While beat writer MATT DANIELS spent his Saturday afternoon wondering if Braxton Miller will play quarterback or running back in the NFL, here are three things he learned:
1 No defense. Same story, again, for Illinois. Ohio State has done this to teams all season, so it shouldn’t feel like too much of a surprise. That being said, the same problems Illinois has had all season on the defensive side of the ball — over-running plays, not taking proper angles, poor gap discipline and lack of tackling — reared up on an overcast day in Champaign. “Everybody in the country is going to make mistakes,” said Tim Kynard, the Illinois defensive end who had one of the few defensive highlights with a 13-yard sack of Braxton Miller. “It’s very hard to be consistent. If you know your assignment, you’ve got to do it. If you don’t, it can cost us. Against an explosive offense like Ohio State, it cost us.” Help may arrive in West Lafayette, Ind., though. Purdue is far from a prolific offense. The Boilermakers are 121st in the country in total offense (Drew Brees is sighing heavily somewhere) and 122nd in rushing offense. There are only 123 FBS teams. So if there’s ever a pick-me-up game for the Illinois defense, this is the one. “From the offensive side to the defensive side, we’re going to fight you for all four quarters no matter the score (and) no matter the time,” linebacker Jonathan Brown said. “We’re going to fight. That’s probably the biggest improvement I’ve seen. Last year I felt like we were a more talented team, but it didn’t show. This year I feel like we’ve got a bunch of guys that are hungry to go out there and fight and play for each other.”
2 Cowboy up. Wonder if Wes Lunt ever keeps tabs on his former team. If he does, he might have a tinge of remorse. Aside from a 30-21 loss at West Virginia in late September (how did that happen, by the way? Did Mike Gundy feel sorry for former offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen?) the Cowboys are right in the mix of the BCS title game discussion. At 9-1 after their 38-13 wallop of Texas on Saturday, the Cowboys will have a chance to wreak havoc on the BCS standings in six days. Oklahoma State will host undefeated Baylor this Saturday night in a game that should determine who wins the Big 12. Don’t expect much defense. Gundy and Art Briles will bust out all the tricks they can in an effort to make a lasting impression on the country.
3 Mr. Ed. Remember when Ed Orgeron couldn’t coach at Mississippi? The Cajun sure could recruit (Illinois fans have heard that before) but never seemed to catch on in Oxford. He sure seems to enjoy the spotlight of Los Angeles, though. Six years ago, USC beating Stanford would never constitute as an upset. Given everything that has played out for both programs since the Cardinal and Jim Harbaugh beat the Trojans in 2007, though, Saturday night’s 20-17 Trojans win in the Coliseum qualified as a stunner. David Shaw’s team will not play for a national title. Probably not even the Rose Bowl now. Upsets like this happen late in every season, yet no one knows what team will fall. USC — which has won five of its six games since Orgeron replaced Lane Kiffin — certainly isn’t falling now. USC athletic director Pat Haden will likely still conduct a national search, but he doesn’t need to look far. Orgeron has proven he can lead the Trojans back to relevance.