Maybe the Big Ten isn’t so bad

Coming into the bowl season, the general consensus among college football fans was that the Big Ten couldn’t hang with the speed and athleticism that the SEC and Pac-10 brought to the table.

And who could blame them based on the results of previous bowl games?

But this season has been different. Ohio State shut down Oregon’s explosive offense in the Rose Bowl, Penn State went toe-to-toe with a physical LSU squad in the Capital One Bowl, Wisconsin dismantled Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl and Iowa shocked many people by dominating Georgia Tech in its 24-14 win in last night’s Orange Bowl.

Even in defeat, the Big Ten had a great showing this year, as Northwestern lost a wild, back-and-forth overtime affair to Auburn in the Outback Bowl and a heavily depleted Michigan State program gave Texas Tech all it could handle in the Alamo Bowl (which was essentially a home game for Tech) before losing at the very end.

Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa showed the strength of the conference in their wins: Physical play. Both the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes proved how good their front sevens were by shutting down offensive attacks that otherwise appeared unstoppable. The great equalizer in sports is when one team has the ability to generate pressure using just its front four, which is exactly what the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes did in their victories.

On the other side of the ball, OSU and Iowa were able to grind out the clock by using their big offensive lines to wear opponents down late in the fourth quarter. The Pac-10 might have loads of speed, but they’re at a disadvantage against the Big Ten late in games when they’re behind because their front sevens are relatively small. They’re just not built to line up and go mano a mano late in games.

What Ohio State, Iowa and Penn State were able to accomplish this bowl season doesn’t erase the years of futility that the conference has endured. But maybe the Big Ten can build off their programs’ success this season and use it as a stepping-stone for years to come.


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Pryor quiets critics by leading Ohio State over Oregon in Rose Bowl

Terrelle Pryor has taken his fair share of beatings this season from fans and critics alike – and for good reason.

Entering his second season, this was supposed to be the year in which Pryor took the next step as a passer. But instead, he regressed. He showed the inability to lead the offense, struggled with his accuracy and with turnovers, and displayed little to no potential.

But to his credit, Pryor saved his best performance of the year for his last. He gave an incredible effort in Ohio State’s 26-17 win over Oregon in the Rose Bowl and led the Buckeyes with not only his feet, but with his arm as well. He finished 23-of-37 for 266 yards and two touchdowns, while also leading the Buckeyes with 72 rushing yards on 20 carries.

Pryor kept drives alive with his feet, limited mistakes and kept his team in the game from start to finish. He wasn’t quite Vince Young against USC in the national championship, but he was damn near Vince Young against Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl. If Pryor’s junior year resembles that of Young’s third season, then Ohio State has plenty to look forward to next year.

If you were surprised that the mighty Oregon offense only scored 17 points, don’t be. They took a back seat to Florida and Alabama this season, but Ohio State’s defense was just as good as the Gators and Crimson Tide’s defensive units this year. The Buckeyes’ front four created problems for the Ducks’ high-powered rushing attack by shooting the gaps and using its speed to get into Oregon’s backfield quickly to disrupt plays. The Ducks still rushed for 179 yards, but they certainly weren’t as explosive as they had been in the regular season.

Another key to the Buckeyes’ win was the play of their secondary. Oregon is a run-first team, but they had a lot of success mixing the pass in with the run to keep defenses off balance this season. But today, Jeremiah Masoli completed just 9-of-20 passes for 81 yards and one interception. OSU’s secondary completely shut down Oregon’s passing game and made them one-dimensional, which was key late in the game.

This was a nice win for the Big Ten, which improved to 3-2 on the bowl season this year. Had Northwestern cashed in on all of their opportunities today against Auburn, the Big Ten would be rolling right now in bowls.

2010 BCS Bowl Preview: 5 Things to Watch for in the Rose Bowl

Big Ten champion Ohio State will square off against Pac-10 champ Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day at 4:30PM ET. Here are five things to watch for when the No. 8 Buckeyes clash with the No. 7 Ducks.As part of our 2010 BCS Bowl Preview, here are five things to watch for in the Sugar Bowl.

1. Oregon’s dynamic backfield vs. Ohio State’s physical defense
The Ducks’ offensive backfield features a running back in LaMichael James that rushed for 1,476 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 6.9 YPC, as well as a quarterback in Jeremiah Masoli that rushed for 659 yards and 12 TDs, while also completing 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,066 yards and 15 scores. Oregon can beat opponents in a variety of ways, but Ohio State’s defense limited the opposition to only 12.2 points and 262.5 total yards per game this season. The Buckeyes are one of five FBS teams that did now allow a 100-yard individual rushing performance this year and will test the fortitude of James, Masoli and one-time Hesiman candidate LeGarrette Blount. This should be a classic battle.

2. Terrelle Pryor’s (lack of) development as a passer
Pryor was considered the top high school recruit coming into the 2008 season and was supposed to quickly transform into one of the best college football players in the nation. But after showing flashes of brilliance as a freshman last year, Pryor has been criticized more than he’s been praised this season. Among other things, he started struggling with his accuracy and decision-making and some in the media wondered if he should move to another position due to his lack of development as a quarterback. Things came to a head in mid October when he lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions in an embarrassing loss to Purdue. But in his final five games, Pryor led the Buckeyes to five straight wins (including victories over Penn State, Iowa and rival Michigan) while tossing six touchdowns and only two interceptions. The problem is that he wasn’t asked to do too much either. If Oregon’s high-powered offense starts lighting up the scoreboard, can Pryor keep Ohio State in the ballgame with his arm or will his issues as a passer bury him and the Buckeyes? Better yet, can coach Jim Tressel figure out how to best use his athletic QB?

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The Official Rose Bowl Smack Talk Thread: Ohio State vs. Oregon

The Big Ten Champion Ohio State Buckeyes will battle the Pac-10 Champion Oregon Ducks in the 2010 Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. In order to help get you ready for the game, below is a viewing guide complete with TV information, kickoff times, odds and more.

2010 Rose Bowl Game Information
Matchup: Ohio State (10-2) vs. Oregon (10-2)
Kickoff: 4:30PM ET
TV: ABC
Odds: Oregon –3.5

Key Stats:
Ohio State comes into this game with the 19th best rushing offense in the nation, led by running backs Daneil “Boom” Herron and Brandon Saine, as well as quarterback Terrelle Pryor (who almost went to Oregon before deciding on OSU). The Buckeyes also have the fifth best run defense in country, the 17th best pass defense and are ranked fifth in both total defense and scoring defense.

Oregon has been an offensive juggernaut this season, averaging over 37 points (they rank seventh in the nation in scoring offense) and over 236 rushing yards per game (sixth in the nation). The backfield tandem of LaMichael James and Jeremiah Masoli has been tough to stop this season and the duo is aided with the return of one-time Heisman candidate LeGarrette Blount, who missed 10 games after serving a suspension. Defensively, the Ducks rank 32nd against the run and 37th against the pass.

The Bottom Line:
This game offers a great matchup between the Ducks’ sixth-rated rushing attack versus the Buckeyes’ fifth-rated run defense. But the key to victory might be whether or not the undersized, fast Oregon defense can match up to the physical (yet inconsistent) OSU offense.

Let the smack talk begin:

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Who will win the 2010 Rose Bowl?
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Florida, Ohio State could be down players for bowl games

According to a FOXSports.com report, Florida will be without Brandon James for the Sugar Bowl after the all-purpose player had surgery on his right foot.

James, a senior from St. Augustine, broke a bone in foot against Alabama in the Southeastern Conference title game and had surgery last week. Florida coach Urban Meyer says Chris Rainey, Jeff Demps and Joe Haden will take over James’ punt and kickoff return duties against No. 4 Cincinnati on New Year’s Day.

James finished with 1,324 total yards and two touchdowns this season. He had 109 yards rushing, 215 yards receiving and a score, 756 yards and a touchdown on kickoff returns and 244 yards on punt returns.

FOX is also reporting that three Ohio State players will likely be ineligible to play in the Rose Bowl.

Seniors wide receiver Ray Small and defensive lineman Rob Rose and sophomore running back Bo DeLande are likely to miss the Jan. 1 bowl game against Oregon due to a violation of team rules, the Columbus Dispatch reported on its Web site.

Freshman receiver Duron Carter was declared ineligible last week.

As of Monday morning, the school had not issued a statement regarding the status of the three players, meaning the decision may not yet be final.

Both Rose and Small had academic issues at the start of spring practice this season, although each player had talked about overcoming their problems to turn in successful seasons. Ohio State has officially confirmed that the players will be held out, but it doesn’t look good.

Losing Rose would be a hit to the Buckeyes’ defensive line depth, while Small would sorely be missed in the return game and as the team’s No. 3 wideout. Taurian Washington would likely take over as OSU’s No. 3 receiver with Carter also being held out of the Rose Bowl with academic issues.


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