The Spartans have the weekend off, so our attention turns to the crises that are currently dominating the Big Ten.
CAN OHIO STATE BE SAVED? The loss of Braxton Miller for the season was a harsh blow for the Buckeyes, but I am somewhat surprised to see how badly they looked against Virgina Tech. After all, Miller was in his last season and played hurt in the bowl game. The backup should have been better prepared.
And where was the running game? OSU regularly "wins" the state of Ohio for recruits and I would think they would have had at least one power back ready to replace the departing Carlos Hyde.
Defensively the Buckeyes have been weak throughout Urban Meyer's tenure, something I noted last year.
When Meyer agreed to take the OSU job, there was joy throughout the Buckeye Nation and more than a little angst in the rest of the conference. Would he bring his high-powered SEC style and dominate the rest of us? So far, not so much.
Ohio State seems to rely on burying the opponent in points rather than playing "Tressel Ball" - using a stifling defense and run game to dominate the game.
Arguably the Spartans are now the team of Tressel Ball. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. This week the Bucks get to hammer Kent State and retool for the rest of the season. They then have a bye week before finishing the non-conference schedule in Cincinnati.
PENN STATE GLORIOSUS: As I noted earlier in the week, the NCAA just issued a gigantic "never mind!" to the scandalized Nittany Lions, lifting the bowl ban immediately and allowing full recruiting for next year. Additionally, the massive $60 million fine is being turned over the Pennsylvania for disbursement. The smart money says the Legislature gives it back to the university, thereby rendering the entire punishment moot.
Penn State has done surprisingly well of late, and today's game will tell us a lot about where they are (as well as their new coach). Rutgers is one of the two newcomers to the Big Ten and today's game will reveal much about both teams.
MSU's schedule concludes with a road game in Happy Valley and now that the Lockeroom Lions are bowl eligible, the game has moved from "should win" to "must win."
Today's matchup will set the table and give either team an early start on the eastern division title race.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT YOU-KNOW-WHERE: Miami of Ohio hasn't won a game since 2012. They are on an 18-game losing streak. Last week they lost to a I-AA school.
Clearly, I must pick them to win.
The RedHawks (yes, it is one word) are not without their redeeming characteristics. They new head coach Chuck Martin was the offensive coordinator under Notre Dame's Brian Kelly and replaces the hapless Don Treadwell (formerly of MSU).
(Treadwell's example may well have brought a moment of pause to assistant head coach and defensive wizard Pat Narduzzi in terms of leaving MSU for a "rebuilding job" elsewhere.)
In any event, Martin also brought with him a fifth-year senior who got tired of keeping the bench warm in South Bend. So far, the chap has thrown for 300+ yards in each of Miami's losses.
And this is why I'm bullish on the Redhawks: They are a team with nothing to lose. With a new coach and new season, they have a chance to shake off the old and embrace the new.
At the same time, the Skunk Bears are in serious disarray. Brade Hoke made rather foolish remarks about his fan base and has spent the last three days walking it back. I recall last year after the (depending on your point of view) utter debacle/glorious victory in East Lansing, many observers expected the Wolverines to come home and hammer a struggling Nebraska squad. Instead, they got pounded yet again.
Hoke personally does not respond well to adversity and his team follows his lead. If the RedHawks come in ready to play, they could easily throw the Skunk Bears back on their heels. Appalachian State came out expecting to lose and they got what they expected. Miami's losses this season were reasonably close (they were only a touchdown down against Marshall at one point).
Miami's biggest weakness seems to be turnovers, but in order for interceptions to come into play, the opponent has to have a secondary. This could be a good matchup for Bo Schembechler's old team (yes, the ultimate Michigan Man coached an Ohio team before moving north.
College football is above all a contest of wills, a game of psychology. Going into this game, Miami has nothing to lose and everything to gain. The Skunk Bears have little to gain and everything to lose. I therefore expect them to come out tentative and uncertain.