Tag:Keith Nichol
Posted on: December 2, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 2:29 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 14

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.

It's the final weekend of the season, and therefore it's the final Saturday Meal Plan of 2011. It was a season that went by just a little too quickly for our tastes, but thankfully we have some excellent options on the menu for this weekend. There are some official conference championship games and then a few unofficial conference championship games.

All will leave you feeling full, and with fond memories of the last great Saturday of 2011.

BREAKFAST

#6 Houston vs. #24 Southern Miss - ABC 12pm ET

A BCS bid is on the line as Houston looks to capture the Conference USA title and pick up a school-record 13th win. Case Keenum also hopes to get plenty of Heisman consideration so expect big numbers against a solid Southern Miss defense. The Golden Eagles are ranked in the top 25 and might provide the Cougars their toughest test of the year. - Bryan Fischer

Cincinnati vs. UConn - ESPN 12pm ET

The Big East title race has come down to a noon kickoff between Connecticut and Cincinnati, because that's what kind of year it has been in the conference. With West Virginia's win against South Florida, they likely eliminated Cincinnati from earning the conference's one BCS berth. But the Bearcats can still win a share of the conference title win a win over the Huskies. Louisville is rooting for Connecticut, because a Bearcats loss would give the 7-5 Cardinals the tiebreaker edge over West Virginia and a spot in a BCS bowl game.  The Mountaineers will likely win the three-team tiebreaker if Cincinnati wins. All of these scenarios are in the hands of Munchie Legaux, Jordan Luallen, Johnny McEntee, and Scott McCummings. Tune in for a show, with these four quarterbacks in the game. It'll be...something. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#17 Baylor vs. #22 Texas - ABC 3:30pm ET

Quite a bit on the line for both teams in this game, even if neither has a chance at a BCS bowl. There's Baylor's Robert Griffin who gets his final chance to impress a national audience and prove his Heisman case. Not to mention, a win here could possibly catapult the Bears to a Cotton Bowl appearance, and it would be Baylor's ninth win of the season. Meaning that it could finish the year with a double-digit win total. For Texas, following last season's 5-7 debacle, getting to eight wins in 2011 would be a nice turnaround for Mack Brown's program. Not to mention a chance to appear in a higher profile bowl game. - Tom Fornelli

#1 LSU vs. #14 Georgia - CBS 4pm ET

The Tigers might be going to the national championship game win or lose. But with an SEC championship and perfect season on the line in the annually electric atmosphere of the Georgia Dome, motivation is not going to be a problem. What might be: an underrated Georgia defense ranked in the top 10 in rush, total, and pass efficiency defense. Unlike Arkansas, the Dawgs are stout enough on D to make this a close game in the fourth quarter--and if they do, does Les Miles have yet another rabbit to pull out of his late-game hat? - Jerry Hinnen

DINNER

#3 Oklahoma State vs. #10 Oklahoma - ABC 8pm ET

The Big 12 may not have an official championship game, but Bedlam will do just fine. Essentially the entire Big 12 season has been building up to this game, and it's a huge game for both schools no matter what the stakes. For the Sooners, it's obvious. Win yet another contest against their state rivals and they'll be Big 12 champions yet again and on their way to the Fiesta Bowl. For Oklahoma State there's even more on the line. It's the chance to finally get the Oklahoma monkey off its back and win its first ever Big 12 title -- and first for any school not named Oklahoma or Texas since 2003. Plus, while their chances may not be great, there's still the possibility that the Cowboys can get to the BCS Championship if their performance in this game is strong enough. So, in a way, there's more on the line in this game than just about any other Saturday night. - TF

#5 Virginia Tech vs. #20 Clemson - ESPN 8pm ET

Clemson finally was accepted as a "legitimate contender" after their 23-3 victory over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. But the two teams have finished the season in very different ways. The Tigers are one last-second field goal away from a four game losing streak, and the Hokies are the hottest team in the ACC on a seven game winning streak. Clemson lost to NC State and South Carolina after locking up the Atlantic Division, while Virginia Tech rocked their in-state rivals from Virginia to win the Coastal Division last weekend. The Tigers are loaded with talent, and possibly as healthy as they have been since October. But can they regain momentum against a Championship Game veteran like Frank Beamer? Beamer has been to five of the last seven ACC Championship Games, and the Hokies are looking to win back-to-back ACC titles for second time in five years. - CP

#13 Michigan State vs. #15 Wisconsin - Fox 8:17pm ET

The inaugural Big Ten Championship promises to be a doozy. It's a reprisal of the conference's best game and best play of the year, a magical 37-31 victory by Michigan State where Keith Nichol caught a deflected Hail Mary pass at the end of regulation and briefly managed to twist across the goal line for the winning score. Montee Ball will make one last bid for Heisman legitimacy, and Kirk Cousins will look for an undisputed conference championship to put an exclamation point on his Big Ten career. A berth in the Rose Bowl awaits the winner, while it's likely going to be a Capital One or Outback bid for the loser. If this game's anything like its first iteration in East Lansing, there won't be a ton of defense in it, but there'll be plenty of points and drama. Don't miss this game. - Adam Jacobi 
Posted on: November 27, 2011 3:47 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 6:19 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 13



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: Wisconsin's lust for revenge

The two heart-breaking losses Wisconsin absorbed in the middle of what was supposed to be a special season have never really let the Badgers go. Oh, the Badgers got over them, to be sure; they won their next four Big Ten games by an average score of 44-14, and of those only the 28-17 win over Illinois was even halfway competitive. And yet, Wisconsin has struggled in vain to so much as crack the Top 15 of the polls, as its only win against a ranked opponent all year was a 48-17 dismantling of then-No. 8 Nebraska in Week 5. That's it.

Or, that was it until Saturday, anyway, when Wisconsin officially ended Penn State's conference title aspirations (and the Nittany Lions' stint in the Top 25) with a 45-7 shellacking. Wisconsin's now the (sigh) Leaders Division winner and all set for the Big Ten Championship Game next Saturday. And wouldn't you know it, Michigan State -- the team that dealt Wisconsin its first, most crushing loss will be waiting in Indianapolis for the Badgers.

And there's probably no team Bret Bielema and his Badgers would rather face.

The first meeting of the two teams was an outright classic, with Wisconsin going up 14-0 early before a Montee Ball injury derailed the Badgers' offense to the point that MSU was able to open up a 31-17 lead. But it wasn't until a deflected Hail Mary pass from Kirk Cousins found its way into the arms of Keith Nichol and Nichol twisted the ball across the plane while being tackled that the Spartans could sew up the victory. It was as slim a margin of victory could be in regulation, and it doomed Wisconsin's highest aspirations for the season. What more could you ask for after a game like that than a rematch? And if there must be a rematch, why not do it with everything in the Big Ten on the line? This week should be great.  

LOSER: The so, so, so fired Ron Zook

Ron Zook's Illinois squad just put the finishing touches on a 6-6 campaign, one that would probably be a little more palatable if it hadn't finished in six straight losses where a formerly formidable offense just plain cratered. The last effort that'll likely be on Ron Zook's resume is a 27-7 throttling at the hands of a Minnesota program that hadn't beaten a Big Ten opponent by that many points since it beat Indiana 63-26... in 2006, when Glen Mason was still at the helm. We'll have more on the Gopher revival in a bit, but suffice it to say that Zook is going to be fired very, very soon. 

There's no up side for this Illinois team's collapse. Nathan Scheelhaase has gone from a future first-team All-Big Ten quarterback to a potential second-team quarterback for the Illini in 2012. A.J. Jenkins scored zero touchdowns in the last six games after a scintillating first half of the season. The Illinois rush defense -- ranked second in the Big Ten -- ceded 248 yards to Minnesota, which was a season high for the Gophers. Whitney Mercilus was a terror all year long, racking up 9.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles, but now there's almost no chance he'll be back in 2012. So what is there to look forward to with this team in 2012 regardless of who's coach? And the fact that such a question is being asked in a coach's seventh year in a program probably means he won't be around for an eighth.

WINNER: Michigan Men (even when they're not)

Much was made about Brady Hoke's ties to the Michigan program when he was hired after the 2010 season, with the phrase "Michigan Man" bandied about liberally. And to be sure, that's exactly what Hoke is -- right down to his insistence on calling Ohio State "Ohio" and never wearing red.

But when it came to hiring coordinators, Hoke wasn't dumb enough to limit himself to fellow Michigan Men. Offensive coordinator Al Borges is, if anything, a "Chico State Man," graduating from there in 1981 and spending the next 30 years bouncing around various schools as offensive coordinator (usually on the west coast, and never at Michigan). Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison spent five years at Michigan back in the '90s, sure, but he also spent more time than that at Notre Dame. -- and did so more recently than his first Michigan stint. Is Mattison a Michigan Man? A Notre Dame Man? Both? He couldn't be both, could he? Anyway, all told, only three of Hoke's nine assistants have any prior ties to the program.

And yet, the difference in quality between last year's team and this year's is inestimable. The Michigan defense has gone from putrid to passable in just one season, and while it's not a championship-caliber unit just yet, it is good enough to get the Wolverines to 10-2 in the regular season and in immediate division contention -- back where the Big Ten figured Michigan would be when these division lines were drawn in the first place. And oh yes, there is that 40-34 victory over Ohio State that the Wolverines clawed for this year, their first over OSU in almost a decade.

LOSER: Will Hagerup

Welp, guess I'm just gonna punt this here ball away, just gonna do my job as punteWHAT AWWW HAMBURGERS OHHHHH NOOOOO

WINNER: Montee Ball's Heisman campaign

Montee Ball's probably not going to win the Heisman this year. That honor will probably go to someone in the trio of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, or Trent Richardson. But at the very least, Ball probably bought* himself a ticket today with a 156-yard, four touchdown effort that pushed his season numbers to 248 carries, 1622 yards, 29 rushing touchdowns, 17 catches, 248 receiving yards, and five more receiving touchdowns. He also threw a 25-yard touchdown to Russell Wilson against Indiana (which doesn't count for Ball in total touchdowns, only Wilson), a sure sign that offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was very bored that day.

So that makes 34 total touchdowns on the season for Ball, a mark that only Barry Sanders has bested with his other-worldly 39 scores in 1988 (which doesn't even count his five touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl, as bowl games weren't counted in official statistics back then). And Ball isn't just pushing scores in from a yard out, either; nine of his 25 rushing touchdowns have come from more than five yards out, and his 6.75-yard rushing average was fourth in the FBS among 1000-yard rushers coming into Saturday's action. Ball isn't a touchdown machine, he's an everything machine, and now that it's been him front and center in Wisconsin's push to Indianapolis, voters are likely to take notice.

*Metaphorically speaking, NCAA! We never meant to imply that Ball or anybody around him has ever so much has handled a dollar bill. We understand that the sanctity of this game can only be achieved if everybody involved is dead broke and rejects capitalism outright, and we assure you that Ball has not been tainted by the immoral slime of legal tender. They're student-athletes, not money-recipient-athletes. We get it. 

LOSER: The "Heroes Game"


What seemed like an intriguing new rivalry -- Iowa vs. Nebraska, every year, with the Missouri River set to be the most hotly contested border waterway since the Rhine. Whereas the French had the mighty but tragically immobile Maginot Line to protect themselves, though, Iowa's line just plain couldn't stop anyone coming right up the middle, either on Saturday or all year long. Rex Burkhead set a Nebraska record with 38 carries, and his 160 yards and a touchdown wore down the Iowa defense to the point of surrender. 20-7 was the final, and it really wasn't that close.

Next year's game might be more competitive simply because it's in Iowa City, but the 2012 Hawkeyes probably won't be any better than this year's iteration, and if this rivalry starts off lopsided it'll be hard to get the fanbases worked into the lather necessary for a lasting rivalry. Nebraska's never going to get tired of 13-point wins that are more one-sided than the final score indicates, of course, but the Huskers aren't really going to care about beating Iowa until they can't take it for granted anymore.

WINNER: Jerry Kill, eh?

It looks like everything Jerry Kill's been telling his team since he inherited it last December might yet be sinking in. After a 1-6 (0-3) start to the season where none of the Gophers' conference losses were even competitive, Minnesota turned the boat around in a big way with a 22-21 comeback win over Iowa. After that, Minnesota looked like a different team, hanging tough with Michigan State and Northwestern in losses and at the very least losing to Wisconsin by a smaller margin than Penn State just did. And now, the Gophers have closed the season out with the aforementioned 27-7 drubbing of listless Illinois. MarQueis Gray rushed for 167 yards, threw for 85 more, and accounted for all three of the Gopher's touchdowns in the victory without turning the ball over.

This Gopher team has a long way to go in order to start hanging with its Legends Division rivals on a weekly basis. The lines are a mess, there's a dearth of experience on both sides of the ball, and Kill isn't drawing high-quality recruits yet. He's got a complete overhaul on his hands, and those don't happen in a year at a school like Minnesota. But there's two ways to overhaul a program: spend four years recruiting "your" players into the system, or change the program's culture so substantially that the old coach's players buy in and become "your" players. Kill seems to be on that path, and that bodes well. Doesn't seem like something we thought we'd be saying just a couple months ago, when Kill was talking about needing to "babysit" his players and losing every game by 30 or so, but here we are.

LOSER: Michigan's classless fans

Look at them, rushing the field and celebrating after Michigan beats a 6-6 team. Act like you've been there, guys, right? The nerve of it all!

We're kidding, of course, because the cathartic value of a win like that, erasing eight years of misery and futility hard-wired into to Michigan's identity as a football program, would be off the charts even if Ohio State were coming into the game 0-11. But we're still talking about a bowl team here in OSU, and one that gave Michigan all sorts of fits over the course of the game. You have our full blessing on this field-storming, Michigan. And if anyone says otherwise, well, haters gonna hate. Feels nice to have haters again, doesn't it?



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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 23, 2011 12:52 am
 

Yes, Keith Nichol indisputably scored a touchdown

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's the insane final play of Michigan State's 37-31 last-second victory over Wisconsin on Saturday, a 44-yard touchdown off a deflected Hail Mary from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol:

It's clear that Nichol swings his arm over the goal line and that it would be physically impossible for the ball not to have crossed the plane. But since we can't see the ball, some folks might have a problem with calling that "indisputable" evidence.

So here's a screencap that shows, indisputably, that the ball crossed the plane and Keith Nichol did indeed score a touchdown:


(Click for bigger size photo)

The officials got this call right. That is not opinion; that is fact. 

Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:29 am
 

QUICK HITS: Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31



Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN STATE WON. In perhaps the wildest finish of the college football season, Kirk Cousins found Keith Nichol on a deflected, 44-yard Hail Mary pass at the goal line on the final play of the game, and No. 16 Michigan State beat No. 6 Wisconsin, 37-31. The win knocks Wisconsin from the ranks of the unbeaten, and almost certainly out of the national championship discussion for the rest of the season.

WHY MICHIGAN STATE WON: In a game with such a razor-thin edge of success and failure, any number of factors can be the "why" here -- the punt and field goal that MSU blocked, the Russell Wilson safety, everything else -- but this game was still likely to go into overtime if Wisconsin hadn't gotten greedy. At the beginning of the final drive, Michigan State faced a 2nd and 21 after Kirk Cousins fumbled during a sack. Wisconsin called a time out both after that fumble and on the next snap, which would have been nice strategy except MSU converted for a first down. With the extra time on the clock, Michigan State was able to drive down the fied and into position for that last-second miracle.

WHEN MICHIGAN STATE WON: When replay officials saw Keith Nichol twist and break the plane of the goal line. Nichol's catch was originally ruled down at 1-yard line, where he made the catch and where he was eventually tackled. Replay showed the ball momentarily but definitively crossing the plane, and that was that. The catch came with no time on the clock, so with the ruling, MSU got the win.

WHAT MICHIGAN STATE WON: Michigan State had a brutal three-game stretch to start the Big Ten season: at Ohio State, vs. Michigan, and vs. Wisconsin. Sparty just went 3-0. So it's MSU, not Wisconsin, who's the most likely division winner in the entire Big Ten. And what once looked like a disappointing season in the waiting after Notre Dame embarrassed MSU is now potentially special.

WHAT WISCONSIN LOST: Gone is the undefeated season, the Russell Wilson Heisman campaign, and the title talk. Wisconsin's now "just" 6-1, and while the Badgers are probably going to take the Leaders Division title, it's now Penn State who's alone atop the Leaders standings. So that Wisconsin-PSU game that finishes the regular season is likely to be a de facto division title game.

THAT WAS CRAZY: What's crazy is that there are some folks who question whether the Nichol touchdown was "indisputable" enough to be overturned. It's okay to have a high standard of the word "indisputable." It's not okay to hide behind that word and refuse to overturn a bad call. You want indisputable evidence? Here it is, via the handiwork of @andyglockner. That's a touchdown. Period.

Posted on: December 31, 2010 9:27 pm
 

CBS Bowl Bonanza: Capital One Bowl

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Basics: Alabama (9-3) vs. Michigan State (11-1), Jan. 1, 1pm ET

Why You Should Watch: If you're a fan of defensive football, then this game may be your dream matchup. Now, on the surface, not many people seem to be giving Michigan State a chance in this game, and it's understandable.  After all, Alabama is the defending national champ and has a bit of a chip on its shoulder following what it feels is a disappointing season.  Nobody seems to be paying much attention to the fact that Michigan State has only one loss, and has been a very solid team all season.  This one could turn out to be one of those New Year's Day shockers.

Keys to Victory for Alabama: I think the biggest key for Alabama in this game is that it wants to play in it.  It's not crazy to think that the Tide might show some disinterest in this one.  After all, this is a team that feels it's supposed to be getting ready to defend its title in ten days, or at least in a BCS bowl game.  Not playing in Orlando in the "second-tier" Capital One Bowl.

Of course, on the flip side of that, this could be an angry team.  One hell-bent on destroying the Spartans.  If Alabama cares then I see no reason why it shouldn't pick up the victory.  The Tide are more talented than Michigan State at just about every position.  Plus, one of Alabama's weakness is it's pass protection and Michigan State hasn't had much of a pass rush all season.  Still, that doesn't mean Alabama should fall into the trap of trying to throw all day.  Yes, Julio Jones is a monster, but the secondary is probably the one aspect of this game in which Michigan State has an advantage on the Tide.

Instead we should get a healthy dose of Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, and seeing those two matchup against MSU's Greg Jones is something that every college football fan should enjoy.

Keys to Victory for Michigan State: The Spartans have used a balanced offense to find success all season, and that shouldn't change in this game if they want to pull off the upset.  Yes, Alabama is tough against the run, but the Spartans have a few options at running back with Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper and have the ability to wear the Tide down.

Also, just because the Spartans will be without B.J. Cunningham -- the teams leading receiver -- that doesn't mean they don't have options in the passing game.  Plus the Tide will be without Mark Barron, which will only help matters.  Kirk Cousins has been one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football this season, and he'll still have plenty of weapons at his disposal in Mark Dell, Keith Nichol, Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum.

The X-factor could be the speedster Keshawn Martin. He's very dangerous in space, so look for the Spartans to try and find him some.

The Capital One Bowl is like: the movie 300.  The Spartans will be playing the role of the Spartans, and Alabama is the giant Persian army marching in looking to crush everything and everyone in its path.  All that's missing are the air-brushed abs and gratuitous nudity.  Will these Spartans emerge victorious, or end up in a pile of bodies?
Posted on: September 24, 2010 5:22 pm
 

Insane Predictions: Week 4

Posted by the College Football Blog staff

Every season, every month, every week, there are several outcomes and achievements that, frankly, nobody operating within reason would ever predict. Who could have predicted Nebraska would beat Florida for the title by 38 points, or that Boise State would pull off three late trick plays to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, or that Mike Pouncey would screw up a baker's dozen worth of snaps in one game? Nobody... until now. We're going to try capture that lightning in a bottle by making similarly absurd predictions every week. Are they at all likely to come true? No. Do we even believe the words we're writing? No. But if we make even one correct call on these, we will never stop gloating. Ever.

Highly Unlikely

The Michigan State Spartans lose Kirk Cousins to an injury during the first quarter of their game against Northern Colorado.  His replacement, freshman Andrew Maxwell is dealt the same fate early in the second quarter and the Spartans go into the half trailing 21-10.  After quarterback-turned-WR-turned-back-i
nto-QB-because-of-emergency-in-this
-scenario Keith Nichol succumbs to a horrible stomach virus in the locker room, interim head coach Don Treadwill calls on punter Aaron Bates to lead the team in the second half.  Bates comes out and throws for 300 yards three touchdowns and kicks another three field goals as the Spartans roll to a 40-21 victory. -- Tom Fornelli

Temple upsets Penn State in Happy Valley. There's really no excuse for this happening; even with Temple starting out 3-0 and PSU looking average with true freshman Robert Bolden at QB, Penn State is still highly favored in this contest. But the Temple front seven (led by returning MAC Defensive Player of the Year DE Adrian Robinson) gives the Nittany Lions' enough fits that Temple goes into halftime leading by 10, Bolden gets benched, Kevin Newsome performs worse in relief, and the Owls shock Happy Valley, 27-20. -- Adam Jacobi

Marcus Lattimore is held to less than 70 yards rushing by the Auburn defense. Lattimore only ran for 57 yards against Southern Miss, but when the Gamecocks have really needed yards this season, they turn to number 21.  He will likely get at least 18 carries, and the Tigers did give up 140 yards to Clemson's Andre Ellington, but look for the defensive line to step up and shut down Lattimore at home in primetime. -- Chip Patterson

Severely Unlikely

Mike Leach makes it through the entire broadcast of the Houston - Tulane game without some reference to "symptoms of concussion" followed by awkward silence that lasts as long as an equipment shed is wide. -- Chip Patterson

With his team trailing 24-21 late in the fourth quarter against Arkansas, Nick Saban calls a timeout as his team is marching down the field looking for the go-ahead touchdown.  "I've had an epiphany, gentleman.  I'm not here to win football games, I'm here to make you all better men and better human beings.  Sometimes being the bigger man means letting the other man have his moment in the spotlight."  Saban then forces Greg McElroy to kneel four straight times to end the game. -- Tom Fornelli

Boise State sets the post-WW2 single-game record for most team yardage (pre-WW2 may be a touch out of reach) in their victory over Oregon State, 94-0. Kellen Moore and the rest of the Broncos' starters play every snap, even after Oregon State puts in their second stringers in the 4th quarter. Following the game, Chris Peterson then throws his headset at the press box and yells, "Are you not entertained?!" Boise does not budge in the polls. --Adam Jacobi

Completely Insane

During the third quarter of a listless win at Washington State, USC head coach Lane Kiffin will disappear from the sideline for several minutes, and television cameras will catch him talking on his cell phone. He will claim to have been speaking with old college friends since the game was "boring," but anonymous sources with knowledge of Kiffin's cell phone records will later tell reporters that Kiffin was trying to negotiate a deal to rejoin Pete Carroll in Seattle as an assistant with the Seattle Seahawks. The deal falls through when Kiffin asks for $17.5 million a year. -- Adam Jacobi

Oregon State takes Boise State to overtime on the legendary Smurf Turf.  In overtime, Chris Peterson calls a trick play that finishes with Kellen Moore crossing into the end zone to win the game.  Upon crossing the goal line, Moore rushes over to the cheerleaders and drops to one knee... where he proposes to Buster Bronco.  The horse says "neigh." -- Chip Patterson

With the USC Trojans up 14-0 on Washington State in the first quarter, Matt Barkley finds Ronald Johnson for a 67-yard touchdown to make the score 20-0.  Lane Kiffin then decides to just kick the extra point. -- Tom Fornelli

 
 
 
 
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