There’s one man saving the Big Ten from even bigger embarrassment this season. One man the fans of the SEC and Big 12 and Pac-12 wouldn’t dare mock. One man who could walk into Bryant-Denny or Owen Field or the L.A. Coliseum and turn heads immediately.
You can laugh at the Big Ten’s 40-yard dash times and bowl records and 20th-century offenses. You can’t laugh at Urban Meyer.
He’s the Big Ten’s No. 1 source of credibility during a nightmare year. Meyer’s program is also the only Big Ten power — sorry, Northwestern — without a loss. He waves the Big Ten flag, even in a season when he can’t compete after November.
Here’s the irony: In Big Ten country, people want Urban Meyer to fall flat on his face.
If you’re a fan of Michigan or Wisconsin or even Purdue or Minnesota, the worst thing that could happen in 2012 isn’t three non-conference losses to Notre Dame or another Rose Bowl blowout. It’s Ohio State going undefeated. It’s Meyer doing a halftime interview during the Big Ten title game, fielding questions about who should be the real conference champs.
That scenario would give Ohio State momentum for 2013. It would signal a return to 2005-10, when the Buckeyes won (or shared) six straight Big Ten titles. It would hand superiority over to a man who isn’t exactly Mr. Rogers.
On Saturday at Michigan State, Meyer immediately irked Sparty when he instructed his players to run onto the field through the Michigan State flag corps, which stood in two lines awaiting the national anthem. That came after his video crew allegedly doctored the film it sent to Michigan State coaches, removing Ohio State’s pre-snap movements. And before Meyer accused a Spartan of eye-gouging.
That was Urban’s first Big Ten game! He’s making enemies faster than a parking meter officer.
In other words, Nebraska is no longer the new kid on the block everyone wants to beat. Saturday night, the Huskers may be entering the most hostile environment they’ll face all season. The Horseshoe will be hopping with 100,000 Meyniacs. But temporary Nebraska fans will outnumber them. They’ll be scattered from the Missouri River to the Poconos, from the Ohio River to the Great Lakes.
Who claims the tag of the Big Ten’s best team in 2012? To many, if it can’t be their favorite team, the answer is “ABU.”
Anybody but Urban.
>> What does it say about my (lack 0f) appetite for Big Ten football when Tom Osborne mentions on his radio show a new Nebraska-Oklahoma series and I get the warm and fuzzies. We had reason to believe NU-OU was coming back 50 years after the Game of the Century. So I’ll assume this is a home-and-home in 2020-21, or 2021-22. Allow me to be greedy, though, and suggest four games, not just two.
>> The Big 12 plays zero defense. We know that. So here’s my question: How are we supposed to choose a Heisman Trophy winner when statistics are so skewed? Geno Smith will put up the best numbers in 2012. That’s almost indisputable. But are his 500 yards against Oklahoma State, for instance, better than Braxton Miller’s 300 against Wisconsin? I don’t know the answer. I do know that if we go by statistics, we’re gonna have a Big 12 Heisman winner every year.
>> Nick Saban threw a bucket of cold water on college football’s high-octane offenses this morning. “Is this what we want football to be?” he said.
His primary concern is player safety. “I think that the way people are going no-huddle right now, that at some point in time we should look at how fast we allow games to go in terms of player safety,” Saban said. “You can’t substitute defensive players, you go on a 14-, 16-, 18-play drive and they’re snapping the ball as fast as they can and you look out there and all your players are walking around and can’t even get lined up.”
I get Saban’s point. But the more the sport swings toward offense, the more dominant he will be. Alabama is one of the only defenses in the country with defensive personnel good enough to stop teams like West Virginia.
>> Saban or Snyder? This columnist says it’s not easy picking the best coach of this generation.
>> Gene Smith and Ohio State want to play only BCS schools in non-conference play. Now that is bold.
>> Oregon State is No. 1 in two of the BCS computers. And unlike many critics, I have absolutely no problem with it. The Beavers are 3-0, with wins over Wisconsin, at UCLA and at Arizona. I recognize that other teams (Alabama, especially) have looked better. But those are three excellent wins.
>> Steve Spurrier is feuding (again) with a local sports columnist in South Carolina.
>> Bruce Feldman’s 10 biggest disappointments of the college football season.
>> North Carolina is looking more and more guilty of academic fraud. Read about a Naval Weapons Systems class full of Tar Heel athletes.
>> The NBA will discipline players for flopping. Good grief. I hate flopping, too, but is this really the type of thing that should earn a suspension? Are we going to start disciplining baseball players when they act like they got hit by a pitch?
>> Miguel Cabrera, Triple Crown front-runner, might sit out tonight’s game in Kansas City. Are you kidding me, Jim Leyland? One of baseball’s great nights and you’re not gonna play him? Baseball always finds a way to screw things up.
>> Raul Ibanez’s ninth-inning homer last night may have paved the way for a Yankee playoff run. It also may keep him from the birth of his child.
>> But if the Yankees lose and the A’s win tonight, Oakland is the No. 1 seed in the American League. Let that soak in.
>> What a great sports week. Ryder Cup Sunday afternoon. Tony Romo throws five interceptions Monday night. Three top-10 match-ups Saturday in college football — not including Nebraska-Ohio State. And the start of MLB playoffs. October is about as good as it gets. Check back Friday for more chatter. Thanks for reading.