Big Ten Chumps (Cont.)

It’s bad enough that a 7-5 Wisconsin team won the “Big Ten Championship” game.  It’s bad enough that Nebraska, the other team in the “Big Ten Championship” game, gave up 70 points in getting crushed by Wisconsin.  It’s bad enough that the Ohio State Buckeyes, the best team in the conference, weren’t playing.  But the crowning indignity is that Wisconsin’s head coach, Bret Bielema, is now reportedly bolting the Big Ten for Arkansas and the SEC.

Don’t get me wrong here.  I don’t think that Bielema, the former Badgers coach who now reportedly will be leading the Razorbacks, is a great football coach.  He won or tied for the lead in the Big Ten three times — at least, according to the conference title game organizers — but I never thought he matched up well, in terms of coaching or recruiting ability, against Ohio State or other premier college programs.  Bielema always had a squinty, slack-jawed look on his face, seemed overmatched in in-game coaching contests, and rarely won the big games.  If Arkansas thinks they are getting a great coach, they may well be mistaken.

No, what’s embarrassing is that the “Big Ten Championship” coach is skedaddling the conference to go to a marginal team in the SEC.  Arkansas apparently was willing to pay him a lot more money than Wisconsin would shell out, and perhaps Wisconsin’s discretion in that regard is wise.  Still, if winning coaches are bolting for a second-division team in a different conference, what does it tell you about the Big Ten?

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Avoiding An Upset And Revealing A Reality

Ohio State beat Central Florida in a game that was closer than its 31-16 score might indicate.  It’s a game that tells you something about Ohio State, but also something about college football generally.

The Buckeyes clearly need work on offense and defense.  Under new coach Urban Meyer, the offense is trying to become multi-dimensional.  Braxton Miller has improved his passing technique and his accuracy — although his decision-making could use more maturity — and the receiving corps is better.  The offense still seems one-dimensional, however, because it revolves so much around Miller’s arm and legs.  He was the leading rusher, by far, carrying the ball 27 times.  I don’t think that’s sustainable.  With the injury to Carlos Hyde the lack of experienced depth in the backfield became painfully apparent.  The offensive line didn’t have a great game, either.  There were too many penalties, and Ohio State isn’t going to win many games in which it has three turnovers.  Defensively, the Buckeyes still give up too many big plays for my taste, and the team has struggled, so far at least, to put consistent pressure on the opposing quarterback.  In short, there is improvement to be made on both sides of the ball.

It’s also important to realize, however, is that there are a lot of good college football teams out there.  Central Florida is one of them.  Yesterday, many teams had closer-than-expected games with schools that aren’t traditional powers, and eighth-ranked Arkansas lost to Louisiana-Monroe.  High schools are producing many talented athletes who are willing to go to smaller schools to play Division 1 football right away, rather than riding the bench at the bottom of the depth chart at a traditional powerhouse.  Ohio State avoided an upset yesterday; many other top 25 teams didn’t.  In this new parity-oriented world of college football, that’s an accomplishment.