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Tag:Kirk Cousins
Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:52 am
 

Yes, Keith Nichol indisputably scored a touchdown

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's the insane final play of Michigan State's 37-31 last-second victory over Wisconsin on Saturday, a 44-yard touchdown off a deflected Hail Mary from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol:

It's clear that Nichol swings his arm over the goal line and that it would be physically impossible for the ball not to have crossed the plane. But since we can't see the ball, some folks might have a problem with calling that "indisputable" evidence.

So here's a screencap that shows, indisputably, that the ball crossed the plane and Keith Nichol did indeed score a touchdown:


(Click for bigger size photo)

The officials got this call right. That is not opinion; that is fact. 

Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:29 am
 

QUICK HITS: Michigan State 37, Wisconsin 31



Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN STATE WON. In perhaps the wildest finish of the college football season, Kirk Cousins found Keith Nichol on a deflected, 44-yard Hail Mary pass at the goal line on the final play of the game, and No. 16 Michigan State beat No. 6 Wisconsin, 37-31. The win knocks Wisconsin from the ranks of the unbeaten, and almost certainly out of the national championship discussion for the rest of the season.

WHY MICHIGAN STATE WON: In a game with such a razor-thin edge of success and failure, any number of factors can be the "why" here -- the punt and field goal that MSU blocked, the Russell Wilson safety, everything else -- but this game was still likely to go into overtime if Wisconsin hadn't gotten greedy. At the beginning of the final drive, Michigan State faced a 2nd and 21 after Kirk Cousins fumbled during a sack. Wisconsin called a time out both after that fumble and on the next snap, which would have been nice strategy except MSU converted for a first down. With the extra time on the clock, Michigan State was able to drive down the fied and into position for that last-second miracle.

WHEN MICHIGAN STATE WON: When replay officials saw Keith Nichol twist and break the plane of the goal line. Nichol's catch was originally ruled down at 1-yard line, where he made the catch and where he was eventually tackled. Replay showed the ball momentarily but definitively crossing the plane, and that was that. The catch came with no time on the clock, so with the ruling, MSU got the win.

WHAT MICHIGAN STATE WON: Michigan State had a brutal three-game stretch to start the Big Ten season: at Ohio State, vs. Michigan, and vs. Wisconsin. Sparty just went 3-0. So it's MSU, not Wisconsin, who's the most likely division winner in the entire Big Ten. And what once looked like a disappointing season in the waiting after Notre Dame embarrassed MSU is now potentially special.

WHAT WISCONSIN LOST: Gone is the undefeated season, the Russell Wilson Heisman campaign, and the title talk. Wisconsin's now "just" 6-1, and while the Badgers are probably going to take the Leaders Division title, it's now Penn State who's alone atop the Leaders standings. So that Wisconsin-PSU game that finishes the regular season is likely to be a de facto division title game.

THAT WAS CRAZY: What's crazy is that there are some folks who question whether the Nichol touchdown was "indisputable" enough to be overturned. It's okay to have a high standard of the word "indisputable." It's not okay to hide behind that word and refuse to overturn a bad call. You want indisputable evidence? Here it is, via the handiwork of @andyglockner. That's a touchdown. Period.

Posted on: October 11, 2011 1:01 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Michigan at Michigan State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: Bad Denard doesn't show up very often. Denard Robinson is almost literally the entire Michigan offense, routinely throwing for 300 yards and rushing for 100 more on any given week. He's also prone to bad throws, as his three interceptions against Northwestern -- all in Wildcat territory, sometimes inside the 10-yard line -- will attest. Bad Denard was also there for the first three quarters of the Notre Dame game, and Michigan found itself in a major hole until Good Denard led that incredible comeback. So if Good Denard is under center for Michigan, the Wolverines will likely move the ball at will, and when that happens, touchdowns and victories are sure to follow.

MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN IF: The rushing game regains its resolve. One of the most shocking games in the Big Ten this year continues to be Michigan State's 31-13 loss to Notre Dame, in which the Spartans were so ineffective rushing the ball that they abandoned the ground game and left the offense to Kirk Cousins. Not a bad guy to depend on, as quarterbacks go, but the end result was still 13 points and a big fat L. Michigan's defense has bowed up this season, in sharp contrast to the sieve it resembled over the last three years, but if Michigan State wants vaunted tailbacks Edwin Baker and LeVeon Bell to be respected, it will have to impose its will on the Wolverines' front seven. That's a tough task, but it's not impossible.

X-FACTOR: This is a rivalry that used to basically belong to the Wolverines, much to the chagrin of the Spartan faithful in East Lansing. That balance of power has shifted over the past few years, as Michigan State has won three straight against Michigan -- including two games at the Big House. If the Spartans can make it four straight, there'll be a very happy class of seniors this year in East Lansing, and some very embarrassed graduates in Ann Arbor. Rivalries are intense, and mental aspects like that are extremely important to them. It'll be interesting to see whose pride shines through more this weekend.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:04 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 5



Posted by Bryan Fischer


A buddy of mine was talking about how college football right now has a few elite teams and a bunch of others that could be grouped into a couple of classes. After a lengthy discussion, I decided to run with that after week five to see how everyone shapes up. Feel free to get angry at me in the comments.

(In no particular order)

The Elite:

Wisconsin: It's all Russell Wilson for the frontrunners in the Big Ten title race but this is a very good squad that has balance on offense and a very well coached defense.

Alabama: Best defense Nick Saban's ever had plus two great running backs and an efficient offense. The Tide will continue to roll this year.

Oklahoma: Another win, another week they lose some ground in the polls despite being the best team not playing in the SEC.

LSU: They have a Honey Badger so who cares how mediocre the offense has been?

Boise State: Kellen Moore and the offense get all the press but the defensive line is among the best in college football.

We're still not sure how good they are:

Stanford: They have the best quarterback in the country but haven't played anyone of note and lost their best linebacker to a knee injury.

Oregon: Still the class of the conference, they might be better on offense then they were last year.

Oklahoma State: Questions still remain about the defense but Brandon Weeden and company are legit.

Florida: They're a top 25 team but haven't played anyone besides Alabama and will trot out a true freshman in their first road trip against LSU. Yikes.

Notre Dame: The Irish have rolled up 500 yard games like they're no big deal but turnovers are the difference between 5-0 and 3-2.

Nebraska: The defense should be better than what they've shown so far but their struggles are reflective in the team as a whole.

Texas: Undefeated heading into the Red River Shootout, this young team will have their hands full this week but have come along nicely under their two young coordinators.

Clemson: An impressive victory on the road against Virginia Tech but there's no denying that everyone thinks Clemson will be Clemson at some point this year.

Virginia Tech: Many had pegged them as a national title dark horse but that is no more after losing to Clemson at home.

Kansas State: Bill Snyder is a miracle worker but the Wildcats haven't faced a big time opponent until this week.

South Carolina: They have a great running back, a great defense, a great wide receiver but the team itself is a giant question mark week-to-week.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have an explosive offense that's difficult to prepare for but the defense remains questionable at best.

Arkansas: The stunning comeback this week proved one thing: the defense is average but the offense can carry this team.

Illinois: Ron Zook is their head coach so there is that but both the offense and the defense have responded when needed to keep the Illini undefeated.

Michigan: The defense does look better but they haven't really been tested by a good team and have yet to play a game outside the Big House.

Good not great group:

Arizona State: Injuries have hurt on defense but they're the class of the Pac-12 South.

North Carolina: Perhaps a little surprising at 4-1 but they've played solid football and bonded as a team with all that has gone on around the program.

Southern Miss: They've lost to Marshall which hurts them in conference play but this is an ok football team that could breakthrough.

Hawaii: Their offense gives everyone fits but it's really hard to comprehend how they lost to UNLV.

Washington: Perhaps the surprise of the Pac-12 North division, the defense isn't super but Keith Price and the offense are very dangerous.

SMU: A big win over a ranked TCU is a huge sign of progress under June Jones.

West Virginia: The loss to LSU was a setback but this is a very good football team that can score some points.

Baylor: They have a quarterback who's among the best at his position this year in Robert Griffin III but the defense has issues.

Auburn: They're winners, that's for sure, but the defense struggles every game and the offense has been inconsistent.

Michigan State: They've got the defense but the offense hasn't clicked like it should under Kirk Cousins.

Cincinnati: There's plenty of questions about this team but they're solid and can beat any Big East team.

Tennessee: They can't run the ball at all but they sure can throw it.

Texas Tech: Undefeated but have struggled in the first half just about every game they've played.

Georgia: SEC East is wide open and the Bulldogs are fighting hard each game so don't be surprised if they make a run for it.

Florida State: Injuries have made them thin but Jimbo Fisher should regroup them and turn them into a good team by the end of the year.

Houston: Best offense to watch in college football is good because the defense will allow points galore.

Looking forward to 2012:

UCLA, Oregon State, New Mexico State, East Carolina, Rice, Louisiana Tech, Utah, North Texas, Tulsa, Ball State, Ole Miss, Purdue, New Mexico, UAB, Troy, FAU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Duke, FIU, Iowa State, Colorado State, TCU, USC, Arizona, Washington State, Colorado, Bowling Green, Virginia, Idaho, N.C. State, Ohio State, Maryland, Miami, UConn, Western Michigan, Louisville, Marshall, Nevada, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Akron, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Wake Forest, Boston College, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Navy, Air Force, Army, Tulane, Kansas, Northwestern, Temple, Toledo, Minnesota, Rutgers, Syracuse, Penn State, Indiana, Mississippi State, BYU, Utah State, USF, Pitt, UTEP.

Stat of the week

Via the blog Hustle Belt, the last time Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Central Michigan all won on the same day: November 5, 1994. Add in the fact that the Detroit Lions won on Sunday and it's a pretty good weekend for football in the state of Michigan.

Stats of the week

- With four touchdowns against Nebraska, Wisconsin's Montee Ball now has 13 on the ground this season. That's halfway to the Big 10 record of 26 (by week 5) and his 14 total touchdowns leads the country. Ball has scored 14 points more than the next person on the scoring list.

- Oklahoma had the ball 15 times against Ball State and scored seven touchdowns. Wisconsin had the ball 10 times against Nebraska and scored seven touchdowns (via Brian Fremeau)

- USC has allowed 40 points in consecutive games for the first time in 119 seasons. Matt Barkley did set a school record for passing yards and total offense against Arizona however.

- Arkansas had nine plays of 20 or more yards against Texas A&M. At one point, receiver Jarius Wright had more yards of total offense than Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota and Kentucky as well as 80% of the Razorbacks' offense at halftime.

- Tyrann Mathieu has the LSU record for career forced fumbles with eight in 18 games (via Scott Rabalais).

Yard-by-yard

- RussellMania is indeed here. Wilson's masterful performance against Nebraska really was something to behold as he made play after play. The knock on Wisconsin was that they haven't played anyone (they still haven't on the road). That question seems to have been answered with their resounding victory against Nebraska on Saturday however. Wilson was efficient once again, going 14-20 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He had some beautiful throws, placing the ball perfectly into the hands of his receivers on a few big gains. Though Wilson doesn't look to run like other quarterbacks, he can and will if need be. That added dimension is what separates this Badgers team from previous iterations. On the other side, Nebraska's B1G moment - their first ever conference game - very much exposed them as a team with serious issues. 

- Coming into their primetime game, both Florida and Alabama featured top 10 defenses and plenty of future NFL draft picks. Yet, you just got the feeling as Trent Richardson was running through players like a battering ram that the Gators were boys among men. There's plenty of talented four- and five-star recruits but they're still young and almost seemed overwhelmed by the big stage. The swarming Tide defense, meanwhile, was punishing Florida players left and right - including quarterback John Brantley. With a true freshman seeing his first significant game action, plenty of people on Twitter were calling for Charlie Weis to call plays that simply didn't get Jeff Driskel killed by an Alabama defender. Richardson ran for a career-high 181 yards and two touchdowns and was pretty much the offense. Good defense, good running game and a big, big road victory for Nick Saban's squad.

- Poor, poor Utah State. The team has been minutes from being 4-0 and likely ranked in the top 25 but instead they're 1-3 thanks to a last second loss to BYU on Friday. They lost to a backup quarterback who threw a pass that was deflected by an Aggie defensive back right into the hands of Marcus Matthews for the game-winning touchdown; which pretty much sums up what Utah State has gone through, coming close to a win before tipping it into the hands of the opponent. They nearly upset Auburn before a perfect onside kick and subsequent score and lost to Colorado State on a failed two-point conversion in OT last week. The Aggies might be the best, unluckiest team in college football.

- I'm still not sure how Arkansas pulled off that comeback other than to say Texas A&M allowed them to. Mike Sherman seemed to deflect some blame for the loss but one has to put this one (and last week's) solely on his shoulders. His first half play-calling has been great but it's like the Aggies go into the locker room and fail to make a single adjustment. They had great success rushing the ball but failed to go for it on a key 4th down in Arkansas territory and punted the ball instead. At that point, the momentum had fully shifted to the Razorbacks, who made play after play to rally from 18 down. A&M looked like they'd be fine in the SEC if you watched that first half but if you watched the second... they looked more like Ole Miss.

- Melvin Ingram had 11 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception but that just wasn't enough for South Carolina, who lost to Auburn thanks to an anemic offense that was actually playing one of the worst defenses in the SEC. I listened to part of the game on radio and I'm glad I did because it saved me having to see some terrible quarterback play on both sides. The Gamecocks' defense is good but the offense has been puzzling - not something one would expect with Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey. But then again, they do have Stephen Garcia at quarterback.

- Michigan State's defense is well coached and the best in the Big Ten so far this year but that doesn't explain the offensive ineptitude of Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes had negative yardage for most of the game before getting a 4th quarter touchdown in the final 10 seconds to avoid the program's first shutout in nearly 18 years. As much as people mocked Tresselball, Buckeyes fans would welcome a return to those days in a heartbeat.

- Notre Dame's win over Purdue is best summed up by two words: Michael Floyd. After grabbing just four catches against Pitt, Floyd grabbed 12 for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Boilermakers. As one would expect given the competition, the Irish were rolling on offense and racked up 551 yards with Cierre Wood running for a career-high 191 yards on 20 carries. Most importantly, there were no turnovers after 15 in Notre Dame's first four games.

- It's rare for an SEC team to leave the South so props to Ole Miss for traveling to Fresno State to play. Randall Mackey had an ok day but made the big play when needed, including an 88 yard drive to seal the win. This is the Rebels' first win over and FBS team and, with more SEC West play ahead of them, could be their last for a while. 

-  Playing so late, it's doubtful that many in the Eastern or Central time zones stayed up to catch Stanford crush UCLA 45-19 so here's a quick recap: Andrew Luck is really, really good. He had a Heisman highlight moment with a spectacular one-handed catch and somehow managed to stay in bounds. Just as impressive as Luck (23-27, 227 yards, 3 TDs), the Cardinal played before a sellout crowd and looked solid on defense against the Bruins' Pistol offense that looked like it had some life. Still, the story in this game was Luck, who surprisingly called his own plays on a couple of drives Peyton Manning-style. "He called better plays than me," head coach David Shaw said after the game.

More on College Football
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Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
Russell Wilson stacks plays like corn at harvest to spoil Nebraska's night and entrench Wisconsin atop the conference.
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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told his team that if they did 'common things in an uncommon way,' people would notice. Read >
Bruce Feldman Bruce Feldman
Russell Wilson and the Badgers -- a match made to contend. The playmaking QB paired with a solid supporting cast may rule the Big Ten. Read >>
Related links
Video

Quote of the week

"I apologize to the fans of Nebraska because that was a joke."

- Huskers head coach Bo Pelini on his team's embarrassing loss to Wisconsin and the state of the defense.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. Stanford

7. Oklahoma State

8. Oregon

9. Clemson

10. Georgia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Senior writer Dennis Dodd will head to Dallas for one of the best events you can go to, the Red River Shootout (or, if being politically correct, Rivalry) between undefeated Texas and Oklahoma. While he's trying the fried beer, Tony Barnhart will be in Baton Rouge for a LSU night game against Florida. Brett McMurphy will pack his bags for Manhattan (Kansas) to see Missouri play undefeated Kansas State and see first hand how good a coaching job Bill Snyder has been doing.

Leaning this way

Oklahoma vs. Texas

I have to imagine that Dan Beebe, from his comfortable Dallas home, will have this game on his television set rooting for both teams to end this in a tie. Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has done some very good things with some young talent and without a doubt has some surprises up his sleeve for OU. That said, the Sooners are the top team in the country and will be scoring enough points to keep the fans singing 'Boomer Sooner' well into the afternoon.

Florida at LSU

This will be the coming out party for true freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel with the injury to Jeff Brantley. And by coming out, I mean just that he'll come out. Having seen his film and him throw in person, I think Driskel will be a good quarterback but he's just going to be overwhelmed by the scenery in Death Valley. LSU makes several plays on defense to blow this one open and let the Tigers push the Gators around.

Ohio State at Nebraska

After both teams lost, I didn't really consider this game in this spot until I remembered this was a B1G game not only in terms of conference standings, but the fact that the Tattoo Four will make their return to the Buckeyes. Nebraska was embarrassed on the road but I don't think they'll allow that at home as the Ohio State returns several much-needed starters. In the end though, there's just been such a lack of execution by the Buckeyes as a whole to pick anyone but Nebraska by more than a touchdown.



Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:19 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 12:19 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 24)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. The Big Ten can't even get cheap wins correctly. There's no nice way to put this: this was possibly the worst week in Big Ten history in terms of opponent quality. The total amount of AP and coaches poll votes held by the Big Ten's Week 4 opponents? 22, received by Michigan opponent San Diego State, who will likely see that number fall to zero on Sunday after the Wolverines prevailed 28-7. Handfuls of undeserved votes aside, the best team anybody in the Big Ten faced today was Western Michigan, who took Illinois to the limit in Champaign. Again: Western Michigan, a MAC team with no AP or coaches poll votes, looked like the most talented opponent of Week 4 for anybody in the Big Ten. And being that there were no riots on any of the Big Ten campuses, apparently fans are willing to allow this scheduling practice to continue.

So it would stand to reason that the Big Ten went 10-0 this week (Purdue and Northwestern are on bye weeks) then, correct? Well, no. Indiana couldn't overcome a 24-point deficit in a 24-21 home road loss to North Texas, and Minnesota increased its losing streak against North Dakota State to two games (also lost to Bison in 2007) by dropping Saturday's game, 37-24. As for how such a shocking loss could have possibly happened to a Big Ten team, well, look at the picture above. It's Minnesota. There were blowouts everywhere else in the conference, which is the way it ought to be, but 8-2 against a slate of cupcakes? Shame on the Big Ten for that.

2. Speaking of which, Indiana and Minnesota may be worse than we thought. It was obvious already that Indiana and Minnesota were going to be taking up residence in the basements of their respective divisions, what with the Hoosiers losing to Ball State in Week 1 and Minnesota dropping one to New Mexico State already this year. But both teams' losses to low-level competition this Saturday were even worse, because for most of the game, they weren't even close. North Texas was 0-3 on the year coming into the game, and built a 24-0 lead while moving the ball at will on the Hoosier defense, while NDSU held a 31-14 advantage in the second half before holding on for the win. We're talking about a previously winless Sun Belt team and an FCS school who both looked like they belonged in the Big Ten more than the Hoosiers or Gophers. That? That's not good.

3. Braxton Miller is not on Terrelle Pryor's level... yet. Ohio State cruised to a 37-17 victory over visiting Pac-12 doormat Colorado, but the big story here was Braxton Miller's debut as a starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. Miller was a force on the ground, registering 83 yards on 17 carries, and he also threw for two touchdowns. That's the good part. The bad part is that Miller was just 5-13 for 83 yards through the air, and he just doesn't have a very good read progression at this point. Really, he wasn't even supposed to be playing this year, much less starting, but then Terrelle Pryor's eligibility walked out the door and now here we are with a true freshman under center in Columbus.

Miller's going to improve over the course of the year, one would imagine, and that's good because don't let the touchdowns fool you: he's got a ways to go yet before he's as reliable as Luke Fickell is going to need him to be in conference play. Miller did show flashes of the athleticism and play-making ability that made him such a sought-after prospect on Saturday, but the consistency is going to be the key, and that comes mainly with time -- time that, with Michigan State coming to town next Saturday, Ohio State doesn't really have.

4. Michael Mauti's luck is just wretched. Penn State beat Eastern Michigan 34-6, but the real story for PSU is the injuries suffered on the defensive side of the ball. CB D'Anton Lynn was carted off the field in the second half with an apparent neck injury, but he's expected to be fine. The real problem for the Nittany Lions is the absence of All-American candidate Michael Mauti, who suffered a torn ACL on a non-contact injury in the first quarter and will miss the rest of the year. Mauti was forced to redshirt in 2009, his second year with Penn State, after tearing his right ACL; Saturday's injury happened to Mauti's left. It's early enough in the year that he'll likely be able to apply for a sixth year of eligibility in 2013 if he wants it.

This marks the third season marred by injury for the talented linebacker; in addition to the 2009 ACL injury mentioned earlier, Mauti was plagued by ankle and shoulder issues in 2010 and never seemed to be at 100% during Big Ten play even when he was healthy enough to be on the field (not always the case). Mauti had looked great in early play this season, and although Nate Stupar is no slouch in relief, losing a high-caliber player like Mauti is tough for a team that's going to be leaning heavily on its defense this season with the continuing difficulties at quarterback.

We hope Mauti's recovery is swift and complete, and that he finally gets at least one healthy season to put it all together for Penn State. Anything less, frankly, would be unfair.

5. There are going to be a lot of quarterbacks getting All-Big Ten honorable mention recognition. The best quarterback in the Big Ten is probably Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, and if it's not, it's Mr. MichiganDenard Robinson.(seen at left, rushing for one of his three scores Saturday). Short of injury, there's basically no way these two dynamos cede the All-Big Ten first team and second team honors at the end of this season.

That means honorable mention is going to have to accommodate a lot of Big Ten quarterbacks who are off to great starts this season in their own right. Nathan Scheelhaase is basically a job-saver for Ron Zook at Illinois, epitomizing the "dual threat" label with a high option IQ and an accurate arm. James Vandenberg is probably the best pure passer Kirk Ferentz has ever had at Iowa, and the junior has nearly 1100 yards, 10 TDs, and only one interception in his first four games this year. MSU's Kirk Cousins was my preseason pick as 2011's top QB in the Big Ten, and he still may be so when the dust settles. Nebraska's option man Taylor Martinez would be the most dynamic rushing quarterback in the Big Ten since Antwaan Randle-El if it weren't for that Denard fellow in Ann Arbor. And oh yes, Dan Persa is coming back next week for Northwestern; if he can replicate his pre-Achilles injury form, Northwestern's going to be in great shape. That's a lot of very, very good quarterbacks for just one conference, and the scary part is that only Wilson and Cousins are seniors. Meanwhile, Indiana brings in top prospect Dusty Kiel next season and Braxton Miller will be the unquestioned starter in Columbus with a full year of experience under his belt in 2012. The high-profile quarterback isn't going anywhere soon in the Big Ten. 

One school that's conspicuously absent in this discussion is Penn State, who struggled again with quarterback play in the Rob Bolden/Matt McGloin quarterback platoon that seemed to hit a stride of sorts this week... against EMU, who isn't even good by MAC standards. How the Penn State quarterback situation got so dire is a question that gets beaten past any semblance of sense on a weekly basis in Happy Valley, but it doesn't change the fact that Penn State's in a quarterback-heavy league without a true No. 1 quarterback, and it's probably going to cost the Nittany Lions this year. It would be false to ascribe this to an institutional weakness on the part of Joe Paterno, since his last full-time starting quarterback was Daryll Clark, who was only the Big Ten OPOTY in 2008. It would also be false to think this problem will fix itself, though, because if there were a legitimate, game-ready quarterback on Penn State's roster, well, we would have seen him by now.

6. Well, at least that's all done. There are only two non-conference games left for anybody in the Big Ten; Purdue faces Notre Dame next week, and Northwestern has a date with Rice in November. For everyone else, it's nothing but Big Ten play from here on out. No more FCS patsies, no more MACrifices, and no more cupcakes showing up for a paycheck. It's the way the Big Ten was meant to be played. Let's go. 

Keep up with the latest college football news from around the country. From the regular season all the way through the bowl games, CBSSports.com has you covered with this daily newsletter. | Preview
Posted on: September 17, 2011 7:21 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Notre Dame 31 Michigan State 13

Posted by Tom Fornelli

NOTRE DAME WON. It took three games, but Notre Dame finally put together a complete performance and didn't shoot itself in the foot repeatedly. Though it should be pointed out that Notre Dame still managed to turn the ball over three times in victory, but they weren't the crippling turnovers that we've grown accustomed to seeing from the Irish. Also, the Notre Dame defense did a fantastic job of shutting down a Michigan State offense that looked very strong in its first two games.

WHY NOTRE DAME WON. Defense. Defense, and then a little more defense. Michigan State came into South Bend averaging 36 points and 415 yards per game. Notre Dame held the Spartan attack to 358 yards, and more importantly, only 13 points. What was truly impressive, however, was that Notre Dame held the Spartans to 29 yards rushing on 23 attempts. The Spartans came into the game averaging 173.5 yards per game on the ground.

WHEN NOTRE DAME WON. For a few moments in the fourth quarter it looked like the dark clouds were beginning to hover over Notre Dame Stadium one more time. With a 28-13 lead and less than 5 minutes to go, the Irish forced the Spartans to punt on a 4th and 17. That's when sure-handed punt returner John Goodman muffed the punt and Michigan State recovered inside the Notre Dame 20. However, instead of disaster for the Irish, it was disaster for the Spartans a few plays later when Kirk Cousins was picked off by Robert Blanton at the goal line. Blanton's 82-yard return set up the final Notre Dame field goal of the day, and put an end to any possible collapse.

WHAT NOTRE DAME WON. It got the monkey of the first two weeks of its back. Now instead of focusing on everything that went wrong for the next seven days, the Irish can finally focus on what went right as they prepare to head east to Pittsburgh to take on the Panthers next week.

WHAT MICHIGAN STATE LOST. A bit of respect. Not that losing to Notre Dame on the road is anything to be ashamed of, but while Michigan State looked very impressive in its first two games, it did so against FAU and Youngstown State. In the Spartans first true test of the season the team did not fare all that well, and frankly, looked overmatched on both the offensive and defensive line at times. A likely win against Central Michigan won't do much to correct the team's perception next week and Michigan State will have to wait until its Big Ten opener against Ohio State to impress pollsters again.
Posted on: September 2, 2011 11:34 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Michigan State 28, Youngstown State 6

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN STATE WON.  The No. 17 Michigan State Spartans overcame a slow start and dispatched the Youngstown State Penguins, 28-6, under the lights at Spartan Stadium (more on that, by the way, in a little bit). Kirk Cousins was cruelly efficient at 18-22 for 221 yards and a score through the air, and big back Le'Veon Bell punched in two more scores on the ground for the Spartans. 

WHY MICHIGAN STATE WON: Michigan State is just too talented on offense for YSU to bottle up the attack for four quarters. Cousins had little difficulty finding open receivers, although he didn't have to find anyone other than B.J. Cunningham too often. Cunningham had nine of the Spartans' 18 receptions, 130 of the team's 221 receiving yards, and the team's only score through the air. The performance left him tied with Matt Trannon for most catches in Michigan State history, and with 11 or 12 games left in the season, odds are that Cunningham will obliterate that program record by the end of the year.

WHEN MICHIGAN STATE WON: Youngstown State never led during the game, but this game wasn't really in hand for Michigan State until Cousins found Cunningham with a rocket of a throw for the 18-yard score, making it 21-6 with just under five minutes left in the third quarter.

WHAT MICHIGAN STATE WON: The Spartans may not have looked quite as impressive as Wisconsin did in its Thursday opener, but they did demonstrate the ability to move the ball with ease both on the ground and through the air. Holding YSU QB Kurt Hess to just 135 passing yards on 38 attempts is a major victory for the Spartan secondary, even if they "only" forced one interception. 

WHAT YOUNGSTOWN STATE LOST: The Penguins lost little other than pride, although the Penguins and their coaches will not doubt lament the missed scoring opportunities in the first half. An upset wasn't seriously in the cards, even with MSU leading only by eight points in the second half, but the 28-6 final score belies the difficulty YSU gave the 17th-ranked Spartans for the first three quarters. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: Late in the second quarter, following a missed field goal by Youngstown State kicker David Brown, a bank of temporary lights went out. The game was stopped briefly, but game officials decided the light levels were sufficient to go forward. No word on if the shanked field goal was directly responsible for the outage.

Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 4:57 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big Ten team

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here are one writer's choices for the preseason All-Big Ten team. 

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Kirk Cousins, Senior, Michigan State

For as many high-level quarterbacks as there are in the Big Ten, it looks as if the stars have aligned the best for Kirk Cousins this year. Cousins returns his stable of running backs, two of his top three wideouts (and experienced senior backups at the third receiver and starting tight end), and his same offense from 2010. Cousins also didn't suffer a catastrophic injury last year. Oh, and Cousins is a very, very good passer. There isn't another quarterback in the conference that can make all of those claims, so while the MSU schedule is just brutal this year, if any losses occur, it's unlikely that a healthy Cousins will be to blame for any of them.

Also watch for: Even without Terrelle Pryor lining up under center, this is a loaded position in the conference. Denard Robinson and Dan Persa can also make legitimate claims as the top quarterback in the conference, and Wisconsin newcomer Russell Wilson might get there by the end of the year. This is a conference where Nathan Scheelhaase and Taylor Martinez are competing to even be mentioned in the top five quarterbacks. Big Ten secondaries, beware.

RUNNING BACK

Edwin Baker, Junior, Michigan State

In a Spartan backfield loaded with depth, Baker is the best of the bunch, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs in his sophomore campaign. Baker is a low, powerful rusher with some of the best instincts in the conference, and he’ll be counted on to produce even more -- provided he can keep his talented teammates from stealing even more carries in 2011.

Montee Ball, Junior, Wisconsin

Ball gets the nod here just for being a year ahead of his teammate listed below, but the truth is both are going to be major weapons for the Badgers this year. Ball was a hair away from hitting 1,000 yards rushing last year, but his nose for the end zone is impeccable; he scored 18 rushing touchdowns last year, which is even more ridiculous considering half-man, half-truck John Clay was also a Badger last year and scored 14 TDs of his own. 20 touchdowns is totally in play for Ball this year.

Also watch for: All the true sophomores. There's a lot of them. First of all, both Baker and Bell have superlatively talented teammates in their backfields; Ball's partner in crime is reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White, who racked up 1,057 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman. Meanwhile, the Spartans have true sophomore big back Le'Veon Bell, who rushed for 605 yards at 5.7 yards a carry last year. Iowa boasted its own a true freshman breakout star in Marcus Coker, who scorched Missouri for 219 yards and two scores in the Insight Bowl. Penn State's starting tailback Silas Redd was also a true freshman in 2010, looking impressive as he tallied 437 yards (5.7 yards per carry) in relief of since-departed Evan Royster. Ohio State has a trio of workhorses in its backfield in Rod Smith, Jaamal Berry (8.3 ypc as, yep, a true freshman in 2010), and suspended starter Boom Herron. Meanwhile, junior Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) and senior Jason Ford (Illinois) have been significant contributors in the backfield for years, and both have opportunities to put forward a big year.

WIDE RECEIVER

Derek Moye, Senior, Penn State

Penn State may not have its quarterback situation shored up just yet, but one thing for sure is that whoever steps forward will have the conference's best target to aim at. Moye is 6'5" and fast, and he led the Nittany Lions' receiving corps with 53 catches, 885 yards, and eight TDs -- all team highs last year. Ostensibly, both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin (PSU's dueling QBs) have an even better rapport with Moye than they did last year, so don't be surprised to see all three of Moye's stats rise in his senior campaign.

Marvin McNutt, Senior, Iowa

McNutt first came onto the scene in 2009, when he was listed ahead of returning starter (and future Iowa record-holder in career receptions and receiving yards) Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on Iowa's depth chart coming out of camp. McNutt and Johnson-Koulianos eventually played their way into starting roles alongside each other, but the more surprising aspect was that McNutt -- recruited as a quarterback out of high school, and the Hawkeyes' 3rd stringer under center the year prior -- could work his way into the starting lineup that easily. McNutt quickly emerged as the surest catcher on the team, and his big play ability has put the Hawkeyes' career touchdown reception record in dire jeopardy (he needs just five scores to match Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes at 21).

Also watch for: Jeremy Ebert of Northwestern has a record of production that's as good as just about anybody else in the conference, and his familiarity with Dan Persa is going to be key as Persa continues to work his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. Ohio State wideout DeVier Posey was a favorite target -- by a pretty wide margin -- of Terrelle Pryor, and it's hardly a stretch to think that whoever OSU's new QB might be will depend on Posey often (once Posey comes back from suspension, anyway). 6'5" Indiana WR Damarlo Belcher would probably be in the NFL today if he had held onto a game-winning 4th down pass against Iowa last season. He didn't, the Hawkeyes won, new Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson convinced Belcher to stay, and here we are. Keshawn Martin and BJ Cunningham should both put up big numbers for Kirk Cousins at MSU.  

TIGHT END

Drake Dunsmore, Senior, Northwestern

From a purist's standpoint, Dunsmore is not technically a tight end; he's classified by Northwestern as a "superback," which means he can be found all over the place in the Wildcats' different offensive sets. He fits the same role that a tight end usually does, however, mixing a healthy amount of both blocking and receiving. Think of Dunsmore as Northwestern's Frank Wycheck. Also, think of him as Dan Persa's safety valve, being the second-leading receiver returning to the Wildcats and by far the leader among Big Ten tight ends with 40 receptions in 2010.

Also watch for: If Dunsmore's role as "superback" is too much of a departure from tight end for comfort, Nebraska TE Kyler Reed could easily take Dunsmore's place on this list. Reed's athleticism makes him one of the toughest tight ends to cover in the league, and at 18 yards per reception in 2010, he's proven the ability to move chains as well as any end in the conference. His eight touchdowns (tops among Big Ten TEs) don't hurt either.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Center Mike Brewster, Senior, Ohio State

Forget the Big Ten, Mike Brewster might well be the best center in the nation. In a position that usually attracts shorter linemen, Brewster stands tall at 6'5" 305 and still boasts elite technique. The four-year starter has become something of a folk hero in Columbus, and for good reason: he's probably going to be an All-Pro at the next level.

Guard Kevin Zeitler, Senior, Wisconsin

Now that First Team All-Americans Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt are gone to the NFL, the Wisconsin offensive line needs a new anchor, and Zeitler likely fits that bill. Zeitler is the most experienced offensive lineman on the Badgers, with 22 starts to his name, and his senior season should be his best.

Guard Joel Foreman, Senior, Michigan State

Foreman worked his way into the starting lineup early in his redshirt freshman season, and never relinquished the role. 36 starts later, he's the premier guard in the Big Ten, and his ability to get to the second level has been critical to Michigan State's considerable success rushing the ball. Foreman's pass protection skills are also stellar; it's no accident that Kirk Cousins has flourished as a passer over the last few years.

Tackle Mike Adams, Senior, Ohio State

Mike Adams shouldn't be on this list. He should be in the NFL, because he likely would have been a first-round pick last year. His role in the tattoo scandal and subsequent NCAA investigation led Jim Tressel to demand Adams return for his suspension-shortened senior season, and here we are. With the aforementioned Carimi off in the NFL, Adams takes over the mantle as the best tackle in college football, and his return to the Buckeyes' lineup after his five-game suspension is going to be a major factor in the Buckeyes' fight to stay atop the conference.

Tackle Riley Reiff, Junior, Iowa

As Iowa's left tackle, there's no denying Reiff has big shoes to fill; his recent predecessors include former All-Americans (and first-round NFL draft picks) Robert Gallery and Bryan Bulaga. Reiff could soon fit that bill himself; he's a big, mean masher who excels in downfield blocking and at the point of attack. Reiff's pass protection isn't as impressive quite yet, but he's still got two seasons left at Iowa to take that next step. He may not need two before the NFL comes calling.

Also watch for: Michigan center David Molk would probably be first-team in just about any other conference, but with Brewster manning the role for OSU, Molk is relegated to second-team status here. RT J.B. Shugarts is a third senior starter on the line for the Buckeyes, and if his foot injury is healed, he'll likely have a big year. Wisconsin RT Josh Oglesby is back from an injury that robbed him of all but two games in 2010, and he could easily play his way into all-conference consideration.  

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Cameron Meredith, Junior, Nebraska

In Meredith’s first year starting in 2010, he racked up 10 quarterback hurries and 6.5 TFLs. That would be disconcerting enough by itself, but with the bevy of talent in the front seven, most of the help blocking will have to be devoted to other defenders -- meaning Meredith will likely be on an island with his opposing tackles, terrorizing them and opposing quarterbacks all season long. Look for his sack numbers to go way up in 2011.

DE Vince Browne, Senior, Northwestern

One of the most underappreciated players in the Big Ten is probably Vince Browne, who registered seven sacks and 15.5 TFL in relative obscurity last year. The spotlight's on Browne now as a consensus preseason first-team all-Big Ten player, and his production continues to improve, he'll quickly make Wildcats fans forget about former all-conference DE Corey Wootton.

DT Jared Crick, Senior, Nebraska

It's slightly unfair to Crick (pictured above right) that he shared a defensive front with former Heisman candidate DT Ndamukong Suh, because it only invites comparisons between the two rather than letting Crick define his own legacy at Nebraska. On the other hand, earning comparisons to Suh is fantastic news for Nebraska, because it means Crick's incredible. Crick is a likely All-American at DT, with 32 TFLs to his name over the last two seasons and the potential to pass 20 TFLs this year. He's big, strong, and disruptive, which probably means instant double-teams on the majority of snaps in 2011. That still might not be enough to slow Crick down.

DT Mike Martin, Senior, Michigan

Last year, Mike Martin faced the same challenge that former teammate Brandon Graham did in 2009: being the best defensive lineman on a truly terrible defense. At the very least, Martin gets another crack at helping the Wolverines turn their defense around, and with the arrival of Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator, that looks to be a real possibility. Martin wasn't at 100% very often last year, but he's healthy right now, and that plus the move back to a 4-3 lineup (with space eater William Campbell next to him at NT) should be enough to propel Martin and the Wolverines DL to a much-improved season.

Also watch for: Jerel Worthy is a monster on the interior for Michigan State and may supplant Martin as a first-team DT by season's end; Worthy's production needs to improve, though. Iowa DT Mike Daniels is in his second year of starting, and the aggressive senior showed flashes of potential last season. He's going from the "fifth starter" in 2010 to the leader of the retooling Iowa defensive line. Ohio State DE Nathan Williams is in his second year starting for the Buckeyes, and he's expected to put together a solid senior year.

LINEBACKER

Michael Mauti, Junior, Penn State

When healthy, Mauti is one of the most fearsome linebackers in the Big Ten. It's that health that poses a bit of an issue. Mauti missed all of 2009 with an ACL injury, then struggled through various maladies last season -- including a shoulder injury suffered against Ohio State. Sheer probability suggests Mauti will have better luck with injuries this year, and he's manning the inside linebacker spot in a defense that puts the ILB in the best position to make plays. Tackles will be plentiful for the talented junior this year.

Lavonte David, Senior, Nebraska

It's bad enough for Nebraska's opposing offensive linemen that they have to deal with Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler at defensive tackle at the same time. It's worse that behind them lurks All-American candidate MLB Lavonte David. With needing three blockers to engage Crick and Steinkuhler a near-certainty, Davis will be free to get to the edges and and hit the point of attack, both things the speedy linebacker can do extremely well. Look for unholy amounts of production from David in 2011.

Chris Borland, Sophomore, Wisconsin

Wisconsin's defense wasn't spectacular last year, but with an offense scoring over 30 points in all but one Big Ten game, it didn't need to be. That defense is getting a major boost this year as 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Borland returns after taking a medical redshirt last season. Borland is strong and aggressive, and he represents a significant step up from departing MLB Culmer St. Jean. It wasn't exactly easy to run on Wisconsin last year, but it'll be legitimately tough now.

Also watch for: Andrew Sweat takes over as the leader of Ohio State's defense now, and the rangy OLB is poised for a big year. Iowa MLB James Morris stepped in as a 215-pound true freshman last year, and now that he's bigger, he may never leave the starting lineup; Iowa coaches are especially high on him. Senior Nate Stupar is versatile and productive, and he'll help bolster the Penn State linebacking corps in a big way.

SECONDARY

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Senior, Nebraska

With former teammate and All-American CB Prince Amukamara off to the NFL, it's Dennard's time to shine as Nebraska's lockdown cornerback. He showed all the necessary potential last year as opposing quarterbacks threw for under 50% all season long (tops among BCS teams), and while the loss of Amukamara might push opposing passer ratings up a bit, throwing at Dennard is still going to be a terrible, terrible idea. 

Cornerback Shaun Prater, Senior, Iowa

Prater's interceptions are about to drop precipitously. Not because the returning All-Big Ten cornerback is about to get any worse, but with his accolades and the uncertainty in the rest of the Iowa secondary, there isn't going to be a whole lot of sense in testing Prater anymore.

Safety Aaron Henry, Senior, Wisconsin

Henry, a cornerback for the Badgers until 2010, made a successful transition to safety by registering 58 tackles, seven PBUs, and a pair of interceptions last year. With a year of experience at free safety under his belt and a wealth of athleticism to boot, Henry should be even better in 2011.

Safety Trenton Robinson, Senior, Michigan State

It's hard to argue with results, so it's hard to argue with Trenton Robinson's eight passes broken up and four interceptions; only Northwestern cornerback Jordan Mabin had more passes defended last season, with 14 PBUs and a pick. Robinson is also the leading tackler among returning MSU starters, so look for a big senior year in center field for him.

Also watch for: Iowa CB-turned-safety Micah Hyde might have a case for being on this list after scoring two touchdowns off interceptions last year, but he’ll need to produce at his new position for Iowa before any accolades come his way. True sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen is a rising star in Purdue’s secondary after two defensive scores of his own; he’ll be getting All-American consideration before his career’s over. Also, as mentioned before, Jordan Mabin led the conference in passes broken up by a pretty substantial margin. That's worth something.

Specialists

KICKER

Derek Dimke, Senior, Illinois

Dimke is the returning first-team All-Big Ten kicker, and for good reason; the Lou Groza watch list member was 24-29 on field goals last year, and he's got one of the strongest legs in the conference. Look for another all-conference performance this year.

PUNTER

Brad Nortman, Senior, Wisconsin

Not only is Nortman one of the best (if not often-used) punters in the conference, he also led the Big Ten in rushing average after gaining 17 yards on a fake punt in Wisconsin's 31-30 win over Iowa last year. Sadly, Nortman's one rushing attempt did not qualify him for the official league crown. With the top three punters in the 2010 Big Ten all graduating, Nortman has an opportunity to step up and put together a big senior year.

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