Cus Words: Hey Joe

Jimi Hendrix may not be on Joe Paterno's iPod, but we are thinking of the Seattle great after watching Penn State's iconic coach pick up his 400th win thanks to a surprising two-week run with a rejuvenated offense. Is the old dog up to new tricks? And what will Jim Tressel have in store this week?

What we learned this week: Penn State might not be the pushover we previously thought.

While the Buckeyes were enjoying a week off, the Nittany Lions scored 35 unanswered points to erase a 21-0 deficit against Northwestern and deliver Joe Paterno's 400th win as a college head coach.

Penn State's winning formula was time-tested but somewhat surprising for this season: The Nittany Lions bludgeoned the Wildcats for 260 yards on the ground, including 100-yard performances by Evan Royster and Silas Redd.

Former third-string quarterback Matt McGloin dinged the Wildcats for 225 yards and four touchdowns through the air in relief of starter Rob Bolden, the second week in a row McGloin has performed well.

An offensive line that was a major question mark entering the season and struggled for most of the first two months looked like a new unit against Northwestern, although it was hard to conclude all of the visitors' problems were physical as momentum built at Beaver Stadium toward the historic victory.

Northwestern entered the game pretty much middle-of-the-road in most defensive statistics, but I'm not sure if anyone thought the Nittany Lions had that kind of offensive performance in them.

The offensive surge helped the PSU defense rebound from early struggles, too. Building off emotion from the crowd, the Lions started playing downhill and shut down Northwestern.

What we can expect to learn this week: We may get a good look at what Jim Tressel and his assistants decided the Buckeyes did the best during the first two months of the season.

In years past, Tressel said self-evaluation was one of Ohio State's off-week activities, so as a football strategy junky, I am curious to see what they decide to keep this time around.

The last time there was an open week in the schedule, the Buckeyes were going through a pretty sizable identity crisis. That was 2008 following a humbling 13-6 home loss to Penn State in which the Nittany Lions came up with a formula for stopping an Ohio State zone-read option game that had humiliated Michigan State a week before that.

When next we saw the Scarlet and Gray, the zone-read nearly had been erased from the playbook. Instead, the Buckeyes went back to featuring Beanie Wells in the I-formation with Terrelle Pryor performing the role of play-action passer and occasional scrambler.

The move worked as Pryor connected with Brian Hartline on a pair of long passes and hit Brian Robiskie for another, and the freshman quarterback broke containment a couple of times for important runs.

As fate would have it, that was only the first of three times Ohio State would make a similar move.

The Buckeyes also began concentrating on the more pro-style aspects of their offense last season after a loss at Purdue in mid-October and have done the same thing the past two weeks following a surprising loss at Wisconsin.

I think the direction they have moved (one for which I argued the week before it happened) is the correct one, so it will be interesting to see if they continue to tailor the I-formation (and similar) parts of the package or once again try to expand it to include a significant amount of Pryor running from the shotgun.

They obviously have a fascination with using Pryor's legs, an interest large enough they have come back to it on multiple occasions despite mounting evidence he is best as a dropback, pro-style passer because he does not run well between the tackles on designed plays.

I would like to suggest they will continue going toward their roots as a power running team, but they have fooled me before when I gave them the benefit of that doubt.

DVR Directions:

The Buckeyes' next opponent, Iowa, plays at Northwestern at noon on ESPN, so I recommend recording that one for scouting purposes. That gives you the freedom to keep at least one eye on Wisconsin as the Badgers play host to Indiana at the same time on ESPN2.

Big Ten Predictions: All four Big Ten games not involving Ohio State are scheduled for noon kickoffs, and none are terribly compelling.

Indiana might have a puncher's chance in Madison if Ben Chappell can get hot with his receivers (and they can avoid dropping wide-open, game-winning passes), but I am not seeing it even though I think Wisconsin has a vulnerable secondary. I don't see how the Hoosiers will stop the Badger offense. Wisconsin wins, perhaps in a shootout.

Purdue limps back home after hanging tough with Wisconsin for a half, but I don't like the Boilermakers' chances of bouncing back against Michigan. Purdue has given up 127 points the last three games, and now Danny Hope's club faces a team coming off a 67-point game. I don't think that's a good combination, nor do I see Purdue being able to score enough to keep up as injuries continue to cloud the quarterback situation. Michigan gets its last win of the season Saturday.

Northwestern looked demoralized in the second half against Penn State, but Iowa seemed to spend all of the Indiana game in a daze. I think this one will be close with Northwestern moving the ball all day but the Hawkeyes making the most important plays and pulling out a win.

Lastly, Illinois will go home and gain bowl eligibility thanks to a visit from woeful Minnesota. The Fighting Illini were bound for a letdown eventually, but they will bounce back with the worst team in the conference on the slate next.

Record to date: 18-8
4-1 last week

Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll
(Week 9 ranking)

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