Published Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 9:12 pm / Updated at 1:30 am
Barfknecht: NCAA penalties cost 10-0 Buckeyes this year

It's not inconceivable that the final undefeated team in college football could be Ohio State.

The Buckeyes (10-0) are hardly home free, with a game this week at Wisconsin (7-3) and next week against Michigan (7-3). But the other 10-0 teams have their own potential pitfalls.

BCS No. 1 Kansas State ends the season against No. 15 Texas; No. 2 Oregon will face No. 13 Stanford and No. 16 Oregon State; No. 3 Notre Dame plays at No. 18 USC.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said he hasn't given the national title talk any thought.

“And we're not going to have any discussion about that with our players,” he said Tuesday. “Our kids know who we are.

“We have a lot of holes that we're still trying to patch to become a better team. At some point, that might be worth discussion. But not now.”

Ohio State's season will end in 10 days, frankly, because of administrative arrogance.

The Buckeyes are on a one-year postseason ban for NCAA rules violations involving ex-coach Jim Tressel lying to investigators and players trading memorabilia for tattoos. The school self-imposed some penalties, but not a bowl ban thinking that the NCAA wouldn't do that.

But the NCAA did. So Ohio State ended up trading a trip to the Gator Bowl last season with a 6-6 team for staying at home this year with a potential national championship squad.

No sympathy here, nor from anywhere else in the Big Ten.

Meyer admitted he wondered early in the season if there might be motivation problems by the end with no bowl game as a carrot. He even considered framing the Wisconsin game as a Big Ten title-type game and Michigan as a bowl game.

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“I've had a couple of team meetings getting ready for this game,” Meyer said. “I watched the way they approached yesterday's practice. And I don't believe I am.

“You do whatever you can to motivate your players. Once they watched the film ... the respect we have for (Wisconsin) players was obvious from the way they went to work. So I don't think we're going to have to make any special T-shirts.”

Less star power

Readers frequently ask about the biggest difference I see between Big Ten football and the Big 12/Big Eight, which I covered for 30 years.

The answer is star power. First-team All-Americans, first-round NFL draft picks and game-changing playmakers are in short supply in the Big Ten.

ESPN football analyst Todd McShay's weekly 2013 draft projections, which include underclassmen, bear that out.

Only three Big Ten players are in McShay's list of 32 first-rounders — Ohio State defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins at No. 12, Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short at No. 27 and Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan at No. 32.

Keep an eye on the All-America lists that will come out soon. You might have to look long and hard to find any first-teamer from the Big Ten.

Quote of the week

Iowa cornerback Micah Hyde, describing how Purdue — on a five-game losing streak and with its coach on the hot seat — walked into Kinnick Stadium, outgained the Hawkeyes 490-264 and won 27-24:

“They were tougher than us. They ran the ball down our throat. I don't know why we weren't ready to go.”

Stat of the week

Tailback Zach Zwinak's 50-yard touchdown run against Nebraska was Penn State's longest play from scrimmage this season. The previous long run had been 25 yards. And no pass has exceeded 45 yards.

Bits and pieces

Illinois hasn't won on Senior Day since 2007. The opponent Saturday is Purdue. ... Ohio State linebacker Etienne Sabino, who fractured his leg against Nebraska, is scheduled to start Saturday at Wisconsin. ... Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Nord missed last week's game with severe back pain, and remained bedridden Tuesday. Said coach Danny Hope: “Just like the players, he's doubtful.” ... Penn State tight end Kyle Carter is out for the season with a broken right wrist suffered against Nebraska. ... Minnesota will play much of Saturday's game at Nebraska with a true freshman quarterback, a true freshman tailback and a redshirt freshman center.

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Contact the writer: Lee Barfknecht    |   402-444-1024    |  

Lee Barfknecht has won nine national writing awards from four separate organizations, and is a 12-time winner of the Nebraska sportswriter of the year award. He covers Big Ten football and basketball, Nebraska basketball and other college financial issues for The World-Herald.



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