I'm no longer a Yahoo! sports man, but I hate ESPN's blatant SEC homerism. But then THIS came out and...well...
The writer of this piece, Mike Huguenin, is a guy I regard with casual disinterest (aka contempt).
After the jump, an overrated* Big Ten.
So...one weekend later, things are not quite as they seem.
Yesterday, I went to Madison for the ASU-Wisconsin game. I saw perhaps the worst special teams performance ever conceived of. I saw Scott Tolzien not complete a single pass to a defender. An amazingly clutch Lance Kendricks. Another 100 yard performance from John Clay.
No, it wasn't perfect. But the Badgers aren't overrated. You know who IS overrated? Texas. Florida. Auburn. USC**. LSU. Why? Historical trends. USC is banished from postseason play. Texas has too much to replace, and Gilbert isn't going to face Tommy Tuberville every week. Florida's offe- wait. There is no such thing as a Florida offense. LSU has no offense either, and is beating up on SEC bottom feeders (as usual).
Ohio State, on the other hand? I don't think they're overrated. They could go 12-0, but they're more likely to go 11-1. Iowa? Nope. They've historically struggled in big nonconference road games. Wisconsin? Eh, no. But Wisconsin can't make a living off of blocked PATs and have HALF as bad a special teams performance as they did yesterday if they're going to make their first BCS appearance since 1999***. Michigan State? No. They NEED to improve that pass defense, and they can't play for the tie again. Michigan? A little; and they need a gameplan that doesn't involve killing their QB. Denard Robinson is not going to survive 20+ carries against Big Ten defenses. Northwestern? Decidedly under the radar. Purdue? Ugly first loss, so also under the radar. Indiana? They've got so much to prove. Minnesota? Can't say. Illinois? Mastering stealth bombing after losing close games to Missouri since 2007.
Pac-10 speed, this year, trumps SEC speed by a mile. Arizona State had two returns for TDs, one of which was called back for a blatant block in the back, and came close to a third. Arizona returned a kick for a TD and got a Stanziball. Minnesota gave up a kick return for a touchdown. Ohio State has no reason to be happy with their special teams.
But those aren't the story. We may have lost the Big Ten/Pac 10 challenge for now, but all of the games were fairly close. Arizona allowed Iowa to claw, punch, and fight its way back in the game (before sacking Stanzi FOUR TIMES IN A ROW). Wisconsin took the lead near the half and never let go. Minnesota managed to play a fairly close game against USC, but still couldn't avoid a second mark in the loss column (I think the cheering in Camp Randall had the Gophers pulled it out would have been distinctly one-sided, and I refer to the Sun Devil pockets I saw yesterday).
I digress. But here goes.
WRONG WRONG WRONG! That wasn't what I meant!
The Pac-10 is a three-team race. There were numerous questions about the league heading into the season, with most centering on which teams would step up with USC ineligible for the title. After three weeks, it looks as if Arizona, Oregon and Stanford are the three legit contenders. Each has a powerful offense, though there are concerns on defense. Still, even without the Trojans, the Pac-10 race should end up being the most entertaining of all.
The Big Ten was overrated in the preseason. Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin were preseason top-10 teams, but only Ohio State looks the part. Iowa lost at Arizona, which certainly isn't embarrassing. But Iowa's defense was dominated, and that has to be worrisome to coach Kirk Ferentz. The good news for Ferentz is that his Hawkeyes will see just one offense that good the rest of the season (Ohio State's). Wisconsin had desultory performances in season-opening wins over UNLV and San Jose State (a combined 1-5, with the only win a five-point affair over a FCS team), then was lucky to hold off Arizona State by one Saturday. Who else in the Big Ten scares anybody? Penn State with its true freshman quarterback? Michigan with its one-man offense and questionable defense? Michigan State with its shaky defense? Northwestern? Minnesota? Purdue? Illinois? Indiana?
First of all...
WHAT THE HECK IS THIS GUY ON?
I know, he covers the SEC, but please. This is a bit much.
Ohio State does look the part of a top three team (congratulations again for defeating those bl@sted Hurricanes). Iowa, though... If Huguenin knew anything about Iowa, he'd know that they've always struggled in big non-conference games, especially on the road. This year, sadly, was no exception. Penn State didn't utterly collapse against Alabama on the road. But, Mike, please. When it comes to Wisconsin, we are hardly desultory.
Desultory, by the way, means lacking purpose, a plan, or enthusiasm. (massive props to Google Chrome and Dictionary.com). Wisconsin's plan is to give the football to John Clay and have him run for a TD and over 100 yards. Scott Tolzien had his finest performance of the season (gulp), not completing a single pass to a defender, and only getting sacked once for a loss of about one yard. The defense needs work (and NO injuries). ASU had the perfect offensive gameplan and executed it very well. Props to them as well, but that RB committee actually killed their momentum. DeAntre Lewis would rip off a big gain, then get stopped on first down. 2nd down was by far the one the Sun Devils did best on.
Huguenin snubs the Wisconsin offense, saying Ohio State's is better. Sorry, SBB, Ski, and Ian, but puh-leeze. Pryor can't afford 2 INTs, even if he completes 16 in a row. Iowa's offense...wait, they had one? Only when necessary, I suppose. Wisconsin, on the other hand, was the best overall offense in the conference last year. The Big Ten key to success, aka, rushing the ball, enables Scott Tolzien to be successful. Tolzien, in turn, enables John Clay to be successful by making sure he doesn't face 8 men in the box all the time.
But I don't think the Big Ten is overrated.
Yes, I'm a homer, but I don't think the conference was overrated in the preseason considering how it did the previous year, and in the bowl games where it wasn't supposed to win.
* = this statement is questionable. Please disregard Kalin Lucas gagging in the background, Ed Hightower.
** = banished from postseason play, stripped of 30 scholarships, and possibly even more if Kiffin runs his "squeaky-clean program" schtick to perfection.
*** = 2000 Rose Bowl. Wisconsin won 17-9.
Dissect away, people. I know I'm a little more leery of Rivals.com...