The Week 2 returns are in. Let’s take a spin around the Big Ten:
Columbus discovered. . . the Buckeyes’ offense isn’t see-worthy.
Quarterback J.T. Barrett (183 passing yards, no TDs, one interception) and the rest of the Ohio State gang were no match for the Oklahoma defense and Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield, who literally planted a Sooners flag in Ohio Stadium after passing for three touchdowns and 386 yards.
As far-fetched as it seems now, wouldn’t Ohio State-Oklahoma be a delicious rematch in the College Football Playoff?
I’m not predicting that. But I’m not ruling it out.
The Buckeyes have a lot of work to do if they’re going to dig out from under their 31-16 loss to Oklahoma. They need to get better. And they need to win out.
But a year ago, when Penn State lost to Pitt, nobody was thinking the Nittany Lions would be the Big Ten’s champion. And deserving or not, Big 12 or not, I’ll believe there’s no Big Ten team in the Final Four when I see it.
FYI, here’s my favorite Urban Renewal stat: Urban Meyer has lost three bowl games in his career. After the first two, he won the national championship the next season.
The third? To Be Determined.
The new big dog in the Big Ten is Penn State. The Nittany Lions ascended to the league’s best CFP bet after throttling instate rival Pitt 33-14.
I’m not sure exactly why, but James Franklin stirred the pot after the fact. Showing a lot of hubris—or ambiguous language skills—he said, ``I know last year, for their win, it was like the Super Bowl. But for us, this was just like beating Akron.’’
Guessing he knows what he’s doing, even if I don’t.
Here’s what gamblers know. Although the Panthers weren’t competitive, their late TD, combined with holding the Nittany Lions to a late field goal, ended Penn State’s 11-game streak of covering the spread, which had been the nation’s longest.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
A BADGER YOU SHOULD KNOW
One big goal at Wisconsin this season was to put the U-Rah-Rah back in the Badgers’ traditional strength—running the football.
Freshman Jonathan Taylor seems, um, tailor-made for that job. The 5-11, 214-pound running back from Salem, N.J., piled up 223 yards and three touchdowns in the Badgers’ 31-14 romp past Florida Atlantic on Saturday.
Taylor is averaging 155 rushing yards a game, seventh in the nation. He is second among Power Five conference runners behind Stanford junior Bryce Love (170).
Taylor’s big day made him only the fourth true freshman at Wisconsin to rush for more than 200 yards in a game. The others were Alan Ameche, Ron Dayne and Zach Brown. Brown failed to build on his 2007 freshman debut. But Ameche and Dayne brought back the only two Heisman Trophies in the Badgers’ trophy case.
``I'm just having fun out there,’’ Taylor said in a column by my Wisconsin State Journal friend, Tom Oates. ``On the wall as we're coming up from the tunnel, it says, `Have fun. Play the game.’ You have to be grateful that you're here. You’re here having fun. But it is humbling to be mentioned [with Ameche and Dayne].’’
And I’ll mention this: Like Dayne, Taylor came to Wisconsin after a stellar high-school career in New Jersey. Dayne, though, was a 5-11, 250-pound load.
``[Taylor] certainly has talent,’’ Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said said. ``And he's gotten himself off to a good start. But there's a long way to go. I think he potentially can give us some big plays that we haven't had a lot of necessarily in the running game.’’
A third Wisconsin Heisman? Who knows? A very viable first option at running back? Sure looks like it.
And while we’re mentioning Big Ten football-playoff candidates, don’t rule out the Badgers, the favorite to earn the Big Ten West slot in the conference championship game.
CROWNED BY DUKE
It’s not so much that Northwestern lost at Duke. It’s the way the Wildcats, who were a three-point favorite, lost at Duke.
NU was bedeviled by the Blue Demons 41-17 in just about every way.
``We were outcoached, outexecuted, outplayed,’’ coach Pat Fitzgerald said glumly. ``That starts and ends with me.’’
Going in with a banged-up secondary was not a good sign. Losing a safety to an early target call exacerbated the problem on defense.
An injury that limited star running back Justin Jackson to seven carrries for 18 yards, including just one second-half touch, wasn’t good, either.
But veteran QB Clayton Thorson, operating behind a shaky line that yielded four sacks, wasn’t sharp, either. Clayton completed 11 of 29 for 120 yards, with no TDs and two interceptions. This is a guy who seemed poised for a breakout year.
Look for NU to get its act together this week against Bowling Green, which is 0-2 after losing 35-27 to South Dakota.
But at this point, hold those thoughts that the Wildcats are the chief threat to Wisconsin in the West. That nod goes to Iowa and Nebraska.
HAIL TO THE CHIEF
Now it can be told. The reason the Illini struggled past Ball State? They were looking ahead to Western Kentucky.
Seriously, kudos to Lovie Smith and Illinois for their nicely-done 20-7 handling of the Hilltoppers. There’s only one thing worse than being a seven-point home underdog to a Group of Five team. Losing to that team.
And guess who’s 2-0? If Chief Illiniwek were still around, he’d be dancing.
Just when you thought it was safe to come out, the Scarlet Knights followed up their encouraging effort against No. X Washington with a. . . 16-13 loss to Eastern Michigan.
HOOPS CAN WAIT
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I really like what’s going at Indiana and Purdue. In football.
I’m guessing that there hasn’t been a run yet on tickets for the Old Oaken Bucket trophy game. But don’t sleep on the Hoosiers and Boilermakers.[/membership]