Michigan vs. Nebraska, 10.9

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez (2) celebrates a fourth-quarter touchdown run against Michigan on Oct. 9 at Memorial Stadium.

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Things I know, and things I think I know:  

Ohio State's C.J. Stroud is "by far" the best quarterback in the Big Ten, Gerry DiNardo says. 

No argument here. Not anymore. Did you happen to catch his performance Saturday night? Wow. 

"In terms of pure talent, my goodness," DiNardo said Friday on "Early Break with Sip and Jake" (93.7 FM). 

DiNardo also likes Adrian Martinez a lot. The Nebraska junior standout absolutely is among the upper echelon of Big Ten quarterbacks, said the veteran BTN analyst and former collegiate head coach.

"We go on the campus tour every fall and just fall in love with some of these guys because of their personalities and the way they work and their leadership during practices," DiNardo said. "Adrian's one of our favorite guys because of all those reasons. Plus, he's a really good player."

DiNardo then said something that often crosses my mind. That is, college football has never been so much based on the quarterback position, he said.

"One of the problems with that is if someone's on an average team, they're always trying to make too many plays," he said.

If you’re trying to determine the Big Ten’s best quarterback, Maryland's Taulia Tagovailoa might've been the choice earlier this season. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound junior led the league in passing efficiency as the Terrapins bolted to a 4-0 start. But the Terps have dropped three straight, and he's slid to fourth in passing efficiency. He didn't help himself by throwing five interceptions Oct. 1 against Iowa. 

Stroud, the strong-armed freshman, leads the league at 192.8, comfortably ahead of Payton Thorne of Michigan State (162.0), Martinez (156.7) and Tagovailoa (153.1).

It looked like Tagovailoa tried to beat Iowa himself. That makes sense in that he certainly belongs in the category of a strong quarterback in an average program. 

Some would say the same of Martinez. Some also would say Martinez is an average quarterback. But you'd never catch me saying that.

"You've got to cut him some slack," DiNardo said of the California native. "I mean, yeah, he may screw it up sometimes, but him making a play might be the only chance for Nebraska to win." 

The pressure on Martinez is enormous. Don't forget that part, DiNardo said.

"You've got this guy in a spread offense who touches the ball every down and is in a position that very few quarterbacks have been in — in a quarterback-centric attack in a historic program that hasn't won recently," the former coach said. "I mean, my god, that's a lot of pressure. 

"Of course he's going to make some mistakes because he wants to make a play and win." 

* I always enjoy hearing from analysts outside of the Nebraska realm. In that regard, DiNardo, 68, is a reasonable sort who thinks Nebraska "is one of the most interesting stories in the country." 

It's a historic program struggling mightily to regain its stature, much like Indiana men's basketball. 

"Nebraska football gets talked about outside its footprint, whether it's positive or negative because it's an important part of college football history," DiNardo said.

"It's one of those schools where if you're a college football fan, you want to know what's going on." 

What's going on is this: Nebraska is 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten entering the toughest part of its schedule. Next up is Purdue this week followed by games against Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa. The only road game in that stretch is Nov. 20 against UW.

"I think it's fair to say Ohio State and Iowa will be favorites," DiNardo said. "I think the other two could go either way."  

* How good is the Big Ten? Well, consider that analyst Matt Millen says Wisconsin has the best linebacker corps in the country.

Meanwhile, Ohio State's mammoth offensive line could be judged as the nation's best. The Buckeyes average a nation-leading 49.3 points per game. They were machine-like Saturday night in dismantling Indiana 54-7 in a rainstorm in Bloomington, Indiana.

In programs like Ohio State's, excuses don't fly. 

Yeah, Nebraska's November schedule is a doozy. 

* Michigan State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) clearly has done the best job in the Big Ten of maximizing its talent and resources. Kudos to Sparty head coach Mel Tucker. 

Minnesota also is doing well in that regard under P.J. Fleck, the fifth-year Gophers coach who has his team sitting in decent position to capture first place in the Big Ten West Division. 

Minnesota (5-2, 3-1) has won three straight since a 14-10 loss in Minneapolis to Bowling Green (2-6, 0-4 MAC). 

"Thank you, Gophers, for being the embodiment of a weird season," tweeted Associated Press college football writer Ralph D. Russo. 

You wonder how much Fleck is motivated by keeping his name in the hunt for bigger jobs. 

"He's a different bird, no doubt about it," DiNardo said.

* DiNardo thinks Tucker and Penn State's James Franklin ultimately will stay put, although he did say Franklin would be a good fit at USC if he wants the job. 

Tucker to LSU? Gerry sounded wary of the situation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"There's always someone there who wants to own the team. Someone wants to be Jerry Jones. Sometimes it's the athletic director. Sometimes it's a board member. Sometimes it's a politician." 

"I think nowadays, you have to have it in writing that you're going to hire your coaches. I mean, this athletic director at LSU is hiring assistant coaches for Orgeron. I can tell you what, that ain't going to go over with Mel Tucker. 

"Mel Tucker, it's his operation. You want it to be appropriate support. That's what he has at Michigan State, and James has great support at Penn State."  

"Southern Cal is by far the best job in the Pac-12, and it's not even close." 

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.


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