Tag:Braxton Miller
Posted on: November 2, 2011 12:18 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2011 12:19 pm
 

Buckeyes Hail Mary was improvised

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Ohio State was kind enough to hand Wisconsin its second straight loss via Hail Mary last weekend, and Braxton Miller's pass to Devin Smith may have saved the Ohio State season as well. The win kept the Buckeyes alive in the Big Ten's Leaders Division and a Rose Bowl berth is still in the cards.

Which is pretty amazing considering the way the Ohio State season started, but there's something else even more surprising about that Hail Mary. According to wide receiver Corey Brown, the players never got the play call from the sidelines. They just winged it.

“We were scrambling … and [the coaches] didn’t give us a play or nothing,” Brown told The Columbus Dispatch. “So we’re out there just running playground routes. I think I ran a deep out or something like that. And Braxton said he pointed at me to get the safety to run over (so he could) throw it to Devin. So on his part, that was like a veteran move.” 

Brown clarified his statement after, saying that the coaches called a play, but only one of the players actually got it.

“I just think we were so, like, into the moment our emotions kind of took over and we weren’t really listening to anybody. We were just trying to hustle. I think there was only one wideout, which was Devin, who got the real play.” 

So the one person who actually got the playcall, Devin Smith, was the one who caught the touchdown. There's a lesson in here somewhere, and I think it's that Luke Fickell and the Ohio State coaches should tell everybody but Braxton Miller what the play is before every snap.

Hat tip: Dr. Saturday 
Posted on: October 31, 2011 12:19 pm
Edited on: October 31, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 9



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as Saturday's classic battle between Stanford and USC was about Andrew Luck's Heisman hopes and the Cardinal's national title dreams, it was hugely important for the man pacing the home sideline with a laminated playcard.

Yes, USC lost, there's no denying what really matters and what the game will represent in the media guide years for now. But, when combined with the way the Trojans beat Notre Dame last week and their inspired-but-not-quite-good-enough play against Stanford, I think we can finally come to one conclusion about Lane Kiffin that we couldn't beforehand: he can coach. We're still not sure if he can win quite yet, but the question marks about his coaching abilities have been answered.

Given his record, 12-21 with the Oakland Raiders and at Tennessee, it was easy to be skeptical about Kiffin. His resume had an impressive collection of jobs before he turned 34 but he still couldn't shake the label that he was riding on the coattails of his father Monte and Pete Carroll. The NCAA violations and brash nature while with the Vols only enhanced negativity. Last season's 8-5, 5-4 in the Pac-10, record didn't answer any questions. He was blown out by Oregon at home and lost to a lowly Oregon State team in Corvallis on top of three losses by seven points. His offensive unit was good but struggled at times. Jokes about him firing his father for the Trojans' defensive woes had some truth behind them.

2011 wasn't a make or break year but it was important to Kiffin and the USC program as a whole to take another step back to where they were under Carroll despite being under the cloud of NCAA sanctions. The disrespect was evident when the Trojans were a nine point underdog in South Bend despite the Irish's penchant for turning the ball over in big games.

As celebrated as Brian Kelly was in his first season, he came into the game with a 12-7 record while Kiffin was one game better at 13-6 at USC. The tone was set early last week with an impressive opening drive to quiet the Notre Dame crowd and the Irish were never really back in the game after that.

Afterward, Kiffin was elated in the locker room and was extra happy to ruin a game Kelly had built up to be the Super Bowl for his team. He acknowledged it was the biggest win since he arrived in Los Angeles and he was right, in his second season he finally had a marquee victory.

Coaches and players vehemently dislike the term 'moral victory' because they understand the bottom line: you still lost. Still, there are plenty of positives in defeat and we learned a few about USC this week after the three overtime loss to Luck and the Cardinal.

The defense is not terrible like we thought it was. It's not great by any stretch but the defensive line can put pressure on the quarterback, the linebackers are quick enough to make plays in space and the secondary is young but rounding into form. On offense, Matt Barkley and Robert Woods have something special going on, the offensive line has exceeded expectations and the running game has come into its own the past few weeks.

USC didn't win on Saturday but they came close and that counts for something against a team that had reeled off 10 straight wins by 25 or more points. Luck, the best quarterback in the country by far, looked human at times and the USC offense looked like it was on the cusp of being great.

Lane Kiffin will still be thought of negatively, especially in the South, but he's answered a few of his critics' questions this season. He can coach and he can coach offenses that put up points. Now is the time to win the big, big game that his predecessor was known for. Kiffin's insistence after the game about calling out the referees for the final play of regulation - "They lied to me," he said Sunday - knowing that a reprimand from the Pac-12 was coming was taken by some to be whiny but I saw what some of his players did - that he'd fight for them until the battle could no longer be won, and even a little more. Even in retrospect, his play call of a tunnel screen to Woods doesn't look as terrible as it was when you consider he had two timeouts and the play was designed to go up field.

The last time USC lost a triple overtime game to a Bay area team they went on a historic run. No one is saying the same will happen under Kiffin, especially as the program begins scholarship reductions this season, but it's a good omen.

Last Saturday the Coliseum was rocking, the team was playing well and the coach wasn't a question mark. Kiffin can coach, now it's time to see if he can win big games.

Stat of the week

Via the Associated Press, Texas Tech is second team since 1989 (when the AP Poll expanded to 25), to go from no votes to ranked to no votes in three weeks. The other was Washington after they beat USC in 2009.

Stats of the week

- Five Big 12 teams are ranked 90th or worse in total defense, complete with Kansas being the worst in the country giving up 555 yards and 49.5 points per game. That might explain why three of the top five passers in the country are from the conference. The Jayhawks also only had 46 yards of total offense this week.

- Two candidates for most disappointing team of they year, Texas A&M and Notre Dame, are 110th and 118th respectively in turnover margin.

- Despite running so much, Georgia Tech is a third-down machine. They have the fifth-most third down attempts in the country yet are converting on 57.6% of them, best mark in the country by nearly 2%.

- The much maligned Michigan defense has taken a leap in several categories under Greg Matison but perhaps the most important: they lead the country in red zone defense. The Wolverines have only allowed 13 scores all year from inside the 20.

- If you had to guess who leads the country in time of possession, you'd probably start with a Georgia Tech or an Army. It's actually Texas, who holds onto the ball for over 35 minutes per game.

- After facing Oklahoma State, Baylor's defense dropped from 97th in total defense and 101st in scoring defense to 108th and 115th. Missouri went from 29th and 25th in the two categories to 51st and 46th. Texas went from 24th and 47th to 30th and 56th. Bottom line, your defense won't look too good in the stats after facing the Cowboys.

- Auburn is 289-4 all time when scoring 30-plus points. One reason why Gus Malzahn is being paid $1.3 million a year.

- This is the first time Georgia has beaten Florida and Tennessee in the same year since 1988. There are only three players on the Bulldogs' roster that were born before then. The Gators' four game skid is the first of any kind at the school since 1988 and first in the SEC since 1979, when head coach Will Muschamp was eight.

Yard-by-yard

- It was only a matter of time before the Manhattan Miracle came to an end. Oklahoma had been shocked the week before by Texas Tech and Kansas State was the unwitting opponent they took it out on. Landry Jones threw for a school-record 505 yards and five touchdowns, impressive considering the quarterbacks that have been churned out under Bob Stoops recently. His favorite target, Ryan Broyles, also moved into first place on the Big 12 career receiving list. Not all was crimson Saturday however, as running back Dominique Whaley fractured his ankle on the very first play of the game. Though overwhelmingly a passing team, the balance that the running game had with Whaley will be missed unless the Sooners find someone to step up. Kansas State will have to regroup after the Big 12's previously top-ranked defense was shredded by Jones. They rallied in the second quarter but that was about the only time the Wildcats could get something going.

- Say what you want about Oklahoma State's 111th ranked defense but they bottled up Robert Griffin III, shutting Baylor out in the first half and allowing just one score in the red zone all game. The 622 yards allowed is concerning but they allowed a good chuck of the yards when the game was well out of hand. It seemed like the Cowboys were going to be locked in a tough one once the Bears drove down to the one-yard line on their first drive but the defense held and the offense drove 99-yards for a touchdown to set the tone early. After that, it was like Mike Gundy's squad was shot out of a cannon. Particularly impressive was running back Joseph Randle, who had 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead a rushing attack that rolled up over 300 yards for the first time in over two years. It's hard to look at the Cowboys and see anybody but Oklahoma stopping them from booking a trip to New Orleans.

- It seems to happen every game but it does seem concerning that Oregon led Washington State by only five points before taking care of business in the second half in a 43-28 win. The big news was the return of LaMichael James and Darron Thomas, who both started. James ran for 53 yards and wore a brace after dislocating his elbow a few weeks ago. Thomas was a little shakier, tossing two interceptions before being pulled for backup Bryan Bennett. Was it rust? Hard to say but you can't say it wasn't a factor after being limited in practices the week before. There's likely not much of a quarterback controversy but there's no question the Ducks need Thomas at 100% if they want to beat Washington, Stanford or USC. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas was a bright spot, perhaps extra bright in Oregon's yellow "bumblebee" uniforms, taking a kickoff 93-yards for a touchdown and scoring on a 45-yard pass.

- People joke about Case Keenum putting up video game numbers in Houston's offense but that's exactly what he did Thursday, throwing NINE touchdown passes as the Cougars routed Rice 73-34 despite the rainy conditions. It wasn't the start Keenum and the offense wanted, with an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown to put themselves in an early hole. But then the rain seemed to lighten up and the record-setting quarterback took over from there. His fifth touchdown toss moved him past former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell to set the FBS-record for career TD passes and he proceeded to throw four more just for good measure. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "The rain slowed down a little bit ... I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them." Keenum should set another record next week with 267 yards to become the FBS leader in career passing yards. Undefeated and somewhat untested, it looks like Houston is on their way to a special season. They have serious issues on defense but the offense will continue to put up eye-popping numbers.

- Tom O'Brien's hot seat status is fiery hot right now after losing to Florida State 34-0. The Wolfpack managed only 166 yards on offense and were shutout for the first time in three years. They weren't just beat by FSU, they were pushed around like they were Duke. T.J. Graham, one of the few bright spots for N.C. State this year, was bottled up and held to just 116 all-purpose yards. Given the way he handled the Russell Wilson situation and the way the season has gone, don't be surprised when there's a second coaching search going on in the triangle during the offseason (UNC being the other).

- It's time to give JoePa props for coaching Penn State to an 8-1 record. The defense, of course, is the story and the backbone of the team, shutting out Illinois for three quarters but the Nittany Lions had just enough on offense to get by with a 10-7 win. It was a sloppy affair for both teams but Joe Paterno picked up win No. 409 to move become the winningest coach in Division I. They are the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team right now.

- Is there a team more bipolar than Syracuse? A week after throttling West Virginia at home, the Orangemen looked terrible against Louisville, losing 27-10. They beat Toledo thanks to an officiating error, barely lost to Rutgers and barely beat Tulane, then have alternated between great and horrible the last two weeks. They certainly look like they're going to another bowl game this year but if you're Doug Marrone, you have to be concerned with the lack of consistency. On the other side, Louisville posted back-to-back Big East wins for the first time since 2006 and are still in the thick of things in the muddled conference race. Teddy Bridgewater continues to progress and this young team is making steady progress.

- As a few people joked on Twitter, Missouri proved that an SEC East team can beat an SEC West team with the Tigers 38-31 overtime win against Texas A&M. Any joy Aggie fans have over the move to a new conference is being ruined by their team's play on the field, blowing a 14 point lead at home this time around after doing the same against Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Missouri is better than their .500 record suggests and Henry Josey has been a revelation at the running back spot - so much so that he looks like the all-Big 12 pick at his position. James Franklin still makes a bone-headed play from time to time but the offense is still better than expected with the first-time starter running the show. Still, what once was a season of promise for Texas A&M has been anything but and doesn't get better with a trip to Norman.

- Impressive game by the Blackshirts as Nebraska muzzled Michigan State's offense in a 24-3 win in Lincoln. NU defensive backs turned in their best game of the season, being physical off of the line and forcing Kirk Cousins into missing all but four of his first 16 passes. He finished the day with just 86 yards a week after a 290 yard, three TD performance. Taylor Martinez and Rex Burkhead paced the Cornhuskers' offense and looked like they are finally earning their ranking with a dominating win.

- Iowa, really? Minnesota is one of the worst teams in the country and you lose 22-21? There's not much to explain really. The same goes for Texas Tech, getting trounced at home by Iowa State. CBS Sports' Bruce Feldman was in a state of disbelief everytime he checked the score of either game and that pretty much sums up what everybody else was thinking.

- Late in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party (which the politically correct will know is Georgia-Florida), SI.com's Andy Staples and I both turned to each other and said that the Bulldog's four point lead would be insurmountable for the Gators offense to overcome. Special teams was another story but the offense? It just couldn't move the ball for their life. The personnel just isn't there to give them any schematic advantage. Hats off to Mark Richt though, who has won six straight and certainly helped his cause.

- Was shocked to see that Texas ended a FIVE game losing streak at home against Kansas this week. It's not saying much against that Jayhawks defense but the Longhorns still rushed for an impressive 441 yards in a game that few people saw on the Longhorn Network.

- Welcome to the Pac-12 win column Utah, who beat Oregon State at home 27-8.

- Clemson finally pulled a Clemson against Georgia Tech. Tevin Washington, after a string of bad games, rushed for 176 yards and was the triggerman for the option offense that jumped out to a 24-3 lead thanks to several Tigers turnovers. It was an impressive showing by Georgia Tech's defense against the explosive Clemson offense, which had come into the game scoring points at will. Considering how shaky the Yellow Jackets had looked on that side of the ball coming in, only a few believed they could pull off the upset which ended any hope of the ACC putting a team in the BCS championship game.

- Go ahead Braxton Miller, take a bow. The true freshman sparked a last-second win that gives Ohio State some life after upsetting Wisconsin. According to reporters after the game, Miller apparently winked at head coach Luke Fickell before the final drive and said "We're all right." That's special. Coming out of high school, Miller showed he had enough talent and moxie that many people compared him to former Heisman winner Troy Smith. The 40 yard pass to Devin Smith with 20 seconds left had to be the play of the year for a Buckeyes team that had been through so much. One has to wonder if they had held on against Nebraska what our view of this team would be.

Tweet of the week

"How impressive was Texas vs. KU? UT had more total yards (590) than current subscribers to Longhorn Network."

- CBSSports.com Senior Writer Brett McMurphy.

More on College Football
Analysis
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
Sooners kick it into high gear a week too late.
Read >>
Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
Awaiting the LSU-Alabama showdown, Clemson and Kansas State drop out of the top 10. Read >
Bruce Feldman Bruce Feldman
The Big Picture: Luck doing nothing to diminish legend. Read >>
Related links
Video
Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Stanford

5. Boise State

6. Oklahoma

7. Oregon

8. Clemson

9. Arkansas

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

Brett McMurphy will be in Stillwater to see BCS contender Oklahoma State host previously undefeated Kansas State. Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman will both be in Tuscaloosa for the game of the season, LSU-Alabama.

Leaning this way

Kansas State at Oklahoma State

It's almost unfair for one of the great stories in the first half of the season, Bill Snyder's Wildcats, to face the Big 12's two best teams on back-to-back weeks so all we'll say is good luck trying to stop the Cowboys offense. We have a feeling that Kansas State, which dropped 31 spots in total defense after facing Oklahoma, will struggle unless the offense plays keep away and doesn't turn the ball over.

South Carolina at Arkansas

On paper this is a top 10 match up but in reality both teams a bit overrated. Arkansas' defensive issues, especially in the first half, have contributed to closer than expected wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. South Carolina has a good defense but the offense has struggled to score for six week outside of the Kentucky game. It's at home so the edge goes to the Hogs unless Alshon Jeffrey (finally) has a breakout game.

LSU at Alabama (CBS, 8 PM ET)

The showdown of the season is what everybody will have their eyes on Saturday night. The strength of both teams is clearly their defenses so this will come down to who can break open a big play on offense or special teams. There are more home run threats on the Tide and it's in Tuscaloosa but anybody picking against LSU has to know that doing so means going against Les Miles. Should be a great one.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 3:35 pm
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 9



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: Beavis and Burkhead - It's impossible to discuss either Taylor Martinez or Rex Burkhead without mentioning the effect they've had on each other and Nebraska's success. They're like a buddy comedy, bringing out the best in each other while highlighting their differences; Martinez is often erratic through the air but almost always hits Burkhead in stride, while the slower Burkhead can be an effective decoy on options to spring Martinez for big gains on keepers. They work in tandem, and it would be jarring to see either of them try to replicate their success this year alone.

This week, Nebraska managed just 270 yards against Michigan State, but 233 of those yards (and all three touchdowns) came from either Martinez or Burkhead. Against the statistically best defense in the Big Ten, that's no small task. If the Huskers intend to continue toward the Big Ten Championship, it will be on the backs of their maddening quarterback and devastating tailback, ever inseparable.

LOSER: Michigan State's rushing game, again - Coming into Saturday's action, Michigan State was ranked dead last in the Big Ten in rushing yardage per game. Now, afterwards, nothing has changed. Facing a middling Nebraska defense that continues to miss All-American DT Jared Crick, the Spartans as a team managed only 101 yards on 30 carries. The passing game was even worse (11-27, 86 yards), but still: this was supposed to be a rushing attack that could take over games -- or at the very least reliably keep the chains moving. Instead, thanks to some lackluster blocking, these guys aren't even able to solve a defense with seven men in the box. If this serial failure to rush the ball effectively continues, MSU's not going to hold onto its claim for the division title.

WINNER: Braxton Miller - Yes, Ohio State is running the ball almost exclusively. But that offensive approach isn't possible if Joe Bauserman is the starter, because a diet of nothing but rushes is easy for a defense to figure out if there's only one potential ball-carrier in the backfield. That's not the case with Braxton Miller running the show, though; if Miller drops back in the pocket, he's got the opportunity to look for rushing lanes as well as open receivers. That's extremely stressful for defenders who have to decide whether to stay in coverage or crash the line once Miller takes off. That's what got Devin Smith so wide open for the game-winning score on Saturday, and it's exactly how other mobile quarterbacks like Terrelle Pryor and Denard Robinson find guys free in the secondary so often. 

LOSER: The Big Ten bandwagon - Anyone still feel like Wisconsin is a Rose Bowl-quality team? Anyone? With Wisconsin on a two-game slide and the defense looking like a liability (which it always was, it just didn't matter when the Badgers were scoring at will), the Big Ten now looks like it has zero elite teams, not one. Whoever goes to the Rose Bowl -- probably Michigan State, Michigan, or Penn State -- is due for a shellacking at the hands of whoever the Pac-12 puts forth (Stanford and Oregon being the key contenders here).  

WINNER: Whoever's starting at quarterback against Iowa - Consider the list of Indiana's Tre Roberson, Iowa State's Steele Jantz, Minnesota's MarQueis Gray, Northwestern's Dan Persa, and Penn State's Matt McGloin. What do they all have in common? They've all spent extensive time this season not being their team's starting quarterback, usually splitting time if not outright benched for poor play. They've all also lit the Iowa defense up, combining for a 149.95 passer rating and a 69.3% completion rate, numbers far higher than each QB's season rates. These are quarterbacks that a good defense feasts on; instead, Iowa lets them run wild.

The news gets worse for the Hawkeyes, as Kirk Cousins and Denard Robinson are both looming in the upcoming schedule. If Iowa can make the since-benched Steele Jantz look like a one-week Heisman candidate, imagine the devastation Robinson will rain down upon the Hawkeye defense.

LOSER: The 3:30 slate of games and anyone unlucky enough to witness them - In the strongest evidence yet that close games are not automatically good games, Illinois-Penn State and Iowa-Minnesota were decided by a grand total of four points, featured lead changes in the last three minutes, and were enough to set college football back decades. Illinois-PSU was scoreless through the first 41 minutes of play, and featured as many punts as points (17) -- a stat made even more horrifying when combined with the seven turnovers the game also featured.

Meanwhile, in Iowa's 22-21 loss, the Hawkeyes drove into Minnesota territory on their first four possessions and got a grand total of zero points on those drives; they would add a lost fumble inside Minnesota's 30 in the third quarter. Minnesota, meanwhile, was incinerated by Marcus Coker on the ground, giving up over 250 yards and eight yards a pop to the Iowa sophomore -- and Minnesota won. It was just a bad, shoddily-executed game all around, and nobody needs to see that unless they've got a vested rooting interest. 

WINNER: Quietly, Michigan's title hopes - During the Michigan State-Nebraska game, ESPN erroneously showed a graphic of Iowa at 6-1 (2-1) on the year, presupposing that the Hawkeyes' 44-41 loss to Iowa State didn't happen. This gaffe went unnoticed in the booth, as Urban Meyer twice made mention of Iowa being a "quiet 6-1" and a challenger for the Legends Division crown.

We bring that up not to nitpick ESPN, but to point out that if even Iowa was getting division title mention as of Saturday morning (NOTE: all that talk is obviously done now), then Michigan's gone straight past "darkhorse" and into "invisihorse" territory, even though the Wolverines are still a one-loss team. Yes, MSU still holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Michigan, but if all it takes is another loss out of the team that just got worked by Nebraska for Michigan to be in the driver's seat here, that's not exactly asking much.

LOSER: For once, not Ron Zook - No, we're clearly not declaring Ron Zook a winner this week, not when his players just dropped their third straight game and are on the brink of pure freefall after a 6-0 start. No no, he is no winner. But at the very least, this week, Illinois did not look outcoached -- just outplayed. Gone were the howlers of game management and terrible playcalls, although that's scant consolation when the alternative is four turnovers and two missed field goals. At the very least, though, those are execution problems (it's not as if Zook called "the fumble play"), and even with those problems Illinois wins this game if it weren't for PSU's 80-yard touchdown drive on its last possession of the game. So chins up, Illinois fans: your coach didn't blow this one.

Posted on: October 30, 2011 12:43 am
Edited on: October 30, 2011 2:20 am
 

QUICK HITS: Ohio State 33, Wisconsin 29

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO STATE WON: Braxton Miller was the hero of the night for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes scored a touchdown with 20 seconds left to stun No. 15 Wisconsin in Columbus, 33-29. What looked like a defensive struggle turned into a spectacular battle between Miller and Russell Wilson, and though Wilson won the statistical battle with 253 yards and three scores through the air, Miller accounted for both of Ohio State's second-half touchdowns and repeatedly stymied Wisconsin's defensive efforts.

HOW OHIO STATE WON: After halftime, Ohio State just plain outworked Wisconsin, especially in the trenches. Ohio State kept the ball on the ground almost exclusively in the second half, with 34 rushes and only four throws. Having said that, it was a Braxton Miller pass that saved the day for the Buckeyes; Miller scrambled out of the pocket and uncorked a 40-yard touchdown to a wide open Devin Smith (seen at right) for the game-winning score.

WHEN OHIO STATE WON: When Andrew Sweat came on a blitz and hit Russell Wilson's arm as Wilson attempted a 45-game-winning Hail Mary. The ball fluttered harmlessly to the turf, and Ohio State won. It should be noted that the clock had already run out on the previous play, but Ohio State had committed both pass interference and a face mask on the play, extending the game and pushing Wisconsin 15 yards closer to the end zone. Unfortunately for the Badgers, even with the assistance from the penalty, there would be no game-winning Hail Mary heroics this week.

WHAT OHIO STATE WON: It looks like it's time to start thinking of Ohio State as a Top 25 team again, and time to respect the Ohio State offense for knowing its strengths. OSU has been content to stick with a 90-10 run-pass split for long stretches of games (including, as mentioned before, the second half of this contest), and it's a formula that's yielding plenty of success, even against a tough schedule. It might be too early too say that OSU has "figured it out," but at the same time, this is a win over Wisconsin; if this isn't a sign that the Buckeyes are back, what else could be?

WHAT WISCONSIN LOST: All of a sudden, the Badgers don't even control their own destiny in the Leaders division anymore; Penn State is 5-0 in conference play, while Wisconsin is tied with Ohio State and Purdue (Purdue!) at 2-2. But most of all, what's really lost here is confidence in the Wisconsin defense, which has gotten shredded in two straight games -- and has never looked great all season long.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Aside from, oh, all of the last five minutes of play, there was one play that stuck out. On Ohio State's blocked punt that set the Buckeyes up at the Wisconsin 1-yard line, Ryan Shazier came untouched around the second wall of blockers. Brown specifically victimized Robert Burge, who to be fair is 6'7", 325, and thus not the most agile of men. But if your punter's last wall of defense can't stop someone from just running straight around it for the swat, then it's got a Maginot quality that didn't really work out too well for the French either.

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.
Posted on: October 15, 2011 7:04 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Ohio State 17, Illinois 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO STATE WON. Reports of Ohio State's demise were premature, as the Buckeyes came away with a big win over No. 16 Illinois, 17-7. The Buckeyes took advantage of two Illinois turnovers for short fields and turned them into touchdowns, and a late Illinois interception killed a promising drive.

WHY OHIO STATE WON: Ohio State didn't actually do a whole lot on offense, gaining just 229 yards and 14 first downs, but the Buckeyes made clutch plays when they mattered. Courtney Roby picked Nathan Scheelhaase off on the second play of the 3rd quarter and took the ball back to the Illini 12, and Dan Herron would score on the very next play. On the second play of the fourth quarter, A.J. Jenkins fumbled, and Storm Klein was there for the recovery. Three plays later, touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Jake Stoneburner -- more on that later -- and that was all the offense the Buckeyes would need.

WHEN OHIO STATE WON: With the score 17-7 late in the fourth quarter and Illinois facing a 4th and 2 in the OSU red zone, Ron Zook eschewed the easy three points in front of him and had his charges go for it. The play was botched, OSU took over, and never gave the ball back.

WHAT OHIO STATE WON: If you want to talk about "finding a way to win," this game is a prime example. OSU was struggling on offense even more than Illinois was, but the Buckeyes forced the Illini into multiple mistakes without making many of their own, and that was enough to swing the game. More than that, OSU avoided a three-game losing streak in conference play, though the two losses will likely keep the Buckeyes out of the conference title game unless all hell breaks loose in the Leaders Division.

WHAT ILLINOIS LOST: Gone is the perfect record and the lofty ranking, as the Illini will likely tumble from No. 16 when Sunday rolls around. Nathan Scheelhaase had his worst day of the year, gaining just five yards per pass and 3.1 yards a pop on the ground while giving the ball away twice. Illinois can still salvage a division title by winning out, but that doesn't seem terribly likely.

THAT WAS CRAZY: So, that touchdown pass we mentioned earlier? That was all Braxton Miller did through the air. No, seriously, that was it. Miller's final passing stats: 1-4, 17 yards, 1 TD, and he played the entire game at QB. All in all, OSU rushed on 51 of its plays, and passed on just those four. Hey, we said OSU was going to need to rely on its ground game. 

Posted on: October 14, 2011 3:38 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 3:40 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 7

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. 

This week we're offering a menu that is a bit low on carbs. It's not that we don't have plenty of interesting choices to offer you this weekend, but there isn't exactly a must-have on the list. Which I suppose is a good thing considering all the big meals we've all been ingesting the last few weeks and the pounds they've packed on, we could all afford to eat a bit more salad this weekend.

BREAKFAST

#23 Michigan State vs. #11 Michigan - ESPN 12pm ET

This game has it all: rivalry, firepower, and consequence. Michigan State is looking to continue its reign in this series, having won the last 3 in the series. Michigan will need to get Heisman candidate Denard Robinson rolling and light up the scoreboard; that hasn't been much of a problem for UM this year. At stake is probably the best shot at challenging Nebraska for the Legends Division crown; the loser, meanwhile, will need a lot of help in the race. - Adam Jacobi

#21 Texas A&M vs. #20 Baylor - FX 12pm ET

Robert Griffin is appointment television no matter who Baylor is playing, but considering that Texas A&M is statistically the worst passing defense in the country, this one could be really fun. Of course, Texas A&M isn't exactly a slouch either, as Ryan Tannehill, Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael have done a good job of covering up that secondary's mistakes on offense. This one could be a pretty nice shootout to start your day with. - Tom Fornelli

Mississippi State vs. #15 South Carolina - SEC Network 12:21pm ET

Is Connor Shaw for real or not? The Gamecocks' now-unquestioned starting quarterback looked the part against Kentucky, but a veteran Bulldog secondary playing at home in Starkville is a much tougher test. And if Tyler Russell's breakout second half against UAB was more than illusion, State could have put some of their offensive woes behind them as well. Whichever quarterback proves last week's performance wasn't a fluke should come away with the victory. - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

Tennessee vs. #1 LSU - CBS 3:30pm ET

For the second week in a row, the Tiger defense gets to face a backup quarterback making his first start of the season. The Vols' Matt Simms has a lot of advantages Florida's Jacoby Brissett didn't, though: he'll be at home; he's a senior who started eight games for Tennessee in 2010; and he saw the LSU defense up close and personal playing against them last year. Too bad the Vols don't have the running game to keep the Tigers from teeing off on Simms all the same. - JH

#22 Texas vs. #6 Oklahoma State - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

Did you know that Mack Brown's Texas teams have never lost a game following the Red River Shootout? That record is likely going to be in serious jeopardy with the Oklahoma State offense coming to town, but if the Longhorns can manage to keep Brandon Weeden in check and pull off a win, it'd be a very large step in returning the program to where it once stood. Or you should watch just to see if Oklahoma State can finally hit the century mark. - TF

Virginia vs. #12 Georgia Tech - ESPNU 3:30pm ET

The last time Virginia took the field, they needed overtime to steal a 21-20 victory over Idaho.  With an off week to get healthy and prepare for the Yellow Jackets' option attack, the Cavs defense will try to live up to their 311.8 yards allowed per game (ranked third in the ACC).  Tech coach Paul Johnson criticized the decision making of quarterback Tevin Washington in last week's 21-16 win over Maryland, and cited a lack of "continuity" as a reason for their uncharacteristically low score.  Look for Georgia Tech to try and use this game to get their methodical attack back on track. It might be more than a young Virginia defense can handle, even with a week to prepare. - Chip Patterson

#16 Illinois vs. Ohio State - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

The Illini look to continue their tear through a stunned and unsuspecting slate of opponents and run their record to 7-0. In Illinois' way is mighty Ohio State, who's got the talent to win the battle up front on both sides of the ball. If OSU doesn't have Braxton Miller at 100% after last week's ankle injury, though, can the vaunted Buckeye rushing attack pick up the slack and turn drives into touchdowns? - AJ

DINNER

Maryland vs. #8 Clemson - ESPNU 6:30pm ET

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd wasn't wearing hip pads for "swag reasons."  Now he has to shed his hip fashion style in order to protect his strained hip against Maryland.  Boyd may have been carted off the field last week against Boston College, but he'll be lining up under center on Saturday night in Byrd Stadium.  Maryland, on the other hand, won't make a decision regarding their starting quarterback until game time.  Starter Danny O'Brien was benched in the 21-16 loss to Georgia Tech in favor of freshman C.J. Brown, who ran for 124 yards in just one half of action against the Yellow Jackets.  But Brown struggled throwing the ball, so it will be interesting to see what head coach Randy Edsall decides to do.  The last time Maryland played a primetime game at home, they wrapped themselves in the state flag and pulled out a victory.  Tune in to see what fashion statement they make this week. - CP 

#24 Auburn vs. Florida - ESPN 7pm ET

In a matchup of teams with passing games that will be lucky to reach "mediocre" -- the Gators thanks to John Brantley's injury, the Tigers due to Barrett Trotter's ongoing struggles -- the winner should prove to be whichever team can get their pair of star tailbacks on track. With Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey on one side and Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb on the other, backfield head-to-heads don't get a whole lot better than this. - JH

Washington State vs. #7 Stanford - FX 7:30pm ET

The Cardinal have the country's best quarterback in Andrew Luck and the conference's toughest defense (just 10.6 points per game allowed) so this should be a relatively easy road trip for the Cardinal. Head coach David Shaw will likely want to establish the running game this week after tilting heavily in favor of the pass last week against Colorado. The question probably isn't if Stanford will win, but by how much. Washington State showed they've got some fight in them last week before coming up short against UCLA. - Bryan Fischer

Kansas vs. #3 Oklahoma - ESPN 2 9:15pm ET

This is a pretty late start for a game that's being played in Kansas, but I have to believe it's some kind of strategy. Maybe the Jayhawks are hoping that by starting the game later, nobody will be watching the Sooners offense destroy a Kansas defense that has been shredded by everybody it's faced this season. This one likely won't be competitive for very long, but who knows? - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

#9 Oregon vs. #18 Arizona State - ESPN 10:15pm ET

They're still the conference king until knocked off their perch but Arizona State will present a stiff test for Oregon this weekend. The Ducks are not as good as they were last year on defense and will be missing star running back LaMichael James but Kenjon Barner and freshman DeAnthony Thomas are able replacements for him on offense. The atmosphere at Autzen at night should be a big advantage but expect a tough Sun Devils defense to force a few turnovers and make things interesting. - BF
Posted on: October 12, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Ohio State at Illinois

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: It wins the battle of the trenches. Illinois can move the ball pretty well, and its defensive front seven pretty much ripped Brock Osweiler to shreds when Arizona State came to Champaign in September. That said, Ohio State is supposed to be able to win these types of battles, especially with all-conference linemen like Mike Brewster and Mike Adams up front on offense. So if the OSU rushing attack can push the point of attack 1-2 yards forward on a consistent basis, the stable of Buckeye tailbacks should be able to generate yardage, drives, and points.

ILLINOIS WILL WIN IF: The offense can get A.J. Jenkins free early and often. Ohio State is going to present the toughest challenge the Illinois offense has faced to date, and the running lanes the Illini have gotten thus far in the year won't be quite as wide open on Saturday. Thus, it's going to be imperative that the Illinois downfield passing game gets going, and in case you hadn't noticed, A.J. Jenkins is basically Illinois' entire downfield passing game. That singularity of talent has hardly been a detriment thus far, as Jenkins has an obscene 450 yards receiving in his two Big Ten games this year, but if he gets bottled up Illinois is probably in for a long afternoon. 

X-FACTOR: This is more like the Brax-Factor (actually, let's not call him that ever), as Braxton Miller's ankle is undoubtedly still sore from the injury that took him out of last week's loss at Nebraska. Miller's primary strength is his ability to run the ball, both on designed runs and on scrambles, so if his mobility is limited and he's primarily a pocket passer, that bodes extremely well for the Illini.

Miller's young enough that his read progression is basically Primary Receiver, then Scramble, and maybe a Secondary Receiver between the two if Bo Pelini's feeling optimistic. That's usually not a bad thing, because Miller on the move is generally a net positive for the Buckeye offense, but if he can't get moving as easily, then we're looking at a situation not unlike Nebraska's struggles in 2010 when Taylor Martinez was hampered by lingering ankle problems and was forced to rely on his arm more often. There lay pain for the Huskers, and if Miller's hobbled, there lies trouble for OSU on Sunday.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com