Friday, December 13, 2002
Big Ten spells big troubles
By Jack Arute
Special to BCSfootball.com
Comment to Jack Arute.
Two things seem evident from this past weekend's games: No. 1, Penn State is in dire straits. No. 2, the NCAA sanctions against Wisconsin have taken their toll.
Ohio State's woodshed game against the hapless Nittany Lions has left much of the college community speculating what's wrong with the Lions. Joe Paterno's postgame comment, "If I had a pill to cure it, don't you think I would give it to the team?" pretty much sums up the quandary that he and his coaching staff face. The most telling thing to me as I watched from the sidelines, was the total lack of emotion the Penn State team displayed.
Meanwhile, in Madison, Northwestern took two overtimes to score the first Big Ten upset of the season. Wisconsin's loss, coupled with Michigan's come-from-behind victory (thanks to some fortunate calls) over Illinois, sets up an interesting matchup this weekend between the Badgers and Wolverines.
Drew Henson is back and it was good for Drew to make his first appearance on artificial turf. While most of the time people will tell you that turf is much harder on a player than natural grass, it provided a comfort zone that allowed Henson to test his recently injured foot. When the Wolverines come out of the tunnel in the Big House on Saturday, Henson no longer needs to worry about his physical condition.
The 2000 football season is beginning to take some definition. Without benefit of the BCS, there is no question in my mind that if the Orange Bowl were hosted today, Florida State would face off against Nebraska. But, as we have seen in years past, week by week, the list of unbeatens slowly diminishes.
Virginia Tech was idle, so little more is known about the Hokies.
Kansas State awaits Big XII conference play. Only then will we know just how good Bill Snyder's Wildcats are. While the Wildcats face Colorado in a historically significant series this Saturday, Colorado is still an 0-3 team. The Buffaloes will need to play much better to have any hopes against K-State. Gary Barnett, however, is a master of motivation, and you can be sure that the basketball-type scores that K-State has put up against its early opponents will be prominently displayed in the Buffaloes' locker room right next to Colorado's motto, "return to dominance."
Pac-10 play begins in earnest this weekend, which will provide us with the opportunity to measure the strength of the conference. The key to determine if the conference has rebounded from the disastrous 1999 season is how Pac-10 teams fare on the road.
In the SEC, it looks as if Steve Spurrier and the Florida Gators have fully recovered from last year's thrashing in the Citrus Bowl. However, there must be some concern in Gainesville over the Gators' diminished defense. I bet Steve wishes Bob Stoops was still on the Gators' staff.
My sleeper team early in the season is Tommy Bowden's Clemson Tigers. Maybe the ACC has finally found some "Davids" to battle the Florida State "Goliath." Add Chuck Amato's surprising North Carolina State Wolfpack to the mix, and no longer can you automatically deliver the conference championship to Tallahassee.
Jack's Top 10
It is time for my first Top 10 of the season. Let me preface my wild and wacky picks with the observation that I find little to argue with in the current ESPN/USA Today Coaches Top 25.
FSU and Nebraska are basically too close to call, but I would give the nod (just barely) to FSU for No. 1 simply because they are 4-0 and the Cornhuskers are 3-0. (Don't worry, I understand that FSU had the advantage of a preseason "bowl game.")
1. Florida State
3. Florida: Because Florida is Florida.
4. Virginia Tech
5. Clemson: Like Va. Tech, Clemson should receive respect for the job it has done so far.
6. Kansas State: They are undefeated.
7. Washington: Make sure you Huskies watch those UCLA-Oregon tapes.
8. Ohio State: Who have the Buckeyes beaten? Anybody that showed up to play and Penn State.
9. Michigan State: The Spartans deserve some early respect, especially after they "Smokered" Notre Dame.
10. (tie) Auburn and South Carolina: They are both undefeated, a feat no one would have predicted even two months ago.
Jack Arute writes a column every Monday for BCSfootball.com.
Comment to Jack Arute: