Tag:Ohio State
Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:53 pm
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The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 9

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

Last week's menu was full of surprises as both Wisconsin and Oklahoma fell from the ranks of the unbeatens, and this weekend could include a lot more of the same as Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Clemson all face challenges. Yes, we'll have to wait another week before LSU and Alabama are available, but there's plenty here this week that should help stem that hunger.

BREAKFAST

#13 Nebraska vs. #9 Michigan State - ESPN, 12pm ET

It's not often that the marquee matchup of the Big Ten kicks off before noon local time, but that's what we've got this week with Michigan State visiting Nebraska with an 11:00 CT kickoff time. The Spartans come off a stunning 37-31 win against Wisconsin, and Nebraska comes off a bye week; those factors combined with an early kickoff means it's going to be difficult not to come out flat in this contest. Whoever sustains a high effort from the first to the fourth quarter seems likely to get the win here. - Adam Jacobi

#16 Texas A&M vs. Missouri - FX, 12pm ET

These two teams will meet for the final time as Big 12 rivals, but that doesn't mean it will the the last time they meet in a conference game does it, Mizzou? Wink, wink, nudge. It's a big game for both teams as Texas A&M still has an outside chance at a Big 12 title and BCS game but can't afford another loss, and Missouri really needs a win or its bowl hopes could be in some trouble. - Tom Fornelli

Florida State vs. North Carolina State - ESPNU, 12pm ET

Florida State played themselves out of the national picture with three straight losses, dropping them from the polls and the ACC title race.  The Seminoles redemption tour welcomes N.C. State to Tallahassee on Saturday, with both teams at 4-3 hoping to move one step closer to bowl eligibility.  Since EJ Manuel's return to the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury in the loss to Oklahoma, the Seminoles offense has regained some the early-season production that had pundits talking "title contender."  But N.C. State boasts one of the league's best defensive playmakers in sophomore David Amerson.  Amerson leads the nation with eight interceptions, even returning one for a touchdown.  The Seminoles have a lot of talent on the outside, but Manuel (seven interceptions in six games) needs to be wary of where #1 is at all times. - Chip Patterson

Vanderbilt vs. #8 Arkansas - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET

At 4-3, the Commodores are just two wins away from doing something in one year under James Franklin they've done only one other time in their past 29 seasons--go to a bowl game. And with potential All-American corner Casey Hayward leading a secondary capable of keeping Jarius Wright and the Hog receivers (mostly) under wraps, the potential for a stunner is there. Is new quarterback Jordan Rodgers really up to moving the ball consistently against an SEC defense, though? - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

#3 Oklahoma State vs. Baylor - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Do you like to see a lot of points scored and very little defense getting in the way? Well then I've got good news for you, because Oklahoma State and Baylor are going to score a lot of points and not play much defense. This could truly be one of those games in which the first team to score 50 wins, and Baylor is just as capable of put points up in bunches. There's a chance that another Oklahoma school could suffer its first lost this Saturday. - TF

#10 Kansas State vs. #11 Oklahoma - ESPN, 3:30pm ET

Kansas State has been one of the biggest surprises in college football this season, getting off to a 7-0 start and even winning a couple of shootouts along the way. That being said, the real test for Bill Snyder and the Wildcats begins on Saturday when they face Oklahoma. The Sooners are likely to be a bit cranky following last week's loss, and will be looking to end Kansas State's unbeaten season as well. - TF

#22 Georgia vs. Florida - CBS, 3:30pm ET

CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart has written that Mark Richt's job is on the line in this one, and given that the Dawgs won't win this year's well-water SEC East without a win Saturday -- begging the question of when he ever would win the East again -- we're inclined to agree. The good news is that unless John Brantley provides a serious spark to the Gator offense, he has the team to get the job done; the Gator front hasn't looked its best against straight-ahead power running games, and Isaiah Crowell gives Georgia plenty of pop in that department. - JH

#21 Penn State vs. Illinois - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Coming into the season, it seemed far more likely that these two teams would have three losses apiece eight games in than three combined. But even with the Illini fading, they're still 6-2, and PSU currently leads the Big Ten with a 7-1 (4-0) mark. As such, there are major consequences for both the Legends Division race and bowl positioning here -- not to mention two of the Big Ten's best wideouts in A.J. Jenkins and Derek Moye. Don't sleep on this game -- there'll probably be some late-game theatrics, and when Ron Zook's involved, that's a recipe for chaos. - AJ

DINNER

Tennessee vs. #14 South Carolina - ESPN2, 7:15pm ET

Can Justin Worley hack it? If the Vols' new true freshman starter can hang in there against Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Gamecock pass rush (no mean feat), the pieces could be in place for an upset. Carolina's ground game could be completely MIA without Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looked awfully wobbly his last road game, and Tauren Poole has finally given the Vols a rushing game with a pulse. With Derek Dooley's seat growing ever-slightly-warmer and Carolina's East hopes on the line, this is a big one for both teams. - JH

Georgia Tech vs. #6 Clemson - ABC, 8pm ET

The primetime rematch of the 2009 ACC title game (which the NCAA will tell you "didn't happen") was a possible selection for ESPN's College Gameday two weeks ago when both teams were undefeated. But since two straight Georgia Tech losses, this game has lost some of the luster it once carried. That does not make it any less of a trap game for the undefeated Tigers. Clemson's BCS dreams could be erased in the dust clouds of Paul Johnson's grinding option attack, which when run effectively can eat up game clock and wear down opposing defenses. If ABC is broadcasting this game in your region, it should definitely be worth your time to watch for fireworks. - CP

#20 USC vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 8pm ET

The first top 20 match up in the Coliseum in over three years, this has turned into the game of the week thanks to a marquee quarterback showdown featuring Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. This game likely comes down to defense - as in who can stop who - as the Cardinal has a trio of talented tight ends 6-foot-6 or taller and the Trojans have All-American candidate in wide receiver Robert Woods. - Bryan Fischer

Ohio State vs. #12 Wisconsin - ESPN, 8pm ET

If this game were in Madison, the Badgers would probably cruise. It ain't. Fresh off their first loss in their first game in a truly hostile environment, Russell Wilson and crew have to travel to Columbus to face a Buckeye team that's just finding its stride after injuries and suspensions rocked its first half of the season. And just to up the ante even further, this one's under the lights. What a way to end a great slate of Big Ten action. - AJ

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Washington vs. Arizona - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET

Looking for a good old fashioned, late night, Pac-12 shootout? Look no further than the Huskies and Wildcats. Both teams have struggled defensively and Washington gave up over 400 yards rushing to Stanford last week. Keith Price and Nick Foles are two quarterbacks who are a joy to watch and they have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. Like offense? This is your game. - BF 
Posted on: October 27, 2011 4:07 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 9



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

I learned a few things about myself last weekend. First of all, I learned that passing my girlfriend in the standings of our year-long picks competition brought me more satisfaction than I ever thought possible. In fact, probably a lot more than it should. I mean, should I be so thrilled with myself at being able to pick college football games -- a sport I cover for a living -- better than my girlfriend who kinda-sorta pays attention alongside me on Saturday afternoons?

Probably not.

The other thing I learned is that the girlfriend is taking this competition very seriously. There wasn't much joy in Womanville on Saturday as she kept seeing the teams she picked fail, knowing that I was overtaking her in the standings. I've been sleeping with one eye open all week.

Nebraska (-4 1/2) vs. Michigan State - Saturday, 12pm (All times Eastern)

Man - This is not the easiest game to pick, as I'm never sure what to expect from Nebraska in any given week, and this is still the same Michigan State team that lost to Notre Dame. That being said, sometimes things happen for a reason, so I'm going to ride the momentum of Michigan State's win last week. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "After watching the Spartans rewrite the ending of '300' against both Michigan and Wisconsin, I just can't go against them, especially if I'm getting points. (Given my recent track record, congratulations, Nebraska!)" Pick: Michigan State

Machine - The Machine has no concept of religion, therefore no Hail Marys can save Sparta this weekend. Nebraska wins 27-17. Pick: Nebraska

Texas A&M (-11 1/2) vs. Missouri - Saturday, 12pm

Man - While I admire the way James Franklin stood up after last week's turnover-laden performance to take the blame for Missouri's woes, I'm not putting any faith in Franklin or the Tigers offense until they give me a real reason to. Oh, and SEC! SEC! SEC! Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "Hey, Mizzou, as you prepare to make your high-drama Big 12 exit, thinking you might want to come up with something better than falling on your butt and having your skirt fly up over your head." Pick: Texas A&M 

Machine - Texas A&M left first, and therefore it has the upper hand. Aggies roll 34-21. Pick: Texas A&M

Rutgers vs. West Virginia (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Before last weekend I thought West Virginia was the only thing you could count on in the Big East. Now? Good luck. While I don't want to underestimate the impact of Eric LeGrand's appearance before the game starts, I can't help but feel it will wear off by halftime and West Virginia will get rolling. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "When picking a Big East game, I have learned that the best strategy is a coin, a hard surface and a stiff shot of whiskey. West Virginia should win but with paralyzed player Eric LeGrand miraculously leading the Scarlet Knights onto the field, I'll call "tails" and hope it stays close." Pick: Rutgers

Machine - The Machine knows nothing of human emotions or the lifts they can provide. West Virginia stomps all over Rutgers, winning 44-13. Pick: West Virginia

Kansas State vs. Oklahoma (-13 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I have this nagging feeling that Oklahoma's loss last weekend may have woken a sleeping giant, and that the Sooners are going to take it out on Kansas State this weekend. I just can't shake it. Still, sometimes you have to go with your heart, and since Kansas State is one of my favorite stories so far this season, I'm not giving up on it. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I know the Sooners are looking for someone to beat up on after that shameful loss to Texas Tech last week.  But giving thirteen and a half points to a 7-0 team playing at home, the same team who beat the team that beat Oklahoma? Ooooooo-kay." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Well, it was fun while it lasted, Wildcats. Oklahoma wins 47-17. Pick: Oklahoma

Oklahoma State (-15 1/2) vs. Baylor - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Quite simply, there is no game this weekend I'm looking forward to more than this one. The over/under on this game was set at 79.5 and my original reaction was "That's WAY too low." I don't know who wins, but I know there's going to be a lot of points and very little defense. So I have to take the points. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Not much else to say here." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine -  The Machine seems to agree with me about the lack of defense and the overabundance of real good times in this one. This is Pitbull's Dr. Pepper Lock Of The Week. Oklahoma State 51-45. Pick: Baylor

Florida vs. Georgia (-2 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I'm way too confident in Georgia to win this game, and that worries me a bit, but I'm still going with the Bulldogs. Pick: Georgia

Woman - "Uncertain who will prevail but I will bet that the average blood alcohol content of the tailgaters will be the reverse equivalent of that spread." Pick: Georgia 

Machine - Everybody in the club getting tipsy, especially the offenses. Georgia wins 16-10. Pick: Georgia

Tennessee vs. South Carolina (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 7:15pm

Man - I have no idea what to expect from a South Carolina offense that is now without both Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore. Throw in the fact that this game is in Knoxville and things get even more confusing. That being said, Tennessee is starting a quarterback this week who wasn't even supposed to play this season, so I'm going with Steve Spurrier. Pick: South Carolina

Woman - "All four of Tennessee's losses have been against SEC teams, which is to say, good teams.  The Vols will go down fighting. In a bad wig." Pick: South Carolina 

Machine - The Machine recognizes Marcus Lattimore as one of its own, but The Machine also knows that it was built to be replaced. South Carolina wins 23-17. Pick: South Carolina

Georgia Tech vs. Clemson (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Georgia Tech's been in a bit of a freefall the last few weeks, and while I think that the Jackets will be able to move the ball with relative ease against the Clemson defense, I can't help but feel like the Tigers just have too many weapons on offense. Tech won't be able to keep up. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "For the first six weeks, the Yellow Jackets were stinging everything in their path. Then came two dismal away games and lots of questions. Yeah, they're up against 8-0 Clemson but they're also at home, and with a rivalry where 14 of the last 16 games have been decided by an average of 4.6 points, well..." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - Down goes Dabo! Down goes Dabo! Georgia Tech wins 31-27. Pick: Georgia Tech

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - The Ohio State of late October is much better than the one we saw to begin the season thanks to the return of some key suspended players. That being said, the offense still isn't anything wonderful, and though I expect that Russell Wilson and the Badgers will have some trouble on Saturday night, I still feel they'll pull off the win. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Both teams have their seasons on the line and the loser can kiss the Rose Bowl goodbye. But until last week's stunning loss, the Badgers won each of their games this season by at least 31 points. They won't get close to that number but will beat the spread and keep this magic year going." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Ohio State will manage to cover, but The Machine doesn't think you should expect a lot of excitement in this one as Wisconsin escapes Columbus with a 13-10 win. Pick: Ohio State

USC vs. Stanford (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Listen, I have no problem taking Stanford against anybody when the Cardinal are giving up 20 points in the spread. You think I'm not going to jump on a spread this small? Sorry, USC, but just because Stanford hasn't played a great team yet this season doesn't mean they're playing one this weekend, either. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Hey, look, it's the One Percent Bowl! Stanford is LSU plus 300 more SAT points and a tan.  Pick against them at your own peril." Pick: Stanford

Machine - Hope you enjoyed that win in South Bend, Trojans, because the good times end on Saturday night. Stanford wins 31-14. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Man 51-34 (6-4)
2. Woman 50-35 (3-7)
3. Machine 44-41 (6-4)
Posted on: October 26, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Wisconsin at Ohio State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WILL WIN IF: Russell Wilson hasn't lost his mojo. Wilson had a rough game in Wisconsin's 37-31 loss to Michigan State last week, complete with two very regrettable throws that ended up getting intercepted, but his stats still weren't very bad, and he's still the second-rated passer in the NCAA so far this season, barely trailing Robert Griffin III. That said, for as great as MSU's defense has been all year long, Wilson's not going to get much respite this week -- even though the Buckeyes' defensive production hasn't yet reached its overall talent level yet.

OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: It gets four quarters of dominance from its defense. Ohio State's biggest win of the season came against Illinois, when it stifled the Illini attack and surrendered all of seven points for the game. In OSU's most embarrassing loss, the defense still only allowed 10 points to the same MSU team that just put 37 on the scoreboard last week. And for two and a half quarters, Nebraska had been bottled up by the Buckeyes, trailing 27-6. We know how that one turned out, of course, but that's the point: If the Buckeyes go hard for 60 minutes, they can effectively shut down just about anybody. And if OSU doesn't bring defensive intensity for the entire game, an offense like Wisconsin's is more than capable of racking up points in a hurry.

X-FACTOR: The crowd. Ohio Stadium has long been the paramount of the Big Ten's arenas, and it's not hard to see why: the place is huge, seating over 100,000 fans, and its double-tiered setup makes those rabid Buckeye partisans even more deafening, which they usually are. Usually. But with OSU's struggles, the fans have been muted at times, even turning downright hostile during the MSU 10-7 victory in the conference opener. If Wisconsin can jump all over the Buckeyes early -- particularly with defensive stops -- the crowd should be a little more hospitable for Russell Wilson and company to run their offense.
Posted on: October 24, 2011 4:17 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:20 pm
 

The Poll Attacks: Week 8

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.

With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.

AP Poll           Coaches Poll           Harris Poll           BCS

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)

Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC

Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: Southern Miss

  The Golden Eagles are ranked in the top 25 for the first time since 2004 in the Coaches Poll but are just "receiving votes" in the AP. Voters must not be aware of them shutting down June Jones' offense on Saturday, holding SMU to just three points and 330 yards. They're behind teams like West Virginia (blown out by Syracuse) and Arizona State (lost to Illinois, blown out by Oregon) for some reason. Yes, they're a Conference USA team so they have to fight for respect a lot more than others but they should be on everyone's ballot at 6-1.

Overrated: Nebraska

  To be fair, it's hard to figure out where to slot Nebraska because of the mediocre group of teams outside of the top 10-12 or so. The blowout loss to Wisconsin looks even worse now and having to come back and beat Ohio State is not a ringing endorsement for a top 15 team given their troubles in the passing game. We'll figure out if they deserve a high-ranking after Saturday but until then, they probably should be behind Virginia Tech and even Texas A&M.

California Craziness

A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.

  I swear that Wilner just likes being the one in this space in order to gloat to his Bay Area compatriot Ratto. First off, teams that are on his ballot that shouldn't be: Auburn (17th), Washington (21st), Texas (23rd). Teams not on his ballot that should be: Houston, Michigan, Penn State. Also head-scratching: Auburn above USC, Kansas State 19th, Virginia Tech one spot behind Washington, Arkansas ahead of Stanford, South Carolina in the top 12, Georgia in the top 15.

What were you thinking? Desmond Conner, Hartford Courant

  Conner's top 20 isn't bad at all, aside from Nebraska being ahead of both Michigan State and Wisconsin. The bottom five is disastrous however. Arizona State is 20th, followed by West Virginia, Auburn, Georgia Tech, Illinois and Penn State. He was the only voter to rank the Fighting Zookers despite losing back-to-back games to Ohio State and Purdue and has one-loss Penn State dead last on his ballot. Conner is also the only one to leave USC unranked.


Posted on: October 24, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: October 24, 2011 2:39 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 24: How rare is 1-vs-2?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.



DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 12, or the jersey number worn by Greg McElroy when he threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns in the Crimson Tide's 24-15 victory over LSU Nov. 7, 2009. (12 was also the jersey number worn by Bear Bryant and other Tide legends like Joe Namath and Kenny Stabler.) Also the number worn by Jarrett Lee (above), who'll have to do something similar to pull out a victory in Tuscaloosa in 12 days.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama is obviously an epic, historic matchup. But how epic? How historic? How often does No. 1 play No. 2, particularly in the regular season?

The ascension of the BCS national championship game has meant that 1-vs.-2 events are much more common than they used to be, since by BCS mandate the nation's top two teams have to finish the season by playing each other. (There used to be rare exceptions in which the BCS formula would override the polls -- as in 2003, when consensus polling No. 1 USC played No. 4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl -- but the updated polls-make-up-two-thirds formula makes this highly unlikely.) But that doesn't mean they're frequent by any stretch of the imagination, with The Tide and Tigers' showdown only the 46th such meeting in 75 years of the AP poll.

But even that roughly three-every-five-years ratio doesn't do anything like justice to the rarity of LSU-Alabama 2011. For one thing, regular season 1-vs-2 matchups only account for 22 of those 45 occurences, with bowls and conference championship games representing the other 23.

LSU-Alabama will be the first such game in five years, with No. 1 Ohio State's defeat of No. 2 Michigan in 2006 the most recent example. It's also the earliest in the season Nos. 1 and 2 have met since the top-ranked Buckeyes took on No. 2, defending national champion Texas on Sept. 9 that same 2006 season.

But here's the kicker: LSU-Alabama is the first ever 1-vs-2 regular season matchup between SEC teams. It's never happened. Both the 2008 and 2009 SEC championship games were 1-vs-2 meetings involving Alabama and Florida, but that's as close as the SEC has come to what we'll see Nov. 5.

So yes, we'd say the answer to "how epic/historic?" is "very." (For an updated list of every 1-vs-2 matchup in Division I history, check out page 87 of this NCAA PDF.)

THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: With All-American Barrett Jones having taken over (and thrived at) the Tide's left tackle spot, five-star freshman lineman Cyrus Kouandjio wasn't likely to see major time against the Tigers unless Jones left the game with an injury.

But the news that Kouandjio has had knee surgery and is expected to miss the remainder of the season is a blow to the Tide all the same; not only would he have been Jones' immediate replacement at tackle should one be needed, but Jones's versatility also meant that Kouandjio might have gotten the nod if Jones was needed as an emergency replacement as one of the guard spots. Kouandjio's absence substantially limits the Tide's options should the worst-case scenario occur.

But if Nick Saban sounds angry and curt at his next press conference (well, moreso than usual), that might not be the issue. Via Birmingham News reporter Izzy Gould, here's a photo of Saban's car being ticketed in Birmingham Monday (and yes, the ticketer was made aware of the identity of her ticketee):



Saban was in Birmingham to speak to the city's Monday Morning Quarterback Club, who he told he wasn't worried about his team's slow start against Tennessee. Why? Because "Ali didn't knock out everyone in the first round."

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: Should we hold off on presuming the "Synthetic Three" of Tyrann Mathieu, Spencer Ware and Tharold Simon will be back from suspension to face the Tide? It seems LSU chancellor Michael Martin would like us to, telling USA Today that their status for the game has not yet been decided. Martin said their availability was out of Les Miles's hands and would be determined by athletic director Joe Alleva.

"The athletic director will ultimately make the decision, (and) he'll consult with me," said Martin. "Fortunately for them and the team, they have two weeks to get their act together because we have a bye week. They have been directed to some counseling, and they will now be subject to greater scrutiny for the remainder of their time at LSU."

Obviously, losing three players of Mathieu's, Ware's and Simon's abilities would be a monumental blow. But given what's at stake and that this appears to be a first offense, it will be a major shock if all three aren't in uniform to face the Tide.

One player who doesn't want to wait these 12 long days ahead before the game: LSU senior lineman T-Bob Hebert. "I get goose bumps talking about it," he said. "I can't wait. A game like this doesn't come along very often - or ever." (As pointed out above: it doesn't.)

Posted on: October 23, 2011 6:57 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 8



Posted by Adam Jacobi

A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: The fans at Spartan Stadium

The scene in East Lansing Saturday night was Big Ten football at its best: a packed house under the lights, a national audience, and two highly-ranked programs duking it out for all 60 minutes. The end of the Wisconsin-Michigan State game was phenomenal beyond comparison, of course, but even without the miracle touchdown from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol to finish the game off it was still probably the best of the year in the Big Ten. This time, there was no collapse, no widespread ineptitude, nothing but a mighty good football game.

So being that the fans at Spartan stadium were nice and loud (and probably, ahem, well-lubricated by the time of the late kickoff) and they got to see such a stellar effort by both sides, the myriad big plays by MSU -- including the blocked punt for a touchdown being celebrated above -- and the astonishing game-winning play, yes, they are all the winners here. I've personally been part of a home crowd who saw a game anywhere close to that once: Purdue at Iowa, 2002. That was an incredible, euphoric experience, and Saturday's MSU win hit those notes of amazement even better than the 2002 game did. Sparty fans, you don't need to be told this, but you just witnessed a game for the ages. Treasure it.  

LOSER: Russell Wilson's Heisman campaign

For the first half of the season, Russell Wilson looked like a great quarterback making fools of bad defenses (Nebraska included). His yards per throw not only led the NCAA, it was a full yard ahead of the pace to set a new FBS record, at 12.16. Wilson was a legitimate Heisman contender, and hey, with what Wisconsin was doing to everybody on its schedule, why not?

Unfortunately, on Saturday, Wilson looked like a quarterback who hadn't played a good defense all year, playing a good defense. The end result was several ill-advised throws, two picks, an intentional grounding call for a safety, and easily the worst start of his brief Badger career: 14-21, 223 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs (Yes, that is his worst start. Like we said, bad defenses). Now, Wilson did engineer four touchdown drives, so it's not as if he was beaten into submission all night, but the offense completely fell apart when Montee Bell was on the sidelines, leading one to wonder if the key to keeping the Badger offense rolling has never actually been Wilson to begin with. 

WINNER: Keith Nichol

Keith Nichol, seen at right with a very good reason to smile, hasn't had very many opportunities to be a hero in his college career, though it seemed at the start that he'd have chances at every turn; he was originally recruited by Bob Stoops to be a quarterback for Oklahoma, and he only went to MSU because of the emergence of one Sam Bradford down there. Once Nichol transferred to Michigan State, he split time in a QB platoon with Kirk Cousins at the beginning of 2009 before Cousins was named the full-time starter.

Now, there are plenty of quarterbacks who would have simply transferred to an FCS school in search of immediate playing time at that point, and nobody would have begrudged Nichol if that was the path he had chosen. Instead, a spate of WR suspensions going into the 2009 Alamo Bowl against Texas Tech prompted Nichol to switch to wideout, and while he hasn't set the world on fire there, he has at least remained a productive 4th option for Cousins -- and a loyal teammate to the rest of the program. It takes a lot of maturity to catch passes from the guy who beat you out for a starting role at QB, and if that doesn't sound true, try beign forced into a different job at work and taking orders from the person who took the job you wanted. Right. Not fun.

So, seeing Nichol go through the first 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the game without a catch, only to become the hero on the last play like that? That's not only a joy, it's a testament to program stability. Does a hypothetical freshman backup wideout in Nichol's stead know to be in that position to look for a deflection? Does that hypothetical WR also have the will to push the ball across the plane against multiple tacklers? Neither is a given, but we do know the answer is yes for Nichol. The phrase "couldn't have happened to a more deserving guy" is trite to the point that it's usually used sarcastically, but it absolutely applies here.

LOSER: Ron Zook, again

Forget the 21-14 final score of the Illinois-Purdue game, please, because it paints a very inaccurate picture of how close the contest really was. The Boilermakers ran out to a 21-0 lead in the first half, and Illinois never touched the ball again after bringing the game to 21-14. Despite the large lead Purdue rang up in the win, we'll refrain from saying the game "didn't feel like an upset," because it absolutely did; Illinois had scoring chances but blew them, while Caleb TerBush and the rest of the Purdue offense just flailed ineffectually in the second half and got a win to show for it anyway. 

Illinois should not have been so mentally flat coming into the game, though, especially coming right off a loss to Ohio State (who, like Michigan, was off this week) where the Illini handed the anemic OSU offense scoring chances in the second half time and time again. The mental errors need to be corrected coming off a game like that, not magnified. That is on Ron Zook and his coaching staff, 100%. And so even with Illinois at 6-2, it's that "2" that looms larger at this point in the season, and that threatens to balloon in a hurry if Zook doesn't get the team back on track. Otherwise, there's really no telling how much more patience the Illinois brass will have for him. 

WINNER: Marvin McNutt

Coming into this week's action against Indiana, Iowa WR Marvin McNutt just needed one TD to break the all-time Hawkeye receiving touchdown record of 21 that he shared with Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes. McNutt got that touchdown on Saturday. Then he got two more. In the first half. In related news, the Hawkeyes-Hoosiers game was not very close.

McNutt now has 41 catches for 757 yards and eight TDs in seven games thus far, all of which lead the team by substantial margins. If he keeps that pace up for the rest of the year, he would shatter Iowa single-season receiving records in both yardage and scoring -- and he would also set Iowa career marks in receptions and receiving yardage to go with his touchdown mark. So keep your eyes on No. 7, Iowa fans; he's probably the best wide receiver in school history.

LOSER:  PersaStrength

It would be inappropriate to lay the struggles of Northwestern at the feet of Dan Persa, since he's hardly the worst performer on the Wildcats; for one, Persa isn't responsible for the defense, which currently gives up about 250 yards of passing per game and can't crack the top 100 in FBS in pass efficiency defense.

That said, though, Persa is at least the most visible of the Wildcats, and is so by the direct actions of an athletic department that hyped him as "PersaStrong," even as he (understandably) struggled to recover from a severe Achilles injury. And the fact is, Persa's just not at the level he played at last season. His mobility is hampered to the point that he doesn't run designed rushes, and he doesn't have the same timing down with his receivers that he did last year. He also doesn't seem entirely recovered from that injury, though he's at least at the point in the process where it's going to take play on the field to get back to the "100%" of 2010 and not more time with team doctors.

All in all, though, Persa's barely even beating out Kain Colter for the starting QB role, and while we expect Persa to at least continue that mastery of the starting lineup, the fact that Colter's still getting snaps there every week demonstrates that even the Northwestern coaches don't fully trust Dan Persa's leg yet. And given that, it seems more than a little silly that he was the focus of a Heisman campaign coming into the season, doesn't it? 
Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 5:25 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 8



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

This could be the week that makes or breaks all of us. After spending a month trying to catch The Woman in this race, she's pulled away the last few weeks and taken a two-game lead once again. I'd be concerned about this in any other week, but this week things are different.

The spreads this week are insane.

When they were first released there were 20+ point spreads everywhere I looked. I trimmed them down to the ten games that were the most, shall we say, sane, but still, there's not a lot of confidence between Woman and I in our picks this week. When the spreads are like this, you may as well be flipping  a coin, but I'm not introducing that aspect until next season.

Syracuse vs. West Virginia (-13 1/2) - Friday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - The thing that drives me insane about the Big East is that every week the team that is supposed to be the best team in the conference loses to somebody they have no business losing to. Thankfully, I'm confident that West Virginia is a team that knows what it should be doing and will do it. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "No way Syracuse is going to surprise West Virginia two years in a row. Not even a raised eyebrow." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - The Machine must be a big fan of Dana Holgorsen's skullet and Geno Smith, as the Mountaineers blow up the Carrier Dome 51-17. Pick: West Virginia

Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I know that Oklahoma State's defense isn't exactly wonderful, but the Missouri offense has been so inconsistent this season that I just don't see any way that it can keep up with the Cowboys. Even if Missouri's defense can slow the Cowboys down a bit, I just don't think it'll be enough. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "Yes, the Cowboys are playing stellar ball and you'd think this would be another step in their march toward BCS glory.  But Mizzou is 3-0 at Faurot Field and its three losses have been close ones against good teams. Make assumptions about Missouri folk at your own peril." Pick: Missouri 

Machine - The Machine sees a pretty close game for three quarters before Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon have a party in the fourth quarter and pull away late. Cowboys win 40-24. Pick: Oklahoma State

Clemson (-10 1/2) vs. North Carolina - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Considering the way that Clemson has a habit of making things really close for three quarters before finally pulling away, this point spread does scare me a bit. That being said, North Carolina doesn't really inspire a lot of confidence in me, and since Clemson is at home I'll put my faith in the Tigers. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "To be honest, I know virtually nothing about Tar Heel football.  I expect that will still be true on Sunday." Pick: Clemson

Machine - The Machine sees the annual rite of Clemson blowing up taking place this week as North Carolina wins 24-17. Pick: North Carolina

Kansas vs. Kansas State (-12 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Somewhat odd that Kansas State goes from being an underdog every week against teams it's better than to nearly a two-touchdown favorite, but Kansas has just been that bad. Also, let's not forget that Kansas State beat Kansas 59-7 last season and I don't think last season's Kansas State team is as good as this version. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I have created (and by created, I mean, found) a very special Sunflower Showdown Emo tribute for the Jayhawks to be played directly following the game. Enjoy." Pick: Kansas State 

Machine - Game recognize game, and The Machine recognizes Bill Snyder's likely stoppable killing machine, but it won't be stopped in Lawrence. Kansas State wins 31-13. Pick: Kansas State

Purdue vs. Illinois (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This spread seems a bit too easy to me. In my opinion, gamblers are overreacting to what Illinois did against Ohio State last week and what Purdue did against Penn State. Penn State's offense is terrible enough to keep Purdue in a game, and the Boilermakers have been beaten pretty bad this year by teams that spread it out. In Zook I trust! Pick: Illinois

Woman - "It's hard to shake the memory of the Illini's cringe-worthy outing last week but bottom line, they're a better team than the Boilermakers. Purdue will play the best game of its season and keep it close, but not that close." Pick: Illinois

Machine - The Machine seems to think that Ron Zook is going to have a lot of questions to answer this week as Purdue knocks off the Illini 21-3. Pick: Purdue

LSU (-22 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I don't want to pick against Les Miles. I really, really, really don't. Still, without the Honey Badger and Spencer Ware, I'm just not as confident in LSU's ability to cover that spread. Will the LSU defense smother a quarterback making his first career start for the third straight week? Of course it will, but will the LSU offense cover more than three scores? Probably, because I'm picking against Les and must be punished for it. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "Yeah, LSU will win but given the news that three of its top players have been suspended, I think that line may be a bit stout." Pick: Auburn

Machine - The Machine is not a fan of three touchdown spreads for LSU offenses without its leading rush, as LSU wins 17-10. Pick: Auburn

Miami (-3 1/2) vs. Georgia Tech - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I had been pretty high on Georgia Tech before last week, but man did the Ramblin' Wreck get exposed by Virginia last weekend. That plus the fact that Jacory Harris is actually playing pretty well for Miami makes me lean toward the home side here. Pick: Miami

Woman - "When I think of the NCAA and scholar athletes, these two schools leap immediately to mind, especially Hurricanes' DL Micanor Regis and his groundbreaking work on the physics of balls - please skip to minute five for Micanor's powerful research.  Unfortunately, Micanor got so deep into his studies last weekend, he'll have to miss this game, which gives the 6-1 Wrecks a leg up." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - The Machine sees Miami getting up early, and a Georgia Tech playing from behind is not a very good Georgia Tech to bet on. Hurricanes win 28-17. Pick: Miami

Northwestern vs. Penn State (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - As I mentioned in the Illinois/Purdue pick, Penn State's offense is terrible. It's defense has been great, but it's also faced mediocre offenses all season save for Alabama, and we all remember how that went. So with Penn State going on the road I have to go with the team that's getting the points. Pick: Northwestern

Woman - "Northwestern stems the bleeding from three straight losses and Dan Persa gets to show his newly bald head around campus again." Pick: Northwestern

Machine - It's a clean sweep as The Machine sees Pat Fitzgerald's team getting its act together this week and beating Penn State 30-17. Pick: Northwestern

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (-8 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - We're nearly in November and Wisconsin is leaving Madison to play a football game for the first time all season. Wisconsin will also be facing an offense that I feel can move the ball on a defense that hasn't really faced much of a test this season. I don't know that Michigan State is going to win this game, but I do know that they're going to keep it closer than anybody else has against the Badgers this season. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "Everyone's talking about how 'emotional' this game will be.  After the third quarter, quietly emotional." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Well, we're going to have one less unbeaten to contend with after this weekend. Michigan State wins 24-20. Pick: Michigan State

Stanford (-20 1/2) vs. Washington - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Every week I toy with the idea of picking against Stanford because the spread seems so large, and then every week I end up picking Stanford anyway and the Cardinal cover. So why change up a formula that's working? Pick: Stanford

Woman - "I get all excited about the Huskies impressive 2011 season and then I remember last year's game against the Cardinal.  41-0. 41-0. 41-0. Did I mention 41-0?" Pick: Stanford

Machine - Andrew Luck for President. Stanford destroys Washington 48-10. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last week)

1. Woman 47-28 (6-4)
2. Man 45-30 (5-5)
3. Machine 38-37 (4-6)
Posted on: October 18, 2011 2:00 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Wisconsin at Michigan State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WILL WIN IF: The offensive line keeps doing its job. At this point, it's just not plausible that Russell Wilson will make unforced errors at quarterback, or that the Montee Ball/James White tandem won't be able to take advantage of a point of attack being dominated by blockers. Thus, if Wisconsin's blockers are able to keep up their performance from this season (and really, the last two seasons as well), the Badger offense is probably going to score at least 31 points (and possibly much more). Assuming the defense doesn't completely gag, that should be enough to seal a victory in East Lansing.

MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN IF: Its defense can exert its will once again. Ever since the Spartans allowed 31 points to Notre Dame in that embarrassing Week 3 loss, their defense has bowed up substantially. They almost managed a shutout at Ohio State, frequently eliciting boos from the Buckeye faithful as the defensive front forced Braxton Miller from the game. The defense held Denard Robinson and Michigan to 14 points the next week, even icing the game with a pick-six in the fourth quarter. And now, it's got to solve a Badger offense that has basically done everything correctly thus far this year. So what defensive performance will we see from MSU? The one it got against Notre Dame, or against OSU?

X-FACTOR: Will Gholston's status. The MSU defense is going to need all the help it can get slowing down Wisconsin's offense, so whether stud DE Will Gholston will play is going to be hugely important. Gholston was flagged for punching Michigan OL Taylor Lewan during last week's game, and though he wasn't ejected for the foul, the Big Ten may still choose to suspend Gholston for a game, as it did with Illinois LB Jonathan Brown after Brown gave Northwestern OL Patrick Ward a "low blow" via a well-placed knee. For what it's worth, MSU is not choosing to suspend Gholston, as he remains atop the depth chart for this week's game, but until the Big Ten agrees that no suspension is needed, Gholston's status remains in doubt.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com