Posted on: October 11, 2010 3:24 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
On Saturday Chris Rucker was on the field for one of the biggest wins in recent Michigan State history -- certainly since Mark Dantonio took over the program -- even intercepting a pass from the great Denard Robinson. I hope Rucker enjoyed the victory because on Sunday he was suspended for this Michigan State's next game against Illinois.
Citing a violation of team rules, Mark Dantonio said that Rucker would be suspended this week, though he would not go into specifics as to what rules Rucker broke. When asked if Rucker will miss any more time following this week, Dantonio said "we'll see."
This is not the first time Rucker has gotten into trouble in East Lansing, as he was one of many Spartans suspended last season following an incident at Rather Hall -- a dorm on the Michigan State campus. Several Michigan State players allegedly attacked a student following a team banquet and were suspended for the Alamo Bowl.
Rucker has started 30 games for the Spartans so his absence will be felt by the entire defense, but the timing may not be that terrible. Illinois is a team that is built on running the ball, so losing a starting corner doesn't hurt nearly as much.
Posted on: October 10, 2010 3:38 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Perhaps Denard Robinson's competition matters. Hey, we'll be the first ones to admit to falling in love with Denard Robinson's early-season performance. Sure, Michigan's opposition wasn't very good (at all), but lots of other teams were playing cupcake schedules at the same time, and nobody -- except maybe for Cam Newton -- was doing what Shoelace was doing. But Michigan State provided a pretty easy blueprint for containing Robinson: have a decent defense and don't do anything stupid with them. The Spartan defense, led as always by All-American linebacker Greg Jones, played disciplined defense against the explosive sophomore and forced him into three interceptions -- two of which came in Michigan State's end zone. Sure, Robinson ended up accounting for 301 yards (215 passing, 86 rushing), and those are good numbers, but remember: he's basically their entire offense. So while giving up 301 yards of offense to one guy isn't ideal, holding the entire team to 377 yards is much more palatable, and that's exactly what the Michigan State defense did. Next up for the Wolverines: Iowa -- and 60 more minutes of that defensive intensity.
2. Don't run up the score on Tim Brewster, please. The second-oddest thing about this week of Big Ten play was seeing Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster get into an arguing match with Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema after Wisconsin's 41-23 victory over the Golden Gophers. The oddest thing came about six minutes prior, when Bret Bielema elected to try a two-point conversion after the Badgers scored a touchdown to extend their lead to 41-16. The try failed, because not even Football God hates Minnesota that much, but Brewster certainly took it personally; the Minnesota coach said some very unprintable words to Bielema on the field, and used the word "wrong" to describe Bielema's decision about 15,000 times in his postgame press conference. Bielema said his little when-should-you-go-for-two card dictated that his team attempt the two-point conversion in that scenario. Even assuming Bielema's excuse is true, we have to wonder why Bielema didn't heed his card's advice 5:16 earlier, when his team scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to go up by 25 the first time. After John Clay's third touchdown of the game, Wisconsin led 34-9 with 11:55 to go, and Bielema kicked a harmless extra point then. Maybe, maybe Minnesota could have engineered 27 points in 11:55, but there was no chance of it happening with 6:39 left, so there's really no sense in kicking the extra point the first time but not the second. Bielema doesn't necessarily owe Brewster an apology; he's Bret Bielema, and he's kind of a jerk, and that's what he does. But at the very least, he owes Brewster and the rest of Big Ten fans an actual explanation of what the heck he was thinking going for two.
3. Penn State just isn't very good. Okay, we sort of knew coming into this season that Penn State would be taking some more lumps than usual on account of their true freshman quarterback, Rob Bolden, winning the starting job in Week 1. And sure, their 24-3 losses to Alabama and Iowa were disappointing, but not really shocking; 'Bama and the Hawkeyes are both pretty legit programs with pretty legit defenses. But 21-point losses to top-15 teams are one thing; a 20-point loss to middling Illinois is another altogether. Illinois controlled the action on both sides of the ball Saturday, shredding Penn State's vaunted front seven for 282 yards on the ground. Mikel LeShoure was a workhorse with 119 rushing yards and a 32-yard reception, and Illini QB Nathan Scheelhaase was both efficient (15-19, 151 yards, 1 TD) and mobile (eight carries, 61 yards). Meanwhile, Bolden had one of his worst starts of his nascent career, going 8-21 for 142 yards, a score, and a pretty bad pick-six to Nate Bussey that pushed Illinois' lead to 14-3. It was a freshman mistake, of course, and one he probably won't make next season and beyond. But it's that sort of thing, coupled with a general lack of special talent on the rest of the offense, that dooms the Nittany Lions when their defense isn't perfect. The Nittany Lions are 3-3 (0-2) now. Right now, it's pretty hard to guarantee they're going to a bowl this season.
4. Northwestern is also not very good. Going back to 2008, Northwestern's habit of winning games by close margins -- which is to say, playing both up and down to the competition -- has never really come back to haunt them; coming into Saturday's game the Wildcats were 14-4 in one-possession games since '08, a streak that's both remarkable and completely doomed to come back down to earth sooner or later, and that's where we find the Wildcat today. Two special teams disasters in the fourth quarter -- a blocked field goal and a poorly-kicked game-tying attempt with a minute left -- effectively kept six points off the board for the Wildcats, and a Dan Dierking rush from 7 yards out sealed the 20-17 upset for lowly Purdue. It's a bummer of a loss for the Wildcats, but the type of inexplicable upset that besets them pretty much every year. Their benchmark game is likely their next: Michigan State comes to town, and a win would put Northwestern back on the map. But it would take the Wildcats' best performance of the season, and any time the prerequisite for respectability is something a team hasn't yet shown itself to be capable of doing, odds are that the fans will go home disappointed.
Posted on: October 9, 2010 2:23 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Happy Valley? No no, not today. Penn State is hosting Illinois this afternoon, and the Illini are positively rude guests. Illinois leads 30-13, having just completed a 41-yard field goal.
There's been no gimmick to Illinois' success; they're just grinding out drive after drive, primarily on the ground. Mikel LeShoure topped 100 yards early in the third quarter, and Nathan Scheelhaase has been efficient on the ground and through the air.
Meanwhile, Penn State has only four first downs to Illinois' 19, and Rob Bolden just isn't effective enough as a passer to get Illinois' defense to stop keying on Evan Royster; Royster's dinged up and at only 35 rushing yards after three quarters.
If Illinois hangs on, perhaps this won't be considered an upset after the year's over; Penn State's just not very good, and it wouldn't be a terrible surprise to see both teams at 3-5 in the conference when it's all said and done. For now, though, yes, the Upset Alerts tag rides again.
Posted on: October 2, 2010 3:11 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Ohio State left its A-game back in Columbus this weekend, but the Buckeyes were still able to leave Champaign with a 24-13 victory. It wasn't pretty, nor was it all that efficient, but Illinois just couldn't deal with the talent advantage the Buckeyes have over them. For most of the game it looked as if Ohio State was just sleepwalking its way to victory, as Terrelle Pryor was the only member of the Buckeyes who seemed to care at times.
Pryor didn't get much done through the air, completing 9-of-16 passes for 76 yards. When his team needed yards, though, he did it with his legs, picking up 104 yards on the ground. Pryor also had to leave the game early in the third quarter when he strained his left quad muscle. After heading to the locker room for a spell he would return to the game, but Jim Tressel went ultra conservative with his quarterback.
Which nearly proved costly for the Buckeyes. The Illini had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter when they were inside the Ohio State 20-yard line. That's when Ron Zook made a questionable decision to kick a field goal on a fourth down with four minutes left in the game. While I understand the desire to put points on the board and cut into the deficit, I don't comprehend why Zook gave Ohio State a chance to just run out the clock.
Jim Tressel loves to run out the clock. If you asked him if he'd rather see his team score on one 75-yard play or run ten minutes off the clock without scoring, he'd probably choose the latter.
Tressel and the Buckeyes would do just that, as the Illini were then presented with a heavy dose of Dan Herron, Dan Herron, and then a little more Dan Herron. Herron carried the ball six times -- every play -- on Ohio State's final drive, picking up 53 yards before finally reaching the end zone and putting the game out of reach.
Posted on: October 2, 2010 1:29 pm
Edited on: October 2, 2010 1:30 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
I'm not sure what it is with Illinois that always proves so problematic for Ohio State, but the struggles are continuing today. The Buckeyes are up 14-10 at the half, but for the first time this season they allowed their opponent to score first when Illinois forced a three and out from Ohio State to start the game, and then put together a nine-play drive that resulted in a touchdown.
The Buckeyes didn't waste time tying the game up when a 66-yard run by Terrelle Pryor set up an easy 8-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Saine. Still, Illinois would take the lead back with a field goal -- the Illini also missed another field goal attempt -- and it wasn't until the final minute of the half that Pryor found Dane Sanzenbacher for a touchdown to give the Buckeyes their first lead of the game.
It wouldn't be fair to say it's been a sloppy game from the Buckeyes, though they have had some issues on the offensive line, as Pryor has been sacked a few times and hurried into other throws. To me, though, Ohio State looked more like a team that was just expecting to show up in Champaign and beat Illinois. As if the Buckeyes thought that by simply being the better team they were going to win.
Which is a very dangerous attitude to have, and not one I'd expect from a team coached by Jim Tressel. If the Buckeyes don't wake up and start taking Illinois seriously in the second half then, crazy as it sounds, they might not leave Champaign undefeated today.
It happened last year at Purdue, it could happen again.
Posted on: October 1, 2010 3:49 pm
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 Saturday in the bathroom.
Main Course - Clemson vs. #16 Miami - Noon - ESPN2
Okay, so once again breakfast has a lot of weak sauce in it this week, but we promise you that lunch and dinner are going to be a lot better. Just remember what your mom used to tell you: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So eat this up because you're going to need it to help prepare you for the rest of the day.
Just beware that while the Miami looks good using too much Jacory Harris in it can cause indigestion.
Side Orders: This morning we offer some sides that should fill you up, but will probably leave you hating yourself for eating it later. There's Ohio State steamrolling Illinois, and our "Ninth Place in the SEC" special, Mississippi and Kentucky. If you already hate yourself, try some of the Minnesota and Northwestern.
Main Course - #8 Oklahoma vs. #21 Texas - 3:30pm - ABC
Now that you've choked down your breakfast we can reward you with the real food for the day. We're offering our Red River Rivalry this afternoon which is chock full of red meat deliciousness. Just remember that the Longhorn can be somewhat tough and inconsistent.
Texas has a lot on their plate this week, as they are coming off a rather embarrassing loss at home to UCLA last week, and a similar performance against Oklahoma this weekend could destroy the rest of their season.
Side Orders: If you're not sure you can handle all the beef in our main course we do offer plenty of other options this afternoon. There's Michigan State hosting Wisconsin in a game that will give us a better idea of what either team is really about this season. There's also North Carolina State and Virginia Tech, or if offenses that set the game of football back 80 years are more your style, there's always LSU and Tennessee. My advice is to just watch Patrick Peterson in that game.
Main Course - #1 Alabama vs. #7 Florida - 8pm - CBS
We didn't lead you astray with our Alabama and Arkansas last week, and we promise you that this week's Florabama won't disappoint either. Alabama has already faced it's first real test of the season, but this week they are the test. Florida is 4-0 but didn't wow any of the critics until last week's Trey Burton-centric dismantling of Kentucky.
If the Gators can manage to get past the Tide they'll officially be back in the national championship picture.
Side Orders: It's not a bad night when your second choice features another two top ten teams. If fowl is more your taste, then try the Oregon and Stanford. The Pac-10 doesn't have a championship game, yet, but this game basically is just that. Two high-scoring offenses finally get to test two defenses that have proven sturdy thus far. If you prefer something a bit more old-fashioned we're also offering Iowa and Penn State.
Late Night Snacks
Nevada and Colin Kaepernick are two things you'll probably be hearing about quite a bit in the coming weeks, as they're essentially the last thing standing between Boise State and an undefeated season. So why not check them out when they travel to Vegas to take on UNLV?
Tags: Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Colin Kaepernick, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Jacory Harris, Kentucky, LSU, Miami, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina State, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Oregon, Patrick Peterson, Penn State, Saturday Meal Plan, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas, Trey Burton, UCLA, UNLV, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 1, 2010 10:11 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The new Big Ten alignment doesn't come into effect until 2011, but who comes out the best and worst among conference members?
Winners: Most of the conference, actually. Michigan and Ohio State keep their end-of-season rivalry, and they're each the marquee members of their own divisions. If they're not to meet for the title, then effectively nothing has changed about their tradition; if they do, then so much the better, as far as the Big Ten's coffers go. Penn State and Nebraska are the second in command in their respective divisions, and they get to start a protected rivalry with each other that's sure to move needles for television rating. Northwestern and Illinois have an annual game guaranteed, plus their own divisions in which to play spoiler--and Wildcats fans must be especially pleased that they've now got an annual divisional game against the Hawkeyes in what's rapidly becoming a contentious showdown. Minnesota gets to be in a very geographically friendly division, and they get to play for every one of their trophies every year.
We'll call it a draw: Iowa and Purdue have no reason to be protected rivals, and Delany's explanation that "both teams have won conference titles recently" is at best a non sequitur. But Iowa was rewarded with a season-ending game against Nebraska, to the delight of both fanbases, and Purdue has all the protected games they could have asked for. Likewise, Michigan State-Indiana is a total head-scratcher, but at the very least, each team stays in the same division as their in-state rivals.
Losers: Holy hell, must Wisconsin be upset about this new alignment. Consider A) that the Badgers were the only team in the Big Ten without a season-ending rivalry game up until Nebraska showed up, and B) the amount of work Barry Alvarez has done as the de facto mouthpiece of the conference during realignment talk. Surely the Big Ten would reward the Badgers, yes? Au contraire, bonjour: Wisconsin's request to get a rivalry game with Nebraska was flat-out denied, and the Badgers don't even share a division or protected rivalry with historical rivals Iowa anymore. Oh, also, they're in a league with Ohio State and Penn State, a top twosome that seems much tougher than Michigan or Nebraska do for the near future. Nobody's got more beef than the Badgers about this lineup.