Clarke’s Big Five: A down week


Photo: Chicago Tribune 

Welcome to the Big Five! This is my weekly column discussing and take-ing on the top five headlines, news items, storylines, etc. of the week. Feel free to comment on my thoughts either below, on Twitter, on Facebook, or…shoot us an email – – We’ll make sure to bring your comments up on the next podcast!

1. Week one hangover?

The Big Ten looked really good in week one, not so much in week two. Northwestern got pummeled by Duke, Nebraska lost to Oregon, Rutgers dropped a home game to Eastern Michigan and most importantly, Ohio State lost badly to Oklahoma.

In reference to conference power structure, the Big Ten lost in week two. Michigan and Penn State each prevailed over power five opponents, but neither victory was terribly convincing. Across the board, we didn’t see many impressive wins around the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, the ACC rebounded with Clemson’s victory over Auburn, the SEC can show off Georgia’s victory, and fan presence, at Notre Dame. The Big 12 can obviously boast about Oklahoma. The Big Ten’s solid out-of-conference victories next week will ride on Illinois and Purdue, so good luck.

2. James Franklin, the trash-talker

After Penn State beat Pittsburgh 33-14 at home, Nittany Lions head coach opened up his press conference talking football and then dropping a bomb. His last sentence:

“I know last year for their win it was like the Super Bowl, but for us this was just like beating Akron.”

Wow. The question threw off the first reporter as well, who followed by saying “I was going to ask a different question but how do you think people in Pittsburgh will take that?”

Given the caliber of Penn State’s play and national ranking, Franklin can say this. It’s a bit low, but the Nittany Lions are quite good, and the team can back up its coach’s trash talk.


Photo: Onward State

3. Okay, maybe J.T. Barrett is a liability?

After week one, Michael took the stand that J.T. Barrett is a liability for Ohio State. At the time, it was a hot take. I wasn’t fully on board, but I’m climbing on right now. In Ohio State’s 31-16 home loss to Oklahoma, Barrett threw for 183 yards, no touchdowns and an interception on 19-for-35 passing.

Ohio State’s offense is loaded with weapons, and Barrett simply wasn’t able to take advantage of them on Saturday. He compiled a whopping 21.1 QBR against a bottom-15 passing defense from 2016. Seriously, Oklahoma couldn’t defend the pass last year. That stuff tends to happen when you’re in the Big 12.

Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer isn’t giving up on Barrett just yet, but the senior quarterback has had more than enough opportunities to prove his potential, and he’s running out of them quickly.

4. I will never be able to figure out Northwestern

And you won’t either. The Wildcats are astoundingly difficult to predict. After they won the Gator Bowl to finish a 10-3 2012-2013 season, they opened up the following one 4-0…and finished 5-7.

It seemed as if they finally climbed back from that hole, pulling off solid mid-season victories in 2016 and impressively handling Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Then, in week two of 2017, the ‘Cats got steamrolled by Duke. So, maybe they’re just bad? Maybe so, but then they’ll beat either Wisconsin or Penn State, and then follow up by losing five straight.

Northwestern has the weapons on both sides of the ball to compete with whoever it plays, but they can also lose to just about any team in college football.

5. Boiler up! 

Is Purdue….good?

Well, let’s not go there, but the Boilers just picked up a solid victory against one of the MAC’s best teams, came within a score of Louisville in week one and have a really solid chance at picking up a road win next week against Missouri.

David Blough was efficient (!) on Saturday, throwing for 235 yards and three touchdowns  on 11-for-13 passing. Tario Fuller averaged nearly nine yards per carry in that game, and Purdue won by more than three scores.

Next week, Purdue’s offense has another chance to explode, as they face a vulnerable Missouri defense (trust me). A road game at Mizzou provides the Boilermakers with a feasible opportunity for an impressive road win.



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