Tag:Illinois
Posted on: November 29, 2011 3:58 pm
Edited on: November 29, 2011 4:24 pm
 

Big Ten announces 2011 individual award winners

Posted by Adam Jacobi

On Monday evening, the Big Ten announced its full slate of conference award winners -- the first such slate since the Big Ten added the trophies in addition to expanding to 12 teams and two divisions.

Here's a breakdown of all the trophies handed out by the Big Ten:

Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin
ADAM SAYS: Wilson's resume this year is undeniably brilliant, and he's going to be in line for some national postseason recognition after finishing first nationally in passer efficiency. Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, shouldered one of the conference's worst rushing attacks and still finished third in the Big Ten in efficiency and emerged as a solid ambassador for the program, conference, and sport. From a strictly on-field standpoint, Wilson deserves this award to himself, but the Big Ten named its divisions "Legends" and "Leaders"; surely it won't turn around and say its trophies should be restricted to strict on-field accomplishments, will it? All of which is to say, I'd rather the conference had thrown Cousins a bone and split this award between Wilson and him. Wilson would have been an even bigger snub than Cousins, but they're both highly deserving of recognition.

Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year: Marvin McNutt, Iowa
ADAM SAYS: McNutt basically rewrote Iowa's receiving record books, and he looked at times like the best player on either side of the ball for the Hawkeyes this year. That he was left off the list of 10 Biletnikoff finalists is a joke. Illinois' A.J. Jenkins was a strong contender here, but his inability to get into the end zone even once during the Illini's six-game slump seals his fate as an also-ran. 

Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year: Montee Ball, Wisconsin
ADAM SAYS: Rex BurkheadMarcus Coker, and Silas Redd all had admirable efforts this year, but c'mon. Could this trophy possibly go to anybody else? With 1,622 rushing yards (1,870 total from scrimmage) and 34 total touchdowns, Ball is third on my list of 2011 Heisman candidates and far and away the best running back in the Big Ten this year. 

Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year: Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern
ADAM SAYS: 43 catches for 509 yards and six touchdowns is a great year for a tight end (or superback, as it would be), and to do so in a season with three different quarterbacks seeing significant action is an even better accomplishment. Dunsmore was one of the three or four best TE in the nation this year and a deserving winner of the Kwalick-Clark Trophy.

Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year: David Molk, Michigan
ADAM SAYS: If this award were given to entire offensive lines (which I would not mind), it would have to go to Wisconsin. At any rate, though, coming into the season, Ohio State's All-American Mike Brewster was the highest-profile center in the conference. It was Molk, however, who showed the most leadership and mashery over the course of the season. Hopefully, this award translates into All-American attention for Molk; he deserves it for the job Michigan did pushing the line of scrimmage forward on offense this year.

Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: Devon Still, Penn State
ADAM SAYS: Illinois' terror at DE, Whitney Mercilus, would be the strongest contender for this award if Illinois hadn't collapsed down the stretch, but even that collapse is hardly on the aptly-named Mercilus; he led the nation in sacks and forced fumbles on the year (if Tyrann Mathieu is the honey badger for his six forced fumbles, what does that make Mercilus with nine? Galactus?). Devon Still was an absolute beast for Penn State, though, and his presence affected opposing game plans all season long. A split between Still and Mercilus would have been ideal.

Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Lavonte David, Nebraska
ADAM SAYS: Lavonte David's been even better than I thought he'd be this year, and he was my top preseason linebacker in the conference. No-doubter here. Look for Wisconsin's Chris Borland to be the leading candidate for this award next year; the former Big Ten defensive freshman of the year was strong in his return from a torn ACL this season, and he's got two more years of eligibility.

Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska
ADAM SAYS: Purdue CB Ricardo Allen is the only guy who could make a decent case for being snubbed here, but Dennard turned this defense into an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. He deserves this award.

Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Brett Maher, Nebraska
ADAM SAYS: The fact that Maher was snubbed for Lou Groza consideration despite missing zero kicks from 50 yards and in this year is an absolute travesty the likes of which we haven't seen since... well, last year, when Nebraska kicker Alex Henery was also snubbed from Groza finalist consideration despite being pretty obviously the best kicker in college football. Maher's bona fides aren't as strong as Henery's, but he's still the best kicker in the Big Ten and should have been named a Groza finalist all the same.

Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Brett Maher, Nebraska
ADAM SAYS: Oh, stop showing off, Nebraska.
Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:20 pm
Edited on: November 27, 2011 2:06 pm
 

Illinois fires Ron Zook

Posted by Tom Fornelli

After starting the 2011 season with six straight victories and being ranked, Illinois lost its final six games of the season to finish at 6-6 and it seems the collapse has cost head coach Ron Zook his job.

According to CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Cody Westerlund, Zook was reportedly fired on Sunday morning. The school made it official with a release on Sunday afternoon.

"I assessed the entire program and felt that it was time for a change in leadership," said Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas in a release. "It is imperative that our program shows some consistency and competes for championships, and I think a change in coaches can help us get there sooner. I wasn't here seven years ago when Ron Zook took over as coach, but it's clear the program is in better shape than what he inherited. I believe we need new leadership to take the program to the level to compete for championships on a consistent basis. This is an extremely competitive conference, and we are determined to go head-to-head with the very best."

Current Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has been named as the team's interim head coach.

Zook spent seven seasons with Illinois, going 34-51 in that span. The high point of his time in Champaign came in 2007 when the Illini finished the season 9-4 and went to the Rose Bowl and lost to USC. Illinois' only other bowl appearance under Zook came last season when it beat Baylor in the Texas Bowl.
Posted on: November 27, 2011 3:47 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 6:19 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 13



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: Wisconsin's lust for revenge

The two heart-breaking losses Wisconsin absorbed in the middle of what was supposed to be a special season have never really let the Badgers go. Oh, the Badgers got over them, to be sure; they won their next four Big Ten games by an average score of 44-14, and of those only the 28-17 win over Illinois was even halfway competitive. And yet, Wisconsin has struggled in vain to so much as crack the Top 15 of the polls, as its only win against a ranked opponent all year was a 48-17 dismantling of then-No. 8 Nebraska in Week 5. That's it.

Or, that was it until Saturday, anyway, when Wisconsin officially ended Penn State's conference title aspirations (and the Nittany Lions' stint in the Top 25) with a 45-7 shellacking. Wisconsin's now the (sigh) Leaders Division winner and all set for the Big Ten Championship Game next Saturday. And wouldn't you know it, Michigan State -- the team that dealt Wisconsin its first, most crushing loss will be waiting in Indianapolis for the Badgers.

And there's probably no team Bret Bielema and his Badgers would rather face.

The first meeting of the two teams was an outright classic, with Wisconsin going up 14-0 early before a Montee Ball injury derailed the Badgers' offense to the point that MSU was able to open up a 31-17 lead. But it wasn't until a deflected Hail Mary pass from Kirk Cousins found its way into the arms of Keith Nichol and Nichol twisted the ball across the plane while being tackled that the Spartans could sew up the victory. It was as slim a margin of victory could be in regulation, and it doomed Wisconsin's highest aspirations for the season. What more could you ask for after a game like that than a rematch? And if there must be a rematch, why not do it with everything in the Big Ten on the line? This week should be great.  

LOSER: The so, so, so fired Ron Zook

Ron Zook's Illinois squad just put the finishing touches on a 6-6 campaign, one that would probably be a little more palatable if it hadn't finished in six straight losses where a formerly formidable offense just plain cratered. The last effort that'll likely be on Ron Zook's resume is a 27-7 throttling at the hands of a Minnesota program that hadn't beaten a Big Ten opponent by that many points since it beat Indiana 63-26... in 2006, when Glen Mason was still at the helm. We'll have more on the Gopher revival in a bit, but suffice it to say that Zook is going to be fired very, very soon. 

There's no up side for this Illinois team's collapse. Nathan Scheelhaase has gone from a future first-team All-Big Ten quarterback to a potential second-team quarterback for the Illini in 2012. A.J. Jenkins scored zero touchdowns in the last six games after a scintillating first half of the season. The Illinois rush defense -- ranked second in the Big Ten -- ceded 248 yards to Minnesota, which was a season high for the Gophers. Whitney Mercilus was a terror all year long, racking up 9.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles, but now there's almost no chance he'll be back in 2012. So what is there to look forward to with this team in 2012 regardless of who's coach? And the fact that such a question is being asked in a coach's seventh year in a program probably means he won't be around for an eighth.

WINNER: Michigan Men (even when they're not)

Much was made about Brady Hoke's ties to the Michigan program when he was hired after the 2010 season, with the phrase "Michigan Man" bandied about liberally. And to be sure, that's exactly what Hoke is -- right down to his insistence on calling Ohio State "Ohio" and never wearing red.

But when it came to hiring coordinators, Hoke wasn't dumb enough to limit himself to fellow Michigan Men. Offensive coordinator Al Borges is, if anything, a "Chico State Man," graduating from there in 1981 and spending the next 30 years bouncing around various schools as offensive coordinator (usually on the west coast, and never at Michigan). Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison spent five years at Michigan back in the '90s, sure, but he also spent more time than that at Notre Dame. -- and did so more recently than his first Michigan stint. Is Mattison a Michigan Man? A Notre Dame Man? Both? He couldn't be both, could he? Anyway, all told, only three of Hoke's nine assistants have any prior ties to the program.

And yet, the difference in quality between last year's team and this year's is inestimable. The Michigan defense has gone from putrid to passable in just one season, and while it's not a championship-caliber unit just yet, it is good enough to get the Wolverines to 10-2 in the regular season and in immediate division contention -- back where the Big Ten figured Michigan would be when these division lines were drawn in the first place. And oh yes, there is that 40-34 victory over Ohio State that the Wolverines clawed for this year, their first over OSU in almost a decade.

LOSER: Will Hagerup

Welp, guess I'm just gonna punt this here ball away, just gonna do my job as punteWHAT AWWW HAMBURGERS OHHHHH NOOOOO

WINNER: Montee Ball's Heisman campaign

Montee Ball's probably not going to win the Heisman this year. That honor will probably go to someone in the trio of Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, or Trent Richardson. But at the very least, Ball probably bought* himself a ticket today with a 156-yard, four touchdown effort that pushed his season numbers to 248 carries, 1622 yards, 29 rushing touchdowns, 17 catches, 248 receiving yards, and five more receiving touchdowns. He also threw a 25-yard touchdown to Russell Wilson against Indiana (which doesn't count for Ball in total touchdowns, only Wilson), a sure sign that offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was very bored that day.

So that makes 34 total touchdowns on the season for Ball, a mark that only Barry Sanders has bested with his other-worldly 39 scores in 1988 (which doesn't even count his five touchdowns in the Holiday Bowl, as bowl games weren't counted in official statistics back then). And Ball isn't just pushing scores in from a yard out, either; nine of his 25 rushing touchdowns have come from more than five yards out, and his 6.75-yard rushing average was fourth in the FBS among 1000-yard rushers coming into Saturday's action. Ball isn't a touchdown machine, he's an everything machine, and now that it's been him front and center in Wisconsin's push to Indianapolis, voters are likely to take notice.

*Metaphorically speaking, NCAA! We never meant to imply that Ball or anybody around him has ever so much has handled a dollar bill. We understand that the sanctity of this game can only be achieved if everybody involved is dead broke and rejects capitalism outright, and we assure you that Ball has not been tainted by the immoral slime of legal tender. They're student-athletes, not money-recipient-athletes. We get it. 

LOSER: The "Heroes Game"


What seemed like an intriguing new rivalry -- Iowa vs. Nebraska, every year, with the Missouri River set to be the most hotly contested border waterway since the Rhine. Whereas the French had the mighty but tragically immobile Maginot Line to protect themselves, though, Iowa's line just plain couldn't stop anyone coming right up the middle, either on Saturday or all year long. Rex Burkhead set a Nebraska record with 38 carries, and his 160 yards and a touchdown wore down the Iowa defense to the point of surrender. 20-7 was the final, and it really wasn't that close.

Next year's game might be more competitive simply because it's in Iowa City, but the 2012 Hawkeyes probably won't be any better than this year's iteration, and if this rivalry starts off lopsided it'll be hard to get the fanbases worked into the lather necessary for a lasting rivalry. Nebraska's never going to get tired of 13-point wins that are more one-sided than the final score indicates, of course, but the Huskers aren't really going to care about beating Iowa until they can't take it for granted anymore.

WINNER: Jerry Kill, eh?

It looks like everything Jerry Kill's been telling his team since he inherited it last December might yet be sinking in. After a 1-6 (0-3) start to the season where none of the Gophers' conference losses were even competitive, Minnesota turned the boat around in a big way with a 22-21 comeback win over Iowa. After that, Minnesota looked like a different team, hanging tough with Michigan State and Northwestern in losses and at the very least losing to Wisconsin by a smaller margin than Penn State just did. And now, the Gophers have closed the season out with the aforementioned 27-7 drubbing of listless Illinois. MarQueis Gray rushed for 167 yards, threw for 85 more, and accounted for all three of the Gopher's touchdowns in the victory without turning the ball over.

This Gopher team has a long way to go in order to start hanging with its Legends Division rivals on a weekly basis. The lines are a mess, there's a dearth of experience on both sides of the ball, and Kill isn't drawing high-quality recruits yet. He's got a complete overhaul on his hands, and those don't happen in a year at a school like Minnesota. But there's two ways to overhaul a program: spend four years recruiting "your" players into the system, or change the program's culture so substantially that the old coach's players buy in and become "your" players. Kill seems to be on that path, and that bodes well. Doesn't seem like something we thought we'd be saying just a couple months ago, when Kill was talking about needing to "babysit" his players and losing every game by 30 or so, but here we are.

LOSER: Michigan's classless fans

Look at them, rushing the field and celebrating after Michigan beats a 6-6 team. Act like you've been there, guys, right? The nerve of it all!

We're kidding, of course, because the cathartic value of a win like that, erasing eight years of misery and futility hard-wired into to Michigan's identity as a football program, would be off the charts even if Ohio State were coming into the game 0-11. But we're still talking about a bowl team here in OSU, and one that gave Michigan all sorts of fits over the course of the game. You have our full blessing on this field-storming, Michigan. And if anyone says otherwise, well, haters gonna hate. Feels nice to have haters again, doesn't it?



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Posted on: November 21, 2011 12:42 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2011 1:17 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 12



Posted by Bryan Fischer


On Saturday it stops.

The bylaws, the scandals, the arrests, the arguing, the issues - the scars of college football -  it's all gone and it becomes just a game. When the whistle is blown there are no rankings or underdogs, just a game between the lines, two teams with 11 on either side.

Saturday seemed like a perfect reminder of that. Looking at the schedule earlier in the week, the lack of marquee match ups - just three involving two ranked teams - made it seem more like a bye week than Week 12.

As the season made - to borrow a metaphor from another sport - its final turn and moved onto the home stretch, it was looking like we were indeed destined for a week off of drama. Wisconsin beat Illinois, Michigan State rolled Indiana, Michigan put on a clinic against Nebraska, Georgia had a close but ugly win over Kentucky, Houston beat SMU handily, Arkansas steamrolled Mississippi State and shockingly N.C. State had beaten Clemson before halftime.

Then consider what happened as night fell and some of the late games got interesting, with plays happening just about every minute. A quick sampling in case you missed the drama:

- Matt Barkley hit Randall Telfer for a touchdown to put USC up 38-14 over Oregon.
- De'Anthony Thomas returned a kickoff 96 yards, and showed why he's one of the fastest players in college football.
- Eric Gordon picked off Jordan Rodgers and returned it 90 yards for a touchdown to seal a 27-21 Tennessee win over Vanderbilt. Only there was mass confusion thanks to the officials.
-  A Robert Griffin III pass is deflected right into the arms of a streaking Kendall Wright for a 87-yard touchdown to tie Oklahoma 24-24.
- Kenjon Barner caps a 75-yard drive to pull Oregon to within 38-27 with over 12 minutes left in the game.
- Michael Rocco caps off a 75-yard drive in less than a minute to give Virginia a 14-13 lead over Florida State.
- Zach Maynard tosses a perfectly thrown pass to Keenan Allen to take a 10-7 lead over Stanford.
- Baylor retakes the lead 31-24 after a 10 play, 85-yard drive after another RGIII touchdown pass.
- Texas' drive stalls and the Longhorns settle for a field goal to trail 17-13.
- Barkley is picked off by the Ducks defense then score a touchdown. Two-point conversion is good (barely) and they cut USC's lead to 38-35 with 7:05 left.
- A crazy play involving Florida State's Bert Reed happens. He was ruled to have caught a ball but inbounds, running out the clock. A five minute replay takes place.
- Landry Jones throws an interception, setting up a Terrence Ganaway touchdown as Baylor goes up 38-24 on Oklahoma.
- Case McCoy is sacked on 4th-and-10 at midfield, Kansas State takes over but has to punt.
- The replay overturns Reed's play, ruling it incomplete. FSU sets up for a 48-yard field goal but Virginia players bark out signals drawing a flag. Shorter kick misses anyway, giving the Cavilers their first ever victory at Doak Walker as Mike London screams at his team to get to the locker room.
- The Trojans are in the red zone when Barkley and Marc Tyler fumble an exchange, leading to Oregon getting the ball back.
- Oklahoma can't convert a 4th-and-14, Baylor gets the ball back.
- Kansas State barely holds on but beats Texas 17-13.
- Cal hits a short field goal to extend their lead to 13-7 in the Big Game against Stanford.
- The Ducks march right down the field but Chip Kelly fails to use his timeouts leaving a 42-yard field goal to tie the game with five seconds left. It's no good allowing USC to escape with a 38-35 upset to further shake up the BCS.
- The Belldozer formation (with backup quarterback Blake Bell) scores a TD to make it 38-31 Sooners with six minutes left.
- Oklahoma gets the ball back then Bell scores his 4th touchdown of the night and the Sooners look like they're going for two. They don't but tie the game up at 38 with 51 seconds on the clock.
- RGIII finds Terrence Williams in the back of the end zone for a perfect 34-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds left to give Baylor their first ever win against Oklahoma 45-38.
- Andrew Luck leads two scoring drives coming out of halftime to take a 28-13 lead over Cal.
- The Bears come right back down the field and score a touchdown, connecting on a two-point conversion to pull to within 28-21 in the 4th quarter.
- Stanford takes over seven minutes off the clock with a drive that ends in a field goal and 31-21 lead.
- Cal makes things interesting with a touchdown to pull to within 31-28 with 14 seconds left.
- Onside kick recovered, Stanford beats Cal 31-28 to win the Big Game.

That. Was. Fun.

We probably should have guessed something was up this week. Northern Illinois kicked a field goal with eight seconds left to beat Ball State 41-38 on Tuesday, rolling up 710 yards of offense in a little midweek MACtion. The story was much the same the next night as Ohio made a chip shot field goal as the gun went off to beat Bowling Green 29-28. Also on Wednesday, Western Michigan held on to beat Miami (Ohio) with both starting quarterbacks topping the 400 yard passing mark. Thursday produced a huge - relatively - CUSA upset as a terrible UAB team upset #22 Southern Miss to beat a ranked team for just the second time in school history.

North Carolina, with an interim head coach and not much to play for, gave Virginia Tech a fight with two touchdowns in the 4th quarter before the Hokies decided to pay attention on defense. It was an off night for David Wilson, who never could get going, but a solid one for quarterback Logan Thomas. He tossed two touchdowns and ran for a third to provide most of the Hokies scoring to setup a showdown next week with rival Virginia for a trip to the ACC championship. The late comeback from UNC should have been a warning that no one was safe, home or road, regardless of the conditions.

Oklahoma State rolled into Ames, Iowa as 27-point favorites but holding a heavy heart just a day after a plane crash killed the women's basketball coach and three others. It was an unspeakable tragedy for a school that had already suffered a similar one a decade before. Friday was supposed to be about the second-ranked Cowboys giving their fans something - anything - to cheer about.

But it's a game between the lines and though Iowa State came into the match up 2-4 in Big 12 play and winless in 58 tries against teams ranked sixth or better, head coach Paul Rhoads knows a thing or two about upsets. He had pulled off at least one shocker each year he was in charge of the Cyclones and was defensive coordinator of a lowly 4-7 Pittsburgh team four years ago that helped cause BCS chaos with an upset of then-No. 2 West Virginia. He threw a similar wrench into the Cowboys' plans in large part by shutting down the ground game and forcing five turnovers. Brandon Weeden put some big numbers - 42-of-58, a quiet 476 yards and three touchdowns - but threw three interceptions, his last in the second overtime to lose the game.

"We got a group of young men that put their hard hats on every day and just continue to go to work," Rhoads said. "I could not be prouder of the effort they put out tonight."

The field storming after the upset was well deserved, with Rhoads even getting hit by a fan who spilled his drink on the emotional head coach at midfield. The Iowa native took over the program from Gene Chizik after serving as Auburn's defensive coordinator the season before Chizik headed to the plains. Ironically, his upset sent cheers up in Tuscaloosa because no program stood to benefit more from the loss than Alabama.

It was the first of many on a topsy-turvy week that saw the #2, #4, #5, #7, #17, #22 and #23 in the BCS suffer a loss. As you can tell from the boom-boom nature of the plays listed above, the drama and action seemed to culminate in another perfect weekend in college football. Fitting, perhaps, that on the sport's supposed week off, it gave us the most drama-filled few days of the year.

As the Big Game was wrapping up late on the West Coast, I was trying to think of another time there was so much craziness, so much excitement, packed into just a few hours. It thought about the NCAA tournament but MLB's final day this year immediately popped into my mind right after. The country was glued to the television as pitch after pitch carried more meaning than the last. Four games determined two wild cards (and the eventual World Series winner) and three of them were tied. Three blown saves and two incredible walk-off wins had produced one of baseball's finest nights.

This weekend, and late Saturday in particular, was not quite what that Wednesday in late September was. That night for baseball does contrast however, and serve as a reminder of how great a regular season can be with a playoff still to come. The BCS proponents out there had no problem coming out and saying the system enhanced the upsets because they somehow mean more. As baseball showed us, even after 162 games and plenty more to play, nothing takes away from the drama. We're still going to watch Baylor try and beat Oklahoma for the first time ever with RGIII taking snaps. People will still tune in to see USC make an emphatic statement to the country that their time out of the spotlight is over.

It does however make the losses that much more painful. Boise State has lost three games in three years by five points thanks to walk-on kickers missing field goals. They never get a shot at playing for the national title. Oklahoma just hopes they can beat their rival and get to the same old exhibition (the Fiesta Bowl) they're used to playing in.

'Every week is a playoff'  is the line you'll see often in BCS literature. If that's the case then, Alabama would not be sitting at No. 2 in the country and set to play LSU - again - for the national title. They lost their playoff game at Bryant-Denny in the Field Goal Festival of the Century. Talk of another rematch involving Oregon was put to bed thanks to the conquering Trojans but had they won, they should have taken note that no, they can't be playing in New Orleans after losing a game earlier in the season.

Now we are left with a BCS beauty pageant. Boise could be a top five team at the end of the year but will likely play right before Christmas. Stanford might be passed over for Michigan despite the Cardinal being in the top 10 all season. The SEC is strong at the top but weak all over - as evidenced by FCS Southern Conference teams having a combined 52-34 lead on SEC teams at one point Saturday. Alas, this is the system we have.

The modeling still isn't over with a few more weeks left in the season and that should provide clarity on the situation, especially with Arkansas traveling to Baton Rouge and Alabama playing the Iron Bowl at Auburn. There's still Bedlam and championship games. This show will go on.

But a Saturday that didn't shape up to be much ended up being quite a bit thanks to what happened on the field. It's why we all love college football and why we put up with six days of arguing and rankings. 60 minutes between the lines never looked so good in week 12.

Stat of the week

USC is the first loss Chip Kelly has suffered as head coach when the opposing team has just one week to prepare. It was also his first ever home loss and the Trojans win snapped a 19 game conference winning streak and the longest home winning streak in the country.

Stats of the week

- The SEC has 9 offenses ranked 75th or worse in the country but four of the top five defenses. The former is responsible for the latter more than the other way around.

- Wisconsin had a 12 play, 27 yard drive against Illinois that took 7:11 off the clock before Montee Ball scored a touchdown. At that point, Texas A&M had scored 44 points in 8:24 against Kansas.

- FCS Georgia Southern scored 21 points and ran for 302 yards on Alabama's defense, which led the country in just about every major defensive category. Dominique Swope had an 82-yard touchdown and finished with 18 carries for 153 yards (8.5 yd ave.). In the process, Swope became just the fifth back to rush for over 100 yards against Nick Saban in his five seasons in Tuscaloosa. Alabama's scoring defense went from 7.1 points per game to 8.36 ppg afterward and the rush defense jumped from 51.9 ypg to 74.64 just from the one game.

- This is the first time since Bo Pelini's first year that Nebraska has allowed more than 40 points in a game twice in a season.

- Oregon's 24-point deficit they faced against USC was the biggest they faced since October 4, 2008, also against the Trojans.

- Via the AP, before Miami did it yesterday, no FBS team had scored less than seven points and won a road game since Auburn topped Mississippi State 3-2 in 2008.

- Five starts for David Ash, six interceptions. Ouch.

- LSU, Alabama and Arkansas are 1, 2, 3 in the AP Poll. The only other time one conference has done that in the poll era is Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado of the Big 8 in 1971.

- Kansas has - by far - the worst defense in the country. It is dead last in three major categories and is giving up 45.55 points per game and 531.45 yards per game. A sampling of the worst defenses since 2001 for comparison:

2001: Idaho 45 ppg, (Worst BCS defense: Duke 44.6 ppg)
2002: Eastern Michigan 47.2 ppg, (Kansas 42.3 ppg)
2003: Mississippi State 39.3 ppg
2004: San Jose State 42.6 ppg, (Baylor 36.9 ppg)
2005: Temple 45.3 ppg, (Illinois 39.5 ppg)
2006: Louisiana Tech 41.7 ppg, (Duke 33.8 ppg)
2007: North Texas 45.1 ppg, (Nebraska 37.9 ppg)
2008: North Texas 47.58 ppg, (Washington State 43.85 ppg)
2009: Rice 43.08 ppg, (Washington State 38.5 ppg)
2010: New Mexico 44.33 ppg, (Washington State 35.83 ppg)

Tweet of the week

"Down 22-7 in Q1, Gators DE Sharrif Floyd told teammates, "Listen it's Furman. No disrespect but it's Furman."

- Via Jason Lieser, Palm Beach Post.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma State

4. Arkansas

5. Stanford

6. Boise State

7. Houston

8. USC

9. Oregon

10. Virginia Tech

Where we'll be this week

Dennis Dodd will be at two games this week, starting with the big showdown on CBS between Arkansas and LSU on Friday and Missouri-Kansas on Saturday, the final game in the second-longest rivalry west of the Mississippi. I will cover two games as well, with the final Texas-Texas A&M game on Thursday (Thanksgiving) and end with the crosstown showdown between USC and UCLA. Brett McMurphy will be at the Iron Bowl as Alabama looks for revenge on Auburn and to keep their name in the national title race.

Leaning this way

Penn State at Wisconsin

This is for a trip to the Big Ten title game and there's no doubt that commissioner Jim Delany hopes Wisconsin can win and hopefully cover the two touchdowns+ spread. Penn State's offense showed signs of life in the first half against Ohio State but managed to throttle back down to nothing in the second half against an ok defense. Montee Ball and Russell Wilson have this thing over early though and the Nittany Lions can't claw their way back.

Alabama at Auburn

The Tide are ranked second in the country, the Tigers are unranked. Normally that doesn't matter when these two get together but that's just one indication of how good/bad these teams are. Neither team looked impressive against FCS foes so you wonder if they were saving a few things for this game. Still, hard to see an upset when Alabama is in the top three in the conference in every major category.

Arkansas at LSU

BCS chaos can rain supreme if the Razorbacks are able to go into Baton Rouge and pull off the upset. They will certainly be the best passing offense LSU's fantastic secondary has faced but the key will come down to protecting Tyler Wilson. If LSU turns it over a few times there is certainly a chance at a loss but it all seems unlikely for 'The Hat' to lose this close to taking a trip to Atlanta.



Posted on: November 19, 2011 3:08 pm
Edited on: November 19, 2011 3:08 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Wisconsin 28 Illinois 17

Posted by Tom Fornelli

WISCONSIN WON. The Badgers didn't have the easiest time with Illinois on Saturday, as the Illini led this contest 17-7 at halftime, but the Badgers dominated the second half to win the game and keep themselves in contention for the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin did this by putting the offense on the shoulders of running back Montee Ball. Ball finished the day with 224 yards rushing and 3 total touchdowns, which gave Ball 30 total touchdowns on the season. Russell Wilson only managed to finish the day with 90 total yards, but wasn't really needed anyway.

WHY WISCONSIN WON. Illinois turnovers killed the Illini. Wisconsin played with a short field all day, forcing 4 Illinois turnovers. The Badgers would convert all those turnovers into touchdowns except for the last one, as it came in the fourth quarter and Wisconsin just ran out the clock. To give you an idea of the kind of field position Wisconsin had in this game, the Badgers offense had 291 total yards of offense on the day. Illinois had 299.

WHEN WISCONSIN WON. Wisconsin finally took the lead on the final play of the third quarter, but a few minutes later Montee Ball scored a 17-yard touchdown following yet another Illinois turnover to make it 28-17, and the life had been sucked out of Illinois.

WHAT WISCONSIN WON. This win keeps Wisconsin alive in the Leaders Division. Penn State still has to play Ohio State on Saturday, but even if Penn State beats the Buckeyes it still has to finish the season with the Badgers. If Wisconsin wins that game next week it's going to Indianapolis.

WHAT ILLINOIS LOST. It's fifth straight game after starting the season 6-0, and Ron Zook may have officially lost his job on Saturday afternoon as well. There have been rumors about Zook's status for a couple weeks now, but seeing his team blow a double-digit lead and playing so sloppy on offense isn't going to do a lot to keep those rumors from becoming reality.

THAT WAS CRAZY. Wisconsin's second touchdown drive of the day only covered 30 yards. Still, that didn't keep it from lasting 12 plays and taking 7:11 off the clock.
Posted on: November 18, 2011 4:26 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 12

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.

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

You could use some lighter fare this weekend.

BREAKFAST

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

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

Illinois vs. #17 Wisconsin - ESPN2 12pm ET

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

Rutgers vs. Cincinnati - ESPNU 12pm ET

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

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

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

LUNCH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DINNER

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

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

#4 Oregon vs. USC - ABC 8pm ET

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

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

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

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

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

LATE NIGHT SNACK

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

The band won't be on the field for this one (well, they will, but at halftime not on the final play) but the Big Game will still have plenty of memorable moments when you consider that Andrew Luck is playing and looking to make up for last week's loss. - BF 
Posted on: November 17, 2011 4:11 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 12



Posted by Tom Fornelli


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 65-50 (4-6)
2. Man 63-52 (5-5)
3. Machine 61-54 (5-5) 
Posted on: November 15, 2011 3:53 pm
 

Ron Zook is not here to talk about Ron Zook

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Illinois is on a four-game losing streak this season, and considering the Illini have to face Wisconsin this week, that could easily turn into a five-game losing streak. That's bad news for head coach Ron Zook, who came into the season firmly on the hot seat and who appeared to have turned off the flames by leading his team to a 6-0 start -- only to not win a game since.

Well, rumors about Zook's future are flying once again, and while they're not enough to merit an official report, they are enough to worry Zook to the point that at his weekly press conference, he stated ahead of time that he wouldn't be answering any questions about his future.

Said Zook at the press conference, "Before we get going, this thing's about our football team, it's about the team that we're playing, about the things going on with our football team. It's not about me, not about my future; I think our fans and our players deserve that. And if you feel compelled to talk about that, then my part will be over with."

Reporter Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune then asked Zook how he was keeping his players from being distracted by any rumors of his departure. Technically and logically, it satisfied Zook's criterion for asking a football-related question. In practice, however, it was enough for a good old-fashioned walk-out.

[Watch the video of Ron Zook storming out of the Illinois press conference here.] 

Obviously, it's up to Zook how much he does and doesn't want to discuss, and Shannon knew what she was doing when she asked the question. But walking out of a press conference because of one question is still hardly the way to maintain a great deal of dignity and public pride in the midst of a losing streak. Listen to the questions, calmly decline to answer them each time. Take your lumps. "Be a man," in a football coach's parlance. Right?
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com