2010 Big Ten College Football Preview: Ohio State back on top

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor #2 of the Ohio State Buckeyes hands off to running back Brandon Saine #3 of the Buckeyes during a game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Ohio Stadium on September 26, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

Here’s a quick and dirty look at how I see things playing out in the Big Eleven this season:

#1 Ohio State
Some believe the Buckeyes’ offense might be close to catching up to their defense in terms of dominance, which is saying something with the way OSU’s D played a year ago. The Buckeyes return all three leading rushers from 2009 in Brandon Saine, Dan Herron and quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who some believe has become a more committed teammate over the offseason. The key to OSU becoming a national title threat is Pryor, or more specifically, whether or not he’ll make opponents respect his passing game. The good thing for him and the Buckeyes on a whole is that they return four starters to a veteran offensive line that will open up plenty of holes for a deep and talented group of running backs. Defensively, OSU was a top five unit last season and could be once again this year assuming they can generate a pass-rush and the safeties can hold up in coverage. Cameron Heyward is one of the nation’s best defensive ends and Ross Homan is a playmaker at the outside linebacker spot. The secondary isn’t flashy, but cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence are solid. From a schedule standpoint, if they can beat Miami in Columbus in the second week of the season, they should be 6-0 heading into Madison on October 16. From there, they’ll be tested by Wisconsin, Penn State and Iowa, but this is your clear favorite to win the Big Ten.

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Kelvin Sampson’s fingerprints still linger

Kelvin Sampson may be gone — he’s an assistant coach for the surging Milwaukee Bucks — but his former players (and recruits) are doing a lot of damage in the tourney.

Six guys who either played for or were recruited by Sampson all made the field in different uniforms and five of them were still playing when the second round tipped off.

“I hadn’t thought about that, but I guess there are a lot of us,’’ said West Virginia’s Devin Ebanks, a top five recruit who decommitted after Sampson was booted at IU.

Damion James, ousted in the first round when Texas lost to Wake Forest, was supposed to play at Oklahoma but he was released from his scholarship after Sampson left OU for Indiana, leaving a trail of NCAA stink behind and no players for Jeff Capel.

Scottie Reynolds could have been James’ teammate. Instead Capel let him out of his commitment, too. On Saturday he and Villanova lost to St. Mary’s in the second round.

Armon Bassett, angry at the university’s decision to force Sampson out, was reportedly part of a pack of players that threatened not to play after Sampson left. He was dismissed by interim head coach Dan Dakich, reinstated by Crean and then booted again. On Thursday night, Bassett led Ohio University to one of the more stunning first-round upsets, scoring 32 in a win against Georgetown.

With players leaving left and right, Jordan Crawford told Crean in June 2008 that he, too, would be leaving Bloomington. He transferred to Xavier. The Musketeers will play Pitt in the second-round on Sunday.

Sampson sure could recruit, but one wonders if all those illegal texts and phone calls were the reason why.

Iowa has giant fourth quarter, defeats Indiana

Stanzi

This game wasn’t pretty. Actually, it was downright brutal at times. There were nine turnovers in total, but this isn’t to say either Indiana or Iowa’s defenses were stellar. Indiana exposed the Hawkeyes’ defensive weakness throughout the first three quarters. Yet, Iowa’s offense exploded out of nowhere in the fourth, leading their team to a 42-24 victory.

Nevertheless, people will continue to downgrade Iowa’s high ranking. Now with a 9-0 record, it’s tough to devalue their season. We’ll see how the rest of today’s games play out, but Iowa is currently one of seven undefeated teams in the Top 25. They don’t demonstrate great football by any means, but damn are their games exciting to watch. They have trailed in eight of their nine competitions this year, and have managed to come back to take each one.

Nevertheless, Iowa and quarterback Ricky Stanzi were shoddy at best until the fourth quarter. People will cite this as justification to knock Iowa down a few slots in the rankings. I completely agree with that sentiment. Iowa, the No. 4 team in the nation, should not trail a meager Indiana squad for most of the game. Stanzi threw five (I know) interceptions today. That’s inexcusable — he would be benched if it wasn’t for their record. But how in the hell have they managed to remain undefeated? The fourth quarter.

Somehow, Stazi came out with an undeterred confidence and immediately connected with star receiver Marvin McNutt for a 92-yard touchdown pass. Minutes later, Stanzi found Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for a 66-yard touchdown. By then, Iowa had found their groove. Stanzi continued to feed the ball to running back Brandon Wegher, who is subbing for the injured Adam Robinson. Wegher exceeded expectations, scoring three touchdowns on 119 yards and 25 carries.

While Iowa fans are drunk on happiness, detractors of the BCS system are fuming. With their improbable season, Iowa’s game against Ohio St. is going to be essential viewing. Who expected that?

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