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Is Northern Illinois a Top 25 Program? Baver Answers Colin's Questions.

Colin: Cardale appeared to look a little frustrated struggling against the Rainbows. Meeting expectations is always tough as the starting QB at Ohio State. I've been at games and heard people criticize Terrelle and Braxton while they were putting up Big Ten player of the week numbers. Is it possible Cardale could struggle through the dog days of the schedule if Buckeye fans start nitpicking his every flaw? He isn't just a lovable backup QB who made good anymore. He is the starting QB and his Kenny Guiton is JT Barrett.

Brent: Yeah, the Buckeye fans are going to keep clamoring for Barrett as long as Cardale plays like he did against Hawaii. Of course JTB didn’t help himself much either with his performance. But Cardale seems to have no fear, and little seems to bother him. If anything, I think the fans nitpicking will motivate him. With that being said, Cardale may still end up on the bench because JTB is going to be very hard to hold off.

Colin: If the offense was a little flat, the defense brought the lumber. Who/what on defense is really jumping out at you?

Brent: With all due respect to Joey Bosa, Darren Lee is the best defender on this team. Enjoy him now because he won’t be around next year. The guy is everywhere. As far as newcomers, Sam Hubbard has gotten a lot of ink, but there is a reason Tyquan Lewis is a starter and Hubbard isn’t. Lewis, I think, will be an All-Big Ten player before he leaves here. Also, you have to love Gareon Conley’s play Saturday. Hawaii elected to take their shots at Conley instead of Eli Apple, and Conley responded big time.

Colin: Toledo jammed a big rocket in Bielema's pig-hole and Bowling Green smushed the Turtles. How good is the MAC and what problems does Northern Illinois present the Bucks? Over the last five years, is Northern Illinois a Top 25 program? If not, are they close?

Brent: I think people tend to overreact to a small number of games. The MAC is still the MAC (poor), the Big Ten is still the Big Ten (mediocre), and the SEC is still the SEC (tops). Northern Illinois over the past 5 years? Probably on the edge of the Top 25, with a minimum of 11 wins in each of the 5 seasons. They are a FAR BETTER opponent than Hawaii. As for the matchup, Ohio State’s offense should be better prepared for UNI’s defense, which plays your standard 4-3. The Bucks had problems with Hawaii’s 3-4 front that did some things OSU was not expecting. On the other side of the ball, QB Drew Hare is going to be more troublesome for the Buckeye defense than Hawaii’s Max Wittek, because of Hare’s mobility.

Colin: After two weeks, are there any teams nationally that are surprising you either good or bad?

Brent: Bad? Auburn. They were a 40-point favorite last week against Jacksonville State and needed OT to pull out the win. Simply unbelievable that a Gus Malzahn offense would struggle against any FCS school. Yeah, there was the look-ahead to LSU; but still, Jacksonville State? New QB Jeremy Johnson, so far, looks like a poor fit for Gus’ system. Yet, win at LSU Saturday and Auburn is a contender in the SEC West. Good? I guess the trendy pick is Northwestern, but it’s hard to gauge much after two games, and they are an underdog at Duke this week. That should tell you the bettors aren’t buying the NW hype just yet.

Colin: You hit two out of three games last week with the Bucks not covering by 3, your only miss. What games and lines will you be keeping an eye on this week?

Brent: Like last week, not a lot that jumps out at me, spread-wise. But as usual, we’ll start with the OSU game. Urban is now 25-18 against the spread as the OSU coach. To compensate, the lines are getting a bit ridiculous. When a team like Northern Illinois wins 11+ games every year, I think you take 34½ points….even against the best team in the country. And UNI is 9-1 against the spread in their last 10 gms against the B1G. I like the Bucks 45-14, which would be a cover for the Huskies. I’ll take Bama giving the 7 against Ole Miss…the line looks about 2 or 3 pts light to me, and Bama is the biggest threat to Ohio State as the nation’s best team. And I think you have to take the Irish getting points (2½) at home against Georgia Tech. Notre Dame definitely has more talent up and down their roster than Ga Tech, and I think new QB DeShone Kizer will hold his own for the Irish.