Here is this week's "Three And Out," a weekly feature that will provide a quick but opinionated take from Tom Dienhart on three hot topics.
1. The bloom is off the buckeye. As it turns out, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel doesn't hover above the fray like a pigskin angel, as so many scarlet and gray pom-pon wavers would have had you believe. The truth: Tressel rolls around in the mud like so many other coaches -- only he does a better job of image management than others. Following a report by Yahoo! Sports, Tressel 'fessed up that he had knowledge that several Buckeyes had sold memorabilia to the owner of a tattoo parlor more than eight months before the school said it was aware of the improper transactions.
And know this: The first time someone is caught doing something illegal almost assuredly is not the first time that they did something they weren't supposed to be doing. Ohio State's punishment of Tressel is laughable: a two-game suspension and $250,000 fine. The games Tressel will miss are home contests against Akron and Toledo; Woody Hayes' hat and whistle could coach those games and win. Tressel's offense was fireable. But instead of sending a message and setting a standard, Ohio State flogged him with a silk hanky. The message has been sent by the Buckeyes' brass, and if Tressel can skirt the rules with minimal consequences, Ohio State players and all university employees should be afforded the same luxury.
2. Open the door. The College Football Hall of Fame ballot was released this week. The notable first-time candidates are Nebraska QB Tommie Frazier, N.C. State RB Ted Brown, Alabama LB Derrick Thomas, Arizona DL Rob Waldrop and Michigan State RB Lorenzo White. Of that group, Frazier, Thomas and White deserve to be elected on the first ballot. That trio was among the most dominant I ever have seen. Frazier was an electric quarterback on some of the sport's most prolific offenses ever. His 1995 Cornhuskers squad had one of the game's best offenses. Thomas helped redefine the outside linebacker position and was one of the game's premier pass rushers. How many players change the game? White was an incredibly tough, durable and productive runner who rates as one of best backs ever in the Big Ten.
3. An extra-special Thanksgiving weekend. Nebraska first played Big Eight rival Oklahoma on Thanksgiving -- or the day after -- in the 1960s in what became a classic rivalry. When the Big 12 was hatched in 1996, the Huskers began ending their season against North Division foe Colorado. Now, membership in the Big Ten brings a new season-ending rival: Iowa. It could end up being the best season-ending foe yet for the Huskers. For now, the schools have agreed to meet the Friday after Thanksgiving in each of the next two seasons -- Nov. 25 at Nebraska this season and Nov. 23, 2012, at Iowa. Proximity will fuel the rivalry, as Nebraska and Iowa share a border. But so will strong programs led by talented coaches in Bo Pelini and Kirk Ferentz who are supported by some of the most rabid fan bases in the nation.