CFN Debates Denard 

The CollegeFootballNews columnists debate the future-legacy of Denard Robinson and other hot BIG topics.

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Each week Phil Harrison, Bart Doan, and Terry Johnson take a look at three burning topics within the Big Ten. It’s three writers, with three points of view, all trying to solve the state of the heartland one issue at a time. They try to keep it civil, but all is fair in love, war, and college football debates. It’s the B1G Uglies weekly column.

(i) What Will Be the Legacy of Denard Robinson?

Phil Harrison:

There is absolutely no debate on how great of an athlete Robinson is. And in some regards, it’s a shame that Robinson didn’t have more around him to have team goals assist in elevating his personal rewards. Clearly, he’s a tool any football team would love to have in its tool chest.

But you’ve got to wonder if Robinson has been moonlighting all of his career as a socket-wrench trying to turn screws. Would he have been a better fit on the outside as a playmaking wide-receiver or running back? We all know what he can do with his legs, but despite more than enough time under center now, he’s never fully developed into a consistent passing threat. And it’s those games that have kept him from Heisman potential.

The reality is that Rich Rodriguez started this experiment at quarterback, and that’s where it’ll have to end. Robinson has been fantastic, but he’ll go down as a great athlete playing quarterback, not as a great quarterback that just happened to be a super athlete.

Bart Doan:

Right or wrong, incomplete as it may be as I write this, it will be the same as getting back together with your high school flame after you both have spent four years away at school separated. You might think that the last three years have assured that this last time, it was going to work out, but for whatever reason, it didn’t.

Shoelace will be the player poster child for the most turbulent era in the history of Michigan football, the bridge between their cataclysmic mistake of hiring Rich Rodriguez, the object of their desperation when they wanted him to stay to solidify the roster under a new staff, and then the inability to meet lofty expectations in the final act.

Denard Robinson is a gifted athlete (as Phil said) and leader with an infectious personality, but in a sport rife with unrealistic expectation, he likely didn’t meet most people’s. Then again, if you meet your own, that’s all that matters. He could still win the B1G and watch part of his legacy be rewritten. After all, sometimes you end up getting engaged to that chick from high school after all. Then it doesn’t work out. I’m kidding. Maybe.

Terry Johnson:

Without question, Maize and Blue fans will remember Denard Robinson as the most athletic QB in Michigan history. No Wolverine signal caller has ever been able to move the chains the way(s) that Shoelace does.

However, unless things turn around quickly, he won’t go down as one of the greatest QBs in the school’s rich history. As the winningest program of all-time, the only metrics that matter are conference championships, and victories in big games.

That’s where Robinson comes up short against the all-time greats. While the win over Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl is impressive, Robinson’s resume doesn’t stack up with the likes of Brian Griese, Elvis Grbac, and Jim Harbaugh, who each won the Rose Bowl.

Fortunately, the 2012 chapter is not complete. If Michigan can win the Big Ten, there’s no reason why Robinson wouldn’t earn a place in this elite company.

(ii) Is Ohio State a Paper Tiger, or a Real Threat to Finish Atop the Leaders Division?


Normally when I want an irrefutable argument, I just consult Vegas, but I couldn’t find any odds on OSU to win the Leaders, so I’ll apparently have to stick with my own opinion.

Not only are they a real threat, it’s hard to fathom them not winning it. Not to say that they’re some behemoth, but winning the Leaders is like picking out Creed’s best album. No matter where you go, you’re better off averting your senses.

Ohio State will see rough patches. It has road games against both of its main competition in the Leaders, Purdue and Wisconsin, and it plays at what should be an angry Michigan State team this weekend... and that doesn't even include the home-field-doesn’t-matter rivalry game with Michigan. Yet, it’s hard to look at the rest of the Large 10 and just assume much of anything about their success.

All I know is, Ohio State hasn’t lost while the rest of the B1G contenders have taken their best efforts to look terrible at multiple times. The guess here? I’m still sticking with Purdue. But under a new system drastically different from last year, it’s hard to call them paper anything until they start proving they can be put through (the Rich Rod) shredder.


They’re closer to a paper tiger than a contender. But in a wide-open Big Ten race, there’s really not much difference between the two.

Let’s be honest: Ohio State has done nothing to impress this year. Even though they have won all of their games to date, the Buckeyes have yet to put together a complete four-quarter effort. Until they do, people will continue to question just how good Urban Meyer’s team really is.

Despite its struggles early in the season, the B1G is still one of the deepest conferences in the land, meaning that teams must bring their “A Game” every week in order to win. Now that the Ohio State is finished with its non-league slate, we should find out whether they’re a contender or a pretender.

So can the Buckeyes beat Michigan State in East Lansing this weekend?

To quote Steven Sagal from Under Siege: “I guess, we’ll just what we’ll see.”


Probably more of a paper tiger, but there’s a whole zoo of those in the Big Ten this year.

We’ve already got a Creed reference dropped in here by Bart, so maybe it’s safe to say Ohio State slogan could be “My Own Prison.” So what does that mean? OSU is more of an average team with a great player under center, It is constrained by its own limitations. As Braxton Miller goes, so too does OSU’s chances of winning games. And while the Buckeyes can’t go any further than its date with Michigan on November 24, there is still the well-known opportunity to finish atop the Leaders division and take a trophy home.

It is now clear that there is not an elite team in the Big Ten, so if Braxton Miller can will his team to victory at East Lansing this week, it would not be too much of a stretch to believe that Ohio State could inflict some serious damage at Wisconsin, at home against Purdue, and as host to Michigan at the end of the season.

The Buckeyes chances to be the best team in its division aren’t out of question, but that doesn’t mean they are a juggernaut type of team to be reckoned with on the national scene.

Now we’ll see if they can break out a Scarlet and Gray can of something--just like Steven Sagal and take down Sparty this weekend (right Terry)? That’ll tell us a little more. Maybe then we won’t think they’re “Six Feet From the Ledge.”

Okay, maybe I overdid the Creed references, but I blame Bart for casting the net.

(iii) Both Minnesota and Northwestern Sit Undefeated at 4-0. Who’ll Have the Better Season When We Look Back in January?


As the legendary Bobby Bowden would say, “If we haven’t lost any games yet, you can’t say that we don’t have a doggone good football team.”

While both of these teams have played very well, Northwestern will finish with the better record.

This is certainly not a criticism of the Golden Gophers, who will end up in a bowl game this year. Jerry Kill has done a fantastic job of building the Minnesota program, and will have them competing for the league title next season.

However, Northwestern is a serious threat to win the conference title this year. QBs Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian have had no trouble moving the ball down the field when they faced some solid defenses, including Boston College and Vanderbilt. Aside from a clunker against Syracuse, the defense has been rock solid, ranking 11th in the nation against the run.

The schedule also sets up nicely for a big season. With games against the depleted squads of Indiana and Penn State, there’s no reason why the Wildcats won’t start the season 6-0. After that, Northwestern faces most of its toughest competition in Evanston, with only back-to-back road trips to the Great Lakes State in November looming as potential landmines.

Does a favorable schedule guarantee that the Wildcats will win the B1G? Of course not!

But the fact that the ‘Cats are in contention means that they’re going to finish in front of Minnesota in 2012.


Northwestern will have a better season. At this point, it almost looks to be a sure bet for both teams to make it to at least some bowl game right? Wrong. Though both are sitting pretty right now, the jury is still deliberating behind the schedule of the Gophers.

Sure, Minnesota’s an improved squad, and if MarQueis Gray can come back healthy, it’ll add better chances, but the Wildcats have shown that it can play with BCS level teams, and beat them. To date, the Golden Gophers have just one win to show at home against a BCS level Syracuse team that nobody is writing home about. It’s about to get tougher.

If you look at the two schedules side-by-side, Minnesota’s is a monster challenge coming home with Michigan, Nebraska, and Michigan State in three of the last four weeks. Northwestern has to travel to Minnesota, but the overall schedule is not nearly the minefield that the Golden Gophers have. If, that is--any schedule in the Big Ten can be compared to weaponry these days.

Either way, because of the slight talent deficit in combination with which teams each has to play, the safer bet here is a shade of purple.


I fall in line step with Phil and Terry both on this one. In The Dinner Party episode of Seinfeld whilst in the bakery, Jerry orders a black and white cookie, at one point doing a symbolic “cheers” with a man of a different race across the room eating the same thing, then saying that world peace could be achieved if we just “look to the cookie, Elaine.” Well, same deal here, only rip out world peace and add “B1G success” and replace the black and white cookie with, as Phil said, the schedule. It’s alarming to think, but with IU, Penn State, Minnesota, Nebraska at home, and Iowa for homecoming, then a bye week, Northwestern might see the first game they’re not favored in on Nov. 10 at Michigan. Remember, they doused Nebraska in Lincoln last year even after missing Dan Persa to injury.

Venric Mark has been such a breakout player this season already, and figures to keep them in games with his overall dynamic act. For Minnesota, Phil has already document the running of the bulls schedule they have. The other unsung aspect? Northwestern has gotten to a point where they’re used to winning and expect to win, and know how to do it when it gets close.

Minnesota is doing well and will keep improving, but still learning probably in a close game against a better opponent. We shall see, but I’m taking the Cats in this argument.

Follow Phil on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN, Bart @Bart_CFN, and Terry @TPJCollFootball

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