Tag Archives: Big Ten football

Scott Frost Is In Over His Head At Nebraska

I have respect for the success that now-retired coaches once had. That success can be looked back upon with a feeling of nostalgia. Having respect and nostalgic reverence for that success should not mean trying to recreate what Tom Osborne built at Nebraska. In chasing Scott Frost, that is precisely what the state of Nebraska is attempting to do.

When Shawn Eichorst and Mike Riley were each fired, the attitude that oozed out of Nebraska was that this was the state’s opportunity to go back to its nostalgic past. The self-proclaimed opportunity being presented was a chance for the program to go back to its rightful place of 1990s success.  Bill Moos was hired to replace Eichorst and his top priority was to replace Mike Riley with someone who “gets” Husker football. Whatever that means.

But let’s be honest. Anyone remotely close to the Nebraska program knows why Nebraska hired a relative no-name athletic director who had made a name for himself at Washington St. He is in place to be athletic director in title only. The person calling the shots for this football hire is Tom Osborne.

Frost’s name had been a hot commodity early on in the coaching market and Florida seemed like a reasonable destination for the young coach. But then Osborne called and told his protege that it was “time to come home.” And Frost reportedly “understood the message.” 

If this call to come home did in fact happen, it’s a troubling sign for Nebraska football. It’s troubling because it’s indicative of a search that wasn’t an actual search. In addition to that, it’s troubling because Frost and Moos will be seen as Osborne’s puppets. Hell, maybe that’s exactly what the state of Nebraska wants. If its 70 year old legend won’t put the headset on again – Bill Snyder is somewhere asking “why not”- then the next best coach is a person who was a contributor to that now nostalgic glory.

Frost is a solid coach. Many programs would be lucky to have him. Just ask the University of Central Florida. Frost engineered a magical turnaround, but Orlando isn’t Lincoln. The Knights are not the Huskers. The AAC isn’t the Big Ten. You get the point.

Omaha attorney Mike Fitzpatrick is front and center in the Scott Frost fan club. He’s gone as far as to print up coasters imprinted with “Hire Scott Frost Now!”  Fitzpatrick summed up the feelings of Nebraska fans everywhere with these prophetic words.

“Mr. Moos, not being from the state of Nebraska and only being here a short period of time, hasn’t had a chance to see the culture and how we do things in Nebraska. I’m convinced the only way Nebraska is going to gain prominence again is by having one of the guys who was there at the time we were (prominent).”

This would be a tough environment for any coach to win in. Short of undefeated seasons and national championships, nothing will pacify these fans. It’s simply too much for a talented, but young coach to handle.

Is Frost going to be seen as the same kind of true son home run hire as Jim Harbaugh was at Michigan? The question has been asked. Now that the comparison is in your mind, ask yourself this: Will the state of Nebraska accept 3rd and 4th-place finishes while never beating its rival? That’s what Harbaugh has accomplished at Michigan and he’s an experienced Power 5 coach.

It’s time for Nebraska to move on from the Osborne-era. Sure, look back on his won-loss record with the respect it deserves, but these are different times. Expecting Frost to recruit to Lincoln like it’s the 1990s isn’t realistic given the changing landscape of college football. The biggest difference between college football in the 21st-century and the 1990s is social media. When Lawrence Phillips broke into Frost’s apartment, fetched his former girlfriend and dragged her down three flights of stairs, he was allowed to stay on the team. Remember what Osborne said – He just needs football in his life. That attitude won’t stand up to the scrutiny of a 24/7 news cycle.

Frost will have to run a tighter ship than what Osborne ran. If he doesn’t, he may win a championship at Nebraska, but will wind up sacrificing his career in exchange for recreating that nostalgic glory. The state of Nebraska may consider that to be a fair trade-off but I doubt Frost will.

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E-mail Seth at [email protected] 

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A Surprise To Playoff Contender Status

Last week I wrote a piece declaring that Wisconsin was the Big Ten’s one hope of making the College Football Playoff. I was pretty confident in that statement too. The Badgers hadn’t really played anyone of note at the time but given their undefeated record and where the other teams in the conference stood, it seems highly plausible.

Well, some things happened in week 11 of the season.

Ninth-ranked Washington chalked up a second loss to unranked Stanford. Auburn trucked number one Georgia and I don’t have a strong enough word to describe what Miami did to number three Notre Dame. Wisconsin still won the game against the 20th ranked Iowa Hawkeyes but something else happened.

Number 13 Ohio State but a 45-point beatdown on number 12 Michigan State. Suddenly Ohio State is back to the offensive powerhouse that put up more than 30 points against everyone but Iowa and Oklahoma. That loss against Iowa still doesn’t look very good but that loss to Oklahoma is looking better and better each week. The Sooners have dropped 50+ points on three different teams now.

So now we’ve got Ohio State occupying the ninth spot.

It’s not a great spot with only two weeks left in the season but suddenly, there is a path for the Buckeyes to get into the College Football Playoff. It’s a bit of a murky path but let’s take it.

Obviously, Ohio State needs to win both their upcoming games against Illinois and Michigan. If they lose either of those, the jig is up and we can forget about everything after this sentence. So the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume they win both of those. Illinois is a gimmie but Michigan could put up a fight but the Buckeyes should win.

So let’s look at the eight teams ahead of Ohio State right now:

Alabama

Clemson

Miami

Oklahoma

Wisconsin

Auburn

Georgia

Notre Dame

Let’s start from the bottom and work our way up.

Notre Dame is basically done. Games against Navy and Stanford are left but what of the Fighting Irish’s spirit? Even with two wins, Notre Dame isn’t likely to move up much.

Georgia has only one shot: win the SEC title game. If the Bulldogs don’t bounce back against Kentucky and Georgia Tech, it’s all moot and can only help Ohio State. No matter what Georgia does, it helps clear the path for the Buckeyes.

Auburn’s basically in the same boat as Georgia. Ironically, it’s Alabama standing the ways of both of them. Win out and it’s even better for Ohio State.

Wisconsin is the most interesting of the remaining teams. Ohio State fans need to root for Wisconsin to win their remaining games but not by much. Michigan either needs to keep the game close or win it at the last second. Both scenarios should keep Wisconsin and Michigan ranked but the former will make Wisconsin an even more impressive conquest.

In the Big Ten Championship game, Ohio State will need to do what it did the last time the two teams met. I was actually there and man, it got boring watching them smack Wisconsin all over the field. Trounce an undefeated or one-loss Wisconsin and Ohio State should see a good jump in the rankings.

Not a whole lot can be done about Oklahoma. The Sooners are tearing it up but every win by them makes their defeat of Ohio State more reasonable.

Thankfully Miami and Clemson are right next to each other because they’re going to take care of each other. They’re going to meet on December 2nd and only one will survive. You can already cross one of them off the list already.

Last but not least, there’s Alabama. They haven’t been super impressive but they’re most likely going to win out. As long as they don’t lose close in the SEC title game, they’re either in or out.

Lots going on here but that works in favor of Ohio State. Only one or two things need to go right and Ohio State to win out and suddenly we’ve got a different Big Ten team into the playoffs.

Considering the ups and downs of the Buckeye season, credit has to be given to Urban Meyer and his staff. It’d be the second time he’d suffered what should’ve been a season-crippling loss and still made the playoff.

And that’s why college football is the best.

Email Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Help Us Wisconsin, You’re Our Only Hope

I don’t think people realize it but 2017 is the most Big Ten year in quite a while. Recently we’ve had years with multiple teams losing only one or two games and usually to each other. Now we’re back in the good old days when suddenly everyone’s got at least one or two losses and a lot of them from unexpected teams.

No one expected Michigan State to be taken out by Northwestern, let alone Iowa taking down not one but two top ten teams. Of course, no one expected the Hawkeyes to absolutely manhandle Ohio State that way either. So now what was perceived as Big Ten’s best two chances to make the College Football Playoffs in Penn State and Ohio State now both have two losses.

But what about Wisconsin?

To be honest, no one really likes to talk about the Big Ten West because it’s not very good. Only Wisconsin and Northwestern having winning conference records and Iowa joining them with overall winning records. When people talk about powerhouse Big Ten teams, they usually aren’t referring to this division.

However, Wisconsin is the only Big Ten team without a loss and currently occupying the number eight spot in the playoff rankings. Michigan State, Ohio State, and Penn State are lurking in the background at spots 12, 13, 14 but can they catapult themselves back into the race? Michigan State and Ohio State still have to play each other so one of them is for sure out. Penn State has a cakewalk left so not really any chance to impress the playoff committee.

What it boils down to is that as it stands right now, Wisconsin is currently the best chance has to make the College Football Playoffs.

But can they get there?

In terms of getting to the Big Ten Championship, that’s almost a lock. Technically the Badgers only need to win one out of the remaining three games to get to Indianapolis but if only one game is won, this whole thing is probably moot.

Here’s the problem with Wisconsin: the Badgers have beaten no one.

Iowa comes to visit this Saturday and it will be the first ranked team that Wisconsin plays all season, possibly the only ranked team. That’s going to be Wisconsin’s biggest issue. Even if Michigan crawls back into the rankings somehow, the Wolverines are not going to crack the top 20. As of this moment, Wisconsin’s marquee win is Northwestern which will most likely be replaced by a home win against Iowa.

Presumably, the Badgers will make it to the Big Ten Championship but in what shape is their opponent going to be? No one is really quite sure of what to make of the three most likely opponents in Ohio State, Penn State, and Michigan State. Best case scenario is a 10-2 Michigan State that’s going to have wins over what will now be a devalued Ohio State and Penn State. Will a win over the Big Ten East Champion really carry a ton of weight?

The committee has already shown that undefeated records don’t mean much if you don’t beat anyone. That’s no more obvious than when you take note that there are three teams in the top ten, ahead of Wisconsin, with one loss. There are actually three teams in the top 25 with three losses right now. Three losses!

Right now… I don’t think Wisconsin can make it in and that means the Big Ten is going to get shut out for the first time.

Be honest with yourself for just a moment. Picture Wisconsin in your mind on a neutral field. Now imagine the Badgers playing against Georgia. Or Notre Dame. Or Oklahoma. How many teams in the top ten or even 15 can you look at and go “Yeah, Wisconsin will rough them up.” I personally would say none of them. The Badgers don’t really seem to have that desire or ability to crush those who stand in their path like say a TCU or Oklahoma. Wisconsin is solid but not fantastic.

And to go to the playoffs, let alone win, solid isn’t enough.

Email Tim at tim [dot] bach [at] campuspressbox [dot] com and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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J.T. Barrett and Ohio State Are Downright Scary

Coming into the 2017 season, the Ohio State Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 in the polls, which garnered both negative and positive reactions. Some eyebrows were raised due to the fact the Buckeyes had been obliterated 31-0 in the 2016 College Football Playoff and were seemingly rewarded based on their namesake alone, while fans argued that despite their embarrassing loss, they lost to the eventual national champion Clemson. Not even almighty Alabama could defeat them. Also, if it wasn’t for a few fortunate opportunities that went Penn State’s way, they would’ve won that game and advanced to the Big Ten Championship game as the presumed favorites versus Wisconsin. Whatever your position was, it was a fortuitous spot to be ranked ahead of the reigning Big Ten champs Penn State and put the pressure on Ohio State to prove their worth.

In their first battle or “test” of the season against Oklahoma, the Buckeyes, seven-point favorites in Columbus, suffered their biggest loss at home since 1999 (46-20 loss to Illinois) and were mocked as overrated. J.T. Barrett was just 19 of 35 for 183 yards as the passing game was wildly inconsistent and below average. It appeared the naysayers were right and much to their delight, the Nittany Lions leapfrogged the Buckeyes in the rankings.

Since that time heading into last Saturday, Ohio State had been playing very good, fundamentally sound football. Yes, the opposition wasn’t exactly challenging but their offense had looked like a well-oiled machine and the defense hadn’t surrendered many points. Sometimes all you need is a few solid games to build momentum and confidence and regain your swagger.

Last weekend before the epic showdown, I was asked the question several times who was the best team in conference and I said Ohio State. Some gave me interesting looks while others laughed and said good luck versus Penn State. Others said I was a traitor for not saying my alma mater, Wisconsin. However, as hard as it is to support Ohio State, I had predicted much earlier this year, Wisconsin would meet Ohio State in the title game and I had to stay true to my word.

Also, I just had this premonition the Buckeyes would get the job done. The game was in Columbus and it’s not the easiest place to play. It’s like meeting a rabid animal in its very own den – its possible to survive but its no simple task either. Second, these teams were only separated by four spots in the rankings. It seemed everyone was already writing the Silver Bullets off much too soon and media outlets criticized Barrett for failing to show up in big games but you can never count out a Buckeye squad that has been written off too early.

We’ve seen this story before in 2014 when Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech only to come back and win the national title. Just when they appear dead to rights, they come back and shock you. To me, it’s simple: Hell hath no fury like a scorned Urban Meyer. Besides Nick Saban, no one plans, prepares, adjusts and responds in the face of adversity better than Meyer.

Things didn’t look great early on for the Buckeyes as Penn State raced out to a 21-3 advantage and although they closed the gap 28-17 by halftime, the Nittany Lions were in control as they built a 35-20 lead in the fourth quarter and appeared they would knock Ohio State out of playoff contention.

Yet, in spite of the big lead, turnovers, poor special teams, and questionable calls, Barrett rose to the occasion. All the qualities people said he didn’t have, he displayed: leadership, poise, resolve and a strong, accurate arm capable of leading his team to victory. The sign of a great leader is how he reacts and responds to adversity and all Barrett did was calmly throw 13 for 13 in the final quarter for 170 yards and three touchdowns including the game-sealing pass to Marcus Baugh with 1:48 left. It was the most impressive performance of his collegiate career in a classic game and showed once again the power of never giving up.

Yes, the jury is still out on Barrett and the Buckeyes as they are far from the being the top contender but the critics have been silenced, at least for moment. The takeaway here is really quite simple: Barrett vaulted himself back into the Heisman race as a front-runner and cemented Ohio State’s spot in the middle of the playoffs, though the initial rankings surprisingly did not place them in the top four. The Buckeyes are peaking at the right time and Barrett is a dangerous man. If they can fix their special team problems, it could be 2014 all over again and that is downright scary.

E-mail Mike at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @MDeuces2051

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What to Make of PJ Fleck

Remember the 2016 season? Western Michigan University was the darling on the NCAA and on the Broncos were on the way to a regular undefeated season. The Broncos actually had more Big Ten wins than some Big Ten teams. Sure, the Rose Bowl was won by Wisconsin but outside of Jim Harbaugh, there was only one larger than life coach that everyone was talking about: PJ Fleck.

Hearing Fleck scream “Row the boat!” became commonplace throughout sports media as pundits began speculating that the head coach wasn’t long for Western Michigan. The talking heads turned out to be right although few people expected Minnesota to snatch him up after dismissing Tracy Claeys in a rather ugly situation.

PJ Fleck was the hottest coaching prospect, even paying to bring his catchphrase to the Golden Gophers. There’s even an ESPN mini-series dedicated to PJ Fleck’s first season because everyone knew he was going to be the next big thing. He’s got to be doing great, right?

Well, about that…

Minnesota is currently 3-3 and winless in their conference. It’s not going to get any easier from here on out either. After Illinois, PJ Fleck has to face in order Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Wisconsin. None of those teams are what you’d call a cakewalk. Best case scenario, PJ Fleck finishes his first season in the Big Ten at 6-6 which is not really what anyone was expecting.

So what gives? Minnesota went 8-4 last regular season and very easily could’ve been 9-3 after an overtime loss to eventual Big Ten Champion, Penn State. It shouldn’t be the run game as Minnesota returned Rodney Smith who had six 100 yard games in 2016. A couple of experienced receivers returned in Tyler Johnson and Nate Wozniak so there’s that.

What is Minnesota missing that Western Michigan had?

Well for one, a four-year starter in Zach Terrell. Even if Terrell isn’t playing in the NFL this season, there’s something to be said for having a guy who spent his entire career in the same system. He knows what works, what doesn’t, and how to run the show.

Oh, and Western had an NFL first-round draft pick in Corey Davis. You know, the guy who set the FBS single-season record for receiving yards.There is not anyone like Davis at Minnesota and that’s not being mean. There’s not a lot of guys like Davis and Minnesota just doesn’t have one. Last year’s top receiver was Drew Wolitarsky who didn’t even top 900 yards.

We’re about to find out if PJ Fleck is going to be worth what Minnesota paid for him. Despite having one of the hotter names in coaching, the 2017 recruiting class for the Golden Gophers is actually worse than 2016’s. In case you don’t want to click the links, it’s by 11 spots which isn’t exactly insignificant.

Typically it takes a couple seasons for a coach to get his guys in and get his system fully in place so it’s a bit early to start judging PJ Fleck. But there needs to be an improvement. There’s clearly talent on the team but can Fleck bring it out of his players? Or will he be the next Gene Chizik who rides one player to a National Championship and then completely falls off? Chizik hasn’t been a head coach since 2012 which isn’t to say that’s the fate that awaits PJ Fleck but where will he go if he fails at Minnesota.

There’s a joke about boats and paddles that I refuse to make.  

Email [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Jim Harbaugh is in Hot Water

Back when Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh, it seemed like the perfect fit and the perfect thing to do. He was a “Michigan Man” and had proven himself at all his previous coaching stops. Now, coming off his second defeat by rival Michigan State in three years, people are beginning to mumble. The shine is coming off the seemingly perfect union of Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh as he is looking at most likely being 1-5 against his two main rivals.

Jim Harbaugh is heading towards being in hot water and it’s his own fault.

Think back to when Harbaugh was the coach at Stanford. From 2007 to 2010, he had the reputation of being hotheaded and overly competitive. In 2009 he continued to run up the score on USC prompting head coach Pete Carroll to ask “What’s your deal?” which is saying something when you consider how competitive Carroll is. He was known for being a grumpy guy that only cared about winning at all costs.

That continued when he left Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers. Jim Harbaugh was known for making average quarterbacks better, having sideline meltdowns, and shaking hands a bit too aggressively. He was an angry guy that only cared about winning football games. He even ditched a quarterback that got a concussion for the hot-handed Colin Kaepernick. It was all about winning for Jim Harbaugh.

Then he got to Michigan and things took a strange turn.

As strange as this sounds, Harbaugh didn’t do himself any favors winning 10 games his first year after previous coach Brady Hoke went 5-7 to miss a bowl game yet again. Michigan fans were ready to commit to a rebuilding period and not have high hopes for the first couple seasons. After seeing what happened in 2015 and 2016, Michigan fans were ready to assume what they felt was their rightful place at the top of college football.

With the fanbase and presumably the Michigan administration on cloud nine, not only with the winning seasons but the media attention from hiring the hottest coaching candidate, Jim Harbaugh basically had a blank check to do what he wanted.

And he did.

Jim Harbaugh began appearing in random commercials for milk, taking his players to Rome, and other bizarre things that had no right making the news. He also coached first base for the Detroit Tigers because why not? He’s Jim Harbaugh!

Essentially, he became a caricature of himself. Harbaugh took his newfound wealth and fame and did literally whatever he wanted. There are two possible outcomes: either Jim Harbaugh is playing chicken with the Michigan administration or he’s lost his competitive edge.

Personally, I think the edge has been dulled. Where’s the fire this season? The rants have decreased and the team has regressed. Is the team falling for the hype or is there no fire anymore?

Maybe Harbaugh had decided to mail in this season in. He’s just trying to buy one more season until he can get a real quarterback but his team kept winning anyway. Now instead of having a fanbase that would be satisfied with a nine or ten win season, these fans are expecting national championships.

2018 will be the pivotal season. If Jim Harbaugh doesn’t win something in 2018, what was the most exciting coaching hire this decade is about to start becoming the most exciting coaching divorce outside of scandals.

E-mail [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Why Does Kirk Ferentz Have A Job?

The world of college football, coaching is a tenuous career. You have to appeal to the athletes, their parents, boosters, the school, and fans. In order to keep your job you have to deliver winning seasons, conference titles, bowl wins and, depending which conference you reside in, College Football Playoff berths.

So why in the world is Kirk Ferentz still the head coach at Iowa?

Every team in the Big Ten has had at least two coaches since 1999 when the Hawkeyes hired him away from his position of the offensive line coach for the Baltimore Ravens. Michigan State has had three, Ohio State has had two not including interims, Wisconsin has had three and Michigan have had four. Those are some of the winningest programs in the conference and each of them has hired at least one more Iowa.

So what makes Kirk Ferentz so special?

It’s got to be all those national championships, right? Well… Kirk Ferentz has never led Iowa to a national championship. The Hawkeyes have never even played for a national championship. So it’s definitely not all those championship trophies that are on display.

But national championships aren’t the only championships. What about conference championships? He’s surely got a couple of those.

Iowa has won two Big Ten titles under Kirk Ferentz but the most recent of which was way back in 2004. This will be the 13th straight season without a Big Ten Championship although Ferentz did take the Hawkeyes to their only division title in 2015 before falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game. It’s clearly not championships that are keeping Kirk Ferentz employed as a head coach.

Bowl games! It’s got to be a stellar record in the postseason!

Well… this can’t be right. Kirk Ferentz has not won a bowl game since the 2010 Insight Bowl. Ok, so he hasn’t won in a while. Has Iowa even been there? Yup, sure have. Iowa has only missed out on a bowl game twice since the 1999 season. The problem is that Kirk Ferentz is 6-8 in those games. I almost want to say that it’s an achievement to make that many games but come on. All it takes is a .500 record to make a bowl game these days. It’s more embarrassing that they missed out in 2012.

In fact, Kirk Ferentz and Iowa have a penchant for losing games they shouldn’t.

In 2016, the Hawkeyes lost to North Dakota State of the FCS. In 2014, it was a loss to in-state rival Iowa State which has happened more than a few times. Let’s also not forget losses to Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, and pre-PJ Fleck Western Michigan.

Now, the Hawkeyes have produced four first-round NFL draft picks and seven other picks for the second and third round since 2010. But that’s not enough to keep someone employed.

There’s clearly talent being brought into Iowa for the most part but imagine a top-tier coach. The Hawkeyes are paying Kirk Ferentz like a top-tier coach but he’s not producing like one. Ferentz was paid more in 2016 than Dabo Swinney of Clemson who won the National Championship. He makes the same as James Franklin of Penn State who won the Big Ten.

So what gives?

It’s not some magical formula that Kirk Ferentz has or that he has some kind of blackmail leverage over the Iowa administration. It’s that Iowa has their expectations set too low. The Hawkeyes are willing to settle for “pretty good” or “just ok” because that’s all that Ferentz has produced.

This isn’t on Ferentz who has found a comfy gig and is working it for all its worth. You can’t tell me that other coaches wouldn’t kill for expectations like that. There’s no pressure to win! Maybe the fans get restless but clearly not the administration. They gave Ferentz an extension and raise after producing one 12-win season in 2015. One! It was the first double-digit win season since 2009. Most programs are firing those kinds of coaches.

So I’m changing my call. I don’t want Kirk Ferentz to be fired anymore. I want the Iowa administration to be fired and to bring in someone who cares about winning. Then they can fire Kirk Ferentz.

E-mail Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Is… Is Purdue Getting Better?

I have a longstanding tradition when I write about the Big Ten. I’m not really sure when or exactly how it happened, it just did. Basically, as long as I’ve been writing for Campus Pressbox or its previous iterations I have been mean to Purdue. There’s not actually an article with the main subject being the Boilermakers but I have taken a shot at Purdue in a vast majority of my columns.

Well, I am here to say that the time for that is at an end.

At least I hope it is but for the moment at least, I am a believer in what Jeff Brohm is doing down in the state of Indiana.

So there is something that needs to be taken into account when talking about Purdue that was maybe lost on me in the past. Purdue is not a football school, Purdue is a basketball school. The top tier of football talent is never going to show up in West Lafayette. If you want to look at it in terms of NFL draft picks, there hasn’t been a first-round pick out of Purdue since 2011.

Purdue is in the same boat as Northwestern in that they’re very rarely going to get top level talent but still have to compete in one of and arguably the toughest conferences in the Big Ten. Given that fact, it’s less surprising that the Boilermakers haven’t posted a winning season since 2007 and third coach since 2009.

But that doesn’t mean that my former criticisms weren’t justified. Purdue has only won nine games since 2013 including a 1-11 season in that year. It’s been a bad couple of seasons.

So why do I think Jeff Brohm is going to change the culture there?

First off, Brohm has had success before despite only being a head coach at one stop before Purdue. However, Brohm had success during his three-year tenure at Western Kentucky University. Three winning seasons, including two with more than 10 wins and two bowl game wins over South Florida and Central Michigan. Is it Conference USA? Sure but that doesn’t mean you can win more than 10 games without any talent.

Does that mean that Brohm is going to have success at Purdue? It most certainly does not. Previous winning experience doesn’t always mean you’re going to win at the next level. Right, Brady Hoke?

But let’s look at the early season results.

Lamar Jackson is a heck of a player and Louisville is a pretty good team but Purdue was actually leading going into halftime. The Boilermakers ended up losing only be a touchdown. That’s already an improvement after they spent 2016 mostly getting blown out by teams that aren’t nearly on Louisville’s level.

Missouri’s not a top-tier program anymore but they’re still a SEC school. Purdue absolutely torched them. The Tigers were held to under 70 yards rushing which at first glance means that Missouri is bad at running the ball. But Purdue actually kept Michigan bottled up for most of the game. Take away one breakaway run by Chris Evans for 49 yards and the Wolverines are under 100 yards rushing too.

Guys, Purdue is actually getting better.

But let’s hold off on penciling them into the Big Ten title game. This isn’t something that’s going to happen overnight. Let’s see what happens in three weeks when Purdue travels to Wisconsin. If the Boilermakers can hang with Wisconsin or even somehow manage a win, we know that this isn’t a mirage.

Purdue might actually be climbing out of the Big Ten gutter. And I’m going to have to start being mean to someone else. I’m thinking Illinois.

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E-mail Tim at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @tbach84.

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Big Ten Power Rankings Week 2

When I initially did the power rankings, I didn’t expect too much movement to happen but since then, things have been stirred up especially after the four losses in Week 2 particularly Ohio State’s.

  1. Penn State (previous ranking: 2): The 2016 Big Ten champions are back in the driver’s seat after a 33-14 victory over in-state rival Pittsburgh. Heisman hopeful Saquon Barkley accumulated 183 yards and two scores while Trace McSorley totaled 164 yards and three touchdowns despite missing several wide open receivers, mostly in the first half. Other than that, it was a solid victory and the Nittany Lions look like the team to beat in the Big Ten.
  2. Wisconsin (3): A classic, 31-14 Badger win as Jonathan Taylor ran for 223 yards and three touchdowns, joining Zach Brown, Ron Dayne and Alan Ameche as the only true freshman in program history to rush for over 200 yards. Ameche and Dayne were Heiman trophy winners. In addition, the defense looked stout against Lane Kiffin’s Owls, holding them to under 250 yards in total offense.
  3. Ohio State (1): Oklahoma avenged last year’s loss to Ohio State in Norman with a 31-16 win. Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield torched the secondary for 386 yards and three scores while J.T. Barrett was just 19 of 35 for 183 yards as the passing game was wildly inconsistent and below average. Buckeyes need a playmaker to emerge on offense. The loss is hard to swallow but it really doesn’t affect their chances as a contender.
  4. Michigan (4): A week after a 33-17 victory over Florida in which the Gators were held to 192 total yards, the defense looked very stout in a 36-14 win over Cincinnati. The Wolverines D kept the Bearcats at 200 total yards and had two pick-sixes. However, quarterback Wilton Speight, who threw two pick-sixes versus Florida, continued to struggle with accuracy and consistency. He needs to improve if Michigan wants to contend.
  5. Maryland (11): Fresh off a 51-41 upset over a then-ranked Texas team, the Terrapins continued where they left off and put on quite encore in a 63-17 rout of Towson. They gashed the Tigers for 367 rushing yards with D.J. Moore scoring three times and freshman under center Kasim Hill looking good in his debut.
  6. Iowa (6): The Hawkeyes defense looked strong in their 24-3 win over Wyoming, holding potential NFL draft hopeful Josh Allen to 174 yards but was consistently getting beat against Iowa State. Fortunately, first-year signal-caller Nathan Stanley passed for 333 and five touchdowns and tailback Akrum Wadley had 190 total yards as Iowa came back from a 10-point deficit to escape 44-41 in overtime. Defense needs to play better.
  7. Michigan State (9): After last season’s 3-9 debacle, the Spartans are off to a promising 2-0 start following a 28-14 win over Western Michigan as the defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown in eight consecutive quarters. Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke threw for 161 yards but showed he’s also a dual-threat as he rushed for 81 yards including a 61-yard touchdown run. The Spartans have off this week before hosting Notre Dame.
  1. Indiana (10): It will be interesting to see what Indiana does at quarterback as it has two capable throwers. Senior Richard Lagow, who threw for 420 yards versus Ohio State, is still the starter but after struggling early against Virginia, redshirt freshman Peyton Ramsey replaced him, completing 16 of 20 passes for 173 yards and two scores as the Hoosiers won 34-17.
  2. Nebraska (7): The Cornhuskers are a tough read. Nebraska allowed the Oregon Ducks to go up 42-14 at halftime but held the Ducks scoreless in the second half and scored three unanswered touchdowns, nearly rallying from a 28-point deficit before falling 42-35. Yet, quarterback Tanner Lee threw the last of his four interceptions with two minutes remaining and Bob Diaco’s new 3-4 defense has allowed 1,063 yards this year.
  3. Minnesota (8) Good things are happening for new head coach P.J. Fleck. Minnesota trounced Oregon State 48-14 on the road as the defense forced three turnovers and running backs Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks combined for 253 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, two areas of weakness were addressed as quarterback Conor Rhoda cemented himself as the outright leader of this team and Tyler Johnson has emerged as a go-to receiver.
  4. Purdue (12): Purdue has impressed me so far. They put up a valiant fight versus Louisville in a 35-28 loss and put on an offensive clinic (558 yards) in a 44-21 victory over MAC contender Ohio. Head coach Jeff Brohm promised an up-tempo, high-scoring offense and the Boilermakers haven’t disappointed. Watch out for quarterback David Blough as he led Purdue on a 24-0 first half run.
  5. Northwestern (5): I picked Northwestern to be a contender in the West this year but its play so far has concerned me. The Wildcats escaped against Nevada in Week 1 and were decimated by Duke 41-17 on Saturday as quarterback Daniel Jones accounted for 413 total yards and four touchdowns. Northwestern signal-caller Clayton Thorson was picked off twice and Justin Jackson rushed for 18 measly yards on seven carries.
  6. Illinois (14): Yes, the Fighting Illini came into Champaign as underdogs to Western Kentucky, a Conference USA team that averaged 45.5 points per contest in 2016, best in the country. However, none of that mattered as the young defense of Illinois held the Hilltoppers to one score and 244 yards while also getting 111 rushing yards from freshman Mike Epstein in a 20-7 win.
  7. Rutgers (13): Following a 16-13 loss to lowly Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Rutgers showed how incredibly far behind the other Big Ten programs it is. The game was the Eagles’ first victory over a Power Five opponent in 59 tries and I fear this is just the tip of the iceberg for how ugly things will get for the Scarlet Knights this season. A long, treacherous road lies ahead.

Image: flickr user morebyless

Ohio State Lost and It Doesn’t Matter

The Ohio State Buckeyes were served a cold dish of revenge by Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners this past Saturday night.  The offense found the end zone just once.  The defense gave up 28 points in the second half, including 21 unanswered which turned a three-point lead into a three-score deficit.

They were bottled up by a Big 12 defense and exposed by a playmaking quarterback, at home, under the lights, in front of a national audience.  After the game, Mayfield decided to take a victory lap that ended with him planting the OU flag right in the middle of Ohio Stadium.

As a Michigan fan surrounded by Buckeye nuts at the time, I absolutely loved it.  Really though, it’s not going to end up meaning much when it comes to the playoff picture.  Sure, there will be an effect on the team.  Of course, this will go a long way in molding them for the rest of the season.  All of a sudden, the sense of urgency has skyrocketed.  It will feel like every game could be, in essence, the last one that truly matters for this program that sets its bar so high.

Things will seem much different after suffering this crushing blow.  In reality, however, this season started with that heightened sense of urgency for Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes.  We know what happened last year.  tOSU snuck into the final four despite not winning its conference (or even its division, for that matter).  It was the first time in the College Football Playoff’s short history that had been done.  Considering the way the Buckeyes rewarded the committee for that decision, it may very well be the last time it happens, too.

So, you come into the 2017 season, if you’re the Buckeyes, knowing that you must win your conference championship game to earn a spot in the top four.  The definition of insanity is yadda, yadda, and you can’t expect the committee to give you the same chance when you squandered it so spectacularly the last go around.  Still, win the Big Ten and you’re virtually guaranteed a spot in the dance.

Here’s the thing: losing to Oklahoma, even if it was by a wide margin, in your own barn, in primetime, in front of the whole country, doesn’t do a damn thing to harm your original goal of winning the Big Ten.  In fact, I would argue that taking such a big L actually motivates, and ends up helping what is still a relatively young squad.

Ohio State fell all the way to number eight in this week’s updated AP Top 25.  That’s still well within striking distance.  Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland, and Nebraska are the competition awaiting the Buckeyes the next five weeks.  Then they have a bye week to prepare a little revenge of their own against Penn State.  Please forgive me for not worrying about where their record will stand when they welcome in the Nittany Lions on October 28.

There are plenty of lessons to be learned from Saturday night’s failure.  If there’s one man who’s going to teach his players how to correct their mistakes, it’s Urban Meyer.  The man’s made a career out of paying special attention to the tiny details and making the necessary adjustments for his team.  I have no doubt he will do the same here, and the Buckeyes will waltz through the next month and a half ahead of the showdown with Penn State.

Ohio State fans are upset.  I get that.  Nobody likes getting beat by two scores on their own turf, at night, with everyone else at home watching.  And they’re really not used to getting bullied in the ‘Shoe.  Still, I don’t see how dropping this game amounts to anything more than a bruised ego and an extra chip on the old shoulder.

Scheduling these massive early season clashes against other national championship contenders does nothing but help nowadays.  Win and you’ve got an impressive, pearly white feather in your cap.  The Buckeyes had just that last fall.  Lose and, really, nothing happens.  You only narrow your focus to what you set out to do anyway, taking home a conference championship.

The rest of the Big Ten had better watch out.  Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners just pissed off the baddest dude on their playground.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on twitter @GreatGatzke.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons