A closer look at the Leaders Division championship race

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – What’s brewing with the 2012 Ohio State Buckeyes …

BUCKEYES BUZZ: So everybody knows that Ohio State and Penn State, despite facing NCAA probation and a bowl ban, can still win the Big Ten’s Leaders Division, right?

They’re in a virtual dead heat right now, with the Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0) holding a narrow lead over the Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-0).

Wisconsin (5-2, 2-1) is next. Purdue (3-3, 0-2) is the only other team without three league losses.

Here’s what each team has left this season:

Ohio State: Purdue on Saturday at noon, Oct. 27 at Penn State, Nov. 3 Illinois, bye week, Nov. 17 at Wisconsin, Nov. 24 Michigan.

Penn State: at Iowa on Saturday, Oct. 27 Ohio State, Nov. 3 at Purdue, Nov. 10 at Nebraska, Nov. 17 Indiana and Nov. 24 Wisconsin.

Wisconsin: Minnesota on Saturday, Oct. 27 Michigan State, bye week, Nov. 10 at Indiana, Nov. 17 Ohio State, Nov. 24 at Penn State.

Purdue: at Ohio State on Saturday, Oct. 27 at Minnesota, Nov. 3 Penn State, Nov. 10 at Iowa, Nov. 17 at Illinois, Nov. 24 Indiana.

It’s still too early to pick a favorite, or even to determine which has the easiest schedule.

But at least there’s a glimpse of what’s ahead for the teams battling it out in the division.

WHO SAID IT: Guess who said the following: “The last two weeks we have not played very well defensively, and the numbers speak for themselves.”

You guessed Urban Meyer? Wrong. Luke Fickell? Nope. The answer is Purdue head coach Danny Hope.

His team has surrendered 82 points the last two weeks in losses to Michigan (44-13) and Wisconsin (38-14), both at home.

Now, both Meyer and Fickell have said something similar. Ohio State’s defense has given up 87 points the last two weeks in wins over Nebraska (63-38) and Indiana (52-49).

THE ODDS: Ohio State is a 19-point favorite against Purdue.

THE PICK: Associated Press College Football Writer Ralph Russo picked Ohio State to win, 45-21. The upset, considering the defenses the past two weeks, is he only had 66 total points in the game

ACLs IN THE B1G: Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Nord has his pick of players who have had torn anterior cruciate ligaments.

At just two positions, the ACL injuries include: RB Ralph Bolden, QB Robert Marve, RB Brandon Cotton and QB Rob Henry.

Bolden will likely play against Ohio State, while Marve and Henry are penciled in as the second- and third-string QBs behind starter Caleb TerBush.

ALL OR NOTHING: Meyer was asked on the Big Ten teleconference what he could do this week to help WR Devin Smith. He caught two TD passes in the win at Indiana, but he also dropped two wide-open balls that could easily have gone the distance.

“We do a lot of things with the receivers and he’s a perfect example,” Meyer said. “We do non-stop collision drills during practice, so like today, for example, we’ll make sure that he’s getting hit after every throw.”

Meyer is convinced Smith, perhaps the Buckeyes’ best big-play receiver with six touchdowns on only 21 catches, can cut back on the drops.

“I have enough confidence in him he’s going to get better,” Meyer said. “It’s either feast or famine, it’s either a touchdown or nothing. We just need to have more consistency.”