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#8 OSU Beats MSU, #25 Minny and The Battle for the West – #20 Wisky vs. #16 Huskers

The Ohio State Buckeyes did it!!  And probably better than anyone expected.  Especially the Spartans.  How ya like ’em now?

I pretty much woke up Sunday with Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” as my own personal soundtrack for the next 24.

The Buckeyes impressed the nation with a takedown of then #8 Michigan State, sildenafil considered one of the best teams in the country with one of the best defenses.  But Ohio State had no problem with that, buy cialis beating them 49-37 in a thrilling game.  They came in as the underdog and left carrying a signature victory.

And a lot of that credit goes to OSU’s offense, namely quarterback J.T Barrett.  After racking up 386 total yards he has been named the Offensive Player of the Week for the third time and Freshman of the Week for the fifth.  He is one of the best signal callers in the country.

Barrett is the 2nd most efficient passer in the country and ranks 5th nationwide for touchdown passes and an 84.2 QBR.  According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, Barrett’s 34 touchdowns in 9 games is the most by any FBS player in their first 10 career games in the past decade.


J.T. Barrett owning East Lansing

Michigan State averaged giving up 279 yards going into this game – Ohio State took 568.  They averaged giving up 20 points per game – Ohio State took 49.  MSU hasn’t allowed that many points since 2008.  They put up more points and more yards than #2 Oregon did against the Spartans.  And this was a road game for OSU, playing with a majority of true and redshirt freshmen and sophomores.

I like how Bleacher Report put it:  “Ohio State’s redshirt freshman quarterback didn’t just find success against Michigan State; he dismantled the Spartans and put on an absolute clinic.”

The receivers were outstanding – Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall and Devin Smith all made great plays.  Smith’s performance moved him to a solid #3 in all-time touchdown receptions at Ohio State, a position he formerly shared with Santonio Holmes. (Offensive note: Dontre Wilson is out with a broken foot from the game.)

On defense, co-captain and senior DT Michael Bennett played one of his best games with four tackles and a sack.  He stepped right up when MSU focused on and limited defensive lineman Joey Bosa.

Urban Meyer said it best, “The future is bright at Ohio State. “

Captain and senior Michael Bennett, with Bosa

Co-captain and senior Michael Bennett, with Bosa

The playoff committee moved Ohio State up from #13 to #8 this week, which in my opinion feels like a spot or two too low.  But with the Minnesota Gophers decimating the Iowa Hawkeyes last week and moving themselves into #25 in the CFP rankings, OSU has another chance to make a statement this Saturday and try to control a tiny bit of their destiny by way of Minny’s loss to #4 TCU.

The biggest surprise of the conference, Jerry Kill-coached Minnesota is 7-2 and in the hunt for the leader of the B1G West division.  Most (self included) probably counted them out after their loss to an abysmal Illinois, but then they unexpectedly thrashed Iowa last weekend, 51-14.  And this week they meet #8 Ohio State at home.

What the Gophers do have is an excellent power running back in David Cobb, who has rushed for 1,205 yards and 8 touchdowns and ranks 8th nationally.  Quarterback Mitch Leidner has accounted for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns.  But also 6 interceptions.  And his passing attack is ranked 122nd in the nation.

Gophers tight end Maxx Williams may be the best in his position in the conference.  He’s pretty impressive and their only receiver with more than 11 catches.  They have the 27th ranked run game and the 21st total defense.

What they don’t have is as much talent and skill as Ohio State.

The Buckeyes did have some problems defending the run against MSU and will need to focus on that again this Saturday.  But Joey Bosa and Michael Bennett will be a big problem for Minnesota’s offense.  And the Bucks’ offense…well you know how damn good they are.

"Greasy, grimey gopher guts!"

“Greasy, grimey gopher guts!”

I’d expect Ohio State will try to establish an early lead and then control the clock for the rest of the game.  While Minny will put up a good fight, they probably aren’t a match for the most explosive team in college football right now.

It’s going to be frigid in Minneapolis at the Noon game time, somewhere in the 20 degree range, but isn’t that what Big Ten Football is all about?  OSU right tackle Darryl Baldwin has already said don’t expect to see the offensive line wearing sleeves (they like to look tough) and Ezekiel Elliott will probably still be rocking his half-shirt look.

On that destiny thing, there are playoff repercussions in this match-up.  Earlier in the season, Minnesota was crushed by now #4 TCU, 30-7.  Now Minny is a ranked team as well, and if OSU struggles with them at all it will work in TCU’s favor, making it that much harder for the Bucks to move up and dethrone anyone to get into the playoffs.  Buckeye fans – this weekend you want to root for Mississippi State and that old enemy, Miami.  The Football Gods will forgive you.

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Nebraska v Wisconsin

So, this weekend’s B1Ggest game is the Western division version of last week’s OSU v MSU.  It’s for the leadership of the conference division and most likely who will get the invite to the Big Ten Championship Game.  And OSU will actually help to decide who that leader is.

Right now #20 Wisconsin, #16 Nebraska and #25 Minnesota are in a three-way tie for the West.  Wisky and the Huskers are battling it out at 3:30pm Saturday and one will fall in the division standings.  And if the Buckeyes beat the Gophers like they should, that takes care of the third.

The Wisconsin/Nebraska game can be boiled down to two huge factors – the run game and defending the run.  Which both are very good at and known for.

Both teams excel at running the ball – Wisconsin is ranked 5th nationally in rushing yards and Nebraska stands at 10th.  And both are ranked pretty low in passing yards.

Both teams’ run defense excels as well – Wisconsin boasts the 5th best run defense in the country, giving up only 99.4 rush yards per game while Nebraska is not far behind, ranked 14th and giving up 117 rush yards per game.

The Badgers currently sit at 7-2 overall, having lost to LSU and, ummmm, Northwestern.  Nebraska is 8-1 and lost only to Michigan State, where they were missing at least one key player in star tight end Cethan Carter.

And both feature power running backs who have been in Heisman consideration for most of the season.  They’ve had a friendly rivalry going, even texting each other with their yardage, and it’s going to be fun to watch them play each other.

Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon

Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon is the leading rusher in the nation with 1,501 yards.  With the exception of only one game, he has gained at least 120 rush yards in every match-up and gone over 200 yards three times.  He’s also got 19 rushing touchdowns.  He’s paired with running back Corey Clement, who himself has 720 rush yards.  Together they make a dangerous combination.  Add to that their rushing quarterback Tanner McAvoy, who has brought 442 rush yards and you’ve got yourself a hell of a running game.

Nebraska’s own star running back is Ameer Abdullah, he of the “Fear Ameer” campaign.  Abdullah ranks 5th nationally with 1,250 rush yards and has had four games of 200+ rush yards.  But here’s where that rush defense is a tough factor – against Michigan State he gained only 45 yards.  He was also injured recovering a fumbled snap against Purdue two weeks ago, and no official word has been given on his status.  Huskers Coach Bo Pelini said he did not practice with the team last week (and Nebraska had a bye last weekend) but he “anticipates” his playing Saturday.  There’s a chance he could be limited but we won’t know til game time.  Hopefully not.  And no word on whether TE Cethan Carter is finally healthy enough to play again.

Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah

Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah

On to that run defense.  Wisconsin has allowed only seven sacks this season.  Nebraska just nine.

The Badgers’ standout player is outside linebacker Vince Biegel who’s tallied 39 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.  For the Cornhuskers it is defensive end Randy Gregory with 37 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks.

This is a really evenly-matched game and should be some pound it out, traditional Big Ten football and most likely, a fight to the bitter end.  Probably in the bitter cold.  It’s the inaugural year for the newly created “Freedom Trophy” for this yearly meeting of the two schools, which pays tribute to all of those who have fought in wars for our country.

I like and very much respect that aspect, but I think what the B1G needs is freedom from trophies.  Let’s get better as a conference and gain national respect again before we go all trophy-happy for average performances.  These folks must be from the participation generation.  Rant over.  Game on!!

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Category: NCAA

About the author: Kristin Conrad is a college football-loving graduate of Ohio State – she bleeds Scarlet & Gray and considers the Varsity Club hallowed ground. A PR pro who just moved back to Columbus from Manhattan Beach, Chicago and NYC, she’s been happy to find that some of her favorite friends ever are from schools she used to hate and that nothing brings people together like sports does.

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