Posted on: October 21, 2011 3:26 pm

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 8

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. 

We hope you've starved yourself this week because you're going to need plenty of room in your stomach to get through this week's menu, and although we can't promise you anything featuring streaking referees and fighting, we're sure you'll find these meals as fulfilling just the same.


Missouri vs. #4 Oklahoma State - FX, 12pm ET

On paper this one may not seem all that interesting, but Missouri is yet to lose at home this season, and let's not forget that the Tigers knocked off Oklahoma in Columbia last season. It's possible that the Tigers could end another school from Oklahoma's title hopes again this Saturday. Of course, it won't be easy considering the offensive firepower that the Cowboys will be bringing with them. - Tom Fornelli

#7 Clemson vs. North Carolina - ESPN, 12pm ET

Clemson survived their first trap game on the road, marching back from 18 down against Maryland to prove - for the moment - this Tigers team is for real.  Now they have a chance to return to the comfy confines of Death Valley for one last warm-up before traveling to Atlanta for arguably the toughest challenge left on the conference schedule in Georgia Tech.  North Carolina doesn't run the option, but they do have a terrific ground game led by redshirt freshman Gio Bernard.  Bernard has been sensational for the Tar Heels, and ranks third in the ACC with 109.57 yards per game.  The Tigers, on the other hand, are one of the league's worst defenses against the run. North Carolina's defense has been beaten on the perimeter this season, and their weakness in the secondary will likely be their downfall with no answer for Sammy Watkins and DeAndre "Nuke" Hopkins.  - Chip Patterson

Purdue vs. #23 Illinois - ESPN2, 12pm ET

This game will be worth your attention. Bold statement, but it's true. Here's the deal: if Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins get their game back up, you'll want to watch, because that's the best QB-WR combination in the Big Ten. And if Scheelhaase and Jenkins get bottled up like last week, look out, because we might have an early upset on our hands, and those are a fun way to start a Saturday. See? Win-win scenario all the way. - Adam Jacobi


#1 LSU vs. #20 Auburn - CBS, 3:30pm ET

So Auburn has a defense with some success against LSU-style offenses, the host Tigers won't have Tyrann Mathieu or Spencer Ware, and the game's being played in bright, Death Valley-neutralizing sunlight. It's too bad Auburn is sending Clint Moseley out for his first career start at quarterback, or Gene Chizik's bunch could have made a real game of this. (if Moseley is a revelation? They still might. - Jerry Hinnen

#5 Boise State vs. Air Force - Versus, 3:30pm ET

Is there anybody left on Boise State's schedule that can knock the Broncos off? Maybe, but odds are that it won't happen this week as Air Force makes the trip up north to play on the blue turf. Still, even if Boise is likely to win this game, tuning in to see the Broncos playing a home game is seldom a choice to regret. - TF

Miami vs. #22 Georgia Tech - ESPN, 3:30pm ET

Miami turned the corner against Virginia Tech, and has been playing some of their best football of the season in the last three quarters.  But they welcome a Georgia Tech team that got beat around by Virginia last week, and will be looking for a bounce back victory.  This game is a must-win for the Yellow Jackets if they plan on competing for a Coastal Division title, and a must-win for the Hurricanes to establish some kind of momentum in a frustratingly inconsistent season.  If Miami wants to pull the upset, they need to get Lamar Miller going on offense.  A good rushing attack will keep Paul Johnson's pounding offense off the field, and after Miller was held to 29 yards against UNC last week he's due for a big game. - CP


#2 Alabama vs. Tennessee - ESPN2, 7:15pm ET

The drama and intrigue in this edition of the "Third" Saturday in October positively abounds: can the Vols score a touchdown? Can Trent Richardson break the 200-yard mark? Will Nick Saban decline to score a final humiliating touchdown out of respect for his old assistant, Derek Dooley? Has Smokey finally been fitted for the retina-protecting dog goggles (or "doggles") required by repeated visual exposure to Dooley's pants? (The actual and inevitable outcome, that we're not so intrigued by.) - JH

Notre Dame vs. USC - NBC, 7:30pm ET

One of college football's greatest rivalries gets a bit of a twist this season. For the first time in history, Notre Dame will be playing a night game in South Bend. Can Touchdown Jesus see in the dark? Also, emerging victorious could help catapult the winner back into the rankings, and for Notre Dame a win keeps its slim BCS hopes alive. - TF

#3 Oklahoma vs. Texas Tech - ABC, 8pm ET

This game features two offenses that both come into the game averaging more than 43 points a game, so if you're looking for a shootout to spend your evening with, this will likely be your game. The question will be if Seth Doege and the Texas Tech offense can still have as much success against an Oklahoma defense that's better than any other it has faced this season. - TF

#8 Stanford vs. #25 Washington - ABC, 8pm ET

Andrew Luck and Stanford haven't played a ranked team all year but that will change with Washington rolling into Palo Alto. The Huskies, with quarterback Keith Price and running back Chris Polk, will present a test for the stiff Cardinal defense that is missing a few key defenders. Of course, Luck has to be licking his chops to face the Pac-12's worst pass defense. - Bryan Fischer

#16 Michigan State vs. #6 Wisconsin - ESPN, 8pm ET

This could be the Big Ten's last, best hope to see Wisconsin get knocked off before the championship game -- and MSU just lost its top DE Will Gholston to a Big Ten-mandated suspension for punching Taylor Lewan last Saturday. Whoops! The rest of the Spartan defensive front is fierce, though, and perhaps we'll finally be able to see what happens when an opponent challenges Wisconsin for all four quarters this year. Perhaps. - AJ


Washington State vs. Oregon State - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET

Oregon State is off to their worst start in years and Mike Riley and company are looking to turn things around while seeking revenge against a Washington State team that upset them last year and cost them a trip to a bowl game. The Cougars have been competitive in the first half of their last two games but the question is if they can finish against OSU. - BF
Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 5:25 pm

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 8

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.

This could be the week that makes or breaks all of us. After spending a month trying to catch The Woman in this race, she's pulled away the last few weeks and taken a two-game lead once again. I'd be concerned about this in any other week, but this week things are different.

The spreads this week are insane.

When they were first released there were 20+ point spreads everywhere I looked. I trimmed them down to the ten games that were the most, shall we say, sane, but still, there's not a lot of confidence between Woman and I in our picks this week. When the spreads are like this, you may as well be flipping  a coin, but I'm not introducing that aspect until next season.

Syracuse vs. West Virginia (-13 1/2) - Friday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - The thing that drives me insane about the Big East is that every week the team that is supposed to be the best team in the conference loses to somebody they have no business losing to. Thankfully, I'm confident that West Virginia is a team that knows what it should be doing and will do it. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "No way Syracuse is going to surprise West Virginia two years in a row. Not even a raised eyebrow." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - The Machine must be a big fan of Dana Holgorsen's skullet and Geno Smith, as the Mountaineers blow up the Carrier Dome 51-17. Pick: West Virginia

Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I know that Oklahoma State's defense isn't exactly wonderful, but the Missouri offense has been so inconsistent this season that I just don't see any way that it can keep up with the Cowboys. Even if Missouri's defense can slow the Cowboys down a bit, I just don't think it'll be enough. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "Yes, the Cowboys are playing stellar ball and you'd think this would be another step in their march toward BCS glory.  But Mizzou is 3-0 at Faurot Field and its three losses have been close ones against good teams. Make assumptions about Missouri folk at your own peril." Pick: Missouri 

Machine - The Machine sees a pretty close game for three quarters before Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon have a party in the fourth quarter and pull away late. Cowboys win 40-24. Pick: Oklahoma State

Clemson (-10 1/2) vs. North Carolina - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Considering the way that Clemson has a habit of making things really close for three quarters before finally pulling away, this point spread does scare me a bit. That being said, North Carolina doesn't really inspire a lot of confidence in me, and since Clemson is at home I'll put my faith in the Tigers. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "To be honest, I know virtually nothing about Tar Heel football.  I expect that will still be true on Sunday." Pick: Clemson

Machine - The Machine sees the annual rite of Clemson blowing up taking place this week as North Carolina wins 24-17. Pick: North Carolina

Kansas vs. Kansas State (-12 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Somewhat odd that Kansas State goes from being an underdog every week against teams it's better than to nearly a two-touchdown favorite, but Kansas has just been that bad. Also, let's not forget that Kansas State beat Kansas 59-7 last season and I don't think last season's Kansas State team is as good as this version. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I have created (and by created, I mean, found) a very special Sunflower Showdown Emo tribute for the Jayhawks to be played directly following the game. Enjoy." Pick: Kansas State 

Machine - Game recognize game, and The Machine recognizes Bill Snyder's likely stoppable killing machine, but it won't be stopped in Lawrence. Kansas State wins 31-13. Pick: Kansas State

Purdue vs. Illinois (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This spread seems a bit too easy to me. In my opinion, gamblers are overreacting to what Illinois did against Ohio State last week and what Purdue did against Penn State. Penn State's offense is terrible enough to keep Purdue in a game, and the Boilermakers have been beaten pretty bad this year by teams that spread it out. In Zook I trust! Pick: Illinois

Woman - "It's hard to shake the memory of the Illini's cringe-worthy outing last week but bottom line, they're a better team than the Boilermakers. Purdue will play the best game of its season and keep it close, but not that close." Pick: Illinois

Machine - The Machine seems to think that Ron Zook is going to have a lot of questions to answer this week as Purdue knocks off the Illini 21-3. Pick: Purdue

LSU (-22 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I don't want to pick against Les Miles. I really, really, really don't. Still, without the Honey Badger and Spencer Ware, I'm just not as confident in LSU's ability to cover that spread. Will the LSU defense smother a quarterback making his first career start for the third straight week? Of course it will, but will the LSU offense cover more than three scores? Probably, because I'm picking against Les and must be punished for it. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "Yeah, LSU will win but given the news that three of its top players have been suspended, I think that line may be a bit stout." Pick: Auburn

Machine - The Machine is not a fan of three touchdown spreads for LSU offenses without its leading rush, as LSU wins 17-10. Pick: Auburn

Miami (-3 1/2) vs. Georgia Tech - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I had been pretty high on Georgia Tech before last week, but man did the Ramblin' Wreck get exposed by Virginia last weekend. That plus the fact that Jacory Harris is actually playing pretty well for Miami makes me lean toward the home side here. Pick: Miami

Woman - "When I think of the NCAA and scholar athletes, these two schools leap immediately to mind, especially Hurricanes' DL Micanor Regis and his groundbreaking work on the physics of balls - please skip to minute five for Micanor's powerful research.  Unfortunately, Micanor got so deep into his studies last weekend, he'll have to miss this game, which gives the 6-1 Wrecks a leg up." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - The Machine sees Miami getting up early, and a Georgia Tech playing from behind is not a very good Georgia Tech to bet on. Hurricanes win 28-17. Pick: Miami

Northwestern vs. Penn State (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - As I mentioned in the Illinois/Purdue pick, Penn State's offense is terrible. It's defense has been great, but it's also faced mediocre offenses all season save for Alabama, and we all remember how that went. So with Penn State going on the road I have to go with the team that's getting the points. Pick: Northwestern

Woman - "Northwestern stems the bleeding from three straight losses and Dan Persa gets to show his newly bald head around campus again." Pick: Northwestern

Machine - It's a clean sweep as The Machine sees Pat Fitzgerald's team getting its act together this week and beating Penn State 30-17. Pick: Northwestern

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

Man - We're nearly in November and Wisconsin is leaving Madison to play a football game for the first time all season. Wisconsin will also be facing an offense that I feel can move the ball on a defense that hasn't really faced much of a test this season. I don't know that Michigan State is going to win this game, but I do know that they're going to keep it closer than anybody else has against the Badgers this season. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "Everyone's talking about how 'emotional' this game will be.  After the third quarter, quietly emotional." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Well, we're going to have one less unbeaten to contend with after this weekend. Michigan State wins 24-20. Pick: Michigan State

Stanford (-20 1/2) vs. Washington - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Every week I toy with the idea of picking against Stanford because the spread seems so large, and then every week I end up picking Stanford anyway and the Cardinal cover. So why change up a formula that's working? Pick: Stanford

Woman - "I get all excited about the Huskies impressive 2011 season and then I remember last year's game against the Cardinal.  41-0. 41-0. 41-0. Did I mention 41-0?" Pick: Stanford

Machine - Andrew Luck for President. Stanford destroys Washington 48-10. Pick: Stanford


Season Record (Last week)

1. Woman 47-28 (6-4)
2. Man 45-30 (5-5)
3. Machine 38-37 (4-6)
Posted on: October 16, 2011 3:08 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 3:08 am

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WINNER: The general order of the universe as we knew it in the spring. Michigan State beat Michigan, Ohio State beat Illinois, Wisconsin beat Indiana, Iowa beat Northwestern, and Penn State beat Purdue. All normal ideas for the casual Big Ten fan during the off-season, more or less. Yet those first two results are rather surprising, because it was Michigan and Illinois coming into the week undefeated and ranked 16th or higher, not MSU or OSU. On Saturday, the Spartans and Buckeyes looked like the teams we figured they'd be coming into the year, though, and in a way so did the Wolverines and the Illini. 

Michigan State's victory was the most impressive of the week (sorry, Wisconsin), because nobody has bottled up the Michigan offense like that this year (more on the particulars in a second). After Notre Dame thwacked the Spartans in Week 3, it was fair to wonder if Michigan was also about to run up 30+ points and shut down the MSU rushing attack. Neither happened, and the Spartans are now all of a sudden back in beautiful shape for the Big Ten Legends Division race -- just like we figured before the season. 

LOSER: Those do-everything quarterbacks I was so proud of last week. So, Taylor Martinez had the week off, so he's off the hook. Denard Robinson and Nathan Scheelhaase, though? Last week, the two QBs averaged 267 yards passing, 102 yards rushing, and four TDs in their team's victories. Extrapolate those types of numbers over 12 or 13 games, and you've got a Heisman finalist.

Extrapolating single games out for a year is stupid, though, because on Saturday, those numbers dropped substantially. Scheelhaase threw for 169 yards and rushed for 49 more, while Robinson's numbers were a dismal 9-24 for 123 yards passing (one TD) and 18 rushes for 42 yards (another TD). Not surprisingly, both QB's teams lost by double digits. It's certainly fine to have a do-everything quarterback helming your offense, but that just means it's imperative that that quarterback actually puts big numbers up; if he doesn't, that team's in real trouble.

WINNER: Illinois' pass defense. Wow, the Illini held Ohio State to 17 yards on Saturday! That's quite an accomplishment! Yep, 17 yards on 1-4 passing. But wait... if the Buckeyes only passed four times for the entire game, then that means... uh-oh.

LOSER: Illinois' rush defense. Oh, there's the rest of the story. Ohio State rushed 51 times to the four passes, totalling 211 yards on the ground, and Dan Herron led the way with 113 yards in his first game back from suspension. Honestly, Illinois' effort on defense wasn't bad, and holding OSU to 4.1 yards a pop on the ground isn't really cause for panic, but this was an Illini rush defense that had been ranked ninth in the nation coming into the week, averaging 2.3 yards per carry given up. The Illini front seven had a reputation to uphold, and it didn't do a great job of it. 

WINNER: Somehow, inexplicably, Penn State. Penn State is 6-1 and on the verge of being in the Top 25. That is amazing news to anyone who has watched Penn State play, because the Nittany Lions are, at times, bafflingly bad on offense. The QB rotation between Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden continues to confound PSU fans, the rushing game comes and goes, and Penn State has now beaten the foursome of Temple, Indiana, Iowa, and Purdue by a grand total of 25 points. This team should not be 6-1, but there's no "should" column next to wins and losses.

The latest victory is a 23-18 decision over hapless Purdue, a game that should have been tied in the 4th quarter at 20-all if Purdue hadn't missed a PAT then missed a 2-point conversion to make up for the missed kick. Now, to be fair, Purdue never led, PSU never let Purdue manage so much as a first down after the game was 20-18, and the game ended with Penn State up 5 and taking knees inside the Boilermaker 10 yard line, but it was still another ugly, wretched affair all around. And yet just like the 4-point win over Temple and the 6-point win over Indiana, Penn State just did all it needed for the victory, and nothing more. Hey, a win's a win.

LOSER: Mark Dantonio's reputation as a disciplinarian. It seems like every season, fans are treated to anecdotes about what a great coach Mark Dantonio is, and how high his standards of player discipline are. "Zero tolerance" are his words, not ours. And it also seems like every season, there's an instance of Dantonio basically punting on discipline with his star players, like with Chris L. Rucker rejoining the team immediately after serving an 8-day jail sentence, or B.J. Cunningham taking part in a massive brawl on campus and missing one game as a result.

With that in mind, then, it's really not surprising to see star DE Will Gholston allowed to stay in a game after he punched Michigan OL Taylor Lewan (who, to be fair, had been holding Gholston's head on the ground earlier in the play). It was Gholston's second personal foul of the afternoon, with the first being a combination of a late hit and a face mask on Denard Robinson. The Big Ten may very well intervene and keep Gholston out for next week's game against Wisconsin, but the fact that Dantonio kept Gholston in the game after both incidents speaks far, far louder than Dantonio's claims of "zero tolerance."

WINNER: The Iowa athletic department. Before today's game, the fans at Kinnick Stadium were all given two-sided cards for one of those old-fashioned card stunts. The end result was really, really cool, and don't be surprised to see more of this type of thing around college football stadiums nationwide in the next few years or so. 

LOSER: Iowa's Northwestern demons. For years, the Hawkeyes have struggled mightily against Northwestern, sometimes even at the expense of BCS bowl dreams.  All in all, coming into today, Iowa had lost five of its last six against the Wildcats -- and the last four losses featured double-digit Hawkeye leads.

So when Iowa ran up a 17-0 lead on Saturday, then watched the Wildcats string together drive after drive to tie the game up at 17-17, it was only natural for Hawkeye fans to think, "here we go again." Fortunately for the home crowd, Iowa responded with 17 straight points of its own, and held on for the 41-31 victory. The win pushes Iowa to 4-2 (1-1) on the year, and with Michigan, Michigan State, and Nebraska all looming on the schedule, this win was crucial to the Hawkeyes' hopes for securing another winning season.

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.
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Posted on: October 9, 2011 5:00 am

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 6

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: Nebraska's season

Ignore the fact that 4-2, all things considered, isn't a terrible record; for No. 14 Nebraska, dropping the Ohio State game would have been a backbreaker for a season that started with realistic Rose Bowl aspirations -- especially with OSU looking like an unusually easy victory coming into Saturday. Instead, the Buckeyes opened up a 27-6 lead and seemed to be putting the final nail in the coffin of Nebraska's reputation as a Big Ten contender before the Huskers pulled off their largest comeback in program history on the back of Rex Burkhead (pictured above, finding plenty of comfort in the middle of OSU's rush defense). Now the Huskers are 5-1, and more importantly, only have one loss on their Big Ten slate instead of starting out 0-2. This season still might not end up in the Rose Bowl -- in fact it probably won't -- but sheerly by dodging the bullet on Saturday, Nebraska was a big, big winner.

LOSER: Joe Bauserman, yet again

It's not entirely fair to pin Ohio State's collapse on Joe Bauserman; the backup QB came into the game in the second half cold, and Nebraska had already begun its fight back at that point. And yet, the score was 27-13 OSU when Bauserman came in for an injured Braxton Miller on a 3rd and 8, and the score was 34-27 Nebraska by the time Bauserman put the finishing touches on his 1-10, 17-yard, 1 INT magnum opus. In the last four weeks -- the only games in which OSU has faced BCS conference competition this season -- Bauserman's stats are a terrifying 12-40, 144 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. That's a 63.49 passer rating, which is reprehensible. Oh, and not only is Bauserman going to play for as long as Braxton Miller's hurt, he's also the quarterback Luke Fickell tabbed to start the season for the Buckeyes. Enjoy, OSU!

WINNER: Do-everything QBs in the Big Ten

Nathan Scheelhaase, Taylor Martinez, and Denard Robinson may all be vying for the Second Team All-Big Ten role behind Wisconsin dreamboat Russell Wilson, but all three QBs put on an absolute show on Saturday. Scheelhaase had 210 yards passing, 88 yards rushing, and 4 combined TDs for Illinois in a win at Indiana. Martinez had his best passing performance of the year against a tough Ohio State defense, going 16-22 for 192 yards passing and rushing for 102 more yards; he accounted for three of Nebraska's four TDs. Robinson's numbers were the gaudiest: 325 yards passing, 117 yards on 25 rushes, and four total TDs in Michigan's 42-24 win over Northwestern. Even Braxton Miller had 95 yards passing and 91 yards rushing before he was forced to leave the game. Conference play will sort out this hierarchy, but it's fantastic to see such a breadth of dynamic talent at QB.

LOSER: Timid 4th down playcallers

Indiana kicked a field goal on 4th and goal from the 3 with a 4-point deficit. Iowa punted from Penn State's 33-yard line down 6-3. Ohio State punted from Nebraska's 32-yard line with a late 27-20 lead. What do all these decisions have in common? They were all unnecessarily conservative, and they all backfired. Indiana immediately gave up a touchdown drive, Iowa's punt led to a 90-yard Penn State drive that mercifully ended in an end zone interception (but still wore down the Iowa defense), and Ohio State would never see its lead again after Nebraska responded with a touchdown drive. Yes, the field position is important, but the points battle is the real one that matters, and all three of these teams did themselves a disservice by not even attempting to maximize their opportunities.

WINNER: Penn State's defense

In a stat that will undoubtedly become a trivial relic by the end of the season, Iowa came into this week's game against Penn State with the Big Ten's most prolific passing attack, averaging 281 yards a game under QB James Vandenberg. Penn State bottled that attack up beautifully, limiting Vandenberg to 169 yards on 17/34 passing with two interceptions and a lost fumble on a sack. More importantly, the Nittany Lions allowed only a field goal in a 13-3 victory. delighting a partisan PSU crowd that was hungry for a Penn State win over the nemesis Hawkeyes.

LOSER: Rob Bolden Fan Club president Joe Paterno

There is truly no reason for Rob Bolden to be starting anymore, yet start he does, week in and week out. Bolden's passer efficiency is out of the NCAA's top 100; Matt McGloin's was 42nd nationwide coming into the game. McGloin was far better against Iowa, hitting pass after pass in tight windows while Bolden's best gains came on tipped balls -- his biggest completion ricocheted off of an unsuspecting referee's leg, for crying out loud. Nobody at Penn State outside of the coaching staff knows why Bolden plays so much, yet he does, and he's probably going to ride his 3/7, 31 yard performance to another starting week unless Joe Paterno puts an end to this farce of a quarterback battle and just gives the job to McGloin already.

WINNER: Ron Zook's mojo

Imagine, if you will: Team X is ranked and undefeated, and playing at outmatched-but-feisty Team Y. Team Y takes the opening kick to the house, then makes a stop and turns it into a field goal for a 10-0 lead. At this point, one would assume that if Team X had a good coach, he would have his charges weather this storm and not panic, and if Team X's coach was a raving lunatic, then this was an upset in the making. Well, Team X is obviously Illinois, Team Y is obviously Indiana, the Team X head coach is obviously Ron Zook, and his team responded admirably to the adversity by turning the game into a 41-20 rout. Illinois is now 6-0. It could be 9-0 heading into the Michigan game. Ron Zook is doing all this. This is the reality you must accept.

LOSER: Whoever had to watch Minnesota-Purdue

One Husker blogger tabbed this matchup "the game that fun forgot" on Saturday morning, and while that's not a fair assessment of a game that ends up featuing 62 points scored, it's not quite that far off from this game either. Now. Purdue is not good at football. Not even in a young and sneaky and what if they put it all together sense. Just not good. Purdue also opened up a 45-3 lead on Minnesota en route to a 45-17 win, and we're left to wonder just what level of football the Gophers actually belong in (hint: not FBS!). And yet, there were still only 589 total yards combined in this game; even the PSU-Iowa eye-clawer, by comparison, had 648 total yards from scrimmage. Purdue and Minnesota can't even put on a blowout correctly! Just a mess all the way through here, and there are probably plenty more such messes that await fans of both these teams this season.
Posted on: October 2, 2011 12:50 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:51 am

What I learned from the Big 12 (Oct 1)

Posted by Tom Fornelli

1. Mike Sherman should be ashamed of himself. For the second consecutive week Texas A&M blew a large lead in the second half. Last week the Aggies allowed Oklahoma State to come back from a 20-3 deficit at halftime, and on Saturday in Jerry World, the Aggies blew a 35-17 lead over Arkansas at the break. While the blame for last week's collapse could be spread around, I have no doubt where the blame for Texas A&M's loss against Arkansas should be placed.

Right on the shoulders of Mike Sherman.

In the third quarter while holding onto a 35-20 lead, Texas A&M faced a 4th and 2 at the Arkansas 39-yard line. The Razorbacks called a timeout, and during that timeout, Mike Sherman decided that the best course of action his team should take -- the team that averaged 7.1 yards per carry on the day -- would be to take a delay of game and punt. That decision resulted in a 19-yard punt and a 75-yard drive by Arkansas to cut the lead to 35-27 and firmly plant the momentum in Arkansas' favor. Then, making matters worse, Sherman once again faced a 4th and 1 at the Texas A&M 49-yard line in the fourth quarter with A&M still clinging to a 35-27 lead.

Did the coach learn his lesson from the previous 4th and short situation? Of course not, he sent the punt team out once again and Arkansas thanked him by going 86 yards in 100 seconds to tie the game at 35-35. Texas A&M would retake the lead with a field goal later, but it would prove to be too little too late.

If Sherman's March to Atlanta helped seal the Civil War for the Union, then Sherman's Laydown in Arlington surely helped lead to Arkansas' victory in the Southwest Classic.

2. Bill Snyder is a wonderful coach. Snyder already beat the odds once in his first go-round in Manhattan, turning the Kansas State program into a Big 12 power, and now it looks like he's on his way to repeating the feat in his second stint with the Wildcats. Kansas State's thrilling 36-35 win over Baylor on Saturday was a huge win for the program, and it's starting to look like the Wildcats could be a problem for the rest of the teams in the Big 12.

I'm not sure there's any other coach in the country who could do what Snyder has done in Manhattan, let alone do it twice.

3. Robert Griffin is mortal. I'm not jumping off my Robert Griffin bandwagon just yet, as he threw for another 5 touchdowns and 346 yards in Baylor's loss against Kansas State, but it was his first interception of the season that proved to be fatal. It was the first real mistake Griffin had made this season, and it couldn't have come at a worse time. He'll recover, though, I promise.

4. Ryan Broyles is a prolific receiver. Oklahoma didn't have a lot of trouble with Ball State in a 62-6 victory, and Ryan Broyles put himself into the record books on Saturday night. Broyles caught 4 passes to give him 304 receptions in his career, which is more than any other player in the history of the Big 12. He is also only 12 catches away from passing former Purdue receiver Taylor Stubblefield and becoming the NCAA's all-time leader in receptions. I have a strong feeling he breaks that record before the year is done.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 11:45 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 11:45 pm

QUICK HITS: Notre Dame 38 Purdue 3

Posted by Tom Fornelli

NOTRE DAME WON. Notre Dame finally looked like the team it was hoping to be this year, and all it took was a date against Purdue to do so. This game was never really in doubt as the Irish scored a touchdown within the first 30 seconds of the opening kickoff, and finished the night with 549 yards of total offense. The majority of that damage came on the ground, as well, with Cierre Wood rushing for 192 yards and a touchdown while Jonas Gray rushed for 93 yards and a score of his own. Tommy Rees threw for 3 touchdowns and Michael Floyd returned to form with 12 receptions for 137 yards.

HOW NOTRE DAME WON. To put it simply, Notre Dame just has a lot more talent on its roster than Purdue does, and unlike the first four games of the Irish season, the Domers didn't hurt themselves with turnovers. That's right, for the first time this season, Notre Dame played a full 60 minutes without turning the ball over. And it was also the best that the Irish have looked all season. Coincidence? I don't think so.

WHEN NOTRE DAME WON. This one was over early. Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush's first pass of the evening was picked off after he tried to force a bad throw into coverage, and two plays later Tommy Rees was connecting with Michael Floyd on a 35-yard touchdown. It was only 24 seconds into the game, but after those first three plays, you already had the feeling that Notre Dame wasn't going to have a lot of trouble on Saturday night.

WHAT NOTRE DAME WON. It's always nice for Notre Dame to beat an in-state rival, but really this is a game that the Irish should have won. Of course, considering the trouble that the Irish had in their first four games, coming out and dominating a team that it should dominate is a good sign. Outside of games with USC and Stanford, Notre Dame is through the toughest part of its schedule this year, and a 9-win campaign isn't completely out of the question.

WHAT PURDUE LOST. Purdue fans seemed to take exception to Brian Kelly's comments that this game was Purdue's "Super Bowl" earlier in the week, and I hope those Purdue fans were right, because if this was Purdue's Super Bowl, then there's a lot to worry about in West Lafayette this season. Purdue is now 2-2 on the year, and looking at the rest of its schedule and the way this team has played, it's hard to see the Boilermakers getting much more than 4 wins this season.

THAT WAS CRAZY. I repeat, Notre Dame played a full game without turning the ball over.
Posted on: September 28, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:42 pm

Too much Floyd has been bad for Notre Dame

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Through the first two games of the season Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd had 25 receptions for 313 yards and 2 touchdowns. Given the way that the Irish began the season with 10 turnovers and 2 losses, Floyd was one of the lone bright spots in South Bend. His numbers dipped a bit in a 31-13 win over Michigan State, as he "only" had 6 catches for 84 yards to lead the team, and those numbers dipped even further against Pitt, when he made 4 catches for 27 yards.

In that game against Pitt, only 1 of Floyd's receptions came after the first quarter. As you'd expect, once the Pitt defense -- one that came into the game as one of the worst pass defenses in the country -- figured out a way to neutralize Floyd, the Notre Dame offense did not look very pretty, though it did enough to win the game.

Well, Brian Kelly isn't all that interested in winning ugly, and he's looking to make sure that Floyd doesn't have another game like the Pitt one anytime soon. Which is why the Irish have been working on ways to make sure it doesn't happen again this weekend against Purdue.

"There are going to be some games as it unfolds that he's not going to get 10 passes," Brian Kelly told the Chicago Tribune. "It's just the nature of the game. That doesn't mean we're not going to continue to look at ways to get Michael the football.

"Certainly we're going to do that, and I think there's a number of ways that we can continue to make sure that he gets the appropriate amount of touches. But we just don't want (the Pittsburgh game) to be a consistent kind of scenario more than anything else." 

The question is, should they?

While Michael Floyd is the most prolific receiver in Notre Dame history, there's an alarming trend for the Irish and Floyd when he's making so many receptions. In his four years in South Bend, Floyd has caught 10 or more passes in a game six times. In those six games Notre Dame has gone 1-5, the lone win coming against USC last season when Floyd had 11 receptions for 86 yards.

And it's not as if Notre Dame is being blown out in these losses, causing the team to have to throw the ball more and feature Floyd. In the five losses, the Irish have lost by a combined 13 points, with one of those losses coming in overtime. So Notre Dame was in every single one of these games.

One way to explain this could be the fact that up until the second half of last season, following a 28-27 loss to Tulsa -- in which Floyd caught 11 passes for 104 yards and 2 scores -- the Irish defense wasn't very good. For every touchdown the Irish offense would ride Floyd to, the defense would give it right back.

Still, even since the defense improved, Notre Dame is still 1-2 in the three games Floyd has made at least 10 receptions. Most of that is the fault of turnovers, but either way, it's an alarming trend.

While it may not sound right, the numbers show that Notre Dame may be better off not relying so heavily on their biggest playmaker.
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. 

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