Big Ten: Eddie George

On Monday, ESPN revealed its choices for the greatest individual seasons in college football history.

We voted on several of these, including the best Big Ten seasons. As you can imagine, there were some difficult calls to make, especially at schools stuffed with rich traditions and legendary players. We didn't always agree.

Our Big Ten reporting crew offers thoughts on which decisions were the toughest for league schools.

SportsNation

Which school presents the toughest call on best individual seasons?

  •  
    30%
  •  
    34%
  •  
    22%
  •  
    14%

Discuss (Total votes: 5,151)

Brian Bennett: There were lots of tricky calls once you narrowed it down to two candidates for a certain school. For example, does the best season at Illinois belong to Red Grange or Dick Butkus? (You try telling Butkus it was Grange). Lorenzo White or Bubba Smith at Michigan State? Archie Griffin or Eddie George at Ohio State? We had to not only compare the numbers but also take into account the different eras.

For me, the hardest decision on an individual season involved Wisconsin. The consensus ended up being Ron Dayne's 1999 season in which he won the Heisman Trophy. But you could make a robust argument that Dayne's own 1996 campaign was better, as he ran for more yards and more touchdowns and had a higher yards-per-carry average as a freshman than he did as a senior. I've always thought the comparisons between Dayne and Montee Ball's 2011 season are fascinating. One day, I believe, people will look back on Ball's '11 season and wonder how a guy who tied the NCAA record with 39 touchdowns -- while running for 1,923 yards and averaging more yards per carry than Dayne did in 1999 -- not only failed to gain traction in the Heisman race but somehow didn't claim the Doak Walker Award (a grievous error that was thankfully remedied in 2012). Throw in Alan Ameche, who won the Heisman in 1954, and Pat Richter's 1962 season, and you have enough material to create decades of debate.

Mitch Sherman: My toughest call involved Nebraska, the school I've watched most closely for the past 20 years. Mike Rozier made the top 16 nationally, as selected by ESPN.com writers and editors, for his 1983 Heisman campaign. Rozier's statistics earn him a clear victory among all-time Huskers in the eyes of most. But not me. I saw in 1995 what stats cannot tell us about Tommie Frazier's senior season. He rushed for 604 yards and threw for 1,362 -- pedestrian numbers compared to many on this list, though he still finished second in the Heisman voting. Sure, he was surrounded by greatness, offensively and defensively, but perhaps only Tim Tebow since that 1995 season has matched Frazier's presence and overall impact on a team. Frazier was a field general in every sense imaginable. He inspired the players alongside him in the huddle. He founds reserves of determination for the biggest games, earning recognition often among the greatest quarterbacks to play the college game. I went with Rozier because his dominance was impossible to ignore, picking against Frazier -- an act that those 13 games in 1995 taught me was most unwise.

Austin Ward: The trump card is almost always up Archie Griffin's sleeve when it comes to debates about the greatest player in Ohio State history, but at least this once it didn't work. In a conversation about the top individual season a program has ever seen, being the only two-time Heisman Trophy winner finally wasn't a deal breaker -- and the Buckeyes have plenty of incredible performances to give Griffin a run for his money. Orlando Pace made people take notice of line play and count up pancakes, and it was tough for him to even crack the honorable-mention list. It's actually Eddie George who holds Ohio State's single-season rushing record with a staggering 1,927-yard campaign that included 24 touchdowns and a stiff-arm trophy of his own. David Boston's breakout seasons in 1997 and '98 are even more remarkable in hindsight, with the wide receiver rewriting the record books with a pair of seasons that are both nearly 300 yards better than anybody else in school history. On top of that, Ohio State has four other Heisman winners to consider along with three-time All-America Chic Harley. In the end, Griffin's seasons can't be fully measured by his statistics alone, since for starters he was sharing time in a loaded backfield. But his talent was undeniable when the football was in his hands, and even without his normal trump card Griffin still walked away a deserving winner.

Josh Moyer: For me, I might have spent the most time waffling back and forth with Michigan. Sure, Charles Woodson’s 1997 campaign was one for the ages. But could we really ignore a rich history that included Fielding Yost’s point-a-minute teams and severely underrated running back Willie Heston (1904)? Or Mr. Do-Everything in Tom Harmon (1940)? Or how about a quarterback (Bennie Friedman, 1925 or 1926) and wide receiver (Bennie Oosterbaan) who helped change the face of the game? Or, if we want to get a bit more recent, how’s Desmond Howard (1991) sound?

You could make a case for any of these players and, really, not be wrong. But I think the two who give Woodson the strongest push are Harmon and Heston. Harmon not only won the Heisman in 1940, but he was also the AP Male Athlete of the Year – meaning he had a better season than the likes of MLB’s Hank Greenberg (41 homers, 150 RBI). It didn’t hurt that Harmon could rush, pass, kick, punt and tackle. But my personal vote as the best Michigan season went to Heston. The NCAA could piece stats together from just 17 of his 36 career games and, just during that 1904 season, Heston averaged 12.7 yards per carry while rushing for 21 TDs. (And he was good at defense.) Knute Rockne once said Heston was a better runner than Red Grange. Plus, Michigan went 10-0 that season and outscored its opponents 567-22. So Michigan has a lot of quality players and great seasons -- which didn’t make this an easy task -- but after a lot of thinking I personally voted for Heston in 1904. Truthfully, though, you could’ve gone with a half-dozen others.

With similar score, Lions must move on

October, 29, 2013
10/29/13
2:00
PM ET
Former Ohio State guard LeShun Daniels reclined on his oversized couch, next to two of his sons, while they sipped lemonade Saturday night and watched the Penn State-Ohio State game on the big-screen TV.

[+] EnlargeBill O'Brien
Trevor Ruszkowksi/USA TODAY SportsBill O'Brien and Penn State will need their leadership to help them get over the lopsided loss to Ohio State.
They'd laugh and joke during the game, and Daniels would flip on channels to the Oregon and Missouri games -- only when -- a commercial break interrupted the action.

But Daniels, who started for the Buckeyes from 1994 to 1996, couldn't take his eyes off the TV. These were his Buckeyes after all, a team still close to his native Ohioan heart. And he smiled to himself before midnight when that final score stuck. It was all too familiar.

Ohio State won, 63-14, Saturday night -- the identical score from Oct. 29, 1994, when he played Penn State. But, this time, the numbers were reversed. Daniels had stood on the Beaver Stadium grass -- and still remembers listening to the Lion roar over the loudspeaker -- when his beloved Buckeyes dropped a 63-14 contest to PSU. Now, the Buckeyes were celebrating as the victors.

"It just clicked, watching the game the other night," Daniels said with a laugh. "The Bucks did play a good game, so it was good to see that. But also seeing that score, even 19 years later, that was really good to see. I remember hearing about that game like 1,000 times while we were playing Penn State. So it was good."

Former OSU linebacker Lorenzo Styles remembers the Penn State game all too well. He can still remember watching one completion after another from Kerry Collins -- who went 19-of-23 for 265 yards and two TDs -- and chasing down a speedy Ki-Jana Carter (19 carries, 137 yards, four TDs). But, more than anything, he remembers the frustration his defense felt lining up against PSU's mammoth offensive line.

"It sticks with you, kind of even today," former defensive end Matt Finkes said. "People will still bring that up; even before this week there were people talking about that loss. They'll be like, 'Oh it was 56-7.' And I'll be like, 'No, it's 63-14.' It's etched in my memory. That's something you don't forget."

Bill O'Brien's squad of 61 scholarship players probably hopes to forget about the scarlet and gray this week -- but they could learn a lesson from those 1994 Buckeyes and that 63-14 landslide. After suffering its worst loss in nearly a half-century, the 1994 Ohio State squad rebounded with three straight wins, including a 24-3 victory over a good Wisconsin team the very next weekend.

The Buckeyes were young and inexperienced that year -- not unlike PSU this season. Finkes moped on the sideline late in the third quarter and just wanted the game to be over; a sense of relief washed over the team once the refs blew the final whistle.

"The coaching staff just sat us down and said we still have a lot of goals to accomplish -- and let's not lose this whole season just because of one game," Finkes said "And then that's the year we beat Michigan."

Added Styles: "You don't forget about it, but you understand you have to come out ready with what you're supposed to do the next week. We knew we had the rest of the season left."

They had played terribly and lost to the far-superior team, one that finished the season undefeated and boasted five offensive All-Americans. They wouldn't see another team like that one and, they vowed, they wouldn't perform like that again either.

"You get another win under your belt," former OSU DT Matt Bonhaus said, "and that feeling, that loss, goes away."

The Nittany Lions are a 10-point favorite against Illinois on Saturday. Whether they insist they've moved on or not, that loss to Ohio State will still be on their minds.

But the OSU quartet's advice for PSU was simple: Focus on the new opponent, don't lower expectations and don't dwell. Be resilient, and put more time in the film room to correct mistakes.

"They're resilient," Styles said of Penn State, explaining how the team stuck together through the sanctions. "The leadership on this team is like the leadership we had; they'll move forward."

But they won't forget. And the former Buckeyes say that’s the way it should be.


"I'm happy we went out and played that good game Saturday night," Finkes said. "But nothing's going to make that 1994 game go away -- even if we would've beaten them 100-7. No matter what, it was still me losing 63-14 back in 1994."
There's hardly ever a perfect time to part ways with a coach, especially one who has had success. Some programs opt to nudge out long-tenured, mostly successful coaches only to pay the price later for their decisions. Others that part ways with a veteran coach end up seeing improvement. ESPN.com is taking a closer look at this topic today, and we're putting it under the Big Ten microscope.

Here are some notable Big Ten (and Nebraska) coaching forceouts:

LLOYD CARR, Michigan (1995-2007)

What happened: A longtime Michigan assistant for Bo Schembechler and Gary Moeller, Carr moved into the top job in 1995 and two years later guided Michigan to a national title. He led the Wolverines to at least a share of five Big Ten championships and six bowl victories, including the 1998 Rose and 2000 Orange bowls. Carr had the Wolverines positioned for another national title run in 2006 as they faced archrival Ohio State in an epic matchup of undefeated teams ranked No. 1 and No. 2 nationally. But Carr's squad fell to Jim Tressel's Buckeyes, a theme during the later part of Carr's tenure. The 2007 season began with a humiliating loss to Football Championship Subdivision team Appalachian State. Although Carr officially retired in November 2007, there certainly was some pressure for the school to go in a new direction.

[+] EnlargeLloyd Carr
Chris Livingston/Icon SMILloyd Carr is carried off the field following Michigan's win over the Gators in the Capital One Bowl, which was Carr's final game.
What happened next: Michigan went away from its coaching tree and plucked Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia to succeed Carr. It was a rocky situation from the start that never truly smoothed out. Rodriguez's first Michigan team in 2008 might have been the worst ever, tumbling to 3-9 and ending the school's streak of consecutive bowl appearances at 33. The following summer, Michigan admitted to committing major violations for the first time in its history -- relating to practice time -- and self-imposed probation. The Wolverines once again missed a bowl game in 2009 and struggled to make one in Rodriguez's third season. After a blowout loss in the 2011 Gator Bowl, Michigan fired Rodriguez, who went just 15-22 at Michigan (6-18 Big Ten, 0-3 against Ohio State). Michigan might have slipped a bit from the ranks of the elite under Carr, but the program plummeted to historic depths under Rodriguez. Michigan replaced Rodriguez with former Carr assistant Brady Hoke.

JOHN COOPER, Ohio State (1988-2000)

What happened: After a rocky start (4-6-1 in 1988), Cooper went on a nice run at Ohio State in the mid- to late 1990s, averaging 10.3 victories between 1993 and 1998. He guided Ohio State to its first Rose Bowl appearance in 13 years during the 1996 season and emerged with a victory against Arizona State. He also won the Sugar Bowl after the 1998 season and coached Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George. But Cooper had two problems: an inability to beat archrival Michigan (2-10-1) and struggles in bowl games (3-8). Three times the Buckeyes entered The Game with a perfect record -- 1993, 1995 and 1996 -- and fell to the Wolverines. After a 6-6 clunker in 1999 and another loss to Michigan in 2000, Ohio State fired Cooper, who finished second on the school's all-time coaching wins list, behind Woody Hayes, with 111.

What happened next: Ohio State made an unorthodox move in bringing in Youngstown State's Tressel to succeed Cooper. It paid off as Tressel guided the Buckeyes to a national title in his second season. Ohio State remains the only Big Ten team to win a crystal football during the BCS era. Tressel ended up dominating the Big Ten (six titles) and Michigan (8-1) during his tenure, leading Ohio State to five BCS bowl wins (one vacated) and three appearances in the national title game. Although Tressel's tenure ended in scandal, he certainly boosted Ohio State's program after the Cooper era.

BILL MALLORY, Indiana (1984-1996)

What happened: After mostly successful runs at Miami (Ohio), Colorado and Northern Illinois, Mallory came to Indiana and put together an impressive run, reaching six bowl games between 1986 and 1993. He became the first man to win back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 1986 and 1987. Indiana had three top-four finishes in the Big Ten (1987, 1991, 1993), but after Mallory went just 5-17 (1-15 Big Ten) in 1995 and 1996, Indiana fired him. Mallory remains Indiana's all-time coaching wins leader (69) and is responsible for six of the Hoosiers' nine bowl teams.

What happened next: Indiana has yet to come close to achieving the type of moderate success it enjoyed in the Mallory era. The program struggled under Cam Cameron and Gerry DiNardo before surging a bit for the late Terry Hoeppner. Still, it took 11 seasons after Mallory's dismissal for Indiana to return to the postseason under Bill Lynch in 2007. Although the Hoosiers are making strides under Kevin Wilson, the program has a ways to go to match where it was under Mallory.

GLEN MASON, Minnesota (1997-2006)

What happened: Mason never got Minnesota to the promised land -- its first Big Ten championship since 1967 -- but he made the Gophers a consistent bowl team. He won six to eight games in six of his final eight seasons, slumping to a 4-7 finish in 2001 but breaking through with 10 victories in 2003. Minnesota reached bowls seven times under Mason, but his middling Big Ten record (32-48) and inability to challenge for league titles eventually stirred the administration into action. The school fired Mason two days after Minnesota squandered a 31-point third-quarter lead against Texas Tech in the 2006 Insight Bowl.

What happened next: The program backslid with the overmatched Tim Brewster at the helm, going 1-11 in 2007. Brewster made some splashes in recruiting but couldn't get enough talent to translate to the field. After a 7-1 start in 2008, the Gophers dropped their final five games, including a 55-0 decision to archrival Iowa at the Metrodome. A 6-7 season followed in 2009, and Minnesota fired Brewster after a 1-6 start in 2010. Brewster went 15-30 at the school and 6-21 in the Big Ten, which included an 0-10 mark in trophy games. His tumultuous tenure had many questioning why Minnesota ever got rid of Mason.

FRANK SOLICH, Nebraska (1998-2003)

What happened: A former Huskers fullback, Solich had the nearly impossible task of following coaching legend Tom Osborne, who won national titles in three of his final four seasons at the school. Solich won 42 games in his first four seasons, a Big 12 championship in 1999 and Big 12 North titles in 1999, 2000 and 2001. He guided the Huskers to the 2000 Fiesta Bowl championship, and the 2001 team, led by Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, played Miami for the national title at the Rose Bowl but fell 37-14. Nebraska then went 7-7 in 2002, its first nonwinning season since 1961. Solich rebounded with a 9-3 mark in 2003 but was fired despite a 58-19 record in Lincoln.

What happened next: Much like Michigan, Nebraska went away from its coaching tree and hired Bill Callahan, who had led the Oakland Raiders for two seasons. And much like Michigan, Nebraska paid a price as the program went downhill. The Huskers went 5-6 in Callahan's first year, their first losing campaign since 1961. They won eight games the following year and the Big 12 North in 2006, but a highly anticipated 2007 season fell apart, particularly for the celebrated Blackshirts defense. Nebraska surrendered 40 points or more in six games and went 5-7, leading to Callahan's dismissal. Although Nebraska has rebounded under Bo Pelini, its last conference championship came under Solich's watch, 14 long years ago.
Big Ten Word CloudESPN.comPhysical and sluggish. Overrated and strong. Its a mixed bag of insults and compliments when it comes to the national perception of Big Ten football.

Physical and sluggish. Overrated and strong. It’s a mixed bag of insults and compliments when it comes to the national perception of Big Ten football.

During various media days, ESPN.com spoke with players from each conference to get their perceptions of the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12, and SEC from other BCS conferences. And those mixed feelings were quite clear.

Here are a few words that jumped out or, noticeably, didn’t:

(Read full post)

Big Ten lunch links

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
12:00
PM ET
You get older, you have kids, you stop stealing, it's sad.

Big Ten lunchtime links

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
12:00
PM ET
How's the bratwurst down in Fayetteville?
Growing up in Naples, Fla., Carlos Hyde didn't need a tutorial on Urban Meyer's offense.

He knew plenty about Meyer and the spread from Meyer's time as Florida's coach. Hyde also knew he wanted no part of it, even though he said Florida offered him a scholarship to play in Gainesville.

"When I saw this offense, it was little running backs," Hyde told ESPN.com. "Little scat backs running around, Percy Harvin-type dudes, Jeff Demps-type people. I wasn't sure I'd be able to fit in."

[+] EnlargeCarlos Hyde
Pat Lovell/US PresswireCarlos Hyde has made the most of his opportunities this season.
At 6-foot and 232 pounds, Hyde can be described as a lot of things. Little isn't one of them. He's a power back in the truest sense, so he chose to go where power backs go: Ohio State.

There was only one problem: Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel, who had featured power backs like Chris Wells and Maurice Clarett in his offense, resigned in the spring after Hyde's freshman season. Although Ohio State kept a similar offense in 2011, the school changed coaches and brought in Meyer.

"I was excited," Hyde said. "I knew Coach Meyer, his track record. He's won big games. He's won some national championships. I knew when he was coming here, I was like, 'I'm going to have a huge chance to get to play in the national championship before I leave college.'"

But his excitement was tempered by the same anxiety about whether he could fit into the spread as a bigger back.

"I never played in a spread offense, so I really didn't have a feel," Hyde said. "I wasn't sure. I never really saw a big back in the spread."

Meyer put Hyde at ease, pointing out that while he runs the spread and has had success with smaller, faster runners like Harvin and Demps, the system, at its core, is about power. Although Meyer on Monday said "there's no selling going on," he never told Hyde to become something he isn't.

"Coach Meyer just wanted me to be that power back," Hyde said. "I'm not trying to be no scat back. That's not my strength. Just be who I am, a power back and a hard-nosed runner."

It's exactly who he has been the past three weeks. After top running back Jordan Hall suffered a knee injury Sept. 29 against Michigan State, Hyde, coming off of a knee sprain, took over and rushed for 27 yards in the fourth quarter, including the final 5 yards to seal a 17-16 victory.

Hall's injury moved Hyde into the starting job, and the junior has made the most of his opportunity, recording back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances in wins against Nebraska and Indiana. Hyde and star quarterback Braxton Miller are the first Ohio State tandem to both eclipse 100 rush yards in consecutive games. Although Hall is on the mend and should return in the coming weeks, Meyer made it clear Monday: "Carlos won't be removed from tailback."

Hall emerged as Ohio State's top running back in the spring, but Hyde entered the season knowing he'd have opportunities to play.

He performed well at times in 2011, racking up 100-yard performances against both Nebraska and Indiana midway through the season, but he only received a handful of carries in other games. After logging just three carries against Illinois, a game where Ohio State attempted only four passes, Hyde tweeted, "Guess I'm not good enough. Take myself elsewhere," setting off a brief panic among Buckeyes fans. He later deleted the tweet and confirmed his commitment to Ohio State, but his frustration was evident.

"I had my ups," Hyde said, "then I had my downs. Last year was definitely like a roller-coaster."

Aside from the knee sprain in Week 2, Hyde's 2012 season has been on a steady incline. After a slow start Saturday against Indiana, Hyde came alive in the final three quarters and finished with a team-high 156 rush yards and a touchdown on 22 carries, highlighted by a 21-yard burst on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Hyde also had two catches for 27 yards and a touchdown. He has eight touchdowns on the season, celebrating each one, by team rule, with the offensive line. ("That's the reason you got in the end zone," Hyde explains.)

"He didn't start strong [against Indiana]," Meyer said. "And he's finally to the point in his career where I can have grown-man conversations with him. It was great, he admitted that. ... He got real strong. By the end of the game, he was a man."

Hyde recorded career bests in carries (28), rushing yards (140) and touchdowns (four) against Nebraska, tying Eddie George's single-game team rush touchdowns record as Ohio State won 63-38.

"That was definitely a great experience in my career," he said. "... Eddie George was a big-time guy, and to tie his record, it's pretty sweet. But I still have plenty more games to go, so maybe I can beat his record."

George was a very big back who won the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State in an offense suited to his game. After some initial concerns, Hyde feels the same way about Meyer's spread.

"He's played really well," Meyer said. "His post-contact yardage is making us a really good offense."
 

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When Urban Meyer met his new team, he talked about goals without restraint.

It's the kind of confident approach a coach can take when he already owns two national championships. At Ohio State, Meyer told his players, anything was possible.

"He told us when he first got here, 'It will happen. We can score 100 points,'" Buckeyes offensive lineman Jack Mewhort said. "He loves it. He's crazy. He would score 100 every game if he could."

Ohio State didn't score 100 on Saturday night. It settled for 63 despite enduring a first quarter Meyer accurately described as a "train wreck" -- zero first downs, 13 plays, 17 total yards.

The Buckeyes' first act was a dud against No. 21 Nebraska. And then they treated a record crowd of 106,102 at Ohio Stadium to a show they won't soon forget. Sparked by do-it-all quarterback Braxton Miller and a surging offensive line, Ohio State scored its first offensive touchdown with 10:49 left in the first half and didn't stop for five more possessions.

Six consecutive touchdowns turned into a 63-38 win, keeping Ohio State perfect under Meyer and leaving no doubt as to who is the Big Ten's top team in 2012. Even with the outcome long sealed, Meyer kept his starters in the game in the end for a final touchdown with 48 seconds left.

"It's cool," Mewhort said. "He's always hungry for more."

The Big Ten will do all it can to market its championship game Dec. 1 in Indianapolis. But it'll be like Bert Parks singing "There she is, Miss America" about the first- and second-runners-up in the pageant. Ohio State is by far the prettiest girl in a league filled with teams that shouldn't see the light of day.

The title game might be the Big Ten's big showcase, but it won't feature the league's main event, which will be watching from home because of NCAA sanctions. Although the division races should provide plenty of entertainment, if you're interested purely in quality and the story lines that go along with it, watch Ohio State chase a perfect season and, who knows, maybe an AP national championship. Watch Miller push for the Heisman Trophy. Watch the Buckeyes offense take aim on Meyer's stated goal of triple digits in points.

"We're just getting better and better," said Buckeyes cornerback Bradley Roby, who got the scoring started with 41-yard interception return, the first of his two picks on the night. "We're young, we're talented, and I can't see us losing a game this year. We're taking it one game at a time, but seriously, we're really trying to take it to everybody we play.

"I feel like this is going to be a good year, and next year will be even crazier."

[+] EnlargeCarlos Hyde
Greg Bartram/US PresswireCarlos Hyde bulls through the Nebraska defense for one of his four touchdowns.
Ah, next year. Ohio State will have no bowl ban, another full offseason under Meyer and more Meyer recruits in key roles. Are the Buckeyes on the national championship radar? Time will tell, but look where they are six games into Meyer's tenure.

Ohio State eviscerated a Nebraska team led by a head coach (Bo Pelini) respected for designing and developing defenses. The Buckeyes racked up 56 points, 481 yards and 19 first downs in the final three quarters Saturday night. They completed just seven passes to only four receivers, led by a sophomore tight end (Jeff Heuerman) who made one catch in 2011. They generated 326 rush yards and five touchdowns from two players -- Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, filling in for injured starter Jordan Hall -- plus a 33-yard scoring run from Rod Smith.

Keep in mind, this isn't a Buckeyes team stocked with proven weapons. Ohio State finished 107th nationally in total yards in 2011.

But does anyone want to face Ohio State's offense after what it did to Nebraska?

After some early speed bumps, Ohio State's offense is progressing ahead of schedule.

"You're playing a tight end [Reid Fragel] at right tackle," Meyer said, "playing a bunch of guys who haven't played a lot of football, and, being as honest as I can, they weren't very good. They didn't look the way we wanted them to look in January. ... They're the ones that have really developed. I mean, like really developed. Even early in the season, I didn't feel it.

"I'm starting to feel us change the line of scrimmage."

Although the spread offense is often described as a finesse system, Meyer always has talked about being a power team first. The past two weeks, Ohio State has turned the corner.

The big numbers didn't come against Michigan State, but the line's performance set the table for Saturday night's show.

"The O-line," Miller said, "they stepped it up real big."

Miller did his part, too. The sophomore broke his own team single-game quarterback rushing record with 186 yards despite finishing the first quarter with minus-9. He sparked the unit with a 72-yard dash on Ohio State's first play of the second quarter and continued to fill up his Heisman highlight reel.

With four 100-yard rushing performances in the first six games, Miller ranks second in the Big Ten in rush yards (763) and third in rushing average (127.2 ypg).

"We have a quarterback, obviously, that's kind of ridiculous running the ball," Meyer said.

Hyde wasn't too shabby, either, using his frame to bulldoze the Huskers, particularly near the goal line. He recorded Ohio State's first four-touchdown rushing performance since Eddie George had four against Iowa in 1995.

When Meyer arrived, Hyde envisioned big things for the offense.

"When he was at Florida, those guys would put up crazy numbers," Hyde said. "I know if we could get going like how they were getting going down there, we can do the same."

After the game, Meyer was cautious to get carried away, noting, "We're not there. We have a long way to go." But the talk of an undefeated season will escalate, as Ohio State continues its path through a weak league. The Heisman talk around Miller will escalate. The talk of next year and what the Buckeyes can do also will escalate.

The spotlight will shift to Indianapolis on Dec. 1. Until then, it'll be on the Scarlet and Gray.
Ron Dayne US PresswireWisconsin's Ron Dayne capped off his senior season in 1999 earning several national awards.
On Monday we revealed our list of top five individual seasons by a Big Ten player in the past 50 years, and as Brian Bennett explained, the choices weren't easy. We omitted several incredible individual performances, and some of you let us hear about it.

Here's a list of 10 outstanding individual seasons that just missed the cut. As a reminder, these are performances from the past 50 seasons only (1962-2011). Although Nebraska has played only one season as a Big Ten member, we considered Huskers' performances from the time span, as well as those by Penn State players before the 1993 season, when Penn State joined the Big Ten. Again, this is a list of outstanding individual seasons, not individual careers.

Even with this list, we're leaving out many great performances.

Here's the rundown, in alphabetical order:

Brad Banks, QB, Iowa, 2002: Banks played only two seasons in Iowa City, but he left quite an impression in 2002. He led the nation in pass efficiency with a 157.1 rating and had 26 touchdown passes and just five interceptions, to go along with 423 rush yards and five touchdowns on 83 carries. Banks finished second for the Heisman Trophy but took home plenty of awards, including AP Player of the Year, Davey O'Brien and Big Ten MVP.

Kerry Collins, QB, Penn State, 1994: Penn State is known for producing star running backs, but Collins broke the mold in the team's second Big Ten season with an outstanding performance. He set team records for total offense (2,660), completions (176), passing yardage (2,679), completion percentage (66.7), yards per attempt (10.15) and passing efficiency (172.86). His efficiency mark ranks third in Big Ten history. Collins won the Maxwell and O'Brien awards and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting. He led Penn State to an undefeated season and a Rose Bowl title.

Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin, 1999: It was a tough call between Dayne's 1999 campaign and his historic freshman year in 1996, but he capped his Badgers career by sweeping the major national awards (Heisman, Walter Camp, Maxwell, Doak Walker). Dayne rumbled for 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, as Wisconsin repeated as Big Ten and Rose Bowl champions.

Eddie George, RB, Ohio State, 1995: Like Wisconsin's Montee Ball, who made our top five list from Monday, George was a model of consistency at the running back spot. He eclipsed 100 rush yards in 11 consecutive games despite often playing sparingly in the fourth quarter, and he finished the season with 1,927 rush yards and 23 touchdowns. He edged Nebraska's Tommie Frazier for the Heisman Trophy and also won the Maxwell, Walter Camp and Doak Walker.

Desmond Howard, WR, Michigan, 1991: He's the only Big Ten wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy (Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers played in the Big Eight), and his Heisman pose after a punt return touchdown against Ohio State remains an iconic image. Howard had 62 receptions for 985 yards and 19 touchdowns that year. He averaged 27.5 yards per kick return with a touchdown, 15.7 yards per punt return with a touchdown and had 13 carries for 180 yards and two scores. He still holds the single-season record for receiving touchdowns in Big Ten games (13).

Larry Johnson, RB, Penn State, 2002: Johnson's numbers from 2002 are simply insane, as he averaged 183.1 yards per game and 7.7 yards per carry en route to leading the nation in rushing (2,087 yards). His yards total is the second highest in Big Ten history, and he had 54 fewer attempts than Dayne in 1996. Johnson won the Walter Camp, Maxwell and Doak Walker awards and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting.

Orlando Pace, OT, Ohio State, 1996: Offensive linemen shouldn't be excluded from a list like this, and Pace was one of the best in recent college football history. He capped his career with an outstanding 1996 season, finishing fourth in Heisman Trophy voting, the best total for a lineman (offense or defense) since 1980. He popularized the term "pancake block" and earned his first Outland Trophy and his second Lombardi Award that year. Pace also earned Big Ten MVP honors.

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska, 2009: Everyone around the country learned the name and the "Suuuuuuuh!" calls from Huskers fans. Suh turned into one of the more dominant seasons by a defender in college football history, racking up 12 sacks, 24 tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hurries, 10 pass breakups, three blocked kicks, a forced fumble and an interception. Suh won several national awards (Bednarik, Rotary Lombardi, Nagurski, Outland) and finished fourth in Heisman voting.

Anthony Thompson, RB, Indiana, 1989: Thompson capped a brilliant career with a flourish, winning the Walter Camp and Maxwell Awards in 1989 and earning his second consecutive Big Ten MVP honor. The Hoosiers star rushed for 1,793 yards and 24 touchdowns, and added 35 receptions for 201 yards. He recorded the top single-game rushing total (377 at Wisconsin) and set the Big Ten's career scoring record, which Dayne eclipsed a decade later.

Lorenzo White, RB, Michigan State, 1985: There are several work-horse efforts that could be included in this list, but none is more impressive than White's 1985 campaign. The Walter Camp Award winner set a Big Ten record with 419 carries and became the first Big Ten ball-carrier to eclipse 2,000 yards, piling up 2,066. He also ranks second in Big Ten Conference games in both rushing yards (1,470) and rushing average (183.7 yards per game).

Big Ten chat wrap: March 21

March, 21, 2012
3/21/12
5:00
PM ET
It has been a very busy day in the sports world, so if you missed my chat, I'll forgive you. Just this once.

And, as always, I've got you covered with the full Big Ten chat transcript. Please check it out.

Some highlights:
Edward from Maryland: If Penn State were land transfer QB Danny O'Brien, how do you think that would change PSU's season outlook? Would O'Brien make PSU the favorite to win the Leaders Division?
Adam Rittenberg: He might, Edward. The Leaders Division is so wide open because of Ohio State's bowl ban and Wisconsin's personnel/coaching issues. Penn State could have the best defense in the division, especially in the front seven. But the offense is such a question mark in State College, and the QB play hasn't been nearly as good as it needs to be. O'Brien certainly would change how we view PSU in 2012.
Waffles from B1G Blog Hangout: Wisconsin is becoming Transfer QB U, which can be a good thing in the short term. You think we've got greater than a 50% chance of getting Maryland's QB, or do you think it's less than 50%?
Adam Rittenberg: Hey Waffles, always a pleasure. I've always thought Vanderbilt would be the frontrunner given O'Brien's relationship with James Franklin, but transferring to the SEC is a little more complex than transferring to the Big Ten when you've graduated. Also, Wisconsin's success with Russell Wilson has to be appealing to a guy like DO. I'd put Wisconsin's chances below 50 percent, but only because there are so many other schools in play right now.
TerryT1974 from Cleveland, Tenn.: what is it that makes you feel michigan st. over michigan at this present time .Do they have a quaterback that can give them what they had last year
Adam Rittenberg: Probably not, Terry, but they have the Big Ten's best defense in my view, perhaps by a wide margin. Michigan State has difference-makers in all three levels of the defense. Line: William Gholston. Linebacker: Denicos Allen, Max Bullough. Secondary: Johnny Adams. No other Big Ten team can say that right now. Also, I think MSU will rush the ball a lot better in 2012 as the line comes together a little more. There are some question marks for sure, but no Big Ten team in my view has more difference-making defenders than the Spartans right now.
jpat0973 from Cleveland: seems like the B1G has gotten away from its roots a bit and doesn't have the assortment of feature RBs that it normally does. Who is out there as up-and-comers?
Adam Rittenberg: I don't know if I agree with you on this. The Big Ten looks pretty strong at running back entering 2012 and would have been even stronger had Marcus Coker stayed at Iowa (sorry, Hawks fans). But you've got Montee Ball at Wisconsin along with James White, Rex Burkhead at Nebraska, Silas Redd at Penn State, Fitz Toussaint at Michigan, Le'Veon Bell at Michigan State. I'd also throw in a guy like Stephen Houston at Indiana and Akeem Shavers at Purdue as potential up-and-comers. Ohio State's RB situation should be really interesting this spring. While you might not be seeing as many 230-pound, Eddie George types in the Big Ten, there are still quite a few quality backs.

Thanks again for all the questions, and my apologies to those whose questions weren't answered. It was good to be back in the chat mix this week.

Let's do it again next Wednesday.
It feels like I've done this post 50 times in the past few days, but the Ohio State situation continues to dominate the national sports headlines. Pretty much everyone -- even LeBron James -- is weighing in on Jim Tressel, Terrelle Pryor and the Buckeyes.

Here are some of the reactionary nuggets that caught my eye:
  • Former Ohio State coach John Cooper told WBNS-TV in Columbus: "Compliance is not doing their job when this kind of stuff happens and they act like they don't know about it. When I was coaching over there, compliance was around everywhere. It's almost like they were trying to find us violating a rule."
  • An Ohio State offensive starter told colleague Joe Schad: "I haven't spoken with Terrelle and I don't care to. It really sucks coach Tress had to take the fall for a couple idiots' mistakes."
  • Pryor's grandmother also told Schad of her grandson: "He'd be better if people would leave him alone. Pray for him."
  • Michigan coach Brady Hoke issued the following statement: "I have great respect for Jim Tressel and what he has accomplished during his coaching career. We enjoy competing in 'The Game' and have great respect for our rivals in Ohio. Our program looks forward to the last weekend of November."
  • Golfer Jack Nicklaus had this to say at The Memorial tournament: "Obviously, the cover-up was far worse than the act. And once you got the cover-up, it became a situation where Jim had to say some things that weren't exactly truthful. That's where he got himself in trouble. I feel very bad for Jim. He's a nice man."
  • LeBron James on Tressel: "It's unfortunate. He's done some great things for the university. It's unfortunate what allegations and things have come out in the past year, not only with the players. Everyone in Columbus and Ohio knows how important, how great he was for the university. … The university will come back. It's one of the greatest universities we have in America. They will figure something out."
  • Former Ohio State star Eddie George on Pryor: "Now that Tressel is gone and Luke Fickell takes over, you've got to ask yourself the questions, do you really want [Pryor] to come back with all the baggage with him when you're trying to move on from that? So I don't think he'll be back with the Buckeyes this season, and I don't think he'll be remembered by the Buckeye faithful the same way."
  • Several SEC coaches weighed in on Tressel at the league's spring meetings, including Alabama's Nick Saban: "I guess if you were in the military you would say we lost a fine comrade in this whole thing. He's a good friend. He's been somebody I've had a tremendous amount of respect for, for a very, very good number of years in terms of the job he did at Youngstown State. ... I don't know the details of this whole circumstance and the situation there and certainly don't want to comment on that, but obviously there were mistakes made and there are going to be consequences for it."
  • Also here's Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt: "I went to Iraq with him and spent nine days [with him for the second annual Coaches Tour to the Middle East]. He's one of the finest men I know. I don't know everything that happened at Ohio State, I'm just now reading it, but I just know his core, what he's about, and I think he's a good man."
  • Former Youngstown State quarterback Ray Isaac: "Jim Tressel is as good a man as you’ll ever meet. It’s almost to the point where it’s hokey; you would think he is phony. Jim Tressel is like the person you want to be when you grow up. … He's always treated me like a son, always got on my case. I'm just appalled by the lack of facts in the article concerning me and him. … It almost looked like he read 50 articles of the Jim Tressel/Ray Isaac situation and mixed them all together and then wrote a paragraph because he could not get any words out of my mouth."
  • Former Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk on ESPN's "First Take": "He was trying to protect his guys, and I think what people always say, he was loyal to a fault. He wanted what was best for his players and for his team and in the end, he’s being the fall guy when in truth, at some point, you’ve got to put some of this on the players. They have to take responsibility for their actions, and obviously they are with the guys that are suspended."

A lot of interesting comments, and more to come.
Three former Big Ten players, one Nebraska player and one former Big Ten coach are part of the 2011 College Football Hall of Fame class. I'll have a quick snapshot of each new inductee, beginning with ...

Eddie George, RB, Ohio State, 1992-95

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Eddie George
Matthew Emmons/US PRESSWIREEddie George rushed for 3,668 yards for Ohio State and won the Heisman Trophy in 1995.
Some college programs recruited George to play linebacker, and looking at his hulking frame, it's easy to see why. Instead, George made numerous linebackers look bad as one of the best running backs in Ohio State history. He finished his career second on the team's all-time rushing list with 3,668 yards and third in rushing touchdowns (44).

Although he saw the field as a true freshman, George didn't truly blossom until his junior season, when he led Ohio State with 1,442 yards and 12 touchdowns. It set the stage for one of the most impressive individual seasons in the Buckeyes' storied history.

As a senior, George rushed for a team-record 1,927 yards and reached the end zone 24 times en route to the Heisman Trophy. George eclipsed 100 rush yards in each of his final 12 collegiate games and also took home both the Doak Walker Award and the Maxwell Award in 1995. After putting up big rushing totals against both Washington (212 yards) and Notre Dame (230 yards), George all but locked up the Heisman with a single-game team record 314 yards against Illinois in mid November.

George finished with 20 games of 100 rush yards or more at Ohio State. He was the No. 14 overall pick in the 1996 NFL draft, went on to win Rookie of the Year the next season and made four Pro Bowls.

This had to be an easy choice for the Hall of Fame, and George certainly deserves the honor.

A few Big Ten notes

May, 16, 2011
5/16/11
4:23
PM ET
Some sad news and some happy news in Big Ten circles today:
  • Former longtime Big Ten Coordinator of Football Officials Dave Parry passed away Monday morning. Parry spent 19 seasons supervising Big Ten football officials before becoming the first national coordinator for college football officiating in 2009. He played a big role in the Big Ten introducing instant replay to college football.
  • As many of you already know, former Ohio State running back Eddie George has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. The announcement came earlier Monday on ESPN's "College Football Live." Check out the video. George won the Heisman Trophy in 1995, and absolutely no one should be surprised he's entering the Hall.

The full 2011 College Football Hall of Fame class will be announced Tuesday, and I'll be breaking down each selection from the Big Ten and Nebraska.
Ohio State doesn't know if it has an Eddie George or an Archie Griffin or a Beanie Wells on the roster.

[+] EnlargeSaine
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesBrandon Saine could play a larger role in the passing game next season.
None of the Buckeyes' current running backs has distinguished himself as a potential featured guy. Then again, several candidates haven't had the chance to do so ... yet.

What Ohio State knows it has at running back is options. Lots of them. More than they've had in recent memory.

"Without question," offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said when asked if this is the most running back depth Ohio State has had during his tenure. "Going into [spring practice], yeah. There's some good depth at tailback, a position where you always need to have it."

Senior Brandon Saine and junior Dan "Boom" Herron entered spring practice atop the depth chart after combining for 1,339 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 307 carries in 2009. Neither man has established himself as a featured back, but both came on strong late in the season.

Saine had 232 rushing yards on 37 carries (6.27 ypc) in Ohio State's final three games, wins against Iowa, Michigan and Oregon. He had several breakaway runs against the Hawkeyes and Wolverines, and his true versatility showed in the Rose Bowl, as he caught two passes for 59 yards and a score. Herron, primarily a between-the-tackles runner, also had multiple receptions in his final two games last fall, and Bollman hinted that both backs would play larger roles in the passing game this fall, especially since Ohio State is thinner at wide receiver than running back.

"There's a lot of knowledge on what Boom and Brandon can do," Bollman said. "Should we have them carry the ball 50 times a day? I don't know if that accomplishes what we or they need. To help them increase their overall knowledge of the game, blitz pickup, being a bigger part of the passing game, trying to extend those guys that way is one way for us to approach things. And really test some of the younger guys carrying the ball."

Who are the young guys? Get out a pen and a big sheet of paper.

Jordan Hall stepped up nicely as a true freshman last fall, rushing for 248 yards on 48 carries (5.2 yards per rush). Sophomore fullback Jermil Martin brings a big body (5-foot-10, 235) to the backfield and averaged 7.6 yards per carry as a redshirt freshman in 2009.

Then there's redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry, the most talked-about back on the Buckeyes' roster. Fans wanted to see Berry last fall, but a nagging hamstring injury kept him sidelined. The heralded recruit from Miami is now in a position to compete for carries.

"He showed flashes of some things he can do," Bollman said, "but [he's] got to improve, got to become much more consistent, a guy that everybody can trust. Jordan got a lot of game experience, much more than he or us probably would have thought, and did a really good job. He really had an outstanding year last year.

"Those are a couple good guys to be battling for those next couple spots."

Carlos Hyde, another 2009 recruit, also is in the mix after spending last year at Fork Union Military Academy to boost his academics. Ohio State signed two more backs in February: decorated recruit Roderick Smith and Adam Griffin, the son of Archie.

"When you have all those guys, the secret is everybody progressing as a team," Bollman said. "If everybody starts worrying about how many touches they're getting, then it's easy for the whole thing to come apart at the seams. You've got to stay unified and understand roles."
I just realized that during my brief foray into Big Ten hoops, I forgot to post the complete list of candidates on the 2010 College Football Hall of Fame ballot. My bad.

Not surprisingly, the Big Ten is well represented with 16 former players and three former head coaches. The league has five players on the ballot for the first time -- Iowa tight end Marv Cook, Michigan tackle Jumbo Elliott, Illinois defensive tackle Moe Gardner, Ohio State running back Eddie George and Penn State guard Steve Wisniewski -- as well as one former coach, Wisconsin's Barry Alvarez. The ballot also includes two former Heisman Trophy winners from the Big Ten: Michigan's Desmond Howard and Ohio State's Eddie George.

Nine of the 11 conference schools are represented (Minnesota and Northwestern don't have candidates this year).

Check out the full ballot, and here's the Big Ten contingent:

PLAYERS
  • Otis Armstrong, Purdue, Running Back, 1970-72
  • Dave Butz, Purdue, Defensive Tackle, 1970-72
  • Marv Cook, Iowa, Tight End, 1985-88
  • D.J. Dozier, Penn State, Running Back, 1983-86
  • Jumbo Elliott, Michigan, Offensive Tackle, 1984-87
  • Dave Foley, Ohio State, Offensive Tackle, 1966-68
  • Moe Gardner, Illinois, Defensive Tackle, 1987-90
  • Eddie George, Ohio State, Running Back, 1992-95
  • Kirk Gibson, Michigan State, Wide Receiver, 1975-78
  • Mark Herrmann, Purdue, Quarterback, 1977-80
  • Desmond Howard, Michigan, Wide Receiver, 1989-91
  • Robert Lytle, Michigan, Running Back, 1974-76
  • Tom Nowatzke, Indiana, Fullback, 1961-64
  • Jim Otis, Ohio State, Fullback, 1967-69
  • Percy Snow, Michigan State, Linebacker, 1986-89
  • Steve Wisniewski, Penn State, Offensive Guard, 1985-88
COACHES
  • Barry Alvarez: Wisconsin (1990-2005)
  • William "Lone Star" Dietz: Washington State (1915-17), Purdue (1921), Louisiana Tech (1922-23), Wyoming (1924-26), Haskell Indian Inst., Kan (1929-32), Albright, Pa. (1937-42)
  • Darryl Rogers: Cal State-Hayward (1965), Fresno State (1966-72), San Jose State (1973-75), Michigan State (1976-79), Arizona State (1980-84)

SPONSORED HEADLINES