of schedule: Purdue (12th), Illinois (53rd), Indiana (72nd), Nebraska (98th), Michigan (110th), Penn State (116th), Northwestern (129th), Iowa (139th), Michigan State (161st), Ohio State (165th), Wisconsin (182nd) and the Gophers (184th).

Heading into Saturday night, these are the two biggest questions facing the Badgers and Buckeyes:

• Will Ohio State’s inexperienced, yet talented front seven find a way to stop Wisconsin’s seemingly unstoppable running back trio of Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement?

“I’m watching this [film] right now, going, ‘My gosh, where do these guys come from?’ ” Meyer said. “I know [White’s] from Fort Lauderdale, but I think the other one’s from [Kenosha], Wisconsin — No. 25 [Gordon] is just a tremendous, tremendous player.

“I haven’t seen the whole country, but I can’t imagine two better backs on the same team.”

The Buckeyes actually might have the Big Ten’s second-best running back unit with Jordan Hall, Carlos Hyde, Rod Smith and true freshman Ezekiel Elliott.

The running game is crucial for Wisconsin, with Joel Stave’s limitations at quarterback, and the Buckeyes’ ability to use standout cornerback Bradley Roby to neutralize receiver Jared Abbrederis.

Ohio State’s offense is more dynamic, but that leads us to the second question:

• What if Miller looks rusty coming back from his knee injury?

Arizona State showed the way to beat Wisconsin is with pinpoint passing. As good as Miller is, that’s not his strength.

You can’t blame Meyer for saying Miller will start, as long as his knee is fully recovered. After all, Miller is the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. But it has to be tough benching Kenny Guiton, who has 12 touchdown passes over the past three weeks.

Wisconsin’s front seven is loaded with veteran talent, and defensive coordinator David Aranda’s aggressive 3-4 system looks like a good fit for linebacker Chris Borland. If the Badgers can get a few quick stops early, Meyer might have to turn to Guiton for a spark.

It’s the most unexpected quarterback controversy in the country, but the stakes are simply too high this week for sentimentality.

Big Ten short takes

• The NCAA basically admitted to overstepping on its initial Penn State sanctions this week, when it announced the Nittany Lions could have 75 players under scholarship next season (instead of 65) and return to the full allotment of 85 scholarships by 2016 (two years ahead of schedule). As despicable as Jerry Sandusky’s acts were, it wasn’t the NCAA’s place originally to weigh in so heavily on a criminal matter.

• Indiana’s bowl hopes probably were dashed with its Sept. 7 loss to Navy. The Hoosiers fell to 2-2 with last week’s loss to Missouri. But the Hoosiers will pose a real threat to the Gophers when they meet at Indiana on Nov. 2.

As Gerry DiNardo said on Big Ten Network last weekend, “You give Indiana Minnesota’s nonconference schedule, it very well could be 4-0.”

• Maryland and Rutgers look like they will enter the Big Ten with positive momentum next season. Maryland finished 4-8 last year but improved to 4-0 last week with a 37-0 pasting of West Virginia.

Rutgers opened with a 52-51 loss to current No. 25 Fresno State and came back from 17 points down to defeat Bret Bielema’s Arkansas squad last week.

Big Ten power poll

1. Ohio State (4-0): After Wisconsin on Saturday, another good challenge awaits the Buckeyes next week at Northwestern.

2. Wisconsin (3-1, 1-0): This year’s schedule does not include Michigan, Michigan State and Nebraska.

3. Northwestern (4-0): The Wildcats have made 19 interceptions in their past seven games.

4. Michigan (4-0): Bye week to think about Akron and Connecticut before the Gophers visit.

5. Michigan State (3-1): The Spartans held Notre Dame to 17 points in South Bend and still lost — ouch.

6. Nebraska (3-1): Huskers fans have seen the future at quarterback, and his name is Tommy Armstrong Jr.

7. Penn State (3-1): Christian Hackenberg’s 13-for-35 passing day came in the rain, with a wet ball.

8. Gophers (4-0): They’ve scored 19 times in 20 trips to the red zone — 15 touchdowns, four field goals.

9. Illinois (2-1): Nathan Scheelhaase leads the Big Ten with 294.7 passing yards per game.

10. Iowa (3-1): Leads the Big Ten in average time of possession per game — 35 minutes, 48 seconds.

11. Indiana (2-2): Predictably, the Hoosiers rank last in Big Ten in scoring defense (32.8 points per game).

12. Purdue (1-3, 0-1): Gave little resistance to Wisconsin, one week after a strong showing against Notre Dame.

  • related content

  • Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon got past Purdue's Sean Robinson for a 15-yard touchdown run during the second half Saturday.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Jets 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Baltimore 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
LA Clippers 6:00 PM
Charlotte
Portland 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Orlando 6:00 PM
Cleveland
Phoenix 6:30 PM
Toronto
New York 7:00 PM
Houston
Indiana 7:30 PM
Dallas
Chicago 8:00 PM
Utah
Pittsburgh 6:00 PM
Boston
Philadelphia 6:00 PM
NY Islanders
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Detroit
Minnesota 6:30 PM
Florida
East Carolina 49 FINAL
Green Bay 66
Nevada 56 FINAL
Weber State 59
Evansville 58 2nd Half 0:01
Fresno State 52
Purdue 76 2nd Half 0:46
Kansas State 84
Dillard 3:00 PM
Alcorn State
Clemson 30 2nd Half
LSU 31
Georgia State 13 1st Half 12:52
Chicago State 3
MD-Eastern Shore 11 1st Half 14:17
Detroit 9
Missouri 4:00 PM
Arizona
Austin Peay 4:30 PM
Indiana State
Milwaukee 5:00 PM
Louisiana
Marist 5:00 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Gardner-Webb 5:30 PM
Old Dominion
Hampton 6:00 PM
Appalachian St
Grambling St 6:00 PM
Ball State
FIU 6:00 PM
Ga Southern
Jacksonville 6:00 PM
IUPU-Ft Wayne
Colgate 6:00 PM
James Madison
Savannah State 6:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona State 6:00 PM
Maryland
Santa Clara 6:00 PM
Michigan State
Western Carolina 6:00 PM
Oakland
SE Louisiana 6:00 PM
Tenn Tech
Bucknell 6:00 PM
Toledo
Villanova 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Nicholls 6:00 PM
Wake Forest
East Tenn St 6:00 PM
Winthrop
Murray State 6:00 PM
Xavier
Eastern Wash 6:30 PM
Indiana
Stephen F Austin 7:00 PM
Baylor
Lipscomb 7:00 PM
Belmont
Brown 7:00 PM
Illinois
Pepperdine 7:00 PM
Iowa
Rider 7:00 PM
Kansas
Prairie View 7:00 PM
Memphis
Clayton State 7:00 PM
Miss State
Miss Valley St 7:00 PM
TCU
TX A&M-Int 7:00 PM
Incarnate Word
Oregon State 7:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Hawaii 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Seton Hall 8:00 PM
Illinois State
NJIT 8:00 PM
Marquette
Stetson 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Florida A&M 8:00 PM
Wyoming
Pittsburgh 8:00 PM
Chaminade
Alabama 8:30 PM
Iowa State
Michigan 8:30 PM
Oregon
Colorado Christian 8:30 PM
Northern Colorado
Chadron State 8:30 PM
South Dakota St
Western Mich 9:00 PM
San Diego
SIU Edwardsville 9:05 PM
Portland State
Tulsa 10:00 PM
Auburn
BYU 10:30 PM
San Diego St
Ohio U 11/25/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Ohio
LSU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11/28/14 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 11/28/14 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
Montreal 24 FINAL
Hamilton 40
Edmonton 18 FINAL
Calgary 43
Grambling 51 FINAL
George Washington 89
Saint Louis 57 FINAL
Vanderbilt 75
NW Nazarene 33 2nd Half
Idaho State 44
Millersville 4:30 PM
Delaware State
NC State 5:00 PM
Tulane
Harvard 5:00 PM
(2) Notre Dame
Austin Peay 5:00 PM
Chattanooga
Brescia 5:00 PM
Morehead St
Tennessee St 6:00 PM
(4) Tennessee
Troy 6:00 PM
Florida A&M
Sam Houston St 6:00 PM
South Dakota St
UNC Greensboro 6:00 PM
Longwood
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Columbia
Western State 6:00 PM
Northern Colorado
TX A&M-CC 6:00 PM
Rice
Cornell 6:00 PM
Fairfield
St Johns 6:00 PM
Marist
Bradley 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
Mount Ida 6:00 PM
UMass Lowell
Thomas (GA) 6:00 PM
Georgia State
Loyola-Maryland 6:00 PM
(10) Maryland
Barton 6:00 PM
UNC-Asheville
Campbell 6:00 PM
Western Carolina
North Florida 6:00 PM
Samford
Prairie View 7:00 PM
(7) Texas A&M
Eastern Washington 7:00 PM
Abilene Christian
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Oral Roberts
Cal-Irvine 7:00 PM
South Dakota
Quinnipiac 7:00 PM
Holy Cross
East Tenn St 7:05 PM
Indiana State
(5) Stanford 8:00 PM
New Mexico
Sacramento St 8:00 PM
St Marys-CA
Cal State Fullerton 8:00 PM
Weber State

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings offense

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close