Cus Words: November Reign?

With a bit of poetic license from the author, Guns N' Roses offers inspiration for this week's column. After Ohio State took care of business in a big way at Minnesota, we turn our focus to the remaining contenders for the Big Ten crown. Where does Ohio State rank?

What we learned this week: Since I wrote last week there would be no lesson, can I skip this part? And since there is no game this weekend… nah, just kidding.

That's not fair, but figuring out a lesson from the blowout at Minnesota is difficult.

The opponent turned out to be as feeble as I thought it might, but credit Ohio State for coming out focused on offense and keeping the heat on throughout the first half.

I suppose Ohio State should be praised for dealing well with the Minnesota blitz. When a team is bringing it as much as the Gophers were, you would expect a sack or two to be inevitable, but the Buckeyes did a good job of avoiding trouble there.

The effectiveness of the running game helped Ohio State avoid obvious passing situations, something else that probably helped the pass protection.

I'm still a bit puzzled why it took Jim Tressel and his offensive brain trust suffering the trauma of the first half at Wisconsin to remember running the ball is in their DNA, but is there any looking back now?

On the other side of the ball, we learned the injury-riddled secondary will be a concern the rest of the season.

Jermale Hines is the only consistent playmaker in the back end for the Buckeyes right now. Senior cornerbacks Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence have been up and down all year, and first-year starter Orhian Johnson has struggled at safety.

Seeing defensive coordinator Jim Heacock dial up more pressure than usual to help his defense was interesting. That helped disrupt the Golden Gophers, who have big, athletic, talented players at wide receiver but an erratic quarterback.

What we can expect to learn this week: Let's see now if the other teams still in the Big Ten race can hold serve.

This week's BCS rankings have me thinking Wisconsin might have the juice to stay ahead of the Buckeyes to earn the Big Ten's automatic Rose Bowl bid, but we'll see what happens.

Iowa is not actually 31 points better than Michigan State, but watching things snowball in Iowa City sure was shocking, wasn't it?

I liked the Hawkeyes a lot entering the season and think their loss to Arizona was something of a fluke. Tough circumstances there with a pretty late start time and a different climate to deal with plus a hostile environment. Yet Iowa still could have won if not for several crippling mistakes.

Same thing two weeks ago at Wisconsin when the special teams were atrocious and so was the clock management.

As of now, it looks as if Ohio State will need not to only win at Iowa but do so decisively to impress pollsters, and that is going to be no easy task.

I think Iowa is the most complete team in the Big Ten at this point. Ohio State has a better offense, but the Iowa is better on ‘D', where the discrepancy between the two units is larger. Both teams have special teams issues.

Michigan State's offensive line has reversed course from its surprisingly strong start, and quarterback Kirk Cousins took a step back last week under duress.

Wisconsin is great on offense when healthy, but the Badger defense is a step below the three of the other contenders. Ohio State's problems moving the ball in the first half in Madison were mostly self-inflicted.

No matter what, this should be an interesting month of football in the Midwest.

All-Buckeye Beater Nominations: With 79 yards on 23 carries, DeLeon Eskridge had a solid night (3.4 yards per carry) and scored the only Minnesota touchdown. Had the score not gotten so out of hand, he might have gotten more opportunities.

On defense, safety Ryan Collado led the Gophers with 11 tackles and picked off Terrelle Pryor in the red zone.

DVR Directions: This will depend on the availability of Big Ten Network runover channels, but at noon, I suggest tuning in to the conference channel to see if Purdue can pull a miracle and knock off Wisconsin to help the Buckeyes' Rose Bowl dreams come true. While you do that, record the Iowa-Indiana game (also on BTN) to scout the Hawkeyes.

At 3:30, the Buckeyes' next opponent, Penn State, faces Northwestern (ABC regional/ESPN2 elsewhere). Record that if you want to be able to go back later and dissect some truly awful Nittany Lion line play.

From a college football fan standpoint, the best games at 3:30 are probably Alabama-LSU (CBS) or TCU at Utah (CBS Sports).

The evening games present a great opportunity to watch something you recorded during the afternoon.

Big Ten Predictions: After successfully jinxing Michigan State and Michigan by picking them last week, let's see what damage I can do this time.

Look for Illinois to keep the Wolverines' losing streak going. The Fighting Illini are more talented on both sides of the ball, and Ron Zook (or probably more accurately his new coordinators) actually has those players playing well for a change, so this should be an easy one.

No. 16 Iowa should work over Indiana, but the Hoosiers have been a thorn in their side before. The spread passing game could give Iowa's defense some problems, but I don't see how Indiana slows down the Hawkeye offense.

No. 14 Michigan State gets back on the winning side of the ledger with a visit from Minnesota, and No. 9 Wisconsin will trounce Purdue.

Northwestern-Penn State is a tough one, but I'm going to go with the Nittany Lions, who should be charged up by the chance to deliver head coach Joe Paterno his 400th win.

Record to date: 14-7
2-2 last week

Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll
(Week 8 ranking)

1. (2) Iowa
2. (4) Ohio State
3. (1) Michigan State
4. (3) Wisconsin
5. (same) Illinois
6. (same) Northwestern
7. (same) Penn State
8. (9) Indiana
9. (8) Michigan
10. (same) Purdue
11. (same) Minnesota

Marcus Hartman is a staff writer for and Buckeye Sports Bulletin. He can be reached for comment, cursing or questions via email at mhartman[at]buckeyesports[dot]com

For more from him,read his blog about Ohio State football and whatever else crosses his mind .

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