Coaches expect No. 2 to win big

Todd Zolecki

College football fans were shocked a few weeks ago when Arizona State upset two-time defending national champion Nebraska. It seems fans have watched the Cornhuskers dominate for so long that they forgot the team could lose.
The same is taking place at No. 2 Ohio State. No, the Buckeyes aren’t coming off an undefeated season, or a Big Ten championship. But already people are expecting them to win every game — and by a lot.
Ohio State (4-0) has outscored its opponents 209 to 30. They ripped right through then-No. 4 Penn State last Saturday, 38-7.
Buckeyes coach John Cooper said the game against the Lions was college football at its best.
“We played about as good a ballgame as we’ve played around here in a long, long time,” he said. “I’m talking about offense, defense and special teams. We had a great crowd and it was a beautiful afternoon.”
Oddsmakers have noticed the Buckeyes’ mastery. They are a 26-point favorite over Wisconsin this Saturday in Columbus.
“Ohio State hasn’t been challenged,” Badgers coach Barry Alvarez said. “So this doesn’t surprise me a bit.”
Gophers coach Jim Wacker is extremely impressed with Ohio State. Minnesota plays at Ohio State on Nov. 2.
“I’ll predict right now that Ohio State wins the national championship,” he said. “I think they’re better than Florida because of who they have and who they’ve beat.”
Big Ten round robin?
A few Big Ten coaches have said they would like to see the conference implement a round robin schedule. But they realize it would be difficult to accomplish.
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr supports a round robin schedule.
“I think that’s the only way you can have a true champion,” he said. “At this stage, I don’t think that’s feasible because I don’t think some people are willing to give up some of their nonconference games.”
Hayden Fry, coach at Iowa for 17 years, has long been an advocate for a new format.
“You can’t really determine the true champion when you don’t play all the other teams,” he said. “I’d rather play everybody and find out who is the best.”
He said the nonconference games aren’t very meaningful.
Extra points
ù The No. 14 Wolverines are glad to have a bye this week. They are coming off a difficult 17-16 loss to Northwestern. Michigan hosts Indiana on Oct. 19.
“It is coming at a good time for us,” Carr said. “We’re a football team with a lot of guys who are hobbled. Hopefully this week will give us a chance to get some of these guys back.”
ù Michigan State (2-3) is still struggling after losing seven players to injuries and ineligibility since spring practice.
“It affected the depth of our team,” Spartans coach Nick Saban said. “We have never thought or dwelled upon any of those things. We have made changes to give our team the best opportunity to win. We’ve moved on.
“Maybe we would be a little bit better by now. But we have to play the cards that are dealt to us.”
ù Badger tailback Ron Dayne has played himself into the starting position, which was previously held by St. Paul native Carl McCullough.
Alvarez said Dayne is similar to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jerome Bettis. Dayne averages 6.1-yards per carry and has scored four touchdowns.