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COLLEGE FOOTBALL SPOTLIGHT

Big Ten has been far from inspiring

The conference is a combined 6-8 against teams from the six Bowl Championship Series conferences, and showings all across the Big Ten have been mediocre.

September 22, 2012|By Mike Hiserman
  • Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was less than spectacular in a 13-6 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday.
Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was less than spectacular in a 13-6… (Jonathan Daniel / Getty…)

Let's see, we've had the Ohio State/Jim Tressel mess, the Rich Rod debacle at Michigan and the Jerry Sandusky scandal that all but leveled Penn State.

And now … we have a lot of uninspired football being played all across the Big Ten Conference.

Last week, no Big Ten team was ranked in the national top 15, a first since 2001. And for good reason.

The Big Ten has a combined record of 6-8 against teams from the six Bowl Championship Series conferences. Three of those wins were by Northwestern — against Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College. Ohio State beat California, and on Saturday, Penn State defeated Temple and Minnesota downed Syracuse.

Nary a significant win in the six. None of those opponents has a winning record.

Also, 18 of the Big Ten's 33 wins overall have come against teams from the lower-level Football Championship Subdivision or the much-smaller Mid-American Conference.

The league's teams look slow, sloppy and, in one prime example Saturday, clueless.

How else to describe players who watch an onside kick they knew was coming bounce around until a player from the opposing team dives on it? And, just for good measure, then get a personal foul call that costs them an extra 15 yards.

Those were the circumstances that resulted in the game-winning 47-yard field-goal struck by Central Michigan's David Harman with three seconds left that gave the Chippewas a dramatic 32-31 win over Iowa.

"We just looked like we were frozen out there," said Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz.

Then there was Ohio State, which managed to hold off winless Alabama Birmingham, 29-15, despite being outgained by a team that was giving up an average of 44 points and 477 yards a game.

Alabama Birmingham, a 37-point underdog, was within a touchdown of the lead in the fourth quarter even though it gave a touchdown away and was hurt by four penalties for chop-blocking.

In other mediocre showings, Wisconsin led Texas El Paso by only four points midway through the fourth quarter before pulling away, 37-26, and Penn State stretched its unbeaten streak against Temple to 31 games dating to 1941.

In a worse-than-mediocre showing, Illinois was trounced by Louisiana Tech, 52-24.

In the conference's lone prime-time appearance, Notre Dame bullied Michigan, 13-6, intercepting Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson four times in the first half.

Home-state nemesis

Tavon Austin became West Virginia's career receptions leader with the next-to-last of his 13 catches for 179 yards in the Mountaineers' 31-21 win over Maryland.

Austin, a Baltimore native, has been especially destructive against his home-state school. In three games against Maryland, he had 31 catches for 407 yards. Among his receptions Saturday were touchdowns covering 44, 24 and 34 yards.

Say what?

Washington State Coach Mike Leach, anticipating his struggling team's game against hapless Colorado: "We're similar teams from the standpoint that we don't quite have a tent over our circus right now."

Indeed, both look like bad clown acts. And Washington State is wearing the sad face after losing, 35-34, to the previously winless Buffaloes.

Tourist trap

This came from Idaho State Coach Mike Kramer in the days leading up to his team's game against Nebraska: "One of the great things in America is going to Yellowstone Park, or going to Mount Rushmore, or going to Nebraska for a football game."

Speaking of stone, his Bengals defense ended up looking like they were carrying some in their shoes against the Cornhuskers, who led by six touchdowns only three minutes into the second quarter on their way to a 73-7 win.

One-liners

On his third carry of the game against UTEP, Wisconsin's Montee Ball fumbled for the first time in his college career, after 654 carries.... Ball left the game with a head injury after scoring on a one-yard run early in the second quarter.... Onterio McCalebb's four-yard scoring run as time expired in the first quarter against Louisiana State marked Auburn's first touchdown on offense against a Southeastern Conference opponent since the first quarter of last season's Georgia game, a span of 186 minutes and 13 seconds.... Alabama had scored 134 unanswered points dating to its opener against Michigan before Florida Atlantic scored on a short pass with 2:49 left in a 40-7 Crimson Tide victory.

mike.hiserman@latimes.com

Times wire services contributed to this report.

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