Whew! Looks like I'm getting to the Big Ten Roundtable just under the gun. I've always been a procrastinator. Anyway, thanks to Run Up The Score for hosting and providing this week's questions.
We're halfway through the season. Practically the entire national media has declared that the Big Ten is having a down year. Is this cyclical, or is the conference actually becoming less and less relevant? What is your team doing to enhance or destroy the conference's reputation?
It's no doubt a down year for the Big Ten. Nobody has an impressive win they can point at outside of the conference. Ohio State looks like the tentative front runner, but they really haven't played anyone and the toughest part of the schedule is yet to come for them. But these things are cyclical. This year the Big Ten is down. In a year or two it will be back up again. Other than the SEC there is no really strong conference this year.
Penn State certainly isn't doing anything to help the perception. We beat up on a few cupcakes in the out of conference schedule. Then we laid an egg against the team that lost to Appalachian State. We're right back in the mushy middle of the conference like we've always been.
Illinois is winning football games. Football games! Illinois! How much longer will we have to put up with this crap?
Ron Zook has been assembling weapons of mass destruction like he's Sadaam Hussein for a few years now. It was a matter of time until that talent came together. I just didn't expect it so soon this year. Winning breeds winning, and right now those kids are playing with a ton of confidence having defeated two ranked teams in a row. Illinois is unfortunately not going to go away anytime soon. Our best hope is for Michigan to hire Les Miles and LSU to go after Zook. Illinois is not a good program, so if he continues to build it up some bigger school or the NFL will snatch him up.
I'm a man! I'm 32! For you, fair Big Ten Blogger, where does the line get drawn when, as Sunday Morning QB eloquently states, "second-guessing the split-second decisions of college kids under extreme physical duress"? Hypothetically speaking, would you settle for saying that your underwhelming quarterback "simply isn't performing well and needs to be replaced", or would you call him "a functional retard that is one drool cup shy of riding the short bus to practice"?
I try to lean toward the former, but I'm human and I'm a fan and sometimes we say things we shouldn't. I think these kids deserve a little slack. They're 18-22 years old and juggling classes, girlfriends, and social lives outside of football. I don't have a problem pointing out dumb play on the football field, but when people start sending death threats it's gone too far. Even calling players names like "idiot" probably crosses the line.
Finally, a quick two-part question. Which player or players on your team have you been pleasantly surprised with this season, and what is the most important game remaining on your schedule?
Usually two part questions are somewhat related. But I digress.
Jeremy Boone has been a great surprise. We were all worried about losing Kapinos, but Boone has been punting the leather off the ball all season. This kid will probably rewrite all the punting records at Penn State before he's done. Honorable mention for most pleasant surprise would be Ollie Ogbu. When all the defensive tackles went down in the beginning of the year he was moved to the top from third on the depth chart and he did a fantastic job. It really shows how deep we are on the defensive line.
The most important game for us remaining on the schedule has to be Ohio State. That's a game Penn State has to circle, check mark, and put a star next to if they hope to get back on the map with the other good teams.