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Tag:John Clay
Posted on: October 16, 2010 11:48 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2010 9:19 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 16)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. It's anybody's conference. With Wisconsin putting the finishing touches on a stunning 31-18 upset of the Ohio State Buckeyes, here are the teams that are at least tied with OSU in the Big Ten standings: Michigan State, Iowa, Purdue, and Wisconsin. Purdue is probably not going to contend for the Big Ten title, but the other three teams mentioned certainly will. Michigan State, of all the teams, must be the most ecstatic about the result in Madison; the Spartans are undefeated, the only Big Ten team who's 3-0 in the conference, and they miss Ohio State this year. But Iowa's at 2-0 in conference play, and the Spartans have to visit Iowa City in two weeks. Who would have thought back in August that MSU at Iowa could be the most pivotal contest of the Big Ten season?

2. Denard Robinson is most certainly mortal. It's not as Denard Robinson was a non-factor against the Iowa Hawkeyes today: Robinson racked up 204 yards of total offense in about 35 minutes of work. But for the third time this season, Shoelace left a game with an injury, and for the second time, that injury shelved him for the rest of the game. One of the most remarkable things about Robinson's production thus far is the sheer heft of Robinson's workload. Yes, he can't lead the nation in rushing and throw for over 200 yards without either throwing or rushing on the vast majority of Michigan's snaps. But that's an incredibly difficult thing to do, and now we're seeing some evidence that it's just not sustainable -- especially now that Robinson's not facing cupcake defenses like Massachusetts or Notre Dame (I kid, ND, I kid). Thanks to a bye week, Robinson has two weeks to recover before his next start, at Penn State. Does Tate Forcier still gets some snaps in relief at Beaver Stadium? Should he?

3. Wisconsin's rushing game is alive and well. Coming into today, John Clay was having a pretty good season, but considering Wisconsin's opposition, Clay wasn't looking dominant. That changed this week, when the big junior running back was running untouched through giant rushing lanes against Ohio State. That's not entirely surprising, but if Iowa doesn't have the best defensive line in the conference, then Ohio State surely must, and that Buckeye front four was absolutely gouged today. So if the Badgers can run all over Ohio State, they can probably run all over everybody left on their schedule. Again, the only remaining great defensive line on Wisconsin's schedule is Iowa, and that game's coming up this week. That should be just a little fun to watch. 

4. Congratulations to Penn State, who did not lose this week. Technically, it didn't play, but any iota of good news is welcome in Happy Valley these days.

5. Don't be that surprised if Illinois runs the table from here on out. It would be foolish to look at Illinois and see just another .500 team. Illinois' three losses are to still-undefeated Missouri, still-undefeated Michigan State, and only-recently-defeated Ohio State. In every one of those games, Illinois was competitive into the fourth quarter. And guess what: Illinois doesn't have any games against ranked competition left. Nathan Scheelhaase and Mikel LeShoure are growing as a QB-RB tandem week to week, and the toughest opponent left on the Illini schedule is, oh, let's say Northwestern. Illinois may be 3-3 today, but it may be 8-4 (or even better) before you know it.

6. The Tim Brewster farewell tour's going to be hard to watch. Fans of comedy in college football are going to lose an important ally this season, as Minnesota informed the world that Tim Brewster's not coming back next season. It's a shame, really, but it's only surprising insofar as Brewster hasn't been asked to clean out his office right now instead. Minnesota's got some decent athleticism, especially on the edges, so if that talent gets in the hands of a decent coach (MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH MIKE LEACH DO ITTTTTTT), that program up north might wake up and make some noise next season. But only if Minnesota hires Leach.

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Posted on: October 16, 2010 8:31 pm
 

Upset Alerts: Wisconsin crushing Ohio State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

There's a shocker going on in Madison today, as Wisconsin has opened up a 21-3 lead on top-ranked Ohio State. That is not a typo; it's 21-3. Wisconsin's David Gilreath took the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown, and the Badger offense has absolutely gashed the Buckeye defense on the ground. John Clay has 13 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns already; this is the best he's looked this season by far.

Ohio State appeared to get a break when OSU linebacker Andrew Sweat picked off a Scott Tolzien pass, then got 15 yards tacked onto his return after a dodgy late hit call; that sequence of events put the ball on Wisconsin's 24 yard line for a first and 10. But Terrelle Pryor was sacked on 3rd down, and Devin Barclay missed the resulting 46-yard attempt. 

Pryor has been miserable through the air, completing only one of his last seven passes for six yards. He's just plain missing his receivers today. Pryor can still run, of course, and he at least has 30 yards rushing on eight carries. But that's not nearly enough, of course, and there's nothing about this game's score that's not indicative of how the first half played out.

This is a butt-kicking, plain and simple. It's stunning to see Ohio State on the receiving end of one in Big Ten play.

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Posted on: October 15, 2010 3:51 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.

Breakfast


Main Course - #13 Michigan State vs. Illinois - Noon - Big Ten Network


Yes, the morning menu is still incredibly light this week.  You'd think I'd be beyond complaining about it at this point since it's been this way all season, but I assure you, I am not above complaining about anything .  Though this Michigan State and Illinois game isn't as unfulfilling as it may seem at first glance.

Michigan State is 6-0, after all, and coming off of a very big win against Michigan.   Illinois has also played well lately, with a win not many saw coming on the road against Penn State last week.  Also, let's not forget that the Illini gave Ohio State a very tough time in Champaign a few weeks ago.

There's enough cause to believe that another upset may be in the works this weekend.  First of all, Michigan State is coming off that Michigan win, and there could be a letdown this weekend.  Second, it is Michigan State.  Completely unexpected losses at home against teams they should beat after getting off to a good start to the season wouldn't exactly be a new phenomenon for the Spartans. 

Side Orders: If you don't get the Big Ten Network, and don't have the choice of watching Michigan State and Illinois between Ro-Tel and Velveeta commercials, there are other options.  Florida State and Boston College square off in Tallahassee,  or you could tune in to what could be Tim Brewster's last game when Minnesota takes on Purdue.   Of course, if you want to watch that game I'd suggest spending three hours talking to some sort of counselor instead.  Maybe you should watch Syracuse and Pitt instead, just to see if you should actually take this Syracuse team seriously.

Lunch


Main Course - #7 Auburn vs. #12 Arkansas - 3:30pn - CBS


Now that Alabama has lost, it leaves the door open to a couple of teams in the SEC West.  Auburn is one of them. Arkansas, who has already lost to Alabama, has an outside chance, but to make the most of it, a win over Auburn is a must have.

Of course, even if there wasn't so much on the line for both teams in this game, I'd recommend tuning in just to watch Cam Newton and Ryan Mallett face off.  In other words, expect a lot of points, and what could turn out to be a very exciting, back and forth affair.

Auburn's pass defense left a bit to be desired against Kentucky last week, and don't think that Bobby Petrino didn't pick up on a few things when watching the game tape.  The Auburn defense is going to need to play very well if the Tigers want to leave this one with their perfect record still intact.

Side Orders: There are a couple of other dishes available in the afternoon, including the one that's often best-served cold, which Nebraska is hoping to give Texas tomorrow afternoon.  There's also Michigan and Iowa in the Big House, which will be a defining game for the Wolverines.  We find out if Michigan is either a good team that lost a tough game against a rival last week, or it's still the same old Michigan we've grown accustomed to the last few years.

Dinner


Main Course - #18 Wisconsin vs. #1 Ohio State - 7pm - ESPN


It's been a while since the Buckeyes found themselves ranked as the best team in the country, but if they're not careful, it's not going to last long.  The Buckeyes have gotten off to a 6-0 start this season, but this is the first real test they'll have faced.  Yes, Miami was a tough game, but that was at home and Miami has proven to be pretty average this season.

This is the road, at night, at Camp Randall Stadium.  Ohio State's defense hasn't faced a punishing ground game like it'll be seeing against Wisconsin with John Clay and company.  Ohio State has only ventured outside of Columbus once this season, and that was what turned out to be their worst game of the season against Illinois.

And trust me, it's a lot easier to win in Champaign than it is in Madison.

Side Orders: Kentucky nearly knocked off Auburn at home last week, and it will try to do this same this week when it hosts South Carolina.   The Gamecocks are coming off their biggest win ever, so a let down could be in order.  There's also Florida looking to end its two-game losing streak taking on Mississippi State and old friend Dan Mullen, and the Crimson Tide look to take out their frustrations from last week against Ole Miss and its new mascot.

Late Night Snack


Oregon State may have had some troubles with non-conference foes like TCU and Boise State, but it's off to a nice start in conference play.  They look to improve to 3-0 in the Pac-10 when they head to Washington to take on the Huskies Saturday night on ESPN.
Posted on: October 10, 2010 3:38 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 9)

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.

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Posted on: September 27, 2010 8:00 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2010 11:53 pm
 

For the Big Ten, the fight begins this weekend

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Big Ten Conference play begins this weekend*, and the race for the conference title is either already over (Ohio State) or wide open (the six other teams seemingly capable of winning the conference). We'll quickly find out whether many of the presumptive challengers to the Buckeyes' supremacy have what it takes to put together a great season. Considering the questions surrounding so many of them, the answer seems to be "maybe, but it's unlikely." In no particular order ...

Michigan (4-0): On one hand, Denard Robinson is a near-lock for Heisman candidacy this December; his stat lines are other-worldly, and there are few defenses in the conference that seem capable of containing this Michigan offense. But that defense. Ye gods, the defense. Michigan allowed 37 points to FCS stalwart UMass, and has given up more points thus far than every Big Ten team except Minnesota. Can Robinson and his teammates outscore enough conference opponents to justify the team's No. 19 ranking? They'll find out soon enough against Indiana this weekend; the Hoosiers have scored more than 40 points a game this season and have talent everywhere on offense.

Iowa (3-1): The good news: the Iowa Hawkeyes look materially better than last season, as wins that were close last year are blowouts now. Ricky Stanzi is far more efficient as a passer, and the only interception he's thrown all season came on a deflection. The bad news: the Hawkeyes have three kickers, which is to say they have none, and their cornerbacks are still rather suspect. And good heavens, that Arizona game. Iowa committed mistake after mistake in the first half, found themselves down 20 points at the break, then imploded on the offensive line with the game on the line. So what's there to make of the Arizona game? Was it an aberration, or is Iowa merely a bully of plainly inferior competition? Penn State comes to town this weekend, and intends to find out exactly how good the Hawkeyes actually are.

Wisconsin (4-0): No undefeated Big Ten team is more of an enigma than Wisconsin, who looks like it should be a Rose Bowl contender on paper -- and may very well be so -- but has underwhelmed against FBS competition. The Badgers needed a blocked extra point and a miraculous tackle at the 1-yard line at the end of the first half to help preserve a 20-19 win against Arizona State, and only beat an unimpressive San Jose State team 27-14. Yes, they won 70-3 over Austin Peay. Whatever. Wisconsin has the hogs up front and the stable of running backs (led by All-American candidate John Clay) to run over just about anybody in the conference, and Scott Tolzein is having another impressive and efficient season. Their defense isn't a weakness, and they get Ohio State (whom they've usually given fits) in Madison. But lo and behold, they face Michigan State in East Lansing this week, and it's basically a toss-up. Which Wisconsin will show up this Saturday -- and this season? 

Penn State (3-1): Joe Paterno made waves when he installed true freshman Rob Bolden at quarterback to begin the season, and for the most part, the decision has worked out; Bolden hasn't looked great, but he's playing with a maturity beyond his years, and he's certainly not a weak link in the offense. That weak link, however, would be the offensive line; Penn State hasn't blown anyone off the ball with any regularity yet this season, and that includes the likes of Youngstown State and Temple. That Penn State is still ranked after its somewhat underwhelming non-conference schedule demonstrates the deep level of trust voters have in JoePa to field a competitive team, and that's a trust that's rarely betrayed. Still, the Nittany Lions had better start playing like a quality team very soon, or they could find themselves in line for something like the Texas Bowl.

Northwestern (4-0): The Cardiac 'Cats have the inside track to a 6-0 record right now; they're two-thirds of the way there at 4-0, and their next two opponents are absolute doormats Minnesota and Purdue. Quarterback Dan Persa is one of the highest rated passers in the NCAA, and he's also Northwestern's leading rusher. That's sort of a bad thing. In fact, Persa and his stable of running backs all average less than 4 yards per carry, and they haven't even faced great rush defenses: of their three FBS opponents, only Central Michigan is in the top half of the nation's rush defenses. Let's face it: if you can't run on Vanderbilt (143 yards on 46 carries most certainly does not qualify), you can't run on most of the Big Ten. Can Persa keep up his efficient passing in the conference season, or is that 6-0 start going to turn into 8-4 and a mediocre December bowl bid?

Michigan State (4-0): Here's what's scary: The relatively underhyped, unheralded Michigan State squad could end up being better than all the teams mentioned above. Kirk Cousins is 17th in passing efficiency in the FBS. True freshman Le'Veon Bell is a dynamo in the Spartans' backfield (and pancaked two defenders at once on MSU's game-winning fake field goal). Also, unlike Michigan, MSU doesn't have a giant honking RED ALERT attached to its defense. Oh, and the Spartans miss Ohio State on this year's schedule. Ten wins or more for Sparty? It's happened all of once (1999) since the NCAA went to 11-game regular seasons, but it could easily happen this year. Or MSU could revert to its usual self and drop four or five games in the conference. We'll start finding out when the Spartans and Badgers lock horns -- if, y'know, ancient Greek warriors and badgers had horns -- this Saturday.

So who's legit and who's not? To be honest, right now, nobody really knows. That's why this weekend's going to be vitally important for all the teams mentioned above. No more excuses, no hiding behind cupcake schedules; it's Big Ten season now.

*It's worth pointing out that the Big Ten is still something of a dinosaur in this respect; it's the only conference with an eight-game schedule that has yet to begin conference play. Sure, thanks to bye weeks, Indiana and Illinois each still have a non-con to squeeze in during the conference slate, but that's it; for the rest, it's the tried and true formula of out-of-conference, in-conference, bowl. A bit stale, to be sure, but it's somewhat nice to not have your conference title hopes completely ruined before it's even October; Georgia, after all, has already gone 0-3 in the SEC. Hopeless in September. That's no way for a fan to be, is it?

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com