Big Ten

Buckeyes keep blowing teams out, so why the hate?

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Buckeyes keep blowing teams out, so why the hate?

Ohio State is undefeated. In fact, Ohio State hasn’t lost a game since last September. Ohio State has 10 wins in 10 tries this season and the No. 3 ranking in the College Football Playoff.

So why all the hate?

The Buckeyes rolled over Illinois on Saturday, crushing the Illini to the tune of 28-3. That kind of blowout is typically cause for celebration, and it probably was inside the Ohio State locker room. But on social media and in the opinions of pundits across the country, the nearly four-touchdown win earned nothing but criticism.

Expectations have caused problems for the Buckeyes this season. Every time Ohio State hasn’t been winning a game by 40, every time a drive stalls, every time a bad pass is thrown, many in the college football world deem the team to be broken, to be undeserving of its ranking and to be “not that good.”

And it’s true that, at times, the Buckeyes have certainly not played up to their potential. The ugly performance against Northern Illinois comes to mind.

[MORE BIG TEN: Week 11 upsets help Big Ten's College Football Playoff chances]

But the problem is the word “potential.” After defeating Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in three straight postseason games last winter en route to a national-championship win, this team was predicted in the preseason to be one of the best in recent memory. With three star quarterbacks, a favorite running back, a great offensive line and a top-flight defense, this was expected to be one of college football’s super teams, a team that would bulldoze every challenger that got in its way, swatting the opposition away like a fly.

That isn’t exactly what’s happened. But it’s also not that far off.

No, Ohio State doesn’t put up the eye-popping point totals each week like Baylor does. But the Buckeyes still score an awful lot, 36.4 points per game, leading the Big Ten in scoring offense.

No, Ohio State doesn’t have far and away the country’s best defense. But it has one of the country’s best defenses, ranking second in the nation in scoring defense (13.8 points allowed a game) and ninth in total defense (298.4 yards allowed a game).

No, Ezekiel Elliott isn’t running away with the Heisman. But he’s certainly one of the frontrunners, ranking third in the FBS with 1,425 rushing yards. His 181 yards in Saturday’s win marked his 15th straight game with a triple-digit rushing total and moved him into third on Ohio State’s all-time rushing list.

That all seems pretty good.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Buckeyes gear right here]

Then there’s the biggest marker by which folks seem to be directing their complaints. Ohio State isn’t dominating its opponents, they say. Well, actually, the Buckeyes have won their 10 games by an average of 22.6 points. That’s better than three touchdowns. A three-touchdown deficit is a pretty tough thing to overcome, and the Buckeyes are boasting that, on average, on a weekly basis. Ohio State has scored 34 points or more in seven of its 10 wins, scoring 28 in two others. Only two wins have come by fewer than two touchdowns.

It’s not dominating in the hyperbolic sense of the word, perhaps, and no one is arguing that Ohio State has been the most dominant team this season or that it’s a team without flaws. But one thing the Buckeyes don’t deserve is constant criticism for not living up to impossible expectations. No, it didn’t turn out to be one of the most eye-popping seasons in college football history, but it still has a very good chance of ending in a national championship, which would be a second straight for those scoring at home.

No, Ohio State doesn’t have one of college football’s hardest schedules. But most of the games Ohio State was supposed to win in blowout fashion, it has won in blowout fashion. Plus, the final two weeks of the regular season will pit the Buckeyes against two ranked teams in Michigan State and Michigan, and if they win both games, they’ll likely meet an undefeated Iowa team in the Big Ten title game. Win all three, and there might not exist a team that can boast a better resume.

The truth is that Ohio State has blown out opponents plenty this season. And just because the games aren’t over in the first five minutes doesn’t mean the Buckeyes are undeserving of their ranking. We’ll see in the coming weeks if Ohio State is capable of doing the same against higher-quality competition.

Until then, Ohio State is 10-0.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

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USA TODAY

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?