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The BIG Blog: The Big Ten Offenses Strike Back

Remember what I wrote last week about how tough the BIG defenses were? Never mind. This week, half of the BIG teams scored at least 31 points, and two of the games could legitimately be called shootouts. Go figure.

Amazingly, one of those shootouts took place in Columbus, where Ohio State pulled off the greatest comeback ever by an Urban Meyer coached team (18 points) to score an exciting 39-38 win over Penn State. Here are some thoughts from that drama (and mistake) filled game.

(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)

  • Remember back in August when Ohio State’s defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said the Buckeye’s defensive line was better than the one he coached in the NFL at Tampa. Turns out that wasn’t just a coach bragging on his boys. They destroyed the Nittany Lions’ offensive line yesterday and seem to grow more dominant as the game wore on.
  • If Coach Meyer really does spend more time with his kickoff unit than any other part of the team (as they said during yesterday’s broadcast), perhaps he should redirect his attention. Not only did they give up a textbook touchdown return on the opening kickoff, they almost gave up another one on a pooch kick, setting Penn State up with a short field for a touchdown. If you take away those two scores, Ohio State gets the blowout the stats would lead you to expect.
  • Ironically, after special teams helped dig the big hole, it was the Buckeye’s special teams that swung the momentum around in their favor with a blocked punt early in the fourth quarter. Ohio State scored on their next three possessions behind the flawless play of QB J. T. Barrett.
  • This game was supposed to be another big statement in Saquon Barkley’s Heisman campaign, but it was Barrett that really boosted his chances for the trophy. Barrett completed all 13 of his passes in the fourth quarter for 170 yards and led all rushers for the game with 95 yards. Barrett’s 423 yards of total offense was also a school record, breaking Art Schlicter’s 412 in 1981.
  • J. T. Barrett passed Drew Brees to become the all-time BIG leader in career touchdown passes. He now has 94 and should tack quite a few more onto that record before he’s done.
  • After the game, Meyer said about Barrett, “I don’t know if I’ve ever had more respect for a human being and as a person, because you earn respect and you witness people in very dire straits at times, tough situations.” To put that in some perspective, Meyer also coached Tim Tebow when he won the Heisman and a national championship at Florida,
  • Penn State surrendered points in the first quarter for the first time this season, now outscoring opponents 104-3 in the first quarter.
  • The Buckeyes’ do appear to have worked the kinks out of their offense that were on display early in the season. They put up 529 yards on the Nittany Lions and are second in the nation with an average of 571 per game.
  • Ohio State did not receive any help from the officiating yesterday despite playing at home. The call in the second quarter that overturned an end zone interception with a phantom pass interference call was rough, and Penn State scored right away after it-this could have been a huge turning point. In the second half, I think they got the call right on what looked to me like a joint-possession touchdown reception by the Nittany Lions’ DeAndre Thompkins (even though the announcers never pointed that out), but it was still tough for the Buckeyes to swallow another overturned interception. A total of 19 accepted penalties kept the officials quite busy.

So, what does this result mean? First, it ends the scenario where two BIG teams can get in the playoffs. Right now, we are looking at an Ohio State-Wisconsin BIG Championship Game and, if those teams have won out, I’m sure the winner gets in. The loser would not however-Ohio State doesn’t make it with two losses, and Wisconsin’s weak schedule would keep them out with one loss.

Penn State is not completely out of the hunt, but they would need lots of help, including Ohio State losing to both Michigan State and Michigan which seems highly unlikely. I would not see how we could have a reverse of last year, when Penn State won the BIG but Ohio State got the playoff berth. A two-loss Ohio State team could still win the BIG, but that would likely mean that the BIG would get shutout of the playoffs. Of course, given surprise losses by TCU and Michigan State this week, there is still lots that can happen to mess things up even further, and isn’t that part of what makes college football so entertaining?

The BIG Preview:

Next week, Penn State travels to Michigan State at noon on Fox Sports. This game lost a lot of juice after both teams fell on Saturday, but could still have important implications. The Spartans could still capture the East division by winning out, which would be quite an accomplishment after finishing 3-9 last year. QB Brian Lewerke served notice that he could be coming into his own as a passer with 445 yards and 4 TD passes in the loss at Northwestern, but will face a Nittany Lion defense that is likely to be in a really foul mood after getting run over by Ohio State.

Penn State is still theoretically in play for the East title, but more realistically needs a win to position themselves for a Big Six bowl game. I see them bouncing back well on both sides of the ball and posting a 31-17 win over the Spartans.

BIG Notes:

Speaking of breakout quarterbacks, Nebraska’s Tanner Lee put up 431 yards passing in Nebraska’s come-from-behind 25-24 win at Purdue. The junior has shown steady improvement in his first season at Nebraska, and could lead a potent offense next year for Coach Mike Riley, or whoever…

Michigan made the move their fans have been clamoring for, inserting Sophomore Brandon Peters in at quarterback in their 35-14 win over Rutgers. Peters was efficient, but the Wolverines relied on their punishing ground attack, which ground up the Scarlet Knights for 334 yards on 6.5 per attempt. No word on who the Michigan starter will be next week against Minnesota, and given Coach Harbaugh’s reluctance to share information we likely won’t know until kickoff.

Speaking of Minnesota, it was a nice touch that Coach P. J. Fleck had the entire team come onto the field at the end of the first quarter at Iowa and join in the First Quarter Wave to the kids in the adjacent hospital. Iowa held on to the treasured Floyd of Rosedale trophy with a 17-10 win. The trophy is a bronze pig. Back in 1935, tensions were running high in this rivalry, and the state governors lightened the mood by wagering a prize pig on the outcome. Minnesota won, and the Iowa governor awarded them Floyd of Rosedale. After Floyd died a few years later of cholera, the school decided to award a trophy instead of a live pig. In 2008, Rivals.com named Floyd the top rivalry trophy in college football.

Nice to see the Terps pull out a wild 42-39 win against Indiana. A win at Rutgers next week would virtually clinch fifth place, which is two spots above last place. That would be Maryland’s fifth win and, with games remaining against Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State, likely their last.

Ohio State moved up to #3 in the national polls this week, with Wisconsin #4 and Penn State #7. Michigan State fell to #24 in one and out of the other, where Michigan popped back up at #24. I would certainly expect Ohio State to be #3 in the playoff rankings when they come out Tuesday night, but Wisconsin’s weak schedule (expect to hear more about that the longer they stay undefeated) could drop them behind another one-loss team, either Clemson or Notre Dame. We are moving toward a clash of titans in the SEC Championship Game with undefeated Alabama and Georgia now holding down the top two spots in the polls.

Don’t forget, you can follow me on Twitter @The_BIGBlog and reach me by e-mail at [email protected] I also hang out on the message boards, mostly in the University of Maryland & NCAA sections, where I periodically post links to BIG news stories you might find interesting. You can also go there to find the Deified Dozen football national rankings by the experts (?) here at BSL.

Next week I’ll look back and see how much of this week’s column got overrun by events, and preview the Michigan State-Ohio State showdown. Until then, live large and have a BIG week everyone.

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Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson is a life-long Maryland Terrapins and college sports fan and a proud U of Md. alum. Jim started writing about the Terps on his own blog during the Steve Francis season of 1998-99. He then moved on to cover ACC hoops and football across the Internet, adopting the moniker "The Courtmaster" and becoming a frequent "expert" guest on Bob Haynie's old WNST show and other sports radio stations across the country. You can find some of his classic (?) work on his old blog. Jim laid down his gavel in 2007 and is returning to sportswriting after a sabbatical he spent furthering his career as a non-profit executive and senior accounting professional, becoming an ordained minister, and gnashing his teeth/sulking about Maryland joining the Big Ten. He figured the best way to scratch his sportswriting itch was to dive in head first to learn about the Big Ten, the current teams, schools, and history, and share what he learns with our readers. Jim enjoys interacting with readers, exchanging ideas, and most of all having fun. You can chat with him on the message boards or by e-mail at [email protected]

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