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Friday, September 29, 2006

Buckeyes and Big Ten Notes

The Ohio State Buckeyes will head to Iowa City on Saturday with much more than the Big Ten championship on the line. Drew Tate and the Iowa Hawkeyes stand in the way of OSU’s Big Ten aspirations, National Title run, and Troy Smith’s standing in the Heisman race.

The Big Ten is definitely up for grabs and five teams appear to be in the hunt. Four Big Ten teams enter week five with a record of 4-0. Either Ohio State or Iowa will suffer their first loss this weekend, and Purdue faces Notre Dame. Michigan will need to beat Minnesota on the road to remain undefeated. Michigan State will face Indiana to open conference play this week after suffering a tough loss to Notre Dame last week. The Buckeyes and Wolverines look to have sights set on a November 11th showdown in Columbus that could shape the Big Ten and National Championship.

Troy Smith has not separated himself from the pack of Heisman candidates but remains right in the picture. His style has changed this season as he is much more comfortable reading through his options before running the ball. He keeps the ball up by his ear in a pass-ready form which allows him to make throws easier as pressure comes from the defense. Smith’s rushing numbers entering week five are shocking: 15 rushing attempts for four yards. His passing rating of 159.9 and ability to win games will keep him in the Heisman watch, but Smith will need to put together some big numbers in the next few weeks to keep pace with Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson.

Big Ten Notes

Iowa has just two Top 25 ranked opponents on their schedule. They batt1e the #1 team in the nation Saturday and face the currently ranked #6 Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor on October 21st.

Michigan’s Chad Henne and Mario Manningham are turning into a major scoring threat. Six of Manningham’s 16 receptions have gone for touchdowns. The duo average over 20 yards per connection. Preseason Heisman hopeful Tedd Ginn Jr. has five touchdown receptions.

Purdue’s Curtis Painter leads the Big Ten in passing yards with 1,140. Troy Smith is second in the Big Ten, but he has 256 yards less than Painter. While Painter is racking up passing yards, RB Kory Sheets has been spending plenty of time in the end zone for the Boilermakers. Sheets leads the Big Ten in scoring with 10 touchdowns in the first four games.

Despite returning ten starters this season on both offense and defense, Illinois has mustered up just one win in four games. Based on their remaining games, it appears the Fighting Illini will need to defeat Indiana and Ohio University to improve on their 2005 record of 2-9.


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