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Harty blog: A look at the 2012 Big Ten football race at this stage

[ 0 ] October 1, 2012 |

October is here and the Iowa football team is in a bye week. It seems like an appropriate time to analyze the Big Ten football race.

Here’s a quick summary storyline for each of the 12 teams at this stage in no particular order.

Ohio State is rapidly climbing back to elite status under first-year coach Urban Meyer, as we all probably should’ve expected given the program’s rich tradition and his track record.

The decline of the Wisconsin offensive line is perhaps the most baffling development in the Big Ten, if not the country.

Michigan is still incredibly explosive on offense, but also limited by Denard Robinson’s inability to throw downfield with accuracy.

Northwestern is undefeated after five games largely because of Kain Colter’s rare ability to star as both a quarterback and receiver.

Purdue has shown signs of being the sleeper that many expected before the season, losing just once so far by three points to Notre Dame on the road.

Penn State is standing tall in the face of stifling sanctions, winning its last three games, including a 35-7 demolition at Illinois this past Saturday.

Illinois is playing arguably the worst of all the conference teams under first-year coach Tim Beckman, despite coming off back-to-back bowl games.

Minnesota continues to improve under second-year coach Jerry Kill, but showed by losing to Iowa this past Saturday that his rebuilding job is still very much a work in progress.

Indiana still scores lots of points, just not as many as its opponents in most cases as evidenced by Saturday’s 44-29 loss to Northwestern.

Michigan State has picked up where it left off last season as a defensive force, but its offense without Kirk Cousins playing quarterback has been mostly ineffective.

Nebraska looks close to being unbeatable at home once again, but vulnerable on the road as UCLA showed by shredding the Cornhuskers for 653 total yards during a 36-30 victory last month.

Iowa is playing much like it did last season when it proved to be an average team with a 7-6 record, although the emergence of sophomore walk-on running back Mark Weisman has provided hope.

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Offensive Player of Year: Ohio State sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller is the pick over Colter, but just barely because both have been spectacular. No way would the Buckeyes have won at Michigan State this past Saturday without Miller making incredible plays with his arm and legs.

Defensive Player of the Year: Penn State senior linebacker Michael Mauti has been a calming force off the field and a disruptive one on it.

Coach of the Year: Worse days almost certainly lie ahead for Penn State coach Bill O’Brien in the wake of unprecedented NCAA sanctions. But consider the mess he inherited and now they’re coming off a 28-point victory at Illinois and have won three games in a row.

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Embarrassing defeats

Central Michigan 32, Iowa 31, Sept. 22, Kinnick Stadium: The Hawkeyes blew an 8-point lead in the final minute at home to a team picked to finish at or near the bottom of the MAC standings.

Louisiana Tech 52, Illinois 24, Sept. 22, Champaign, Ill: Illinois committed six turnovers and surrendered 284 passing yards and four touchdowns.

Alabama 41, Michigan 14, Sept. 1, Dallas, Texas: The game was never in doubt, which left many to doubt that Michigan is back to elite status despite last season’s 11-2 record under new head coach Brady Hoke.

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Most awkward moment: The post-game exchange between Bill O’Brien and Tim Beckman this past Saturday looked more like two kids being forced to shake hands after scuffling at recess.

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Recruiting update

Michigan’s 23-player class for 2013 is not only the largest among the Big Ten teams, but also the highest ranked in the conference by most scouting services. Minnesota has the fewest commitments with six at this stage. Iowa has 16 commitments, which is the fifth highest total among Big Ten teams.

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Did you know?

Michigan State punter Mike Sadler told his father this summer to get rid of all the Hawkeye attire and memorabilia that filled their house in Grand Rapids, Mich. His father used to live in Iowa and was a devoted Hawkeye fan until his son became a Spartan. I’ll have more on that next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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