Tag:Denard Robinson
Posted on: November 26, 2011 4:03 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Michigan 40, Ohio State 34

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN WON. For the first time in nearly 3,000 days, Michigan has a victory over Ohio State in football. The Wolverines needed a ton of points to finally get over the hump, but when the dust settled, it was the Wolverines with a 40-34 victory. Denard Robinson was brilliant in victory, throwing for 167 yards and three scores on 14/17 passing and adding 26 rushes for 170 yards and two more TDs. For OSU, Braxton Miller looked like a force to be reckoned with in years to come, going 14-25 for 235 yards and two passing scores while rushing 16 times for 100 yards and other score -- a 19-yard beauty that gave OSU a 17-16 lead. 

WHY MICHIGAN WON: Michigan took a page out of Ohio State's gameplan and rushed nearly 75% of the time on Saturday, and it was a recipe for success. Robinson's 170 yards led the team, but Fitzgerald Toussaint added 120 yards of his own on 20 carries, and Ohio State really had no answer on defense for Michigan's physical rushing game. Even Robinson ran with authority, frequently putting his head down and fighting for extra yardage and first downs. His effort was as conspicuous as it was successful, and doubtless his Wolverine teammates fed off that determination.

WHEN MICHIGAN WON: When Courtney Avery intercepted a 4th down Braxton Miller pass with under a minute left. It looked as if Michigan was putting the game away on the prior drive, when Fitz Toussaint and Denard Robinson appeared to score touchdowns on consecutive plays. But Toussaint was ruled down a foot away from the goal line, and Robinson's score was wiped out by a holding call and a personal foul for a late hit, which pushed the Wolverines all the way back to the OSU 26. Brendan Gibbons would eventually convert a field goal from there to push the lead to 40-34, but that six-point margin meant Ohio State still had some life at the end of the game. 

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan beat Ohio State. Wait, let's try that again: MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE. The 10-win season is absolutely nice for the Wolverines, but they've been circling this game on their calendars since time immemorial, and to get a win in this rivalry after eight years of futility is a major, major accomplishment for Brady Hoke and his charges. 

WHAT OHIO STATE LOST: Without Terrelle Pryor or Jim Tressel, this was going to be a tough season for Ohio State no matter what, and the 6-6 (3-5) record certainly reflects that. Not many people in Columbus are really holding it against Luke Fickell, necessarily -- again, meeting Ohio State's usual standards of success was a nearly impossible task -- but Fickell at least had the opportunity to turn this year into a one-game season with a game against Michigan. "At least we still own Michigan" would have been a reassuring mantra as OSU fans prepared for a coaching regime change and NCAA punishment, but now Ohio State has to acknowledge that this is now, at long last, a two-team rivalry again.

THAT WAS CRAZY: In the second quarter, Ohio State caught a major break when Michigan punter Will Hagerup muffed a routine long snap. The miscue surprised everyone in the stadium, Hagerup included, and it led to this classic screencap of Hagerup's reaction to the ball in midair. Oh, it also led to a short field and an eventual field goal for the Buckeyes, but we're happier focusing the screencap.
Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:06 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 13

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.

So you're been eating turkey and Thanksgiving leftovers for two days now, you've still got an entire Saturday of football to get through. And really, is there any better way to work off all the weight you've gained over the holiday than by sitting on a couch watching football?

Of course not.

So strap yourselves in and prepare for one of the last Saturdays you'll have this season.

BREAKFAST

#9 Oklahoma vs. Iowa State - FX 12pm ET

Who'd have known this game could hold so much intrigue? Iowa State is coming off a huge win of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma is coming off a loss to Baylor. Is it possible that Oklahoma could get upset two weeks in a row, or that Iowa State could pull off consecutive upsets? Your first reaction is to probably think not, but then again, how many of us thought Iowa State would beat Oklahoma State last week? - Tom Fornelli

#23 Georgia Tech vs. #13 Georgia - ESPN 12pm ET

The Jackets simply can't ask for a better week to play the Dawgs. Todd Grantham only has a week to prepare his defense for the Tech triple-option; how focused that defense will be with the SEC Championship on deck is entirely debatable; and we're guessing Tech didn't spend all of their nine days between their Nov. 10 game vs. Virginia Tech and last Saturday's vs. Duke prepping for the Devils. But against Jarvis Jones and a Bulldog defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense, will any of that matter? - Jerry Hinnen

#15 Michigan vs. Ohio State - ABC 12pm ET

This would appear to be a prime opportunity for Michigan to exorcise the demons of Jim Tressel's dominance; for one, Tressel's not even there anymore, and more importantly, the Wolverines are probably better than the Buckeyes. Of course, "better" doesn't always equal "victorious" in a sport as maniacally unpredictable as college football, but we're sure Denard Robinson and his (intermittently) high-powered offense are just as eager to take this matchup off paper and onto the gridiron as OSU is. - Adam Jacobi

UConn vs. Rutgers - ESPN2 12pm ET

The schedule has worked out well for Rutgers to put themselves in a position to win a share of the Big East title for the first time in school history.  But accomplishing that feat still requires one more win to finish at 5-2 in league play.  Paul Pasqualoni's Connecticut squad is out of the hunt for a BCS bowl berth, but with Rutgers and Cincinnati left on the schedule they have two great opportunities to spoil someone else's fun. This game has been played close the last several years, and Connecticut's players will be looking for revenge after giving up a close 27-24 game to the Scarlet Knights a year ago.  Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison has emerged as the star in the offensive backfield in the second half of the season, and if he can get going early it should open up the defense for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pick on a struggling Huskies secondary. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#24 Auburn vs. #2 Alabama - CBS 3:30pm ET

If this game was being played on paper -- or a neutral venue -- there wouldn't be much intrigue to it. Alabama has the more efficient offense, has the far superior defense, and is favored by three full touchdowns in a series that (for all the "throw out the records" talk) rarely produces upsets. But the game's being played in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers nearly ruined the Tide's national championship hopes two seasons ago and where AJ McCarron may not be the steady quarterback he's been at home. So don't send the Tide to New Orleans just yet. - JH 

Virginia vs. #5 Virginia Tech - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

Virginia Tech's move to the ACC received some significant help from Virginia during the ACC's expansion in 2004.  The Hokies have repaid their Commonwealth brothers by winning four of six division titles and beating the Cavaliers every season since joining the conference.  Second-year head coach Mike London has Virginia playing their best football at the right time, winning six of their last seven contests.  There aren't a lot of stars on the roster, but they play smash-mouth football and have been incredibly opportunistic.  Virginia Tech must avoid turning the ball over and try to jump out to an early lead to force Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco to move the ball through the air.  Logan Thomas and David Wilson will be the key to the Hokies' ground game, as ball control will be necessary for either team to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and a berth to the ACC Championship Game. - CP

#16 Wisconsin vs. #19 Penn State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

This one's for half the Big Ten Tostitos, folks. Penn State's basically never been taken seriously as a division contender, yet here it is one win away from a trip to Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Wisconsin gets to continue its path to redemption if it wins here--and then there's just a rematch with MSU with the Rose Bowl on the line. It's a great offense vs. a great defense, and a lousy offense vs. a lousy defense. Compelling viewing all around. By the way, I think I owe Brent Musberger AND Frito-Lay royalties for that opening line. A rare tandem, that. - AJ

#10 Oregon vs. Oregon State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

This isn't a rivalry, this is Civil War. The Ducks are looking to close out the Pac-12 regular season as North champions and host the first ever conference title game so who better to do so against than their rival up the highway? The Beavers are banged up but should put up a fight with quarterback Sean Mannion likely throwing the ball all over. - Bryan Fischer

DINNER

Florida vs. Florida State - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Gators and 'Noles are both living in a Sunshine State of Disappointment at the moment, but one team will get to head off to a bowl game with some measure of solace. Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks -- both teams' offenses have lagged behind their defenses this year, with FSU's 14-13 home loss to Virginia last week the latest evidence -- but 6-5 Gator record or not, the atmosphere at Florida Field should still be plenty hostile and relations between the teams still plenty frosty. - JH

#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Clemson - ESPN 7:45pm ET

Clemson enters the annual rivalry reeling after three frustrating performances that resulted in road losses to Georgia Tech and NC State. The Tigers have clinched a berth to the ACC Championship Game, but need to get a strong performance to get back on track. The Gamecocks on the other hand are just starting to put the pieces back together after a frustrating stretch of injuries and dismissals have revamped the offense. Connor Shaw had one of his best games of the season against Furman, but it was also Furman. The matchup to watch here will be South Carolina's dominating - but slightly banged up - defense against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. The Tigers get star freshman Sammy Watkins back, after missing the NC State loss with a shoulder injury, but will it be enough to make up for a sputtering unit that was exposed by the Wolfpack in the 37-13 loss? - CP

#6 Stanford vs. #22 Notre Dame - ABC 8pm ET

This will be Andrew Luck's final chance to impress Heisman voters this season, and it could be his final game in Palo Alto. Luck will also be facing a team that he's had some trouble with, as in his two games against Notre Dame, Luck has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions. Though Stanford is also 2-0 in both of those games.  As for the Irish, a win over Stanford in Palo Alto to finish the regular season would be an excellent way to cap a season that started off poorly but has redeemed itself a bit since. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

USC vs. UCLA - Fox Sports 10pm ET

USC returns to the Coliseum after their big upset win over Oregon and can end their season with a big win over crosstown rival UCLA. This might be the last game in the cardinal and gold for quarterback Matt Barkley and he'll want nothing more than to have a great game to secure a 10-win year despite sanctions. The Bruins are not only playing to beat the Trojans but also for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a South division title. - BF 
Posted on: November 24, 2011 12:52 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 13


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.

It's Thanksgiving, and if you were to wonder what I'm thankful for this time of year I'd tell you that I'm thankful I'm only a few games behind Woman in this contest and that I still have two weeks to catch her. Of course, I'd be a lot more grateful if I was beating her already at this point and just had to hold her off, but knowing what we don't have makes us more thankful for what we do have, I guess.

Enjoy your turkey, folks, and Happy Thanksgiving. 

LSU (-13 1/2) vs. Arkansas - Friday, 2:30pm (All times Eastern)

Man - I really don't like picking against Les Miles because it seldom works out for me, and although I don't really think Arkansas is going to win this game, it's still a rivalry game and this is still the best offense LSU has faced since Oregon and it hasn't had an entire offseason to prepare for it. So I think the Hogs can keep things close enough. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "Today, I offer my special Thanksgiving picks. This first one's easy. I give thanks for another LSU magical mystery tour season led by my guru  favorite coach, Les Miles. But while the Tigers will confound Arkansas with relentless D and some superfantasmalicious trick plays, I'm taking a knee on this spread." Pick: Arkansas

Machine - According to the Machine, we all get really close to total BCS chaos but Les Miles and LSU are able to overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Arkansas 27-24. Pick: Arkansas 

Georgia Tech vs. Georgia (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - The Bulldogs have been playing their best football of the season over the last month, and though things were a bit close against Kentucky last week I think that had a lot more to do with Georgia not taking the Wildcats all that seriously. Which isn't going to happen with their rival. Pick: Georgia

Woman - "I'm giving thanks for an in-state rivalry that features the nation's number two team in rushing offense versus the nation's number two team in rushing defense. With a 56% third down success rate, home field advantage and points, the scales tip to the Yellow Jackets." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - Georgia keeps on rolling as it prepares for the SEC Championship, as Aaron Murray throws for 4 touchdowns and the Dawgs pick up a pretty easy 31-20 win. Pick: Georgia

Michigan (-8 1/2) vs. Ohio State - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Yes, Michigan fans, your long nightmare is going to come to an end on Saturday. You are finally going to see your Wolverines beat the Buckeyes, and I don't think it's going to be all that close come the fourth quarter. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Grateful this season is nearly over for OSU. Stacked up against Denard Robinson on the road, and still reeling from personnel losses and NCAA sanctions, I think the Buckeyes will be content to stagger across the finish line and call it a year." Pick: Michigan

Machine - This may be the best chance that Michigan has had to beat Ohio State in years, but The Machine want the Wolverines to know that there's always next year. Ohio State wins 27-20. Pick: Ohio State

Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I've actually picked Virginia to win this game outright. Virginia Tech hasn't beaten anybody of consequence this season, and it hasn't blown anybody out aside from Appalachian State. I mean, this Hokies team beat Duke 14-10 earlier this season, and Duke missed three field goals in that game. Sometimes the BCS corrects itself, and this will be one of those occasions. Pick: Virginia

Woman - "I am thankful I was able to suppress the gag reflex when the BCS ranked Virginia Tech at number five. I love the Hokies but don't think they've played a schedule worthy of that spot and am betting on a steady Virginia offensive line to put them back where they belong. Wahoowa!" Pick: Virginia 

Machine - It's been a nice season Virginia, but you're not quite there yet. Virginia Tech wins 34-13. Pick: Virginia Tech

Auburn vs. Alabama (-20 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I really don't see Auburn knocking off the Tide for a second year in a row, and I don't have a lot of confidence in this Auburn offense to put up many points against this Alabama defense. That being said, this is still one of the greatest rivalries in the sport, and a three-touchdown spread is an awful lot of points to give up between these two teams. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "I really can't even talk about what I'm thankful for here due to, like they say, an ongoing investigation. So, let's look at what we know. Alabama is a national championship contender. Meanwhile, Auburn lost nearly all its players last year and is starting over. No doubt, they'll soon mature into fierce competitors but in the meantime, I located footage of the Tigers' latest practice. Not pretty." Pick: Alabama 

Machine - The Machine seems to think that Trent Richardson could put the finishing touches on a possible Heisman Trophy, as he rushes for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns and the Tide take the state of Alabama back, winning 31-13. Pick: Auburn

Wisconsin (-14 1/2) vs. Penn State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Wisconsin has been the best team in the Big Ten all season, with its only two losses coming via prayers at the end of consecutive games. That's not going to happen in Madison, and I don't see the Penn State offense as being capable of exploiting the weaknesses in the Wisconsin defense. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has a couple different ways to beat you on offense, and their names are Montee Ball and Russell Wilson. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "I'm grateful for an eighty-something grandma who tried Pop Rocks for the first time, giving me an excuse not to write anything more about the Big Ten." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Penn State doesn't do much to keep Wisconsin from heading to Indianapolis, as the Badgers steamroll the Nittany Lions 38-17. Pick: Wisconsin

Baylor (-12 1/2) vs. Texas Tech - Saturday, 7pm

Man - This is going to be a fun, exciting game in which we see both teams go back and forth down the field putting up points. So while I'm going to give the edge to Robert Griffin in this matchup, the Baylor defense hasn't shown me anything this season that would make me want to give up nearly two touchdowns. Pick: Texas Tech

Woman - "I'm thankful I get to see Robert Griffin play again, this time on the grand stage at Jerry's World. The Raiders are playing for bowl eligibility (which they haven't missed since 1993), and neither of these teams have any defense to speak of, so plan on lots of action. Baylor wins but just by ten." Pick: Texas Tech

Machine - Baylor rides the momentum from last weekend all the way to Arlington and knocks off Texas Tech 45-31. Pick: Baylor

South Carolina (-4 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 7:45pm

Man - Last week was exactly the kind of thing you'd expect Clemson to do. It was the Clemsoning we'd been waiting for all season, and the next logical step in a Clemsoning is for the Tigers to come back the next week and play like nothing ever happened. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Giving thanks I don't have to think about, much less pick, either of these teams again after this week. I'm going to roll the dice and guess Clemson plays a game that masks the stench of their atrocious loss to North Carolina State last week." Pick: Clemson

Machine - It's not the prettiest game every played, but the Machine sees South Carolina managing to eek this one out. Gamecocks hold on to keep control of the Palmetto State, beating Clemson 21-16. Pick: South Carolina

Stanford (-6 1/2) vs. Notre Dame - Saturday, 8pm

Man - After covering every spread for over a year, Stanford has gone 0-2 against the number the last two weeks. So am I going to go against the Cardinal this week? No, because, you see, this is a Notre Dame spread and Notre Dame spreads never resemble reality. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Stanford loses one game and suddenly it's not even a one-touchdown favorite at home against Notre Dame. Really? I'm grateful for how much this spread made me laugh." Pick: Stanford

Machine - Andrew Luck and the Stanford Machine get it rolling once again, taking care of Notre Dame 38-17. Pick: Stanford

USC (-14 1/2) vs. UCLA - Saturday, 10pm

Man - USC can't go to the Pac-12 Championship this year, so for the Trojans the next best thing would be to keep crosstown rival UCLA from being able to take advantage of it. Oh, and there's also the fact that USC is just a much better team than UCLA is, so rivalry or not, the Trojans will put an end to this one early. Pick: USC

Woman - "USC is going to tattoo the Bruins, so let me just give thanks for a great short video about toys that escape a dreary office prison to the wondrous world where this game will be played on Saturday. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone." Pick: USC

Machine - Los Angeles still belongs to the Trojans, as USC knocks off UCLA 42-21. Pick: USC

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 69-56 (4-6)
2. Man 67-58 (4-6)
3. Machine 64-61 (3-7)
Posted on: November 23, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Ohio State at Michigan

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: Bad Denard makes a housecall. If there's one area where Ohio State's struggles have been surprising, it's turnovers. OSU's +4 on the year, so that's good, but that's only because the Buckeyes barely ever give the ball away; they've done so 12 times in 11 games, which is tied with Michigan State for best in the Big Ten. But that +4 margin also means that the defense hasn't exactly been ball-hawking this year. Indeed, the 16 takeaways managed by the Buckeye D is tied for 8th best in the conference, and that's hardly in line with OSU's usual modus operandi (though the fact that one of the teams also tied at 16 is Alabama should tell you how necessary forcing turnovers really is). Still, OSU probably can't just play Michigan straight up and try to bend but not break and hope to come away with a victory; Denard Robinson is too explosive for that. He's also too error-prone for OSU not to take risks and force him into tough situations. A couple instances of Bad Denard this Saturday, and Ohio State could have the opening it needs to win.

MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: Braxton Miller is forced to throw the ball. Ohio State has done a generally good job during Big Ten play of limiting what Miller is being asked to do, in terms of making reads or otherwise thinking on the fly. That's a recipe for disaster for nearly every true freshman quarterback (which is why most redshirt), so there's a reason why Miller is instead the team's leading rusher (though Boom Herron will probably surpass Miller by the end of the bowl game) this season in addition to his passing duties. Miller still completes fewer than 50% of his passes, and that may help make it easier for Michigan to get OSU into a third and long situation. Now, just because Miller drops back on a 3rd and 9 doesn't mean a pass is necessarily coming; Miller's not quite as gifted a scrambler to the sticks that Terrelle Pryor was, but he's already pretty close, and Michigan's going to need to account for that too. Nonetheless, it should be the Wolverines' goal to keep Ohio State well below .500 on third-down conversions, as that will likely lead to a victory. 

X-FACTOR: Urban Meyer. Ohio State has fought tooth and nail to keep the media's focus on this game and not the future of the program, which by all indications will not be spearheaded by Luke Fickell after this year. The problem is that the athletic department isn't very good at keeping secrets, because while it's certainly plausible that Meyer hasn't inked any contracts yet, the process is far enough along that the Columbus Dispatch is reporting the deal as done. Now, whether the Buckeyes have been able to maintain their focus on game week is the big thing, not whether the media has. And it certainly stands to reason that the players (especially the seniors) care more about the game in front of them than who may or may not be the coach going forward. And yet, and yet, every time the words "Urban Meyer" get said in the locker room, that's one more conversation that isn't about the game.



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Posted on: November 20, 2011 4:19 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 12



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: Michigan in the trenches

In the biggest "statement game" of Michigan's season, the Wolverines welcomed Nebraska to the Big House with a 45-17 butt-kicking. The game had been tied 10-10 midway through the second quarter, then Denard Robinson and Fitz Toussaint -- seen above -- simply took over the game (with Nebraska's complicity; more on that in a second), especially on the ground.

Before the Nebraska field goal by kicker Brett Maher tied the game at 10, Michigan had thrown the ball on nine of 25 plays. Afterwards? 10 throws on 55 plays. The difference was that offensive coordinator Al Borges was able to put his trust in the offensive line to give Toussaint rushing lanes and Robinson the time to scramble and improvise. The result was 186 rushing yards after that 10-10 tie, and 238 as a whole. 

LOSER: Nebraska's special teams

Of course, we would be remiss in not pointing out that the reason that Michigan stayed so run-heavy in the second half was because Nebraska's defense just plain couldn't get off the field -- and the Husker special teams had a lot to do with that. Kenny Bell and Tim Marlowe each fumbled second-half kickoffs, and Nebraska also allowed a fake field goal to be converted on 4th and 1 at the 5-yard line and committed a costly roughing the punter penalty in the 4th quarter. All in all, the four miscues would eventually lead to 21 points for the Wolverines, and the worst part for Nebraska is that it could have been worse; Marlowe's fumbled return only led to a missed field goal.

All in all, that's a level of generosity that cost Nebraska the opportunity to even make a game of it against Michigan, and while those miscues are more an aberration than a trend that needs to be remedied, they still led to a costly third loss for Nebraska -- one that could very welll keep the Huskers out of the top tier of the Big Ten's non-BCS bowls.

WINNER: Michigan State

Coming into this week, Michigan State needed a win over Indiana and a Michigan win over Nebraska to sew up the Legends division. Michigan, of course, played its part. And good heavens, did Michigan State ever put an exclamation point on its division title, slamming Indiana 55-3 in a contest that probably violated an international statute of warfare or 12. Geneva is unamused by this use of Keshawn Martin on helpless Hoosiers, Sparty.

So while it's a little misleading to say MSU is playing its best football of the season just three weeks after being drubbed 24-3 by Nebraska (and two weeks after beating Minnesota by only a touchdown), it is safe to say the Spartans are looking capable of bringing a dangerous team to Indianapolis in December. The Capital One Bowl brass is probably the happiest of anyone to see this bumplet of success from East Lansing as the Spartans prepare for the championship; MSU lost 49-7 to Alabama in that bowl just last season, and bowl reps usually don't need much of a reason not to bring a team back for a second year in a row. 

LOSER: Ohio State's momentum

QB Braxton Miller is improving week to week, RB Boom Herron is healthy and putting up big numbers in the terrifying Buckeye ground game, and now WR DeVier Posey's back and making big plays from the word go. So why's Ohio State on a two-game losing streak and in real danger of going .500 on the year?

It's a legitimate question, and one that a simple answer of "because Luke Fickell isn't good enough" doesn't adequately answer. Perhaps some of it is Fickell's inexperience as head coach, but he also had to deal with a slew of suspensions and the loss of a quarterback -- a loss that Ohio State just plain wasn't prepared to address this season. Braxton Miller may be showing flashes of greatness now, but in September, he could barely outplay Joe Bauserman. Things were not good.

Still, losses to Purdue and a reeling Penn State team are probably enough to convince Ohio State brass that no matter how unlikely the problems of 2011 are to repeat in 2012, the program needs a more experienced coach at the helm. And that's probably the correct call. But you've got to think that if Fickell gets replaced, he'll look back at these last two weeks and think about how close he was to delivering a solid season -- and earning the head coaching job long term.

WINNER: The rest of Penn State's season

No, Penn State didn't gain any ground in the Leaders Division race; that situation continues to come down to next week's Penn State-Wisconsin game, and it wouldn't have mattered if the Nittany Lions came into that one with a one-game lead or a tie. But strictly from the perspective of returning to normal, Penn State gained a huge victory by hanging on to win at Ohio State. PSU never threatened to score after being stuffed on a goal line stand midway through the third quarter, and all the Buckeyes needed to do in the second half was score seven points to take the lead. That, clearly, didn't happen; Linebacker U stood tall on defense and kept the Buckeyes from taking a single snap in field goal range after halftime, and the second half shutout preserved a 20-14 victory.

In terms of what the win represents to Penn State, division ramifications aside, it's huge. Even leaving out the emotional impact of the football program on the fanbase -- that's a can of worms best kept shut -- there's basically no way Penn State could have taken two straight losses to lower-ranked opponents, then walked into Camp Randall (where the Badgers have outscored their opponents by an average score of 52-12 this year) and come away with a win -- especially not with an interim head coach on the sidelines, forced to argue against all evidence that the world is not caving in on the program in a tailspin. But with this win, that tailspin's not happening, and Penn State can take a deep breath and begin preparation for the Badgers.

LOSER: Wisconsin's what could have been

In case you hadn't noticed, the Top 10 was basically incinerated this week, starting with Iowa State's shocking upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State on Friday and continuing on through Baylor's 45-38 stunner vs. Oklahoma late Saturday night. No, Wisconsin doesn't have anything to do with those games, but therein lies the problem. Just one month ago, Wisconsin was 6-0, ranked fourth in the nation, and rolling through its competition. Then two Hail Mary losses demolished Wisconsin's national standing, and the Badgers are still ranked 17th and unlikely to move much higher after a lackluster 28-17 win over Illinois.

It's a shame, because Wisconsin's got the talent to hang with just about anybody in the nation, and this sudden swarm of chaos in the Top 10 would have been the perfect way for the Badgers to start sneaking up toward the Top 5 even with one loss; they'd quite assuredly be ranked second if undefeated. But alas, Kirk Cousins and Braxton Miller had other ideas for the fate of Wisconsin's season, and as a result a team that looked like a very strong BCS contender will likely walk into the Rose Bowl as a borderline Top 10 team instead.

WINNER: Marvin McNutt

It's getting difficult to find a way in which Marvin McNutt isn't the best receiver Iowa's ever had. McNutt owns career marks in yards, touchdowns, and receptions at Iowa, and he just added the single-season touchdown mark to his single-season yardage mark today in a nine-catch, 151-yard, two-touchdown effort. McNutt made multiple highlight-reel catches in the game, including this juggling wonder that basically sealed Iowa's 31-21 victory over Purdue. It's a crying shame that McNutt, who's putting up these numbers in a non-pass-wacky offense, isn't being considered for the Biletnikoff Award, because he's been nearly unguardable this season.

LOSER: Anyone who felt like paying attention to more than two or three Big Ten games this week

We understand that networks have their reasons for wanting certain games at certain times, and that it's going to be difficult to drum up support for 'Cats-Gophers as anything but an early kickoff. We get that. We also realize that there's a very good reason for the Big Ten to not allow night games in November, since the Midwest is a cold, inhospitable prison of a region once the sun goes down this time of year. But when the Big Ten ends up with five of its six games all taking place at the same time, something's clearly out of whack, and it makes it extremely difficult for the most passionate fans of the conference to enjoy very much of it.

That all said, it's also a credit to the conference that it has a media presence robust enough to get all five of those games televised live (and in HD!), and without having to resort to an online video service (pay-per-view or otherwise) or ESPN GamePlan. Sure, it took two Big Ten Network overflow channels to make it happen, and not everybody has those extra channels, but as other major conferences struggle to get every game on TV even when there aren't many other conference games going on, it's nice to see the Big Ten at least up to this task.

Posted on: November 19, 2011 3:48 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Michigan 45, Nebraska 17

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN WON. Michigan turned a close game into a blowout in the second half, and the 20th ranked Wolverines slaughtered No. 17 Nebraska, 45-17. Denard Robinson was the man of the match the whole way through, finishing with 180 yards passing, 138 yards rushing, and four total touchdowns.

WHY MICHIGAN WON: Make no mistake: Michigan won this game and deserved it. But Nebraska's inability to get its defense off the field, particularly in the second half, meant that the Huskers were just never in position to make a game out of this one. In the second half alone, Nebraska fumbled two kickoffs, had a punt blocked, let a touchdown drive continue by allowing a first down on a fake field goal, committing a roughing the punter penalty (more on that in a second), and a Taylor Martinez fumble. Again: all in the second half. Michigan had a lot to do with those plays, obviously, but Nebraska simply can't play like that and expect to beat anybody

WHEN MICHIGAN WON: Nebraska had cut the game to a 31-17 contest and forced Michigan into a three-and-out early in the fourth quarter, and it looked like a comeback was fully possible. But Nebraska committed a, shall we say, debatable roughing the punter penalty on the ensuing punt, and Robinson found Martavious Odoms for a 38-yard bomb in the back of the end zone, and this one was over.

Oh, then Tim Marlowe fumbled the ensuing kickoff for Nebraska. Like we said, the second half was pretty rough. 

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan's bid for an at-large BCS bid is still alive as the Wolverines begin preparation for Ohio State. We're told that's a rivalry. What Michigan proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that the defense is legit. Nebraska managed just 11 first downs and 254 total yards on the day, and while that's partly a function of the turnovers, it's also a function of Michigan's performance; the Wolverines forced 10 4th downs on 13 opportunities. 

WHAT NEBRASKA LOST: Nebraska's last shot at the (sigh) Legends Division title is now officially gone; Michigan State beat Indiana 55-3, and with this Husker loss the Spartans have won the division. Also gone is any hope for an at-large BCS invitation, and now even a spot in the Top 25 is questionable. This is a tough loss for Husker fans to take all the way around. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: Rex Burkhead had a very, very quiet day. The Husker workhorse didn't get into the end zone for the first time all year, and he set season lows in rushing yards (39) ... and rushes (10). The Nebraska offense is predicated on wearing defenses down over the course of a game, so why in the world is Bo Pelini giving his bruiser only 10 rushes out of 53 plays?!
Posted on: November 18, 2011 4:26 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 12

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.

It's a bit of a low-carb diet this week thanks to most of the SEC deciding to take the week off and test itself against stalwarts like Georgia Southern and Furman, but that doesn't mean there aren't games out there worthy of your time. Besides, let's be honest with ourselves. We didn't really want to say anything to you about it, but you've been gorging on some great games the last few months and you're starting to get a bit pudgy around the edges.

You could use some lighter fare this weekend.

BREAKFAST

#18 Michigan vs. #16 Nebraska - ESPN 12pm ET

Michigan State may have the Legends division title all but sewn up, but if there's an at-large BCS bid to be had, it'll probably come from the winner of this game. As for reasons to watch instead of just care, come on. It's Denard Robinson. It's Rex Burkhead. There'll be some highlight plays in this one. - Adam Jacobi

Illinois vs. #17 Wisconsin - ESPN2 12pm ET

It's probably no exaggeration to say that Ron Zook's job at Illinois is on the line in this game; Zook, now the second-most tenured coach in the Big Ten, has seen his team drop four straight games and look listless in the process. Montee Ball would be happy to contribute a touchdown or five to Zook's going-away party, but can Illinois' stout defense save the day -- and the coach? - AJ

Rutgers vs. Cincinnati - ESPNU 12pm ET

After only winning one conference game in 2010 (Greg Schiano's worst conference record since 2004) and finishing dead last, the Scarlet Knights are in the hunt for BCS bowl bid.  The Bearcats have lost starting quarterback Zach Collaros for the season to an ankle injury, and now sophomore Munchie Legaux will face a the best defense in the conference to try and bounce back from their first league loss.  Cincinnati still holds one game on the rest of the conference, and can win the title outright if they win out.  Rutgers needs to win out as well, but also get some help to win the tie-breaker. The Big East slate is thin this weekend, but there will be enough on the line to expect the best effort from both teams. - Chip Patterson

#14 Georgia vs. Kentucky - SEC Network 12:21pm ET

There's one reason to tune into this game and one reason alone: to see how the Bulldogs react to winning the SEC East for the first time since 2005. As a competitive contest, well, one of these teams defeated Auburn by 38 points last week, while the other lost by 30 to Vanderbilt. Still, it's not every day you get to see how Mark Richt reacts to a Gatorade shower. - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

#6 Arkansas vs. Mississippi State - CBS 3:30pm ET

Dan Mullen's Bulldogs gave Bobby Petrino's Razorbacks fits last season, taking the eventual Sugar Bowl representatives into overtime. Could they do the same this year, with a potential SEC West title still on the line for the Hogs and the game in Little Rock? A somnabulant offense says "probably not", but in corner Johnathan Banks and tackle Fletcher Cox, the Bulldogs do have the defensive weapons to at least slow down Tyler Wilson and Co. - JH

Ohio State vs. #21 Penn State - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

For the multitudes of distractions facing Penn State, it still has two tough games to play, and it still has a division lead to protect. The Nittany Lions' first step is taking on an up-and-down Ohio State team that's going to try to wear down the PSU defense with its troika of tailbacks and dual-threat (if you can call his arm a threat) QB Braxton Miller. This'll be a classic Big Ten game, with pads a-popping, defenses a-stifling, and running backs a-barreling for four quarters. - AJ

N.C. State vs. #7 Clemson - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

This all be the ultimate test of focus for Dabo Swinney's young squad.  The Tigers set goals to win the division, state championship, and ACC Championship.  With the division clinched and South Carolina waiting next week, Clemson could lose to the Wolfpack and still accomplish their goals.  NC State needs to beat Clemson and Maryland in order to be bowl eligible for the second straight season.  The Tigers have an outside shot to still make a BCS bowl game if they lose in the ACC Championship, but even those long odds would be erased with a loss on Saturday.  Both teams are explosive and capable of scoring quickly, so expect the unexpected in this ACC battle. - CP

Missouri vs. Texas Tech - ABC 3:30pm ET

A bit of a last stand for Texas Tech, which has lost five of its last six games after starting the season 4-0. The Red Raiders still need one more win to become bowl eligible, and it won't be easy to get there. Missouri is a team that's proven it's capable of beating anybody in the Big 12 on any given Saturday, though you do have to wonder how this team will perform on its Senior Day without Gary Pinkel who is serving a suspension for a DWI arrest earlier this week. - Tom Fornelli

DINNER

#25 Florida State vs. Virginia - ESPN2 7:30pm ET

The Seminoles are on a five-game game winning streak since EJ Manuel returned to the starting lineup, averaging over 35 points per game.  But the "turnaround" from the early season setbacks has been not only the result of improved play from Florida State, but also the advantage of facing much more favorable competition.  Four the teams in the streak have defenses ranked in the bottom half of the ACC, and other game was the 34-0 shutout of NC State at home.  Virginia's defense ranks third in the ACC, and the Cavaliers are arguably just as hot winning five of their last six.  Mike London's new power rushing attack has helped the team reach bowl eligibility in just his second year, but Saturday will be a true test of how "legit" this ACC Coastal contender is heading into the postseason. - CP

#4 Oregon vs. USC - ABC 8pm ET

Like offense? This game is for you. The Ducks are well on their way to another conference title and can clinch hosting the first ever Pac-12 Championship game with a win. The Trojans have designs on an upset however and it's not out of the realm of possibilities with Matt Barkley and Robert Woods on the field. - Bryan Fischer

#22 Baylor vs. #5 Oklahoma - ABC 8pm ET

So far this season Baylor has lived on beating the lower-tiered teams of the Big 12 and struggling against the conference's best. This is the Bears last chance at a marquee victory in 2011, and it's probably catching Oklahoma at the best possible time. The Sooners have lost Dominique Whaley and Ryan Broyles to knee injuries the last couple of weeks, and while there's never a good time to suffer such blows on offense, it hurts a bit more when you have to go head-to-head with Baylor's offense. There could be a big upset brewing in Waco. - TF

#23 Texas vs. #13 Kansas State - FX 8pm ET

Here's something you might not know: Kansas State has beaten Texas the last three times the schools have met, with Texas' last victory over the Wildcats coming in 2003. It's a losing streak that the Longhorns would really like to put an end to, though it won't be easy against a Kansas State offense built around Collin Klein. This should be a pretty interesting matchup boasting the Big 12's best run defense and its best running quarterback/battering ram. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

#9 Stanford vs. Cal - ESPN 10:15pm ET

The band won't be on the field for this one (well, they will, but at halftime not on the final play) but the Big Game will still have plenty of memorable moments when you consider that Andrew Luck is playing and looking to make up for last week's loss. - BF 
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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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com