No Big Ten team worthy of national title talk

BY foxsports • September 25, 2009

Imagine the TV show "The Bachelor." Only instead of a gaggle of hot contestants, picture 11 ugly girls competing for the prize.

Now you know how the Rose Bowl honchos feel with the start of Big Ten play about to commence.

Some lucky team will come out of the Large Eleven to receive the last rose and play Jan. 1 in Pasadena, whether it passes the look test or not.

The polls hint that everything is fine, with Penn State in the top five and Ohio State and Michigan lurking elsewhere in the rankings.

And your blind date has a great personality. Your mother said so.

Sure, the Big Ten's Big Three appear among the nation's elite right now, but a closer inspection suggests both Penn State and OSU have a troubling problem and that Michigan's transformation isn't quite complete.

Neither the Lions nor Buckeyes have yet shown an ability to run the football consistently, which has been only the No. 1 barometer of success in the Big Ten going back to, well, forever.

Penn State will play Iowa at home Saturday with the league's ninth-rated rushing offense (133.3 yards per-game) after playing Akron, Syracuse and Temple.

Clearly, the Lions have not adequately replaced three starters from what was one of college football's best offensive lines last season.

"It does bother me we've not been able to run the ball," head coach Joe Paterno said. "In all fairness, we've played some defenses that just said, 'Hey, we're not going to let you run it.' ... I realize, down the road, we're going to have to run it. We've not proven we can run it yet."

Just a hunch, but if Penn State was good up front, it wouldn't matter if Akron, Syracuse and Temple played 12 guys in the box. If the Lions wanted to run it, they'd run it.

Likewise, Ohio State's struggles haven't been limited to just its 18-15 loss to USC. The Buckeyes couldn't consistently change the line of scrimmage against Navy, and its running backs carried 34 times for 137 yards Saturday against Toledo.

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OSU's line is a mess, too, with an injury to senior tackle Jim Cordle causing additional shuffling that isn't likely to help take the pressure off quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

He threw for three touchdowns in a 38-0 rout of Toledo but was also pressured into two interceptions by a defense ranked 116th nationally.

At least the Buckeyes won big in their tune-up for a Big Ten home opener Saturday against Illinois.

Michigan State, picked third in the preseason behind OSU and Penn State, has lost consecutive games to Central Michigan at home and Notre Dame on the road.

Illinois, who many thought would parlay Juice Williams and Arrelious Benn into a repeat of the team's 2007 Rose Bowl run, got ripped by Missouri (37-9) in their season opener.

Iowa, ranked No. 21 in the preseason, needed two blocked field goals in the final seconds to survive Division I-AA Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium that same day.

Only an intercepted two-point conversion pass and runback spared Ohio State a likely overtime against Navy.

Purdue tried to minimize the Big Ten's ever-worsening stinkathon with a 38-36 loss at Oregon, only to throw some limburger cheese on the manifold by losing at home to Northern Illinois last week.

While the league office is trumpeting its five teams with 3-0 records, it conveniently leaves out the Big Ten's 5-6 record against BCS conference members and Notre Dame.

The wins have come against Syracuse twice, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Arizona.

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