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BIG TEN REPORT: Buckeyes face difficult road in national-title quest

BraxtMiller Buckeyes will need keep running up score have any chance playing for national title. | Getty Images

Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes will need to keep running up the score to have any chance at playing for the national title. | Getty Images

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Updated: November 28, 2013 7:04AM



Ohio State is like the college stud who can’t a find date because his roommate smells. The Buckeyes are looking dapper, but the eyesores around them are dragging them down.

It’s a shame for Ohio State, but the Big Ten is bad. There’s just no way to sugarcoat it. Even the best propagandists will have trouble spinning an argument that the conference is anywhere close to the quality of the SEC, ACC and Pac-12.

But the company the Buckeyes keep doesn’t make them any less a national-title contender.

The computers have spoken. Ohio State will need help to get to the title game with the SEC’s Alabama, ACC’s Florida State and Pac-12’s Oregon ahead of the Buckeyes in the BCS standings.

At least two of those teams will have to lose. The Buckeyes could still get jumped by a number of undefeated teams beneath them as the conference season progresses.

That’s how it should be. As important as it is to look past Ohio State’s weak conference schedule, it’s more prudent not to overlook the difficulty of the schedules of the three teams ahead of the Buckeyes.

Entering Saturday, the ACC had as many teams (three) in the BCS top 10 as the Big Ten had in the top 25. That number will be reduced to two for the Big Ten on Sunday after Nebraska lost at Minnesota. The SEC had four teams in the top 15. The Pac-12 had two in the top six.

For the love of Jim Delany, do you get it already?

But to Ohio State’s credit, it hasn’t just squeaked through its schedule undefeated. The Buckeyes have pounded teams, proving they could compete in any conference in the country.

With the exception of Wisconsin, which represents the only other redeeming qualities of the conference, Ohio State has beaten all of its opponents by double-digits (full disclosure: the Buckeyes scored a touchdown as time expired against Northwestern after recovering a lateral attempt in the Wildcats’ end zone. It gave Ohio State a 10-point victory).

The latest installment was a 63-14 shellacking of Penn State.

It gets easier for Ohio State. Its next three are against Purdue, Illinois and Indiana. Might as well call it minicamp before the regular-season finale at Michigan — its biggest test.

But until then, Ohio State will need to keep running up the score. Style points might never be more relevant in a championship race.

WEEK 9 STARS

RB David Cobb, Minnesota

The junior carried the ball 31 times for 138 yards. He has emerged as a featured offensive player for the Gophers. Minnesota ran the ball 54 times.

RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska

He ran for 165 yards, the fourth consecutive week he has eclipsed 100 yards. His only game under 100 was against UCLA when he rushed for 98 yards.Michigan State

RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan State

He had his third consecutive game rushing for 100 yards or more. Langford had 22 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

HUSKERS DEFENSE EXPOSED

Preying on the weak didn’t mean Nebraska’s defense had finally hit its stride.

After the 44-7 victory last week against Purdue, it appeared as if the Huskers’ defense had worked through its early-season struggles. But Purdue’s offense is as bad as it gets in the conference.

On Saturday, Minnesota exposed a young Nebraska defense, which could end up being coach Bo Pelini’s undoing.

The Gophers racked up 430 yards and took their first lead over Nebraska since the 1969 season.

BY THE NUMBERS

10 — Penalty yards Iowa was flagged for on Saturday.

1960 — The last year Minnesota beat Nebraska before the Gophers’ victory Saturday.

1 — Incomplete pass thrown by Michigan State sophomore quarterback Connor Cook, who threw for 208 yards and three touchdowns.

44 — Years since the previous lead for Minnesota against Nebraska. The Gophers scored a second-quarter touchdown to take a 14-10 lead.

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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