Asmussen: In the grand scheme of things ...

College football writer and AP voter Bob Asmussen’s musings after the fourth week of the season:

On Illinois
— A team can’t play 12 weeks in a row. The game is too physical. It is too taxing mentally.

But when is the best time for a break?

Illinois will find out in the final nine games if the answer is “Week 4.”

The schools don’t control the “byes,” especially once the conference season starts. There are television considerations. The nice networks that pay out all of that money need to have a balanced schedule.

Illinois did have more control of its nonconference schedule. It could have played this weekend and put the off week earlier in the season. But that makes little sense for a program trying to build toward bowl eligibility.

The off week is a time to regroup and reboot. It is a time for ailing players to heal up and for student-athletes to catch up on their homework.

The Illinois players and coaches have known the schedule long before the season started. They have planned for it. Tim Beckman used it as a big recruiting week.

While other schools prepared for games, Beckman’s staff was able to see and be seen by key targets. In early February, you will find out how well it went.

— There are two schools playing in the FBS with the name “Miami.” For some reason, the one in Ohio is usually the one with its state’s name attached. That wasn’t always the case. Back in the day, the Ohio version of Miami was considered the power and little thought was given to the Florida version.

In the early 1970s, the Miami Redskins were regular bowl participants. The Cradle of Coaches routinely beat the SEC in bowl games. Really.

But plenty has changed for the team in Oxford, including its nickname. It became the RedHawks. The change was not popular with most of the alums, including former defensive back Ron Zook. He stopped writing checks to the place after the nickname was changed.

Whatever the nickname, don’t expect Don Treadwell’s team to put up much of a fight on Saturday.


On the Big Ten
— Which Nebraska icon will Bo Pelini offend next: Tom Osborne? Johnny Carson? Corn?

Pelini has been in Lincoln long enough to know you don’t take on one of the program’s all-time greats. Tommie Frazier was showing his disappointment in the program with his tweets about the loss to UCLA. Pelini made the situation worse, saying some version of “We don’t need him.” Again, it shows a lack of understanding about the fans. Frazier was part of back-to-back title teams at Nebraska and is beloved the way the “Flyin’ Illini” are beloved at Illinois.

The problem for Pelini is he is losing his base of support. Osborne is no longer the athletic director, so Pelini can’t count on him. The fans are upset about the losses to ranked teams and the close calls against the Wyomings of the world.

The program won three national titles in a four-year stretch. But the first in the run was almost 20 years ago. Nebraska is no longer a major player on the national scene and that doesn’t work for the loyal fans in Lincoln. Imagine if Kentucky basketball missed the NCAA tournament for three or four years. The coach would be gone. A similar situation is cropping up in Lincoln. And Pelini isn’t helping his case any by taking on school heroes.

— Nebraska used two quarterbacks Saturday against South Dakota State and one of them wasn’t Taylor Martinez. The four-year starter missed the game because of turf toe. Don’t ask I.T.G.S.O.T. to explain the injury. Just know that it really hurts. Talk about an ailment that needs a tougher sounding name.

Nebraska is off next weekend before hosting Illinois the first Saturday in October. Martinez should be back, but senior Ron Kellogg III and Tommy Armstrong Jr. (that’s five generations of quarterbacks) looked capable Saturday. Armstrong is the team’s future quarterback and Kellogg is more of a caretaker.

— No team in the country has a better backup quarterback situation than Ohio State. Thanks to Kenny Guiton. With Braxton Miller taking one more week off to rest his injured knee, Guiton threw a school-record six touchdown passes. In the first half. Never mind that it came against Florida A&M. Or that the Buckeyes had 55 points at the break against the overmatched Rattlers. A record is a record.

Don’t give Ohio State grief for playing Florida A&M in the first place. Vanderbilt was originally on the schedule but begged out of it. That left Ohio State scrambling for an opponent and the other A&M happily obliged. For a price.

— Given the way Ohio State played in the opening 30 minutes Saturday, you could make a case to move them back to No. 1 on I.T.G.S.O.T.’s AP ballot. But it will have to wait a week. At least. You can’t overlook the lack of quality from the opponent. No, the FAMU band isn’t part of the consideration. Beat up on the Badgers and the Buckeyes will get a long No. 1 look.

— When Iowa lost in the opener to Northern Illinois, a lot of us figured the Kirk Ferentz run was done. Maybe not.

After a big win against bitter rival Iowa State, the Hawkeyes drilled Western Michigan on Saturday. Iowa now looks competent enough to get the six wins needed for a bowl bid. And that would buy longtime winner Ferentz more time in Iowa City. We all should be so lucky.

— Minnesota is on the Top 25 radar after a convincing win against San Jose State. It will be nice if we can write more about Minnesota’s success on the field and less about coach Jerry Kill’s health concerns.

Minnesota has been firm in its support for Kill, who has missed parts of games because of seizures. Here’s hoping the problems subside and Kill is able to continue a productive run in the Twin Cities.
 
On the rest
—  Hope you stayed up late Friday night to watch the thrilling Fresno State-Boise State game.

Illinois learned all about the Bulldogs during a recent two-game series. The Illini lost 53-52 in Champaign when an offensive lineman caught a tipped ball for the winning two-point conversion. Then, Illinois’ loss at Fresno included a postgame skirmish between giddy Fresno fans and members of the Illinois staff. After the game, disgusted Illinois officials vowed to not return to Fresno in the future.

Good call. While Pat Hill won consistently in Fresno, the program has moved to another level with coach Tim DeRuyter in charge. After ending a long losing streak against Boise State, the Bulldogs are in good shape to reach a BCS bowl this season.

The story gets better. The quarterback is Derek Carr, brother of former NFL
No. 1 pick David Carr. Derek Carr and his wife had a trying year. Their young son had some health issues that appear to be resolved. You have to admire Carr for playing well with more important concerns at home.

— Very cool of ESPN to take Saturday’s “College GameDay” to Fargo, N.D., for a close look at North Dakota State’s powerhouse FCS program. The Bison fans knew how good the team was before the season. The rest of the country found out when Kansas State lost at home to North Dakota State in the opener.

Though the school has to be thrilled with its place in college football, it is easy to imagine the Bison playing — and winning — in the MAC or Conference USA. It is the age-old question of whether or not you can be happy as a big fish in a little pond. The Bison sure looked happy Saturday morning on ESPN.

— ESPN didn’t have a ton of options Saturday on what was one of the weakest days of the season. Six Top 25 teams were sitting, including No. 2 Oregon.

— Sorry, Florida and Tennessee, but your former classic rivalry is missing something. Like Steve Spurrier and Phil Fulmer. They used to have so much fun before the game. Spurrier’s line about not being able to “spell Citrus Bowl without UT” is part of college football’s lore.

Hard to imagine getting as hyped to watch Will Muschamp against Butch Jones. Both are fine coaches and a credit to their profession. There is simply no sizzle. More like Sizzlelean. It ain’t bacon. And it sure isn’t exciting football.

— Too bad for Notre Dame it didn’t end the series with Michigan earlier. After Saturday’s win against Michigan State, the Irish are 3-0 against teams not named Wolverines.

Notre Dame will get a major test next week against Oklahoma. As it is, Notre Dame is on the outskirts of my AP ballot but will move back in with a win against Bob Stoops’ team.
 

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