Tag:Taylor Martinez
Posted on: November 18, 2011 4:12 pm
 

PODCAST: Big Ten/Heisman/Thursday's Games

Posted by Adam Jacobi

I'm the guest on the College Football Podcast today as we debate: Who would you rather have going forward - Denard Robinson or Taylor Martinez? We break down the Nebraska-Michigan and Penn State-Ohio State games, talk about Russell Wilson's Heisman chances and wonder why in the world I have Aaron Murray on my Heisman Ballot. Plus, we analyze Virginia Tech's win over UNC and UAB's shocking win over Southern Miss

For the record, if I had the ballot to do all over again, I'm putting Collin Klein on it instead of Murray if for no other reason than to shield myself from the withering scrutiny of Mr. Aizer. Still, we're talking about a fifth place Heisman vote; why not go a little bit off the reservation to give it to someone you don't think is getting enough recognition? It's harmless. Plus, let's not start pretending Murray isn't CRUSHING FOOLS right now. Best QB in the SEC by far, and the Boise State and South Carolina losses aren't exactly on him.

I hope Georgia pulls the SEC Title upset while Murray puts up middling stats if for no other reason than I want to see people come around on Murray even after he has his worst game of the season, then pretend the Heisman isn't all about the team record. Please. 

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Posted on: November 17, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 12



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

I was able to make up some ground against Woman last week, though not nearly as much as I had hoped to as we're approaching the finish line here and I don't have a lot of time. Unfortunately, this week I won't gain any ground at all. It took 12 weeks for it to happen, but for the first time, Woman and Man have the same picks in all 10 games this week. 

Is it a coincidence? Probably, as we both hand over our picks to each other at the same time to assure there's no foul play. Still, is there a chance that she infiltrated my mind using female powers in an attempt to extract my picks and make sure she made the same ones so I couldn't pick up any games on her? I'm not ruling it out. Science is yet to scratch the surface of women's intuition, so we can't be sure what their full powers are.

What this means is that this will be the week that Machine either gets all the way back into the game or falls out of the race, as it does not agree with us on a few games. So without further ado, let's get to the picks.

Virginia Tech (-10 1/2) vs. North Carolina - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I'm not sure how North Carolina went from scoring 49 points and beating Wake Forest to being shut out by N.C. State, but that's not the kind of thing that makes me want to put any faith in the Tar Heels. So even though I'm not completely sold on the Hokies yet, I'm still going with Tech. Pick: Virginia Tech

Woman - "The Hokies beat Georgia Tech by 11 points on the road last week, so I don't think the Tar Heels will pose much of a problem at home." Pick: Virginia Tech

Machine - The Machine makes this one a clean sweep as it doesn't see the Tar Heels doing all that much to make this one interesting late, as the Hokies win 31-16. Pick: Virginia Tech

Michigan (-3 1/2) vs. Nebraska - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This is an incredibly important game for both teams and their chances to play in the first Big Ten Championship, and though at times Michigan does some things on offense that make me shake my head, I'm going to go with the homefield advantage in this one. Though it'll be fun to see Denard Robinson and Taylor Martinez facing off to see who can miss their receivers by more. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "In an alternate Star Trekian universe, did you know the Cornhusker receivers morph into a Taiwanese father?" Pick: Michigan

Machine - The Machine foretells of Michigan falling out of the Big Ten Legends race when the Cornhuskers come to Ann Arbor and beat the Wolverines 27-24. Pick: Nebraska

Illinois vs. Wisconsin (-14 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Let's see, an Illinois team in a free fall that will probably hear news of their head coach being fired soon, or a Wisconsin team that's lost on two Hail Marys and has dominated just about everybody else. Such a tough decision! Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Three weeks ago, Illinois lost to Purdue 21-14. One week later, Wisconsin beat Purdue 62-17. Maybe the Badgers will get Zook'ed but I doubt it." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine thinks that this game will be closer than most expect given what we've seen from Illinois over the last month, but Wisconsin still prevails 37-28. Pick: Illinois

N.C. State vs. Clemson (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Honestly, if there was ever going to be a game that Clemson goes all Clemson on us and pees down its own leg, this would be it, wouldn't it? Still, I don't think that's going to happen as there's just way too much talent on this team. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "With the ACC Atlantic Division clinched and a match-up against rival South Carolina looming, many assume Clemson won't be focused. But coach Dabo Swinney will remind his team its pride is at stake, especially since N.C. State played a better game against Georgia Tech than the Tigers did." Pick: Clemson

Machine - The Wolfpack is going to get blown out in Raleigh this week, as The Machine sees Clemson winning this game 41-17. Pick: Clemson

Ohio State (-6 1/2) vs. Penn State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Listen, before all of the terrible news to come out of Happy Valley surfaced, there was another secret about the Penn State football team that nobody seemed to realize. It's just not that good. Ohio State hasn't been great this season, either, but I don't think that will matter all that much on Saturday. Pick: Ohio State

Woman - "Two teams fractured due to very different circumstances. Feels like a coin flip - going with home field advantage." Pick: Ohio State

Machine - It's unanimous, as Dan Herron rushes for 187 yards and 3 scores against this Penn State defense to give Ohio State a 24-13 win and further muddy up the Leaders Division. Pick: Ohio State

Arkansas (-13 1/2) vs. Mississippi State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Here's a list of SEC West teams not named Ole Miss that Dan Mullen has beaten since taking over at Mississippi State: none. So until that changes I'm not picking Mississippi State to even cover. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "Over the last two weeks, the Razorbacks have gone on an SEC scoring spree, putting 44 and 49 points on the board against South Carolina and Tennessee, respectively. The most points Mississippi State has put up against a ranked team this season was 24. Fear the inexplicably adorable, calorically challenged Tusk." Pick: Arkansas

Machine - Arkansas keeps its SEC Championship and BCS hopes alive in a relatively easy 49-34 win over the Bulldogs. Pick: Arkansas

Baylor vs. Oklahoma (-14 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Baylor has not had its best games of the season against the strongest teams in the Big 12 this season, which initially had me leaning toward the Sooners. What changed that, however, was that I'm not sure what this Oklahoma offense will look like without Ryan Broyles and Dominique Whaley, and that those Baylor losses all came on the road. I don't know that Baylor wins this outright, but I think it's going to be a close game. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Robert Griffin III's sizzle is oh-so-mesmerizing but let's focus on facts. The Bears have scored an average of 36 points a game this season -  the Sooners, an average of 45 points. So, Okies win but don't cover." Pick: Baylor

Machine - The Machine is not worried about the absence of Ryan Broyles, for it believes in Kenny Stills and sees him catching 10 passes for 184 yards and 2 touchdowns. Oklahoma wins 41-24. Pick: Oklahoma

Texas (-9 1/2) vs. Kansas State - Saturday, 8pm

Man - You want this spread explained? No problem. There's no way Vegas is going to get any action on the Kansas State side if it lists the Wildcats as a favorite. People would just jump on Texas and the points not realizing that Kansas State beat Texas 39-14 last season in what was Collin Klein's coming out party. Now Klein is taking every snap and the Longhorns are decimated by injuries in the backfield. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I'm not sure what Texas has done to deserve this spread, especially with last week's pantsing by Missouri." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - The Machine just really does not like Kansas State. Week after week it picks against it, and that doesn't change now. Texas wins 31-20. Pick: Texas

Oregon (-14 1/2) vs. USC - Saturday, 8pm

Man - USC has played in close games all season, which made me want to take the Trojans and the points this week but with Robert Woods' status in question at the moment, I'm not as comfortable with the Trojans in Eugene. So I'm going to roll with Oregon, though I wouldn't be shocked if USC keeps it close or even wins outright. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "In these closing weeks, the Trojans are coming on strong but against the Oregon juggernaut, I'd suggest they just duck and cover. (By the way, after watching the Arkansas version above, who'd have guessed USC has its own inexplicably adorable, calorically challenged version of Tusk? Hey, us Americans, we're not so different after all!)" Pick: Oregon

Machine - Go ahead and hand Oregon its Pac-12 title. The Ducks stomp the Trojans 52-21. Pick: Oregon

Stanford (-19.5) vs. Cal - Saturday, 10:15pm

Man - Last week was the first time Stanford didn't cover a spread since last season, but that's not going to deter me from picking the Cardinal once again. The main reason for this being that Cal is not Oregon. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Speaking of animal mascots, if affluent Stanford ever choses one, it should be a NSFW hip-hop horse that kicks butt. Specifically, Cal's butt." Pick: Stanford 

Machine - The Machine sees Stanford winning this game rather easily, but a late fourth quarter touchdown by Cal kills the cover. Stanford wins 42-24. Pick: Cal

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 65-50 (4-6)
2. Man 63-52 (5-5)
3. Machine 61-54 (5-5) 
Posted on: November 16, 2011 4:35 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2011 4:46 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Nebraska at Michigan

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: Its mobile quarterback can curtail his errant throws and open up easy passes with his running ability. Yes, Nebraska has a gifted option quarterback, but that doesn't mean that his passing skills are up to par with... Hang on a second. If this is Nebraska's key, then what's Michigan's...


MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF:
Its mobile quarterback can curtail his errant throws and open up easy passes with his running ability. Glitch! We have a glitch! 


In all seriousness, Taylor Martinez and Denard Robinson aren't that similar as players, and the Nebraska and Michigan offenses are fundamentally dissimilar as well. While Nebraska doesn't run an offense heavy on wishbone or I-formation triple option like the days of yore, it does utilize heavy amounts of read option between Martinez and Rex Burkhead. Martinez is also being trusted to throw the ball more often, and he's been improving in that facet over the last couple weeks.

Still, Martinez is most dangerous as a runner at this point, and if you give him a lane, he'll take it -- and Nebraska's downfield blocking is good enough that Martinez can potentially take that open lane for a score from any point on the field. Thus, the key for the Michigan defense is to get Martinez out of his comfort zone and force him to make split-second decisions to do something with the ball -- a pitch on the option, a check-down in his pass progression, a scramble to the outside when, say, Mike Martin blows up the front of the pocket. Those are situations that turn Martinez into a less effective player, and that's what defensive coordinator Greg Mattison needs to strive for.

On the other sideline, Nebraska's aims on defense should be different. Denard Robinson is a wonderfully gifted improviser with the football, so quite unlike Martinez, Nebraska should make sure Robinson doesn't have to make the split-second decisions. That's what he's good at! No, the lesson defensive coordinator Carl Pelini should have taken from Michigan's losses is that you don't give Robinson the edge; it's all contain, contain, contain, then funnel, funnel, funnel to the middle of the field. Lavonte David needs to have about 30 tackles in this game. 

X-FACTOR: The tailbacks. Both Michigan and Nebraska also have hard-nosed running backs that will probably be getting 20 carries in this game -- Burkhead for Nebraska, and Fitz Toussaint for Michigan -- and while Burkhead's much more of a focal point of the Nebraska offense than Toussaint is, Toussaint is certainly capable of breaking a long run or two and getting over 100 yards. Both players are tough to bring down once they get a full head of steam, but Burkhead in particular is the kind of guy you need to bring down at the line or prior, or he's getting 5-10 yards and that drive's going to keep going. So if Michigan lets Nebraska move the point of attack, it might not be enough to just wait for Taylor Martinez to make a bad play or three.
Posted on: November 8, 2011 3:49 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Penn State vs. Nebraska

Posted by Tom Fornelli

PENN STATE WILL WIN IF: This is a very hard one to figure out. With everything going on in State College right now, we can't even be sure who will or won't be coaching Penn State this weekend, or how the players will deal with the distractions. Still, you have to think that for the players on this team, this game is something they'll be looking forward to if for nothing more than just to escape the storm in State College for a few hours. In order for Penn State to win it'll need to use the same formula it's been using all season: defense, defense and then maybe some offense. It's going to be incredibly important for the Penn State defense to keep Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez contained and force Martinez to beat them with his arm. On offense, Silas Redd will have to carry the load for a Penn State offense that's been quite anemic this season. Still, Redd is averaging over 5 yards a carry and has 7 touchdowns this season. The Nittany Lions will need him to find room against a Nebraska defense that hasn't been great stopping the run this season and has allowed 14 rushing touchdowns.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: Nebraska is going to have to find a way to put some points on the board against a defense that has allowed only 12.4 points per game this season in Big Ten play. There really isn't an area of this Penn State defense to attack as it's ranked first in the Big Ten in defensive pass efficiency and third in the Big Ten in rushing defense, allowing only 111.9 yards a game and 3.1 yards per carry. That being said, running the ball is what Nebraska does well, so running the ball is what the Cornhuskers will have to do in this contest. That means there will be no more important battle in this game on Saturday than Nebraska's offensive line versus Penn State's defensive line. Whichever team wins that matchup is going to win this game.

X-FACTOR: Matt McGloin. No offense to Rob Bolden, but Matt McGloin is clearly the best quarterback Penn State has right now, and I don't know why the Nittany Lions insist in giving Bolden snaps every week. I feel that if McGloin would be allowed to take all the snaps on offense than the Nittany Lions may find themselves developing some kind of consistency. Nebraska's pass defense has been strong in conference play, but if McGloin can make a few plays with his arm and use Derek Moye to stretch the field, it could be the difference in this game. 
Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Northwestern at Nebraska

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NORTHWESTERN WILL WIN IF: The Wildcat defense shuts down Rex Burkhead. Seriously, if Rex Burkhead can't rush for more than 2-3 yards a pop, Nebraska's probably in trouble, because Burkhead is the unquestioned workhorse of this vaunted rushing attack; he's averaging over 25 carries per game in Big Ten play, and logged 35 rushes last week and three total TDs in the Huskers' 24-3 win over Michigan State. The one small, tiny, insignificant detail: keeping Burkhead bottled up for four quarters is basically impossible, even for a good defense. Northwestern's defense? Not so good. The Wildcats give up about 200 yards per game on the ground alone, and 31.5 points per game. That's going to have to change this week, or Burkhead and Nebraska are going to run up the score.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: They don't make Dan Persa look like Superman. One thing that's become evident over the course of the season is that Dan Persa is not at his 2010, pre-injury level of play. That's to be somewhat expected, considering it's an Achilles injury we're talking about here, but it's to the point that Pat Fitzgerald isn't even using Persa's rushing ability anymore; that role falls to Kain Colter, who's certainly dangerous as a rusher (and receiver, when need be) in his own right -- but Colter's so harmless as a passer that one look at who's under center is usually all it takes to figure out whether Northwestern's going run or pass. Now, Persa's still a talented thrower, and he's got a stable of capable receivers, so if Northwestern's going to keep this game at all close, it'll be by passing the ball -- if Nebraska keeps Persa's passing numbers out of the stratosphere, this should be a relatively easy Husker win.

X-FACTOR: Bad Taylor Martinez. At his best, Taylor Martinez is a dual threat with the ability to make big plays with his arm or his feet, and defenses usually have to account for both possibilities. Of course, Taylor Martinez is rarely at his best, and he's usually good for one or two horrifying interceptions per game. He certainly has the ability to keep Northwestern in this game when the Wildcats shouldn't be; at the same time, if he takes care of the football, this one'll probably be over by the time the fourth quarter starts.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 7:47 pm
 

Big Ten poll reactions, Week 9

Posted by Adam Jacobi

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big Ten fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.


(AP/Coaches)

9/9. Nebraska

I've wanted to see this Nebraska from the start, and here it is. The defense played up to the hype for the first time all year, Rex Burkhead was an absolute ox, and Taylor Martinez only threw one unforgivable pass. Bo Pelini may have even smiled.

So with the Huskers at 7-1 and finally possessing a big-time win, yes, No. 9 is fair. It'd be great to see a road win, and what do you know: Nebraska travels to Happy Valley then the Big House after this week's home tilt with a plucky Northwestern team.

13/13. Michigan

It is a fact that Michigan still hasn't beaten anybody of note outside of that miracle comeback against Notre Dame. It's also a fact that Michigan's offense hasn't been tested by a decent defense since MSU dismantled it a couple weeks ago (no offense, Purdue). And yet still, this is a 7-1 team that'll probably be able to coast its way to double digit wins, and even in a down Big Ten, that's probably worth a Top 15 spot; it's not as if the other conferences are much better once you get out of the Top 10 anyway.

16/15. Penn State
15/16. Michigan State

These two teams are functionally tied, and they've got the stingiest scoring defenses in the Big Ten, so they get to share a blurb here. Penn State seems like the worst one-loss team in a BCS conference, but so far, Alabama (you know, the team that's about to beat LSU) is been the only team that proved it could beat the Nittany Lions. Michigan State, meanwhile, is still 6-2 and in pretty good shape in the Legends Division race, but hidden in the Spartans' 17-4 record since the start of last season is the fact that all four of those losses have been by at least 18 points and away from Spartan Stadium -- not the stuff of champions, that. Still, MSU doesn't face any more ranked opponents for the rest of the season, so as long as the Spartans don't lay another egg at Kinnick Stadium this year look for them to have a strong chance to make it to Indianapolis -- probably to face Penn State, who holds a 2.5 game lead in its division.

19/17. Wisconsin

Oh, Wisconsin. Don't let them see you like this. Don't let them see you in hysterics after those two ridiculous Hail Marys submarined your hopes and dreams of an undefeated season. You deserve better than 19th in the nation; you really do. In fact, strictly from a "power poll" perspective, you still probably deserve to be as high as, say, Michigan -- even though that defense is just lousy. The Badgers can't ride a blowout over Nebraska at Camp Randall for the whole year, though, and it's time for this team to get back on track immediately.

Also receiving votes: Ohio State (37 AP votes, 21 coaches votes) 
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.

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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.

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