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Tag:Michigan State
Posted on: November 7, 2010 2:32 am
Edited on: November 7, 2010 2:58 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Nov. 6)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Michigan doesn't do "boring." The game of the week, beyond any doubt, was Michigan's 67-65 squeaker over Illinois. The game featured 132 points scored, 1237 yards from scrimmage, 58 first downs, and 60:00 total time of possession. Okay, so the last one is normal.

Down the stretch, Michigan was led by Tate Forcier under center, as Denard Robinson was knocked out of a game once again. Forcier effectively reprised his role of "4th quarter dynamo" from 2009, proving yet again the rare value of an experienced backup quarterback. Forcier is clearly not Denard, but the fact remains that Forcier is good enough that he should be spelling Robinson periodically throughout Michigan's game regardless of Robinson's health. Michigan has two starting-quality quarterbacks, and as Robinson's accumulation of minor injuries demonstrates, they clearly need to use them! It's just up to Rich Rodriguez to use both on his own terms, rather than waiting for Robinson to get knocked out of the game first.

Thus, the only game that Michigan has participated in that didn't result in at least 50 total points was its season-opening 30-10 win over Connecticut; since then, whenever Michigan takes the gridiron, the points fly; on average, a Michigan game features almost 73 points per game. In fact, after today's circus act, Michigan leads the Big Ten in both points per game and points allowed per game. Is it "good football"? Lord, no. Is it exciting? Of course. If that's the role Michigan is destined to play under Rich Rodriguez, it's certainly a step down for the Wolverines, but it's not necessarily worse for the conference as a whole.

2. The road is awful hard. It don't take no guff. No. 9 Wisconsin went on the road to Purdue and trailed until the second half. No. 16 Iowa went to Indiana and needed a horrific dropped touchdown on 4th down (more on this later) to escape with an 18-13 win. Northwestern blew a 21-0 lead at Happy Valley, Minnesota got smacked by Michigan State, and Illinois couldn't win in Ann Arbor even after scoring 65 points.

All of which is to say, winning on the road in the Big Ten is still really difficult. It's something to keep in mind when prognosticating the Rose Bowl berth endgame. Regardless of how good the four teams at the top of the conference are, odds are that at least one (and probably more) will go down on the road yet this season, and we shouldn't be surprised when it happens.

3. Nothing's really changed at the top. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa all won, and we're still waiting on a score from Ohio State and Brigham Young East (we assume that's what BYE stands for). The tiebreakers remain exactly the same, then, with the only difference being that there is now one fewer game for the first three teams mentioned to lose. With a finite -- and indeed, extremely limited -- amount of games to play, the passage of one week without a dropoff from the top four is in and of itself important, even if the stipulations and situations themselves don't change. Perhaps this isn't something to "have learned," per se , but for the top of the conference, the maintenance of the status quo is still meaningful.

4. Penn State's offense might actually exist. When Northwestern went up 21-0 on a sensational Drake Dunsmore* touchdown late in the first half, it would have been perfectly logical to assume that the Penn State offensive attack, led by former walk-on Matt McGloin, didn't have much of a shot to make up the deficit. After all, it would have tied the largest deficit a Joe Paterno-coached Penn State team had ever made up in his previous 399 victories, and that's a lot of victories.

But of course, Penn State did exactly that, scoring the final 35 points of the game to win 35-21. McGloin poured in four touchdown passes, but the real heroes were on PSU's oft-maligned offensive line; the front five paved enough holes to let both Evan Royster and Silas Redd top 100 rushing yards on the day, and McGloin's 225 passing yards simply wouldn't have happened if he had faced the pressure that regular starter Rob Bolden has become used to in this, his freshman season. Imagine that: when given time and space to operate, a previous all-conference honoree once again looked like an all-conference player, and a walk-on quarterback was able to execute to the best of his ability.

5. One quiet moment for Damario Belcher. We mentioned this play in passing earlier, but it's worth mentioning in more detail; with less than 30 seconds on the clock and the Hoosiers facing a 4th and 10 at the Iowa 18, Indiana QB Ben Chappell found wideout Damario Belcher open in the middle of the end zone. Belcher, already the team's leading receiver on the game with seven catches for 50 yards, made an athletic move to catch the ball with nobody on him and got both hands on it, leading most in the stadium to assume Indiana had scored the putative winning touchdown.

Alas, as an eagle-eyed referee (and several optimistic Iowa players) noticed, Belcher bobbled the pass and never controlled it before the ball hit the ground and rolled away ineffectually, making the play nothing more than a drive-killing incomplete pass. Indiana challenged, but it was an easy confirmation for replay officials; it clearly was not a catch. Iowa knelt on the ball, and just like that, Indiana lost on a play Belcher makes probably 90-95% of the time.

Again, this isn't strictly something to learn, but it's something important to remember: Belcher's a human being, and he doesn't need anybody to remind him that he screwed the game-winning play up. There's likely nobody in the world -- like, at all -- who feels worse about the loss than he does. So to anybody who finds it necessary to complain that Belcher "sucks" or is "stupid" or "needs to get his damn head in the game" or whatever arbitrary derogatory remark they think applies to Belcher, one piece of advice: save it. Just don't add to the crapfest that guy's season already became, and strike a note for civility instead. Granted, Indiana football fans aren't generally known to be nasty or otherwise unreasonable to begin with or anything, but still: let's all keep our heads screwed on about this game and this 20-year-old kid playing it.

*Did you know: Drake Dunsmore is a second-generation college football player. His father is Pat Dunsmore, a star tight end who was drafted in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears in 1983 and played two seasons with the team. And where did Pat Dunsmore go to school? Yep: Drake University.

Posted on: November 3, 2010 8:03 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 11:12 pm
 

Big Ten Rose Bowl update, Week 10

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Week 9 has come and gone, and with Iowa's utter pantsing of Michigan State, the Rose Bowl picture is even murkier now than it was seven days ago. As mentioned before, with MSU's loss, there are now zero teams in the Big Ten that control their own destiny; every one of the four one-loss teams needs at least one of the others to lose (or, in one instance, win out) in order to reach the Rose Bowl. Let's go down the list.

Wisconsin can go to the Rose Bowl if...

  • Wisconsin wins out AND Ohio State wins out;
  • Wisconsin wins out AND Michigan State loses once.

If the season ended today, Jim Delany would probably be fired. I stole that joke from somewhere. But more to the point, Wisconsin would be the Big Ten's representative in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers are buoyed by wins over Iowa and Ohio State, but the Hawkeyes' loss to Arizona in the non-conference schedule may doom Wisconsin's Rose Bowl hopes. Huh? Here's the relevant portion of the Big Ten tiebreaker:

If three teams are still tied, and one of the three teams is eliminated through the percentage basis of all games played, the remaining two teams shall revert to the two-team tie procedure.

That two-team procedure goes head-to-head, overall record, BCS rating. So even though Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan State split their three-team series and Wisconsin's got the highest BCS rating of the three, Iowa's 10-2 record eliminates it from consideration. That means only Wisconsin and MSU would be up for the Rose Bowl bid, and MSU won that meeting. Hence, Michigan State would go to Pasadena. Of course, that assumes Michigan State wins out; one more Spartan loss, and nobody can stop Wisconsin if the Badgers win out.

Ohio State can go to the Rose Bowl if...

  • OSU wins out AND Wisconsin loses once;
  • OSU wins out AND MSU wins out AND OSU's BCS rating climbs higher than Wisconsin's.

It's tough to overestimate just how much of a power position Ohio State is in relative to Michigan State. Since the two teams don't play and their non-conference records are equal, by rule, the team with the higher BCS ranking will get the nod. Observe:

If there is a tie for the championship, the winner of the game between these two teams shall represent the conference.
If there is still a tie, or if the tied teams did not play each other, the representative shall be determined on the percentage basis of all games played.
If there is still a tie, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.

MSU can't beat the Buckeyes in any of those three categories, but the Buckeyes can't beat Wisconsin in any of them either unless a win over Iowa vaults OSU over Wisconsin in the BCS standings. That might happen -- the Buckeyes are only two spots back -- but the gap in poll position between the two teams is pretty substantial, largely because OSU's schedule is actually pretty weak so far. Again, that'll change, but there's no telling by how much yet. Thus, everyone in Columbus would feel a lot easier if Wisconsin would just go ahead and drop another game.

Of course, if OSU wins out and passes a 7-1 Wisconsin in the BCS, that itself isn't enough; the key here is to get MSU involved in the tiebreaker, since its presence would cancel out Wisconsin's win over OSU as a disqualifying factor for the Rose Bowl berth (see the bolded part of the second rule above). Needless to say, there are plenty of Spartan fans in Columbus these days.

Michigan State can go to the Rose Bowl if...

  • MSU wins out AND Wisconsin wins out AND Ohio State loses once;
  • MSU wins out AND Iowa and Ohio State both lose once.

Make no mistake about it, Michigan State's 37-6 loss at Iowa dealt a major hit to the Spartans' Rose Bowl chances, but they're far from out of this race. The key for Michigan State is its win over Wisconsin, to the point that Michigan State basically can't win a tiebreaker for the conference title if Wisconsin's not involved.

The good news is that Wisconsin probably will end up at 7-1; the Badgers' last four games are against unranked opponents, and the toughest of the bunch is probably Northwestern -- a game that's in Madison. But the key here is Ohio State, whom Michigan State just can't catch if the Buckeyes finish at 11-1, as mentioned before. If OSU's in the mix, MSU's not. It seems incredibly counter-intuitive that Michigan State would rather be in a three-way tie with Iowam, a team that it lost to, rather than OSU, a team that it didn't play at all , but that's the nature of the Big Ten tiebreaker rules.

Iowa can go to the Rose Bowl if...

  • Iowa wins out AND Wisconsin loses once.

This is the same scenario as last week, and on its face, it seems to be the simplest of the four. No ANDs or ORs here -- if Iowa wins out and Wisconsin loses, the only other team that can finish at 7-1 is Michigan State. Advantage: Iowa.

Of course, for Iowa to win out, it'll have to beat Ohio State AND Northwestern in Evanston. Iowa hasn't beaten an Ohio State team that ended the season with at least nine wins since 1983, and unless all hell breaks loose in Columbus in November (under Jim Tressel, that seems exceedingly unlikely), this OSU team will qualify with ease. Moreover, Iowa robbed Northwestern of a Rose Bowl berth in 2000 with a 27-17 win, and the Wildcats have been exacting their revenge on the Hawkeyes since, winning four of their last five against Iowa. So, yeah. Not a whole lot of history on the Hawkeyes' side on this one.

And lastly, we can't mention Northwestern -- the Big Ten's Loki -- without noting that it's lurking once again this season, waiting to unleash its special brand of discord on the conference title race. Northwestern has four wins over 9-win conference foes in just the last five seasons, and can completely blow this conference race to smithereens by winning out and getting a little help. Sure, the Wildcats have lost to Purdue, blew a 17-point lead to MSU, and have no rushing attack. You underestimate them at your own peril. So without further ado...

NORTHWESTERN CAN GO TO THE ROSE BOWL IF...

  • Northwestern wins out AND Iowa wins out AND Ohio State loses another game on top of the Iowa loss AND Michigan State loses at least once and probably twice.

The crazy thing about Northwestern is that it really only has two plausible nemeses standing in its way in this race: Michigan State, who defeated the Wildcats two weeks ago, and Ohio State (one of Northwestern's byes). The Wildcats still have yet to play Iowa and Wisconsin; if they win those two games, they can be in the clubhouse at 6-2.

The problem is, though, there isn't much chance of Northwestern getting past either MSU or OSU in any tiebreaker scenario. The Wildcats' BCS rating is currently nonexistent, and even wins over Iowa and Wisconsin probably aren't going to be enough to push them past even a two-loss Ohio State. Heck, it's not even certain to get the Wildcats past a two-loss MSU, although that would at least seem a little more plausible. Still, this is quite clearly a longshot, and ony the most mischievous of football gods would set a plan like this into motion. And that only happens in the ACC.

Posted on: October 31, 2010 3:45 am
Edited on: October 31, 2010 1:28 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 30)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Michigan State isn't exactly BCS Championship material after all: Not even in our Insane Predictions did we ever see a 31-point Iowa throttling of Michigan State coming; the Hawkeyes dominated from the get-go and harassed Kirk Cousins into irrelevance, forcing three interceptions and keeping the Spartans off the scoreboard until the game was well out of hand. The vaunted Michigan State rushing was even more forcefully debilitated; the Spartans managed only 31 yards on 20 carries, and even that might overstate the Spartans' effectiveness rushing the football, as only one of their 13 first downs came on the ground: an 11-yard end-around by WR Bennie Fowler. The MSU tailbacks? No-shows. That, plus a harried performance by the quarterback, equals disaster, and that's what rained down on the Spartans in Iowa City on Saturday.

This makes four one-loss teams in the Big Ten, and with tiebreaker rules being what they are, there are essentially no teams left in the Big Ten that can win the conference crown "without help"; each of the four teams' Rose Bowl hopes depends directly on another team winning or losing. Might we see some eyes casting furtive glances at scoreboards from here on out? Don't be surprised.

Quietly, Ohio State marches on. Don't look now, but Ohio State is back to 8-1 (4-1) on the season, tied for first with Michigan State in the standings. The Buckeyes' latest act of aggression against the rest of the conference was a 52-10 spanking of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, OSU's sixth victory of 28 points or more on the season. Terrelle Pryor's still really good, and the defense is tightening up after that 31-18 horror show in Madison two weeks ago. A 12-1 mark to finish the year isn't exactly out of the question for the Buckeyes, whose only real tests are a visit to Iowa and whatever high-level bowl game they're awarded.

Now, even if the Buckeyes win out and even if they're ranked ahead of Michigan State in the BCS ratings (which they would be), they're not guaranteed a Rose Bowl bid; like everyone else crowded at the top, OSU needs one little bit of help. Again, more on that later. But rest assured that at the very least, an 11-1 Ohio State gets an at-large BCS bowl bid.  

Sorry, but Michigan's not legitimate. The Michigan defense's ability to breathe life into a moribund opposing offense is truly a sight to behold, and its 41-point performance against Penn State and former walk-on QB Matt McGloin (making his first start ever) might have been its magnum opus. Evan Royster, who basically hasn't found rushing lanes all season long, gashed the Wolverines for 150 yards and two scores. McGloin threw for 250 yards and another touchdown, and the Nittany Lions converted on 10 of 16 third downs (and went 2-2 on fourth downs, so really, 12 of those 16 third downs ended up getting converted). Again, this is the same Nittany Lion offense that scored three points against Iowa and Alabama, scored 13 against Illinois, and "racked up" 24 on Kent State. Throw in the backup quarterback, and Michigan still gives up 41 points -- and that's not even counting PSU kneeling at Michigan's 2-yard line to end the game. It could have been worse.

What this means is that even for Denard Robinson's heroic 380 yards of total offense in the loss, Michigan's overall ineptitude makes him more the next Antwaan Randle-El than a potential conference-winning quarterback at this point. And don't get it twisted, Randle-El was truly great, but there's no doubt that he'd have traded his first-team All-American designation for so much as a bowl bid in his four years of play. Didn't happen. Now, Michigan's not there yet, but the Wolverines are at least on their way; under Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines are now an astonishing 4-16 in Big Ten play with Saturday's loss. They're not exactly "program-defining" wins, either (or they could be, perhaps, but certainly not in any positive sense): at Indiana this year, vs. Indiana in 2009, vs. Wisconsin in 2008, and vs. Minnesota in 2008. That's all. No teams with over seven wins on the season, one win by over seven points. At Michigan. In fact, only Indiana has fared worse in Big Ten play since RichRod showed up; for those keeping track at home, that's the second unflattering comparison to Indiana in this paragraph alone.

Stanzi for Heisman? Let's start with Stanzi for New York: Ricky Stanzi had his third straight game of three passing touchdowns and no turnovers, pushing his season totals to 19 TDs and two picks in eight games. That's usually not a Heisman-winning pace, and especially not this season, but the efficiency (second in the nation and gaining on Boise State's Kellen Moore) is awfully reminiscent of another QB in Iowa City just eight years ago: Brad Banks, who threw 26 TDs and four interceptions en route to a runner-up spot for the Heisman to Carson Palmer in 2002. If Stanzi keeps this up and if Iowa upends Ohio State in Iowa City (big ifs), might we see Stanzi at the Downtown Athletic Club? With Denard Robinson's (or more accurately Michigan's) season fading and Taylor Martinez dinged up, don't rule it out quite yet.

Wisconsin's biggest fans are the Spartans, and its biggest enemies are its victims. How badly does Michigan State need Wisconsin to win out? If the Badgers lose while either Iowa or OSU finish at 7-1, the Spartans' grasp on the conference title evaporates; Iowa has beaten MSU head-to-head, while it's extremely unlikely that MSU can overtake the Buckeyes in the BCS standings after its jarring defeat in Iowa City on Saturday. Meanwhile, the fact that Ohio State and Michigan State don't play each other has suddenly swung heavily in OSU's favor; more on that later this week. As for Wisconsin itself, its Rose Bowl chances hinge entirely on either Michigan State or the Iowa-OSU winner losing another game. But again, more later; trust us, that stuff gets complicated, especially now that "Just win, baby" isn't automatically enough for anybody in the conference anymore.

Posted on: October 30, 2010 9:00 pm
 

Iowa's Herky mascot wears Captain America costume

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Perhaps nobody in the country has had a happier Halloween weekend than the Iowa Hawkeyes, who spoiled Michigan State's perfect season with a 37-6 throttling at Kinnick Stadium. And being that this is Halloween, plenty of folks in the house celebrated the occasion by dressing up -- including Iowa's mascot, Herky himself.

The Captain America outfit isn't exactly a random choice; Iowa quarterback and captain Ricky Stanzi is famously patriotic, and the Hawkeyes have gone all-on on the concept for Stanzi this season. The team's senior poster features an American flag motif, the band plays "Born in the USA," and now the mascot's in on the act. Doubtless, Stanzi will reward all involved with Cabinet positions when he's elected President in 2012 (we expect an age exemption to be granted by Congress or whoever).

Posted on: October 30, 2010 5:20 pm
 

Iowa crushing Michigan State at the break, 30-0

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Any notions of Michigan State living up to their No. 5, undefeated record today are pretty well out the window at this point. The Iowa Hawkeyes have been all over the Spartans from start to finish of the first half, and Iowa leads by the shocking score of 30-0.

The highlight of the day so far has been a Tyler Sash interception that Sash quickly lateraled to cornerback Micah Hyde, who weaved his way down the field en route to a 67-yard score on the turnover. The play gave Iowa a 17-0 lead and put a giant damper on MSU's prospects for making a comeback. When Kirk Cousins threw an interception to Shaun Prater on the very next drive, Michigan State's fate was sealed even further.

If there's any consolation right now for MSU, it's that the Spartans are down 30-0 at the half and not at the end of the game; they do have 30 minutes to stage a comeback. But that prospect seems awfully unlikely considering how stout Iowa's defense has been both today and in this season. We'll see if MSU makes it a game in the second half.

Posted on: October 30, 2010 4:32 pm
 

Paper tigers? MSU, Mizzou getting housed

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Michigan State and Missouri might have entered this weekend undefeated and ranked in the top 6, but you couldn't say they were getting a whole lot of respect; according to Vegas both were decisive road underdogs, against Iowa and Nebraska respectively, and both stayed ranked behind known non-AQ quantities Boise State and TCU. The near-universal consensus seemed to be that the Spartans and Tigers had enjoyed a nice run, but that it was over.

That consensus has thus far been proven even more correct than even the most skeptical skeptics could have imagined. Missouri has given up two long Roy Helu Jr. touchdown runs, seen Blaine Gabbert start 3-of-11 with an interception, and trail 24-0 at the end of the first quarter. Michigan State has been a little more respectable, but only just: Iowa opened the game with a dominating 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, and increased their lead to 17-0 when Tyler Sash picked off a wayward Kirk Cousins pass and lateraled to Micah Hyde for the defensive touchdown.

So, as of this moment, it's Homestanding Agents of BCS Chaos a collective 41, Undefeated Conference Front-runners 0. Sometimes, unfortunately, the haters have a point.
Posted on: October 30, 2010 12:28 pm
 

Boise, Michigan State to open 2012 season

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

A lot can happen in two seasons' worth of college football. But if Chris Petersen and Mark Dantonio can keep their programs at or near their current level, we'll have a blockbuster Week 1 nonconference matchup to open up the 2012 season, as Peterson's Boise State and Dantonio's Michigan State have agreed to face off in East Lansing on Aug. 31 of that year.

The timing is nice for the Broncos, as they continue to fend off charges of soft scheduling on their attempted rise to the top-two in the BCS rankings. (Their 2012 nonconference slate currently consists of the Spartans, BYU, and Miami-Ohio. Combine that with a Mountain West conference schedule and there shouldn't be too many complaints from the BCS-conference rabble.) Even nicer:
Boise State will receive a guarantee of $1.2 million for the 2012 game
Elsewhere, the headlines have referred to this as a "series," and technically that's true, since the teams have also agreed to play a home-and-home at a later date. But that date is 2022 and 2023. Maybe those games will happen, but 12 years' worth of waiting means the odds are much better that at some point, the schools will mutually agree to skip it and find other suitors.

So make no mistake: this is a guarantee game for Boise, a $1.2 million payday in which both schools get a big boost to their strength-of-schedule. It's win-win. But Boise's elusive quest to get a true home-and-home against a team from outside the state of Oregon -- or even a two-for-one -- hasn't been fulfilled just yet.

Posted on: October 30, 2010 11:59 am
 

Game day weather updates, Week 9

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's the weather outlook for all of today's important matchups. It's most certainly fall across the land today, and while most stadiums are staying dry, the wind is a real factor in several of the games. Will it affect the passing games of the undefeated teams playing on the road today? All times are Eastern.

Noon kickoffs

Tennessee at No. 17 South Carolina, 12:00, Columbia, SC: Low 60s, clear

No. 20 Oklahoma State at Kansas State, 12:00, Manhattan, KS: Low 60s, clear

Afternoon kickoffs

Georgia vs. Florida, 3:30, Jacksonville, FL: Mid 70s, partly cloudy, breezy

No. 5 Michigan State at No. 18 Iowa, 3:30, Iowa City, IA: Low 60s, partly cloudy, windy

No. 7 Missouri at No. 14 Nebraska, 3:30, Lincoln, NE: Mid 60s, clear, windy

No. 15 Arizona at UCLA, 3:30, Pasadena, CA: Low 60s, rainy 

Evening kickoffs

No. 3 Auburn at Ole Miss, 6:00, Vicksburg, MS: Low 60s, clear, breezy

No. 25 Baylor at Texas, 7:00, Austin, TX: Low 70s, clear, breezy

No. 8 Utah at Air Force, 7:00, Colorado Springs, CO: Low 60s, partly cloudy, windy

No. 1 Oregon at No. 24 USC, 8:00, Los Angeles, CA: Mid 60s, cloudy, early chance of rain

Late night kickoffs

Colorado at No. 11 Oklahoma, 9:15, Norman, OK: Low 60s, clear, breezy

No. 4 TCU at UNLV, 11:00, Las Vegas, NV: Upper 50s, partly cloudy

 
 
 
 
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