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It’s roundtable time again, and this week’s Big Ten Bloggers’ roundtable is hosted by the noted Ohio State blog Our Honor Defend. Since we’re into conference play the questions should be heating up. Also at the end of this entry are a few questions for the larger blogpoll roundtable, hosted by Big Red Network.

We're all basically in conference play now, sans Purdue who played visitor to Notre Dame over the weekend. What did you see in the conference opener that you liked? What did you see that sucked noodles? If you're one of the Purdue blogs, what did you see against Notre Dame that has you nervous (or even optimistic) for your conference opener against Penn State this Saturday? Oh, and, have fun with that game, by the way.

I honestly saw very little that made me believe we had a chance against Penn State. That which does make me feel optimistic is what I saw in the Oregon game. There have been flashes that this team can be pretty good. Penn State runs the ball well, but for most of the first half we contained and even better running team in Oregon. Still, it’s the old bad defense vs. good offense that has me pessimistic. I know that this team can compete with anyone in the conference. The talent is there, but our refusal to make in-game adjustments is just maddening at this point.

Ole Miss punked #4 Florida in Gainesville. #1 USC got punked by Oregon State on national television? What's the underlying theme behind these bizarre upsets? You guessed it: magic. Some kind of hocus-y pocus-y sorcery in the form of "familiarity". The idea being pitched around is that these upsets come in conference games because the underdog has played the heavily favored team before, and thus isn't afraid of them nor surprised by anything they do. Should I buy this idea? Or are these upsets more likely the combination of something more conventional, like great/horrendous gameplanning, preparation and execution by the underdog/favorite team respectively?

I don’t buy into the familiarity theory. We’re familiar with Ann Arbor and Columbus, but the Boilers have exactly one win combined at both places since 1966. I do think there has to be an attitude of fearlessness. That attitude has been missing for some time in West Lafayette, and that stems directly form the coaching staff. Again, we saw glimpses of it against Oregon in the first half, but eventually the sphincter tightened up and we played not to lose. In the 1997 Notre Dame game we played to win. Instead of sitting on a 4 point lead we went down the field in the last two minutes and made it an 11 point lead. You stomp on a team until they are dead. Oregon State did that by eschewing a field goal just before halftime. They gambled for a touchdown, and got just that. To me, that was the biggest reason they pulled the upset.

Entering the season, Beanie was the Big Ten's Heisman favorite. After a few games, Javon Ringer had put up the Heisman stats, though I don't think anyone could've believed that Ringer would have the hype machine necessary to get him to New York. Yet, after this week, I see his name mentioned more and more in the Heisman race. Do you think Ringer, at this pace, gets to New York on something more than a courtesy visit (on courtesy visit, see: everyone last year not named Tim Tebow; everyone in 2006 not named Troy Smith)? How about Daryll Clark? Is Daryll Clark of Penn State legitimately in the Heisman race after week 5?

Ringer has been nothing short of impressive so far. He’ll get to New York if he keeps putting these numbers up simply because teams are preparing for him now. A 2,000 yard back from a major conference is almost guaranteed a plane ticket to New York. Whether the Spartans knock off Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Penn State will determine if he brings the trophy home.

It is still probably too early to tell about Clark. I’ll check back after he faces Ohio State and Michigan, two teams that have had a lot of success against Penn State recently. His numbers are good, but not overwhelming. If he starts lighting teams up and leads Penn State to an unbeaten season he’s got a decent chance. Most of the Heisman is about preseason hype though. It will probably be Tebow’s unless he spikes himself.

With the nonconference schedule basically over, do you think the Big Ten collectively bettered its standing from the maligned position it was in before the season began? For every Wisconsin victory over Fresno State and Penn State thrashing of Oregon State, there's Michigan's turnover bonanza against the Irish and Ohio State's neutering by USC. Long question short, what sticks out more: the positives or the negatives for the conference?

Well, Purdue certainly didn’t help matters by losing both of its marquee games with one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. The Ohio State loss is glaring, but After Oregon State ran all over USC it would be very interesting to play that game again with Beanie and Pryor playing full time. Indiana getting waxed at home by Ball State, a team that is very good but had never beaten a BCS foe before, wasn’t good. Because of that, the negatives stick out more. What positives are there? Penn State over Oregon State looks much better. Not many people watched Fresno State-Wisconsin and that wasn’t helped by Fresno nearly gacking to a bad Toledo team the following week.

As I'm sure you may have seen on your moving pictures box, the Ernie Davis movie has been getting a lot of publicity for its imminent release to theatres. The story, of course, centers around the first African-American Heisman winner and some of the trials that come from being a black athlete, playing before the Civil Rights movement and playing in the Cotton Bowl. Does your football program have an uplifting story that you think is movie-worthy? If so, please share it.

Boiled Sports already stole my thunder, but they are certifiable badasses for finding that cool interview with Drew Brees. I might go with Great Walk-ons of the Joe Tiller Era, featuring Pro-Bowl Center Nick Hardwick, Seth Morales, Jake Standeford, and Frank Duong. Those are four guys that out-performed virtually every 4 and 5 star recruit (there have been a few) that we’ve gotten under Tiller. Standeford could even be the anti-Rudy as a shadowy figured that shot Selwyn Limon in the eye with a pellet gun, stabbed him in the chest, and got him drunk to get more PT. I am kidding, of course. Jake is one of the most respected players here at Off the Tracks. It would be funny though.

Blogpoll Roundtable:

Q: Of the four presumed national title contenders to go down this past week--USC, Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin--which team has the best chance to get back in the race by the end of the year?

It has to be Georgia. Their loss was the least egregious and they could get revenge still in the SEC championship game. Should both the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide win out the rest of the way, then Georgia wins in Atlanta we very well could have the first re-rematch in college football history. Florida likely won’t get the same crack at Mississippi. To get out of the Big Ten and into the title game you have to be unbeaten this year, and only Penn State and Northwestern can say that so far. USC might have a shot, but I doubt it with the Big 12/SEC lovefest.

Q: But what does this mean for Ohio State? Are they back in?


Q: Did the week that was open the door for any of the undefeateds out of some of the non-BCS conferences like the Mountain West or the Big East? (Yup, that's a cheap shot. Thanks, Virginia Tech for not allowing me to make it about the ACC.)

That would be interesting, wouldn’t it? I especially like BYU’s chances if UCLA can do well in the Pac-10. Boise State might be the real deal as well with a convincing win at Oregon under its belt. If South Florida runs the table their non-conference win over Kansas will help.

PSA time:

Finally, I wanted to touch on a more serious issue. I was contacted this week by a wonderful outfit called DonorsChoose, which donates money and equipment to public schools with underfunded programs. I am teaming up with them this month in the blogger challenge to raise money for technology and science programs. There will be a new widget up on the right, and those interested in finding out more information or donating should follow this link.