Big Ten

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After their 0-5 collective New Year’s Day performance, the Big Ten Conference should rename their new divisions “Phonies” and “Frauds” rather than “Legends” and “Leaders.”

Their failure against the SEC (0-3), Big 12 and Mountain West was one of the biggest conference meltdowns ever.

Against the SEC alone, they were outscored 138-45. Michigan State was blasted by Alabama, Michigan allowed the most points in its bowl history against Mississippi State and Penn State fell to Florida.

Making matters even worse for the Big 12, was newest member for the 2011 season, Nebraska, falling to Washington as a 14-point favorite.

So what does that say for conference leader Ohio State in its matchup against Arkansas, another SEC member Tuesday night in the Sugar Bowl?

The Buckeyes are 3½-point favorites, but playing in the heart of SEC country and having faltered over the years in BCS bowls against LSU and Florida. In fact, they have lost nine straight bowls when playing SEC teams.

The Big Ten is 2-5 in bowls after going 4-3 last year. It’s hard to make a case for the Buckeyes. True, they are 11-1 and Arkansas 10-2, but beating up on Big Ten teams now seems to be less of an achievement.

Looking at Arkansas’ only two losses – to then No. 1 Alabama and current No. 1 Auburn – and their strong finish to the regular season, the Hogs get higher marks now over the Big Ten.

During the year, the Razorbacks put up the fourth most passing yards in the nation and averaged 37.3 point-per-game led by quarterback Ryan Mallett.

On top of the potent aerial attack, they also come strong with 150 rushing yards per game. The only team the Buckeyes faced this year that comes close to Arkansas’ attack was Wisconsin and they lost 31-18.

The Buckeyes also have a cloud hanging over them due to five players being suspended for the first five games next season, yet are allowed to play in this bowl game.

One of the players involved, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, has had to deal with all the questions about the matter on a daily basis.

Pryor has been good in games when getting an early lead, but has been one of the worst in the country when trying to lead his team back from a deficit.

I initially liked the Buckeyes when the pairings came out and even after pounding the point that the SEC is much better, I haven’t changed my mind. All five Big 10 bowl losses on New Year’s were projected according to the ratings.

All were considerable underdogs with Wisconsin playing TCU, perhaps the best team in the nation as a 3-point underdog. The Illinois and Iowa wins for the conference were basically pick‘em games. I’m going to stay with the trend of taking the higher rated team, Ohio State.

I had the Buckeyes 6-point favorites in my own personal ratings. On a side note, Mallett once played for Michigan as a freshman and participated in a 14-3 loss to the Buckeyes. Pick: Ohio State, 37-23.

Later in the week, we get to pick on another MAC team taking Middle Tennessee State who opened +2, but are now -1 against Miami, Ohio. Friday, I’ll look to bet LSU over Texas A&M.

Saturday, I’ll hope that line drops more on Nevada against Boston College at San Francisco. The Wolf Pack opened -9½ but have dropped to -7½ at most sports books.

College Basketball: Seven teams remain unbeaten heading into the week led by No. 1 Duke. Because the ACC looks to be weaker compared to years past, the Blue Devils have the easiest chance to run the table.

Duke was the only ACC team ranked in last week’s coaches poll with only Florida State getting a single vote. In the RPI index, only North Carolina is among the top 20 teams with Duke, rated 13th because of a poor (131) strength of schedule rating.

Next Wednesday, Duke travels to Florida State, which could give them a scare. However, the once tough tobacco road jaunts are no longer a feared gauntlet.

Following the Florida State game, Duke plays only two non-conference opponents, at St. John’s and at home to Temple.

No. 3 Kansas has the top RPI rating, but will have a tough time staying undefeated during conference play on the road with the Big 12 having five other teams ranked. No. 2 Ohio State has five other teams ranked in the Big Ten.

No. 4 Syracuse has six other ranked teams to face in the Big East, the toughest conference nightly in basketball. One of the Big East teams not even ranked is undefeated Cincinnati, although the Bearcats have played a very weak non-conference schedule.

No. 6 San Diego State begins conference play this week, then gets its first test next week hosting UNLV (12-2) followed by a road date at the always tough “Pit” against New Mexico (11-3).

UNLV tips off Mountain West Conference play against No. 16 BYU (14-1) at the Thomas & Mack Center this Wednesday in a game that will be BYU’s last visit to Las Vegas as a league member.

It should be a rocking atmosphere and give further insight to just how good UNLV is. BYU senior guard Jimmer Fredette is sizzling hot right now averaging 24 ppg on the season and 28 in December.

When looking at the RPI conference ratings, it’s interesting to see the MWC is fifth – ahead of the Atlantic-10, PAC-10, Conf-USA and SEC.

The game of the week features No. 8 Connecticut at No. 13 Texas in the one of only two matchups featuring two ranked teams.

The Longhorns have won five straight after a Dec. 5 meltdown at USC. Texas is led by sophomore Jordan Hamilton who has averaged 19.8 ppg and 7.2 rebounds, third best on a team that is third in the nation with 43 per game.

Connecticut is also strong on the boards, ranked fifth nationally. After losing its final four games last season and relegated to playing in the NIT, the Huskies are one of the biggest surprises of this season.

Junior guard Kemba Walker (26.7 ppg) leads the nation in scoring. Both teams lost to Pittsburgh and beat Michigan State this year. Look for the home court edge to give Texas a boost with a five-point win.

 

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