Greetings all, welcome to another edition of Big Ten No Huddle.
Among the topics discussed this week are Ohio State and Nebraska's impressive victories, the pleasantly surprising play of Purdue and Penn State, and what ails Michigan.
Ohio State survived a fierce test from rival Michigan State on Saturday, winning 17-16 in East Lansing.
The Buckeyes were once again led by sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller, whose 315 yards of total offense (179 yards passing, 136 yards rushing) have him on many pundits’ short list(s) for Heisman.
Defensively, the Buckeyes probably played their best game of the season, holding Spartan running back Le’Veon Bell to 45 yards on 17 carries.
Miller has certainly drawn a lot of praise for his play to this point, but he also has quite a ways to go in his development.
For starters, he needs to do a better job of reading the defensive coverage(s). It also seems that at times he is not one willing to shy away from contact; and, while he is by no means frail, that kind of attitude could land him on a stretcher in the near future.
At the end of the day, the bottom line is that Miller is the most dynamic play-maker Ohio State has, and their offense will continue to go through him. Tailback Carlos Hyde (11 carries for 49 yards versus the Spartans) reminds many fans in Columbus of Beanie Wells, but he may not be quick enough to earn a featured role in Urban Meyer’s spread offense.
On the flip side, everyone (including Urban Meyer himself) has to be wondering when wide receiver Corey ‘Philly’ Brown (12 receptions, 84 yards at MSU) will finally take one to the house.
This week Ohio State returns to Columbus to face Nebraska in prime time. The Buckeyes will be out to avenge a 34-27 defeat they suffered at the hands of the Cornhuskers last season in Lincoln.
Speaking of Nebraska, Big Red got a huge win last Saturday night in Lincoln versus Wisconsin. With their next three games at Ohio State, at Northwestern, and at home versus Michigan, the Cornhuskers could ill afford to start Big Ten play 0-1 in the conference.
Nebraska’s victory was in large part due to the improved play of Taylor Martinez, who accounted for 288 of the Cornhuskers 440 total yards on offense. Defensively, Nebraska pretty much took Wisconsin’s Montee Ball out of the game, limiting him to 90 yards on 32 carries.
The Cornhuskers' win over the Badgers was eerily similar to their game last season versus the Buckeyes. In each contest, Big Red faced three score deficits in the third quarter (27-6 versus Ohio State, and 27-10 versus Wisconsin). And, each time the ‘Huskers would rally to not only win, but shut out their opponent in the fourth quarter.
The Cornhuskers will look to make it two in a row against the Buckeyes when they roll into Columbus on Saturday evening. If they are to pull out the upset, not only will they need Martinez at his best, but they will also need significant contributions from tailbacks Rex Burkhead and Amir Abdullah.
Michigan is coming off its bye week hoping to right the ship against Purdue. The Wolverines rank last in the conference in turnover ratio (-7), something that was not helped by Denard Robinson’s four interception game two weeks ago against Notre Dame.
Robinson’s eight interceptions on the season are more than half of the 15 picks he threw in all of 2011. At times against the Irish it appeared that Robinson would force the ball into double coverage, something that he has struggled with throughout his college career.
The good news for the Wolverines, however, is that Robinson’s 6.7 yards per attempt rushing the ball are the best of his career, a full yard and almost a yard and a half higher than his 5.3 ypa in 2011.
The bad news? Michigan’s opponent on Saturday, Purdue, is only allowing 3.29 yards per attempt on rushing plays in 2012. In a 20-17 loss to Notre Dame earlier this season, the Boilermakers allowed a mere 52 yards rushing.
Of course, Purdue did allow the Irish to pass for 324 yards in that game, but, given Robinson’s erratic passing to date, that doesn’t really mean much.
On the Purdue side of the ball, it will be interesting to see who lines up behind center on Saturday. The Boilermakers have passed for over 1000 yards on the season, with Caleb TerBush passing for 531 of those yards and Robert Marve passing for 414 yards.
A win for Purdue on Saturday would also put them firmly in the driver’s seat in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten.
Finally, maybe more impressive than the fact that Northwestern is 5-0 is that Penn State will be going for its fourth straight win this Saturday when they face the Wildcats in Happy Valley.
The Nittany Lions, with everything that has happened to them in the offseason, were written off by many people this offseason. A win this weekend will put Penn State at 4-2 heading into Iowa City next weekend.