NCF Nation: Brian Robiskie

Here's the ironic part about Ohio State's first five games this season: The Buckeyes figure to play a ton of Tressel-Ball without Jim Tressel.

While Tressel serves his suspension, the Buckeyes likely will employ the strategy that has brought them tremendous success during the coach's tenure. You know the core principles: stout defense, field position, conservative offensive play calls, polished special teams and, most important, fewer mistakes than the opponent.

Ohio State often plays Tressel-Ball with a full complement of starters, so it's hardly a stretch to suggest the Buckeyes will turn to the scheme as they try to survive the first five games without top quarterback Terrelle Pryor and four others.

[+] EnlargeJoe Bauserman
AP Photo/Terry GilliamJoe Bauserman is the most likely candidate to start in the absence of Terrelle Pryor.
If Tressel-Ball is in the forecast for Ohio State, Joe Bauserman most likely will be, too.

The Buckeyes need a replacement for Pryor, and Bauserman appears to be the safest choice. He has significantly more game experience than any of the other quarterbacks vying to replace Pryor. He has been in the system for four seasons.

But he didn't really separate himself this spring, leaving the door open for Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and the most talked-about candidate, Braxton Miller. A true freshman who enrolled early, Miller had Buckeyes fans buzzing after a strong performance in the spring game, albeit against defenders several notches down the depth chart.

The Columbus Dispatch's Ken Gordon encapsulates the QB question in a recent story:
The debate seems to come down to Bauserman, Mr. Safe and Steady, versus Miller, Mr. Clueless but Flashy. Quarterbacks coach Nick Siciliano did not shy away from that comparison.
"The best comparison I can make is when Trent Dilfer was the caretaker of the Baltimore Ravens, and he led them to a Super Bowl victory [in 2001]," Siciliano said. "He wasn't expected to go out and put up phenomenal numbers. He was supposed to take care of the ball, and they relied on their defense. I don't know throughout the course of time if we haven't ever had a different opinion. That's still what we want our quarterbacks to do."

If Bauserman can be Ohio State's Dilfer, the Buckeyes should be in good shape until Pryor's return.

But what if Ohio State needs its quarterback to win games, rather than not lose them? There are legit questions about the Buckeyes' supporting cast. Because of the suspensions, they have no proven receivers and a hole at left tackle. While folks are excited about the running backs group, Ohio State certainly would be better off if it had Dan Herron as an option. And while the Buckeyes' track record on defense suggests they'll be fine, they still must replace a lot of production.

This could be a reason to take a chance with Miller, but it also might strengthen Bauserman's case to start. In 2008, when Pryor replaced veteran Todd Boeckman at quarterback, he was surrounded by an excellent supporting cast (running back Chris "Beanie" Wells, receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, the nation's No. 6 scoring defense).

With question marks elsewhere, I'd expect Ohio State to go with the safe choice at quarterback when the season kicks off Sept. 3.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

DeVier Posey remembers the conversation like it happened yesterday.

"Hey, how you doing?" Posey asked Terrelle Pryor. "We’ve played each other many times in the AAU circuit in basketball."

Pryor already knew who Posey was, but Posey made sure the nation's top high school football recruit had no misgivings. Posey explained how he played for the D1 Greyhounds AAU squad and had faced Pryor's team, Pittsburgh's Finest, in tournaments back when they were in middle school.
 
 Charles LeClaire/Getty Images
 DeVier Posey has recorded 45 receptions for 672 yards and seven touchdowns this season.


"I was like, 'I'm playing football now, and I saw you play football, so we should play together,'" Posey said. "And I don't know, it just sparked from there."

Posey committed to play wide receiver for Ohio State in March 2007. Almost exactly a year later, Pryor signed on with the Buckeyes.

"[Pryor] was our No. 1 target as far as our recruiting class goes," Posey said. "As much as the coaches were recruiting him, we were recruiting him more."

The two have formed one of the Big Ten's top big-play connections this fall, hooking up 45 times for 672 yards and seven touchdowns. Six of Posey's seven scoring grabs have been 23 yards or longer and three have stretched 57 yards or longer, including a 62-yarder in last week's victory at Penn State.

Posey is tied for the league lead in touchdown receptions and ranks fifth in receiving yards (67.2 ypg).

"It was always our dream once we got here," Posey said of himself and Pryor, "but I don’t know if we pictured how things are going right now."

Posey, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore from Cincinnati, said he could have played his college ball elsewhere and become a No. 1 wide receiver as a freshman. Instead, he came to Ohio State knowing he would play sparingly behind mainstays Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline.

He had only 11 receptions last fall but still came away from the season a better player.

"With the receiver tradition that they have here, I knew I’d be able to be behind an NFL receiver and see an NFL receiver every day," he said. "Rather than having a coach tell me, I could see it and visualize it and be a visual learner. That was a big thing for me. Being behind guys like Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline, I learned a lot."

Posey tagged along with Robiskie and Hartline this summer as they trained for the NFL. And whenever Ohio State's former star wideouts like Anthony Gonzalez and Santonio Holmes return to campus, Posey makes sure to see them.

"He wants to be good," Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel said. "He’d be the first to tell you he’s a long way from where he’d like to be, but he’s working to progress and he has come up with some big catches. We need him to be a guy that when his number is called, he makes the play."

The big play is one of few calling cards for Ohio State's offense this year, as Pryor and the unit have endured ups and downs. But the Buckeyes gained confidence from the Penn State win and look for a repeat performance in another big game Saturday against No. 10 Iowa (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).

"I always feel like when it’s a big game, I’ll show up," Posey said. "It’s just something with my confidence level. And when my number’s called, I'll be ready."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A heaping helping of headlines for you. 

"A lot of people said I left because I was scared of competition, but you're going to have competition in Division I football," Threet said. "If you look at when I transferred to Michigan, Ryan Mallett was here, and it's not like the cupboard is bare at Arizona State. It's Division I college football, and you're going to compete. If you're guaranteed a spot, then you're probably not at a good team. I just wanted a place where I fit the offense and the coaches could develop me."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The recruiting classes are in, several underclassmen are out (preparing for the NFL draft) and coaching changes have been made. It's time to re-examine the Big Ten power rankings, which project forward to the 2009 season but take into consideration the way a team finished up 2008.

1. Ohio State -- The Buckeyes lost juniors Chris "Beanie" Wells, Brian Hartline and Donald Washington to the NFL draft and said goodbye to a large senior class, but they performed well in the Fiesta Bowl and brought in the league's best recruiting class. The youth movement has begun in Columbus, and Ohio State likely will surround Terrelle Pryor with more dynamic skill players on offense. There are some holes in the defensive two-deep, but Ohio State rarely misses a beat on that side of the ball.

2. Penn State -- The somewhat surprising early departures of defensive ends Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans create questions in an area where Penn State dominated last season. Linebacker should be a major strength, but Penn State must replenish the secondary and find a stud pass rusher or two. Wide receiver should be the most interesting position to watch during the spring and summer, and if Penn State avoids a drop-off on the offensive line, it should be in good shape for another league title push. A large recruiting class will play a key role in the Lions' quest to repeat.

3. Iowa -- Shonn Greene surprised absolutely no one by declaring for the NFL draft, and the Doak Walker Award winner leaves a major void in production. But backup running back Jewel Hampton showed promise last year, and Iowa has fewer question marks on offense than most Big Ten teams. Arguably the bigger questions come at defensive tackle, where four-year starters Mitch King and Matt Kroul depart. Avoiding a major drop-off in the interior line is crucial, but Iowa returns most of its key players from a 9-4 team.

4. Michigan State -- Several key seniors depart, including running back Javon Ringer and safety Otis Wiley, but Michigan State brings back most of its key contributors and adds its best recruiting class in recent memory. The competition at both running back and quarterback will set the course for the 2009 season, but the Spartans should be deeper and better on defense.

5. Northwestern -- Much like Michigan State, Northwestern must replace its starting offensive backfield for the 2009 campaign. Mike Kafka steps in at quarterback after a solid junior season, but there will be plenty of competition at both running back and wide receiver. The offensive line should be much improved, and as long as star defensive end Corey Wootton recovers from knee surgery, the Wildcats will boast one of the Big Ten's best defenses.

6. Illinois -- As expected, cornerback Vontae Davis entered the NFL draft, leaving some questions in an Illini secondary that struggled at the safety spot in 2008. Improving the defense will be Illinois' top priority entering the fall, especially with so much talent back on the offensive side. Ron Zook's recruiting class drew mixed reviews after several committed prospects went elsewhere, but Illinois held onto wide receiver Terry Hawthorne and addressed several of its needs.

7. Minnesota -- The Gophers welcome two new coordinators (Jedd Fisch and Kevin Cosgrove) and a different offensive approach heading into spring practice, but they bring back most of the pieces from a 7-6 team. Tim Brewster continued to improve the defensive secondary with his recent recruiting haul, and both lines return virtually intact. If Minnesota can adjust to the changes in coaching and scheme, it should take another step forward in 2009.

8. Wisconsin -- Underappreciated running back P.J. Hill surprised some by declaring for the NFL draft, and Wisconsin also said goodbye to a large senior class. John Clay looks more than capable of becoming a featured back for the Badgers in 2009, but unless some significant progress is made at the quarterback position, it's hard to see improvement. A very solid recruiting class featuring quarterback Jon Budmayr and wide receiver Kraig Appleton could bolster the passing attack and move Wisconsin up the rankings.

9. Michigan -- Despite a 3-9 season, Michigan landed a top 10 recruiting class that features several players likely to contribute right away. Brandon Graham stayed for his senior year, giving the Wolverines a dominant pass rusher. The Wolverines very well could make a major move up this list, but they first must find a solution at the quarterback spot and fill holes on the defensive line and in the secondary. The recruiting class provides a major boost, but the program remains in a transition phase.

10. Purdue -- The Boilermakers are the Big Ten's mystery team, as they welcome a new head coach (Danny Hope) and most likely a different type of player. Hope landed 14 recruits from Florida in hopes of upgrading Purdue's speed and athleticism, and he also must replace starters at all the offensive skill positions (quarterback, running back, wide receiver). If the defense avoids a drop-off and Hope's recruits contribute immediately like he thinks they will, the Boilers will be a much-improved team.

11. Indiana -- Wide receiver Andrew Means declared for the NFL draft, but Indiana doesn't lose a whole lot from last year's team, which could be good or bad. Head coach Bill Lynch didn't make any staff changes, hoping that continuity and improved health will lead to better results in 2009. Indiana boasts two experienced quarterbacks (Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell), two proven pass rushers (Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew) and some promising young players, but if the defense doesn't improve, it could be another long season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Before putting a sleepy Big Ten bowl season to bed, it's time to recognize some of the memorable moments from the last few weeks. Contrary to the 1-6 record, the Big Ten produced its share of highlights. And lowlights.

Here they are.

Best closing performance -- Iowa running back Shonn Greene capped a tremendous 2008 season in fitting fashion with his 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing performance. Greene punished South Carolina for 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Outback Bowl. The junior then confirmed what many had believed for months and declared for the NFL draft.

 
  Scott A. Miller/US Presswire
  Shonn Greene punctuated his college career with a victory over South Carolina.

Best catch -- Ross Lane's leaping grab in the back of the end zone secured a 23-yard touchdown and gave Northwestern a 23-20 lead over Missouri entering the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl. Lane used his entire 6-foot-3 frame to make the reception and managed to get a foot down before tumbling beyond the end line. His catch would have been the signature image had Northwestern held on for the win.

Best catch by a quarterback -- OK, Terrelle Pryor is the only Big Ten signal caller who qualified, but he showed impressive athleticism to haul in a 5-yard fade pass from Todd Boeckman for a touchdown. Ohio State's use of Pryor and Boeckman together gave the offense a boost at times, and Pryor's leaping ability had some wondering whether he would be better used as a wide receiver.

Best preview of the future -- Michigan State backup quarterback Kirk Cousins continued to boost his stock for the 2009 season with a solid effort in limited action at the Capital One Bowl. Cousins spelled Brian Hoyer for a series and completed 4 of 5 pass attempts, leading Michigan State into Georgia territory and setting up a long field-goal attempt. Though he'll have to beat out Keith Nichol for the starting job in the offseason, Cousins looked game-ready this fall.

Best performance by a secondary -- Iowa's back four continued to cause problems in the Outback Bowl, as they did throughout the second half of the season. Safety Tyler Sash recorded two interceptions and cornerback Bradley Fletcher had an interception and a forced fumble. Cornerback Amari Spievey added a pass breakup as the Hawkeyes flustered South Carolina's Stephen Garcia.

Best comeback: Had Ohio State held on to beat Texas, Boeckman would have been the top story. After sitting on the bench for the final nine regular-season games, Boeckman returned to meaningful action and gave the Buckeyes' offense a much needed boost against Texas. He sparked the offense with a 48-yard pass to Brian Robiskie and hit Pryor for the team's first touchdown.

Worst quarter -- The Big Ten's second-quarter blues continued in BCS games as Penn State was outscored 24-0 in the second quarter of the Rose Bowl. Penn State had taken USC's first punch and mounted an impressive scoring drive, but the Nittany Lions committed out-of-character mistakes in the second quarter and couldn't stop Mark Sanchez and the Trojans, who took a 31-7 halftime lead.

Worst turnover -- It seems hard to fathom given the final score, but Wisconsin outplayed Florida State for the first quarter of the Champs Sports Bowl and had the ball inside the Noles' red zone early in the second quarter. Quarterback Dustin Sherer attempted a lateral that fell incomplete, and Florida State's Derek Nicholson wisely picked up the ball and raced 75 yards to the end zone. Wisconsin players thought Sherer had thrown an incomplete forward pass and didn't bother to chase Nicholson. They would never catch Florida State.

Worst tackle -- Safety Anderson Russell had been one of Ohio State's defensive standouts in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, recording an interception, a forced fumble and a pass breakup to go along with nine tackles. But unfortunately, Russell's lasting image will be a missed tackle on wide receiver Quan Cosby that allowed Texas to score the game-winning touchdown with 26 seconds left. Ohio State had tackled extremely well until the final minute, limiting big plays, but Cosby scooted by Russell and into the end zone.

Worst special teams play -- Northwestern's Stefan Demos was supposed to punt the ball out of bounds late in the first half, but his kick instead went high and short, right into the hands of dangerous return man Jeremy Maclin. The Missouri star raced 75 yards to the end zone with a minute left in the half, and Northwestern went to the locker room tied at 10-10 after dominating the first 30 minutes. A missed extra point in the third quarter also stung the Wildcats in their overtime loss.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten probably wants to forget this postseason after going 1-6 in bowls. But several players stood out, even in defeat, and they deserve recognition. Let's hand out helmet stickers for the final time this season, beginning with the one Big Ten team (Iowa) that actually won its bowl.

Iowa running back Shonn Greene -- Playing in what would be his final collegiate game, the Hawkeyes' junior went out with a flourish, racking up 121 rushing yards and three touchdowns against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Greene eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 13 games and set a single-season school rushing record with 1,850 yards.

Iowa strong safety Tyler Sash -- South Carolina was in a giving mood (five turnovers), and Sash capitalized with two interceptions, raising his season total to five. Sash, a redshirt freshman who became one of the team's top playmakers, picked off Stephen Garcia's first pass of the game and had interception returns of 45 and 29 yards.

Iowa cornerback Bradley Fletcher -- The senior recorded an interception and a forced fumble in his final game in a Hawkeyes uniform. With Iowa up 14-0, Fletcher squashed any chance of a South Carolina rally by intercepting a Garcia pass in the end zone for a touchback. He also forced a fumble on South Carolina's first play of the second half.

Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman -- He hadn't taken significant snaps since September but gave Ohio State a big lift in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Texas. The offense was sputtering until Boeckman found Brian Robiskie for a 48-yard completion on the first play of the fourth quarter. Boeckman later threw a touchdown to fellow quarterback Terrelle Pryor and nearly helped Ohio State to a big upset.

Ohio State's defense -- Colt McCoy and Quan Cosby had the final word in Glendale, but Ohio State held the high-powered Texas offense well below its season scoring average. The Buckeyes racked up three sacks and nine tackles for loss and limited big plays until Cosby's 26-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left.

Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher -- Bacher ended an up-and-down senior season with arguably his best performance in the Valero Alamo Bowl. He threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns against Missouri in a 30-23 overtime loss. Bacher threw only one interception and spread the ball well to his veteran targets.

Northwestern's senior wide receivers -- Rasheed Ward, Ross Lane and Eric Peterman combined for 19 receptions, 261 yards and three touchdowns in the Alamo Bowl. All three had scoring receptions of 20 yards or longer, highlighted by Lane's circus catch in the back of the end zone late in the third quarter.

Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman -- The Rose Bowl was a rough one for Penn State's defense, but Bowman certainly did his part with five tackles for loss and a sack. Bowman finished the season with 106 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. Next season he'll form the Big Ten's top linebacker tandem with Sean Lee.

Michigan State safety Otis Wiley -- Wiley and his fellow defenders held Georgia to three first-half points in the Capital One Bowl and gave the Spartans offense a chance to create some distance on the scoreboard. Michigan State eventually caved against Matthew Stafford, but Wiley had a forced fumble and seven tackles to go along with 87 return yards in his final collegiate game.

Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker -- Decker returned from knee surgery and an ankle injury to boost the Gophers in the Insight Bowl with eight receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown. The junior set Minnesota bowl records for receptions and receiving yards and will return in 2009 as one of the Big Ten's top targets.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Mark J. Rebilas/US Presswire
 Ohio State nearly pulled off the upset behind Todd Boeckman, above, and Terrelle Pryor.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Perhaps more than any other player, Todd Boeckman has served as a symbol for Ohio State's senior class.

He celebrated Big Ten titles and struggled in big games. He earned local and national recognition and endured the pain of subpar performances. He handled both the highs and the lows with class.

Despite losing the starting quarterback job to true freshman Terrelle Pryor in Week 4, Boeckman still joined fellow captains James Laurinaitis, Malcolm Jenkins and Brian Robiskie to meet the media after every game. He remained a leader in the locker room, on the practice field and on the sideline, even if he could no longer be one on Saturdays.

For those reasons, no player on the field at University of Phoenix Stadium had more support than Boeckman as he reclaimed a critical role in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl against Texas. The senior helped Ohio State rally in the fourth quarter and was seconds away from a perfect end to his career when Texas scored the game-winning touchdown to win 24-21.

"To see him go in there, it proves the old adage that good things happen to good people," Ohio State tight end Rory Nicol said. "He stayed the course all year. Yeah, he was pissed off in his mind all year long. Who wouldn't be? He did the right thing, he did what was best for the team. He forgot himself."

But Ohio State didn't forget about Boeckman, even though Pryor made strides as the starter. The Buckeyes shook things up in bowl practice, pairing Boeckman and Pryor on the field together.

The combination worked Monday as Boeckman completed five passes for 110 yards, including a 5-yard scoring fade to Pryor, who recorded his first touchdown reception. Boeckman helped set up Ohio State's go-ahead score with 2:05 left with a 21-yard strike to tight end Jake Ballard on second-and-17.

"I had no idea how much I was going to play," Boeckman said. "They just told me to be ready at all times. I'm always looking forward to getting out there and playing with these guys. I had some fun out there today, but unfortunately, we couldn't get the job done.

"It felt pretty good to get out there and throw the ball around a little bit. I haven't done that in quite a while."

Ohio State's coaches downplayed the two-quarterback scheme leading up to the game, suggesting it would only be used sparingly. But Boeckman took the game's first snap and found Robiskie for a 14-yard gain.

He seemed to spark the offense in the first half, and after the unit went silent in the third quarter, his 48-yard completion to Robiskie on third-and-13 changed the game's complexion.

"Todd is a special guy," head coach Jim Tressel said. "Every one of us wanted to do all we could to make him a part of the plan. He stepped in and did a good job."

The game signaled the start of a major personnel transition for Ohio State, as the 28-member senior class departs following four Big Ten titles but a 1-3 record in bowl games. Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells and wideout Brian Hartline, both juniors, also could also be departing. Both said they had not reached a decision about the NFL draft.

"The seniors have 43 wins throughout their career here," Boeckman said. "That's one of the best records in Ohio State's history. The hard part about that is the last three bowl victories, we didn't get a win. That's probably what people are going to remember the most. That's tough to take."

The near miss resonated with Pryor, who performed admirably under pressure and will face an even greater burden in 2009.

"We made a statement, but losing to a team, it's not good enough," Pryor said. "You've got to win. We hung onto 'em, but it doesn't sound great. It's not right.

"We had an OK season. We needed to finish that game off."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Once again, Ohio State has an early lead in a big game.

Can the Buckeyes hold it?

The second quarter has doomed Ohio State in recent showcase games and will be crucial against Texas, which is showing some life on offense. Colt McCoy and the Longhorns have accelerated their pace on offense and marched inside Buckeyes' territory after two punts.

Ohio State has controlled the tempo so far, though the Buckeyes don't have much to show for it.

They didn't waste any time unveiling their much-discussed two quarterback plan.

Senior Todd Boeckman took the game's first snap with Terrelle Pryor lined up wide and found Brian Robiskie for a 17-yard gain. Boeckman left the field but re-entered three plays later and threw a beautiful deep fade that Robiskie dropped. The veteran seems on his game and could be a weapon later in the game.

Ohio State has moved the ball decently, but pass-protection problems are already surfacing. Texas All-American rush end Brian Orakpo is schooling Buckeyes left tackle Alex Boone, and Pryor took a sack that nearly took the team out field-goal range.

Pryor looks decent so far, though twice he has curiously run out of bounds when he easily could have gained more yards.

Ohio State was outscored 55-7 in the second quarter in its two national championship game losses and a Sept. 13 setback at USC.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to catch up on your Sunday reading. 

"Which raises the question: How much can the Fiesta Bowl affect their legacy? Would a win wipe away the bad memories? Would a loss further render the other accomplishments hollow? Or is the legacy already set, and the outcome of a non-title game irrelevant?"

"Of the first 11 BCS national champions, 10 have or will come from the Southern tier -- Florida, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma and southern California. And schools from Alabama and Georgia have been knocking on the door.

Meanwhile, once powerful programs in the North who commonly contended for and won national titles in the 1980s and 1990s -- Michigan, Notre Dame, Washington, Nebraska -- are either in total disarray or have reached the point where they are delighted to win a fleabag bowl game."

  • It took a while and some twists and turns, but Michigan finally got its man as standout prep defensive tackle William Campbell affirmed his commitment to the Wolverines, Sam Webb writes in The Detroit News. 
  • Despite an extremely young staff and a very disappointing season, Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema isn't planning any changes, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal. 
  • Kirk Ferentz's family and ties to Iowa City could play a large role in whether he jumps to the NFL, J.R. Ogden writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis (33) is part of a senior class that never lost to Michigan, including a 42-7 win Saturday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State's senior class always will be viewed through two different prisms.

Within Buckeye Nation, they will forever remain conquering heroes, a group that dominated the Big Ten Conference and archrival Michigan like none before. Ohio State won outright Big Ten titles (2006, 2007) or shared the championship (2005, 2008) in all four seasons that they played.

Ever since the fifth-year seniors set foot on campus back in 2004, Ohio State hasn't lost to Michigan. The Buckeyes' 42-7 victory against Michigan on Saturday ensured the seniors their own chapter in team history.

"I don't think we really realize it now," senior linebacker and co-captain James Laurinaitis said, "but as we get older, we'll look back on our career and stuff and realize to be a part of the first team to win five times in a row is something that is very special."

Backup quarterback and co-captain Todd Boeckman will always remember Ohio State's dominance of Michigan.

"When you get five pairs of gold pants, that's something you never forget," said Boeckman, referring to players' reward for beating Michigan.

Seen through the first prism, the Buckeyes shine through in all their Scarlet and Gray glory.

But there's another prism, one that takes a broader view of the Ohio State seniors from outside the Buckeye State.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor reacts to his performance during the Buckeyes' 13-6 loss to Penn State Saturday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The play called for a typical quarterback sneak: No frills, up the middle, lower your shoulder and go.

But Terrelle Pryor isn't a typical quarterback. He's an atypical freshman who can do atypical things. So when he saw a chance to make a play, he went for it.

He had never failed before, so what could stop him now? On third-and-inches from midfield, with Ohio State leading 6-3 early in the fourth quarter, Pryor saw the middle bunching up and bounced outside.

"I thought I was scoring a touchdown," he said. "I was looking at the end zone. I was going to beat No. 9 (Penn State safety Mark Rubin). Then he punched it out. "

"It was the worst feeling of my life."

It was a feeling Pryor likely has never felt. He had taken some heat during his first five collegiate starts, but he hadn't committed a critical turnover or lost a game. He hadn't fumbled. The nation's top recruit had backed up his hype.

Last week, Pryor's teammates questioned whether Ohio State should bring back Todd Boeckman or go to a two-quarterback system. Pryor responded with a Friday night challenge to coach Jim Tressel -- bench me if I struggle -- and a Saturday afternoon spectacle against Michigan State at Spartan Stadium.

He continued to show beyond-his-years poise against Penn State, converting key third downs and hitting Dane Sanzenbacher and Brian Robiskie down the field. Even without much help from Chris "Beanie" Wells, Pryor made his share of plays.

But his decision on the quarterback sneak cost him dearly. Penn State recovered the fumble and drove for the game-winning touchdown.

"I think he saw a couple gaps or penetration, perhaps, I don't know," Tressel said, "and tried to slide outside. I think the helmet hit the ball or something hit the ball and it was unfortunate."

Offensive quality control coach Nick Siciliano accompanied Pryor to his post-game news conference and sat as the distraught quarterback answered questions.

"He continues to be a great player," Robiskie said. "Right now, he feels the loss is on his shoulders, but he knows he played a great game. It is up to us seniors to build him back up."

Ohio State's quest for a third trip to the BCS title game is officially over, and the Buckeyes need Penn State to lose twice to have a shot at an unprecedented third consecutive outright Big Ten title.

The goals have shifted, and for a senior-laden team, moving forward won't be easy.

"This is not what we saw for ourselves," punter A.J. Trapasso said. "This is not how we saw our season panning out."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Through its first eight games, Penn State had put up 298 points in the first three quarters. Tonight, the Nittany Lions have been contained, though they're showing some signs of life.

Daryll Clark is beginning to find some gaps in the Ohio State defense, though Penn State just seems a bit out of sync. Without a consistent running game, the Nittany Lions will need Clark and senior wideouts Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood to emerge. The big plays just aren't there tonight for the Lions, who trail in the fourth quarter for the first time this season.

Ohio State continues to convert key third downs and mounted a 13-play, 72-yard drive that ate up 7:28 before another Aaron Pettrey field goal. Buckeyes wideouts Dane Sanzenbacher and Brian Robiskie are stepping up and finding gaps for freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who has made several big-time throws (13-for-18, 174 yards).

Neither team has much of a running game, so this one could be won through the air.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- After weaving my way through the debauchery on Regent Street, I have arrived safely at band-less Camp Randall Stadium, where No. 18 Wisconsin hosts No. 14 Ohio State later tonight (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).

As usual, there's a great atmosphere around the stadium tonight. There's definitely a strong police presence here, in preparation for what surely will be an all-night party in Mad-town. I'm all for good times, but I hope everyone follows this fabulously headlined editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Ohio State enters the game at 4-1, having won consecutive games since its collapse at USC. The Buckeyes haven't played here since 2003, when they fell 17-10 and saw their 19-game win streak snapped. All eyes will be on freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, as he makes his first career road start in a raucous setting. Pryor and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells have given a stale offense a fresh look, combining the traditional power run game with elements of the spread.

Wisconsin was supposed to come in at 4-0, but the Badgers blew a 19-point halftime lead last week at Michigan and fell, 27-25. The loss takes a little luster off what had been billed as the Big Ten's premier matchup, but Wisconsin can make a statement with a win. The Badgers have won 16 consecutive home games and six straight contests at night. Junior running back P.J. Hill (112.3 rush yards per game) leads the offense, and Wisconsin also will be looking for big things from All-American H-back/tight end Travis Beckum, who should be close to full strength for the game. The Badgers defense ranks 30th nationally in scoring (17 ppg) and is led by linebackers DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas.

Both teams will try to run the ball, but it could come down to the better passing game. Pryor needs to attack a vulnerable Badgers secondary and find wideouts Brian Robiskie, Brian Hartline and possibly DeVier Posey. Beckum could be a huge factor in the red zone for Wisconsin, which has been plagued by dropped passes from its wide receivers for some time.

I'll have more updates later, so check back throughout the night.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Five lessons from a wild opening weekend of Big Ten Conference play:

Penn State is the league's best team -- Many of us had a sneaking suspicion this would be the case, but Wisconsin had the better nonconference résumé and fewer question marks entering the season. Yet the Badgers melted down at Michigan and No. 12 Penn State continued to roll with a 38-24 win against No. 22 Illinois. A talented Illini squad led by Rejus Benn gave the Lions their first true test, but the Spread HD offense was simply too much. Wideout/return man Derrick Williams had a historic night and running back Evan Royster and quarterback Daryll Clark showed why Penn State is one of the country's most explosive teams.

Don't count out Michigan -- There's no other way to put it. Michigan looked like the Big Ten's worst team in the first half against Wisconsin (21 net yards, 1 first down, 0 points). But then the well-conditioned Wolverines completely transformed themselves. A heroic and durable defensive performance bought enough time for Steven Threet and the offense to kick into high gear. Coach Rich Rodriguez's spread system showed just how quickly it can rack up points -- three touchdowns in 12 minutes -- and the Wolverines produced the second-biggest comeback in team history and the biggest in the Big House. Saturday's win could be the turning point for a team no longer stuck in transition.

Senior QBs step up -- Through the first four games, it looked as though Northwestern senior quarterback C.J. Bacher had regressed. The same held true for Michigan State's Brian Hoyer. But both players stepped up Saturday and led their teams to crucial road wins. Bacher had 224 yards passing and three touchdown strikes in the final three quarters as Northwestern overcame a 17-3 deficit to beat Iowa and secure its first 5-0 start in 46 years. Hoyer avoided major mistakes and had 261 yards passing and two touchdowns as Michigan State held off Indiana. Even demoted Ohio State sixth-year senior Todd Boeckman rebounded nicely against Minnesota with a 31-yard scoring pass to Brian Robiskie.

Buckeyes offense needs Beanie -- You're probably saying, "Duh," but Ohio State's offense seemed to have more problems than a hobbled Heisman Trophy candidate, particularly up front. Chris "Beanie" Wells seemed to provide the boost the Buckeyes needed against Minnesota, as the offense turned in its best performance of the season. Wells and quarterback Terrelle Pryor combined for 203 rushing yards and Robiskie caught two touchdown passes. The coaches didn't overwork Wells, who will take on a bigger role this week against Wisconsin.

Northwestern reclaims late-game poise -- After seeing a bowl berth slip away last fall because of fourth-quarter flops, the Wildcats have reclaimed their crunch-time composure. Iowa kept Northwestern in Saturday's game with five turnovers, but when the fourth quarter rolled around, the Wildcats took control. A playmaking defense briefly knocked Shonn Greene from the game and batted down Ricky Stanzi's fourth-and-goal pass. Bacher and his veteran wideouts made plays when it mattered. Northwestern improved to 16-3 in games decided by seven points or fewer.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

LOS ANGELES -- Some quick hits at the half:

  • It became clear at USC practices that both FB Stanley Havili and RB Joe McKnight were big parts of the game plan.
  • McKnight has rushed five times for 49 yards -- his 24-yard run on the TD drive gave USC the ball on the Buckeyes 26 -- and Havili has caught two passes for 47 yards and a TD.
  • The Buckeyes answered but another good drive -- which even featured a 13-yard run from Terrelle Pryor -- was killed by a pair of holding calls. The result was a missed 46-yard field goal.
  • Ohio State isn't haven't much trouble getting first downs. The Buckeyes have 11 with three minutes left before the half.
  • Maybe I'm wrong and the Trojans are going to blow this thing open.
  • It is worth noting that the Buckeyes have outgained USC 156 yards to 149 as of the pick-six.
  • Also, Pryor is going to be a weapon. He's 2 for 3 for 23 yards and has rushed six times for 41 yards.
  • Turnovers are killers against the Trojans. New exhibit: Boeckman fumbles on a sack from Clay Matthews and the Trojans, now winning the turnover battle 2-0, take over on the Buckeyes 28 with a minute left before the half.
  • Joe McKnight goes 15 yards on a third and 7 for a first down on the 20. He's averaging over 11 yards per carry and has 82 yards rushing.
  • The Buckeyes probably won't feel physically overwhelmed it the locker room.
  • Still think this might turn out to be interesting but my confidence is not as high as it was a hour and a half ago.

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