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Big Ten Blogger's Roundtable Week 7

I missed out on last week’s Big Ten Blogger’s Roundtable because I was swamped with other writing projects and everything else (read: NCAA Football 08 came in the mail and I had to put in the Purdue rosters). I am back this week and ready to face the daunting gauntlet set up by Run up the Score.

1. 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?

See, I hate this crap. As I saw earlier somewhere on the internet, if the SEC has teams like Kentucky or South Carolina rise to the top while Georgia and Florida sink back a little it is because of the depth of the conference. If Indiana and Illinois have a good season but Michigan and Penn State struggle the Big Ten is having a down year. We’re hurting right now because of a bad bowl season last year that saw Purdue not show up for its bowl game, Minnesota blow an epic lead, and Ohio State and Michigan came out flat against great teams. When you couple that with the pre-season this year that saw Michigan lose twice more in stunning fashion, Northwestern lose to Duke, Iowa to Iowa State, and Minnesota have two inexcusable losses for six of the conference’s seven non-conference losses the perception is down. The perception is only there because out of 44 non-conference games just two (Oregon-Michigan and Missouri-Illinois) were against teams that are now ranked.

I don’t think the Big Ten is down so much as it is balanced for the first time in a long time. Ohio State is clearly the best team right now and Minnesota is clearly the worst. The remaining nine, with Illinois at the top and Iowa at the bottom are at the stage where you can’t differentiate easily between any of them.

Purdue certainly didn’t help matters this past week by getting drilled before a national audience. The general feeling in the media though right now is that Ohio State merely proved they were that good as opposed to Purdue being exposed. The sad thing is that if Purdue finishes with a 10-2 record this year it will be because the Big Ten was down and we took advantage of weaker Michigan and Penn State teams. We won’t get any credit because there is this picture in the media that anyone outside of Michigan or Ohio State can only beat those two when they are down.

2. Illinois is winning football games. Football games! Illinois! How much longer will we have to put up with this crap?

I’m as stunned as anyone here because I thought the Illini would be dangerous enough to shock a few teams and get to a bowl, but not be 5-1 right now. I’m going to hold off on giving them the Rose Bowl until they prove they can actually throw the ball when it matters. Their offense is currently too one-dimensional and if they face a team that will force them to throw the ball by stopping the run they will struggle.

Until that happens they will continue to win games.

3. 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 won’t rip on kids unless they do something colossally stupid. A few years ago Purdue third string tight end name Garret Bushong mouthed off to the media about being a god on campus and all athletes should be treated as such. Here is his exact letter to the Purdue Exponent:

This letter is a shoutout to all of the athletes of Purdue. I am personally sick and tired of all the bad ink we are getting, and it is really time to put an end to it. Yeah, I got an OWI, so what! It’s over, and everyone now knows about it. It’s not like 300 other students on this campus haven’t gotten one, yet the names of those people are not put on the front page of the Exponent followed up three months later by a headline on the back page of the Sports section. I know all those people putting the paper together don’t have anything better to write about, and I am not mad at them for that. I am mad because they continuously are publishing articles that make us look so bad. If I am not mistaken, you guys go to Purdue too and I thought you would have a little more respect for your fellow classmates and the people who bring millions of dollars into this university year after year. So to all of my basketball players, football players, soccer girls, softball girls, wrestlers, cross country, track and field guys and girls, divers, golfers, tennis girls and guys, volleyball girls and baseball players, forget what ya heard. We’re here to stay, we all know what we do for this school and what we give back. We run this place and if anyone begs to differ, I’ll say what my good buddy Brandon Kirsch once said. "You know where to find me, locker number three, so come and say what you need to say to my face." Lastly I would like to give another shoutout to the athletes who have gotten bad ink in the Exponent lately. I feel for ya!

Represent in 2006.

Garret Bushong

This kid was our 3rd string tight end and I don’t think I ever remember seeing him on the field except on special teams, but he was a highly touted recruit so we had to listen to him. He knew better than to act like this, and he received his well-deserved backlash for it. These kids are between 18 and 23, and they’re still growing up. I was that old not that long ago and I know I thought I knew everything, but didn’t. I’ll cut them slack for what they do on the field, but if they act like idiots off the field, like Garret here, they are fair game.

4. 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?

If I had to pick one player I would go with our placekicker Chris Summers. Chris came in as a true freshman walk-on last year and won the starting kicker job over scholarship recruit Tim Daugherty and 5th year senior Casey Welch. Chris has a big leg, but to say he struggled with accuracy last year is like calling the Pacific Ocean a little damp. He made five of his first six field goals, but only three of his last 14 to finish the year 8 of 20. In the offseason though he really worked on his game, has now made a school record 71 PAT’s in a row, and is 8 of 10 this year on field goal with one miss being a block. He was a perfect 4 for 4 against Notre Dame and really was a big reason we won that game. He did all in the face of holding off Daugherty in camp and in the news that Purdue recruited one of the top kickers in the country for next year.

As far as Purdue’s biggest remaining game I am going to say it is this week at Michigan. We haven’t won at the Big House since Bob Griese was our quarterback in 1967 and a win would not just end 40 years of futility in Ann Arbor, it would end the doubt that we’re going to go on another slide after losing a big nationally televised game. We need a win like this in the worst way and a W would go a long way toward Purdue’s first 10 win season since 1979 and only second ever.