Big Ten lagging in the passing game

Wisconsin's Joel Stave, throwing against Utah State, has taken over at quarterback from turnover-prone Danny O'Brien. He will start against Texas-El Paso. MORRY GASH / Associated Press
Wisconsin's Joel Stave, throwing against Utah State, has taken over at quarterback from turnover-prone Danny O'Brien. He will start against Texas-El Paso. MORRY GASH / Associated Press
Posted: September 22, 2012

Wherever he is, Woody Hayes, creator of the "3 yards and a cloud of dust" theory that signified his career at Ohio State, probably is thrilled over the difficulty some Big Ten teams are having moving the football through the air. Of the NCAA's 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams, four from the Big Ten are in the bottom quarter in average passing yards going into Saturday's schedule. Wisconsin, a favorite to win the conference, is No. 114 at 156.3 yards per game, while Indiana, considered one of the lesser lights, is 12th with a 326.0-yard average (tops in the Big Ten).

Penn State, by the way, is 66th (233.3 yards) and fifth in the conference.

Oh, Danny boy

Back in March, Danny O'Brien stood on the sideline watching Penn State go through its first workout of spring drills thinking he might be the answer at quarterback for the Nittany Lions.

O'Brien, a transfer from Maryland who was eligible right away, eventually decided on Wisconsin but played poorly and lost his starting job after just three games. Badgers coach Bret Bielema said redshirt freshman Joel Stave would start Saturday at home against Texas-El Paso. O'Brien was lifted in favor of Stave at halftime last week after turning the ball over for the third time in two games.

Palmetto State pride

Folks in South Carolina now have more to holler about than great golf courses. For the first time ever, in-state archrivals South Carolina (No. 7) and Clemson (No. 10) are ranked in the top 10, thanks in no small part to the ability of their coaches - the Gamecocks' Steve Spurrier, the Tigers' Dabo Swinney - to keep the state's best players at home and pull in prospects from elsewhere.

That includes South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, and Clemson offensive lineman Shaq Anthony. Both teams have tough games this week - South Carolina hosts Missouri while Clemson is at Florida State.

Paranoia strikes deep

Southern California coach Lane Kiffin has been at odds with the Los Angeles-area media over reports of and questions about injuries to his players, abruptly ending a news conference this week after less than 30 seconds. While admitting he was wrong to have walked out, Kiffin told Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke he believes the Trojans are at a competitive disadvantage because of the USC tradition of holding open practices while other schools close theirs.

"The coach of any sport wants to know who is playing for his opponent, what part of them isn't healthy," he said. The Trojans, attempting to bounce back from last week's loss at Stanford, take on California.

Points aplenty

If you're a fan of offense, by all means stay up Saturday night and watch third-ranked Oregon and No. 22 Arizona try to prove which team can get down the field faster. The Wildcats, coached by Rich Rodriguez, one of the innovators of the fastbreak, no-huddle offense, are fourth in the FBS in total offense (604.7 yards per game) and 12th in scoring (46.3 points). Chip Kelly's Ducks are sixth (596.3 total yards) and fifth (54.0 points). The fact that both teams could approach 100 plays is another fascinating aspect of the game, one that means the play-clock operator can take the night off.

Rocky Mountain low

It's not looking good at Colorado, where the Buffaloes followed an embarrassing loss to Sacramento State, a Football Championship Subdivision school, with a 69-14 pounding at Fresno State. No one said it would be easy; Colorado returned only eight seniors from a 3-9 team in 2011, but this is still hard to take. ESPN GameDay host Chris Fowler, a Colorado alumnus, tweeted Sunday: "24-hr cooling off period. But I'm still speechless. In shock at how low CU Buffs football has sunk. And my '12 expectations were LOW." The Buffaloes, losers of 25 of their last 26 games outside Colorado, open Pac-12 play at Washington State.

Tigers vs. Tigers

If you're trying to get your season on track after a 1-2 start, as Auburn is, it's best not to be playing a team as talented and physical as Louisiana State. LSU, ranked No. 2, has ridden a rushing attack that has gained nearly 270 yards per game and is led by sophomore Kenny Hilliard. Auburn's sophomore quarterback, Kiehl Frazier, has struggled, completing barely 50 percent of his passes for a team that ranks near the bottom in points (20.0 per game) and passing yards (160.7).

Expat of the week

The pass rushing of Rutgers senior defensive end Ka'Lial Glaud, a former star at Winslow Township High School in South Jersey, will be key Saturday night when the Scarlet Knights (3-0) travel to Arkansas. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Glaud has two of Rutgers' seven sacks on the season. He will lead the charge against Tyler Wilson, a first-team all-SEC quarterback in 2011 who is returning to the Razorbacks lineup after suffering a concussion two weeks ago against Louisiana-Monroe. He was sidelined in last week's 52-0 loss to Alabama but questioned his team's effort after the game.

Games of the Week

Prime choice

Clemson at Florida State, 8 p.m., 6ABC: After scoring 124 points in two weeks against weaklings, the fourth-ranked Seminoles put up 52 on Wake Forest last weekend and appear primed for a championship run in the ACC and the BCS. The No. 10 Tigers are averaging nearly 40 points a game, but their defense will have its hands full with FSU quarterback EJ Manuel.

Pick six

Maryland at West Virginia, noon, FX: Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith has thrown nine incompletions - and nine touchdown passes - in his first two games.

Missouri at South Carolina, 3:30 p.m., CBS3: The Tigers take on the seventh-ranked Gamecocks in Columbia, Mo. Each squad hopes its injured quarterback - Mizzou's James Franklin, USC's Connor Shaw - can play.

Louisiana State at Auburn, 7 p.m., ESPN: After a 1-2 start, Auburn needs a solid performance to silence its critics, but the LSU running attack should control this game against a leaky rushing defense.

Michigan at Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m., NBC10: Coming off a solid performance against Michigan State, the Fighting Irish defense must keep fleet Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson in its sights.

Kansas State at Oklahoma, 7:50 p.m., Fox29: The 15th-ranked Wildcats want to redeem themselves for a poor showing last year, when the Sooners' Landry Jones passed for 505 yards in a 58-17 mauling.

Arizona at Oregon, 10:30 p.m., ESPN: Do not adjust your television set - each team's up-tempo, no-huddle offense will give you whiplash if you're not careful. - Joe Juliano


The Real Top 10

1. Alabama 3-0

2. Louisiana State 3-0

3. Oregon 3-0

4. Oklahoma 2-0

5. Florida State 3-0

6. South Carolina 3-0

7. Georgia 3-0

8. West Virginia 2-0

9. Clemson 3-0

10. Stanford 3-0

- Joe Juliano


Contact Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @joejulesinq.

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