- Marcus Hartman
We are past the midway point of the college football season.
Here’s what we know after week seven:
1. Ohio State made the most of its break in between real opponents.
For the last two weeks, I have thought the competition was going to ratchet up at least somewhat. It hasn’t looked that way, but that might say more about the Buckeyes than Maryland or Nebraska.
I’m also not sure it matters.
RELATED: Ohio State crushes Nebraska
The Buckeyes (coaches and players alike) have attacked all those problems that were apparent in their loss to Oklahoma and taken out a lot of frustrations on whoever was in their path.
Both the passing and running games have gained much-needed play-calling diversity, allowing the great athletes Urban Meyer has recruited to find their grooves and providing a huge boost of confidence to the team. Confidence begets success, which begets more confidence and leaves OSU in a much better place than it has been in a while.
2. Nebraska: Rhymes with disasta.
I’ve known a few Cornhuskers fans in my days, and I have nothing but nice things to say about them.
They are suffering now from a combination of unrealistic expectations and terrible decisions by the people in charge in Lincoln (B were inspired by A, but that’s no excuse).
Generally I wouldn’t pull the plug on any coach after less than four or maybe even five seasons, but like Rich Rodriguez at Michigan, Mike Riley never should have been hired to lead the Cornhuskers so there’s no benefit of the doubt here.
(Ironically Rodriguez might be a better fit than Riley, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole just yet…)
Were I a realistic Nebraska fan (I’m sure some do exist), I would be more disgusted by the way the program compares to Wisconsin now than Ohio State. A week earlier, the Riley and Co. had no answers for a Badgers team with similar talent and far better idea how to use it. Wisconsin pummeled Nebraska with a power running game smartly complemented by a competent passing game and a unique defense reliant more on scheme than talent (though they obviously have both).
Riley seems to want to win with NFL schemes even though he doesn’t and never will have NFL players. (Even Alabama doesn’t try to do the former anymore.)
3. Penn State will bring a different kind of challenge, but you knew that already.
Nebraska was no contest for Ohio State because the Cornhuskers were badly outmanned on the line of scrimmage and do nothing schematically to alleviate that.
After watching Wisconsin push the same guys in red around a week earlier, I thought that might be the case, but it’s hard to anticipate how those things will transfer so I avoided any grand proclamations before the game (Way to pass on looking smart, dummy!).
I see Penn State’s offensive line as a question mark, though that in and of itself is an upgrade over the past several seasons. The Nittany Lions defensive line is good, but it doesn’t have the same pass rushing punch of the past. Both units should be better than Nebraska’s, and the Penn State coaching staff actually understands how to put its players in position to succeed doing what they do best.
If any question came out of Ohio State’s humiliation of Nebraska, it was still the OSU secondary. Fact is the Buckeyes have given up a bunch of passing yards to the three teams on the schedule who are, you know, good at passing. They’ll need to be better to avoid a shootout against the defending Big Ten champs, who lost their top target from last year but have a greater variety of weapons now.
4. Michigan was bailed out by a talented running back and Indiana being Indiana.
When like the Hoosiers you never win those games, it’s not a coincidence. They have made a lot of progress, but that last step to consistently playing over .500 football is the hardest one to make at a program like that.
When like Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines you generally win those games, it’s not a coincidence. They have made a lot of progress, but that last step (beating the best of the best) is the hardest one to make at a program like that.
Ironically, Indiana has provided Harbaugh with two overtime wins that could have greatly changed the narrative if they had gone the other way, something to keep in mind after a week of people questioning the state of the Wolverines under his direction.
Michigan’s defense is talented and well-coordinated, but the Wolverines aren’t going to be able to score enough points to beat any elite teams the way the offense is playing now because they don’t have a quarterback and the offensive line is not good enough.
5. Regarding the playoff race…
Oklahoma was nearly knocked out yesterday, but the Sooners remain alive along with unbeaten TCU in the Big 12.
With Washington and Washington State both losing this weekend, it might be time to write off the Pac-12. If Ohio State fans still need someone to root against out west, though, make it USC. The Trojans lost by three on the road against a good team (WSU) and could build a lot of momentum between now and the beginning of December.
Clemson’s loss probably doesn’t mean a lot —yet. The Tigers don’t have any margin for error, though, as another loss would not only be No. 2 on the season but could cost them the tiebreaker in whichever ACC division they are in.
The Buckeyes have looked awesome for the past five weeks. They’ll have to beat Penn State, Michigan and the Big Ten West champ (probably Wisconsin) to prove that was no fluke.
If they do, they could still be sweating on selection Sunday if the conference champions are unbeaten Alabama, one-loss Clemson and one-loss Oklahoma (or unbeaten TCU).
I’d guess a one-loss Big Ten champion gets the nod over a one-loss Pac 12 team, but USC could look awfully appealing, especially if the Trojans beat Notre Dame and the Fighting Irish (and Texas) finish strong.
Lots of football to be played between now and then, though.
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