Posted on: September 12, 2011 4:06 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 4:23 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.
With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.
AP Poll Coaches Poll
(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)
Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC
Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: Baylor
Really coaches? Again? I threw your sports information directors under the bus last week for having Baylor behind a TCU team they beat. Imagine my surprise to see this for the second consecutive week. I know you all believe in Gary Patterson. I do too. But they settled it on the field and he lost. Robert Griffin III will give your defensive coordinator the willies. The only thing I can think of is you're not big fans of schools that threaten others with lawsuits.
Both polls have the Cornhuskers sitting in the top 10, behind 9th-ranked Texas A&M and ahead of 11th-ranked South Carolina. Perhaps it's our place to point out that the Taylor Martinez completed just 50% of his passes against Chattanooga in the opener. Or that it was a one point game entering the 4th quarter against Fresno State. But go ahead and rank them fifth Ira Schoffel. Sixth isn't much better Tom Murphy. Things won't get much better if they beat Washington either I'm guessing but at least we'll have a better idea of how good this team is.
A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.
Wilner was in this space last week but even though his ballot was utterly ridiculous again (Texas 14th? Almost as bad as Virginia Tech 23rd or Arkansas 25th), we'll move on to Mr. Ratto. I know he watches a lot of Pac-12 games out in San Francisco so why, then, do you have Oregon 23rd and Washington 14th? Are the Huskies' narrow victories over FCS Eastern Washington and Hawaii make them deserving of being ranked ahead of Baylor? Is losing to your number one ranked team - LSU - the reason for the Ducks being behind Texas? Or 12 spots behind USF? Did you see the Trojans eek out a victory for the second straight week? You certainly were not watching Arizona State beat Missouri. And I'm positive you didn't read Brett McMurphy's column saying Arkansas is talented enough to win the SEC because you fail to include the Razorbacks on your ballot. Craziness indeed.
What were you thinking? USF
Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette was in this spot last week for ranking USF fifth despite Notre Dame doubling their yardage and winning by three. So guess what? USF sits fifth once again. They're in the Big East. They beat an 0-2 Irish team by three. They might be good at the end of the year but in no way are they the fifth best team in the country. Wisconsin, Stanford, Florida State and all of the other teams you have behind them are better and it's not even close. I'm sorry, over-rating Notre Dame and then over-rating a team that beat them should get you kicked off the voting roster.
Come on man
Last week, I put my colleague over at SI.com, Andy Staples, in this space for ranking Boise State way too low at No. 13 in his ballot following their win against Georgia. Andy owned up to his mistake and apologized to Bronco Nation (and thus, me) for having them too far down. His week three ballot has the Blue turfers seventh between Florida State and Texas A&M. While Staples' polling has come around, he also gave me some good advice: I'm too nice.
Well, sorry Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman. You're now in the crosshairs thinks to Staples' advice.
I know you're a bit isolated up in Idaho but there has to be television with satellite somewhere in the state, right? You have Florida State as a borderline top 15 team (#13), UCF in the top 20 (highest out of anyone) along with Mississippi State two spots ahead of them. Oregon's still in the top 10 at No. seven and both Auburn and Ohio State are top 20 teams despite each narrowly escaping competition that usually plays on Thursday's.
Hlas' ballot is so terrible he gets an additional mention in this spot. USF, fifth. Seriously?
Also, the AP itself gets a mention for their mistake this week, which you can read more about here.
Tags: ACC, Andy Staples, AP, AP Poll, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big East, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Brett McMurphy, Bryan Fischer, Coaches Poll, Eastern Washington, FCS, Florida State, Fresno State, Gary Parrish, Gary Patterson, Georgia, Hawaii, Ira Schoffel, Jon Wilner, LSU, Mike Hlas, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pac-12, Polls, Ray Ratto, Robert Griffin III, Scott Wolf, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Taylor Martinez, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, The Poll Attacks, Tom Murphy, UCF, USC, USF, Virginia Tech, Washington, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 11, 2011 6:43 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2011 9:28 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big Ten fared, from the top of the polls to its bottom, and what it means.
I grumbled yesterday about the fact that Wisconsin's ranking was too low relative to the actual quality of its team, and to the polls' credit, the Badgers moved up a spot in each poll. Granted, that was only because Texas A&M enjoyed its bye week early and was summarily punished for that by pollsters, which, all right I guess you showed them, but it's a start. I've got the Badgers sixth on my personal ballot, and that might still be too low, but the fact that the Badgers are moving up is a step in the right direction.
Nebraska held steady at No. 10, meanwhile, but this is just that silly lazy pollster mentality than a reflection of the season Nebraska has put together thus far. The Huskers struggled for a second straight week to justify their lofty praise, beating a middling Fresno State squad 42-29 and looking decidedly average in the process. For that, Nebraska's No. 18 in my poll, and if that sounds like OMG MEDIA DISRESPECT, keep in mind we're hit over the head year-round with the "every week counts" mantra from the BCS elite, so if we're going to be honest about what that actually means, then we need to be able to look at Nebraska's first two games and realize that it has not played at a Top 10 level thus far. Taylor Martinez is a wonderfully gifted runner, but as a passer he is a ticking time bomb. The way he's thrown the ball in the first two games won't be enough to lead Nebraska to even a division title, much less the conference crown and a BCS bowl bid.
15/15. Michigan State
The Spartans made slight jumps in both polls after their throttling of Florida Atlantic, and that ranking is just about right so there's no qualms here from me. Their defense is going to get a major test with a trip to South Bend this week, and let's not kid ourselves -- even at 0-2, Notre Dame is a very dangerous opponent. If Tommy Rees and his compatriots hadn't turned the ball over five times in each of the first two weeks, they'd probably be 2-0 right now, and a borderline Top-10 team. If MSU survives this road test, it deserves to move up in the polls. Way up.
17/16. Ohio State
Just as I was bearish on Nebraska for its underwhelming performance against Fresno, I'm mortified by Ohio State getting taken to the wire by Toledo, so to see the Buckeyes only drop from 15th in both polls to here is a bit of a joke. They still deserve to be ranked, and they've got nothing but BCS opponents from here on out so the stage is set for earning a return to national prominence, but right now it sure looks like the Buckeyes are three or four spots too high. Hey, every week counts, right?
Others receiving votes: Michigan (104 AP votes, 97 Coaches votes), Northwestern (19 AP votes, 31 Coaches votes), Penn State (18 AP votes, 29 Coaches votes)
Posted on: September 8, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: September 8, 2011 2:41 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.
It is clear that this is a fight that will not be won easily, as both Woman and Machine dealt me a crushing blow in the first week of the season. Fear not, my fellow containers of the Y chromosome, for a war is not lost in the first battle, and we have many more to fight. So let's get to the senseless slaughter, shall we?
Oklahoma State (-14 1/2) vs. Arizona - Thursday, 8pm (All times Eastern)Man - This one could wind up being quite the barnburner much along the lines of the Baylor/TCU game we saw on Friday night. It's two good offenses facing off against each other, and it may come down to which defense can make a stop when it has to. Even though I'd give the edge on defense to Arizona, the fact that this game is being played in Stillwater makes me lean toward the Cowboys, but at the same time Oklahoma State's defense makes me think this one could be a lot closer than the spread indicates. Of course, it's hard to forget Oklahoma State beating Arizona 36-10 in the Alamo Bowl. Screw it, I'm riding with the Cowboys. Pick: Oklahoma State
Woman - "Remember the Alamo Bowl." Pick: Oklahoma State
Machine - The Machine sees a lot more defense in this one than I'd expect, and Brandon Weeden struggles against Mike Stoops' defense, throwing for only 245 yards and 1 touchdown. OSU wins 27-14, but the Cats cover. Pick: Arizona
Arizona State (-7 1/2) vs. Missouri - Friday, 10:30pmMan - I really don't have a lot of faith in the Missouri offense after last week's performance, but it's hard to get a decent read on Arizona State based on one game against UC-Davis. While I still believe in the Missouri defense, I think being on the road will catch up to them in the second half and the Sun Devils pull this one off. Pick: Arizona State
Woman - "This is Frank Kush Field in 108 degree weather. This is your football team on Frank Kush Field in 108 degree weather. Any questions?" Pick: Arizona State
Machine - The Machine is fearful of James Franklin's inability to throw passes over 7 yards as well, but it does not think that will keep the Tigers from putting up points and the defense from smothering ASU. Missouri 24-10. Pick: Missouri
Wisconsin (-21 1/2) vs. Oregon State - Saturday, 12pmMan - Bret Bielema let me down last week. After Wisconsin buried UNLV early on Thursday night he decided to call off the dogs and not pursue 100 points. That being said, Oregon State lost at home to Sacramento State. I don't care how kind and cuddly this new version of Bret Bielema has become, nor how large the spread, I am not picking a team that loses at home to Sacramento State. Pick: Wisconsin
Woman - "On one hand, Russell Wilson magic and a monster Badger homefield advantage. On the other hand, a hammy-challenged Beaver rusher and a secondary that might as well be wearing Louboutin athletic shoes. Wait, that's the same hand. Wisconsin wins easily but throttles back, so doesn't quite cover." Pick: Oregon State
Machine - ALERT! ALERT! THE MACHINE HAS BEEN COMPROMISED! IT IS ON DRUGS! IT HAS OREGON STATE WINNING THIS GAME 16-0! Pick: Oregon State
Auburn vs. Mississippi State (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 12:21pmMan: We saw how tough life could be for Auburn this season without Cam Newton when the Tigers barely had the power to squeak by Utah State at home last weekend, and Mississippi State is a much tougher foe than the Aggies were. That being said, a spread this large for a team on the road in the SEC seems rather ominous, so while I wouldn't be shocked if Auburn loses, it's going to be another close game. Pick: Auburn
Woman - "Pay no attention to the neutered Tiger behind the curtain. Mississippi State wins but doesn't cover." Pick: Auburn
Machine - According to The Machine, Auburn will once again find itself in a whole during the fourth quarter this week, but unlike last Saturday, this hole will be too deep to climb out of. Mississippi State wins 35-21. Pick: Mississippi State
Penn State vs. Alabama (-9 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pmMan - An SEC team makes a rare appearance in a Big Ten stadium this week, and I have a feeling that the Tide won't be the most polite visitors the conference has seen. I know that there are still some questions on offense for Alabama, but I just don't see Penn State's offense being able to do much against that Alabama defense. Pick: Alabama
Woman - "Do you ever wonder if Joe Paterno is actually comatose lying in a hospital bed at some nursing home called Happy Valley and we're all just figments of his imagination? No? Uh, me either... Regardless, good D versus great D means JoePa's gonna have bad dreams." Pick: Alabama
Machine - The Machine sees Robert Bolden enjoying his date against Alabama a lot more this season, but unfortunately a late 40-yard touchdown run by Trent Richardson makes it a Not-So-Happy Valley. Alabama just gets by 24-23. Pick: Penn State
Duke vs. Stanford (-21 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pmMan - Let me make this clear: There is nothing I enjoy less than picking against a home team that is a 21 1/2-point underdog. That being said, one of these teams has Andrew Luck and the other one lost to Richmond last week. Pick: Stanford
Woman - "Crimson last year, now Cardinal? Red looks terrible on Duke. Coincidentally, reverse the spread and it would equal the mean IQ point differential in respective student bodies." Pick: Stanford
Machine - The Machine does not experience human emotions, but it is torn on this game. Does The Machine go with the kids who designed it, or the kids who begged mommy and daddy to buy it for them? Stanford wins 34-31. Pick: Duke
Georgia vs. South Carolina (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 4:30pmMan - This is an incredibly important game for so early in the season as it could play a large role in who wins the SEC East. It also features yet another home underdog, but to be honest, I'm not all that concerned this time around. What I am concerned about is the fact I have so much faith in a team that features Stephen Garcia as its quarterback. Pick: South Carolina
Woman - "I'm assuming Mark Richt's players want him to get out of Sanford Stadium alive." Pick: Georgia
Machine - Stephen Garcia not only starts for the Gamecocks, but he plays so unbelievably well that Steve Spurrier doesn't even think about pulling him. Garcia throws for 296 yards and 4 touchdowns as Mark Richt's seat grows even hotter. South Carolina wins 28-21. Pick: South Carolina
Nebraska (-28.5) vs. Fresno State - Saturday, 7pmMan - While I have no doubts about the fact that the Nebraska defense is going to make life hell on the Fresno State offense, I'm just not ready to give the Cornhusker offense enough credit in this one. Until Taylor Martinez can show me he can have consistently good games, a spread like this is just too large to bet against. Pick: Fresno State
Woman - "Quick question: Can Bo Pelini find out where I live? He can?" Pick: Nebraska
Machine - Much like The Woman, The Machine fears Bo Pelini smashing it into a million pieces. Nebraska wins easily, 48-17. Pick: Nebraska
USC (-9 1/2) vs. Utah - Saturday, 7:30pmMan - We all saw how much trouble that USC had with Minnesota last week, and I have a hard time believing that Utah is any weaker than the Golden Gophers. Plus at some point Lane Kiffin is going to blow USC's chances of covering by going for two and failing, and I don't want to have to rely on one of Kiffin's dumb decisions paying off to get me a win. Pick: Utah
Woman - "I'll take the points over boneheaded Lane Kiffin, even if the Song Girls try to lure the Utes into the rocks." Pick: Utah
Machine - The Machine's pick does not disappoint me this week, though I was saddened to see that USC kicked two field goals rather than failing on a two-point conversion. Utah wins 21-6. Pick: Utah
Michigan vs. Notre Dame (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 8pmMan - You know, Notre Dame's offense actually had a great game against South Florida last week if you could somehow erase the five turnovers, and the idea of that same offense facing a Michigan defense that can't be totally over 2010 causes me to lean towards picking the Irish here. That being said, the first ever night game at the Big House is bound to give the Wolverines a pretty nice boost, and I think this game is going to be pretty darn close. I'm not sure who wins, but I have to take the home team and the points here. Pick: Michigan
Woman - "After last week, Notre Dame has officially become the Chicago Cubs of college football." Pick:Michigan
Machine - The Machine nailed Notre Dame's loss last week, but it seems its faith in the school has been restored a bit. Or at least it believes in the healing powers of Tommy Rees as the new Irish starter throws for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Irish cruise to a 46-29 win. Pick: Notre Dame
StandingsSeason Record (Last Week)
1. Machine 11-4 (11-4)
1. Woman 11-4 (11-4)
3. Man 8-7 (8-7)
Tags: ACC, Alabama, Andrew Luck, Arizona, Arizona State, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Bo Pelini, Brandon Weeden, Bret Bielema, Cam Newton, Duke, Fresno State, Georgia, James Franklin, Joe Paterno, Lane Kiffin, Man vs Woman vs Machine, Mark Richt, Michigan, Mike Stoops, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Pac-12, Penn State, Robert Bolden, Russell Wilson, Sacramento State, SEC, South Carolina, South Florida, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Spurrier, Taylor Martinez, TCU, Tom Fornelli, Tommy Rees, Trent Richardson, UC-Davis, UNLV, USC, Utah, Utah State, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 3, 2011 11:37 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Ohio State isn't back, because they never went anywhere to begin with. Let's get one thing out of the way: Ohio State was only playing Akron. Beating Akron proves nothing. The Buckeyes probably aren't going to be the last team to beat Akron by 42 points this season. And yet, that sure looked like Jim Tressel's Ohio State, didn't it?
It makes sense that OSU still looks mostly the same, to an extent; Luke Fickell is a Jim Tressel disciple, and the rest of the Tressel staff is still in place. Further, the vast majority of OSU's superior talent is back. Terrelle Pryor is gone, obviously, and there are a handful of starters who are suspended for the early going. But OSU's real strength didn't lie in its starters' talent, it was having second- and third-stringers who could start for pretty much any other team, and those guys are all still around. So Fickell's got some institutional advantages in place.
But keeping those players focused in the middle of what's arguably OSU's largest scandal is much easier said than done, and Fickell deserves a ton of credit for maintaining control of the program when it looked like all hell would break loose. Nobody's talking about Terrelle Pryor in Columbus today, they're talking about the Buckeyes. That's the way it ought to be.
2. It's like thunder! And lightning! On its face, it seems silly to discuss non-catastrophic weather in a column called "what I learned"; everyone's got that sort of thing figured out by, oh, third grade. But I did learn that even in the legendary, leaderish Big Ten, they will flat-out cancel the rest of a football game on account of lightning if it persists long enough.
That's precisely what happened Saturday, when Michigan and Western Michigan officials decided to call off a 34-10 contest with over a full quarter remaining in the game. The weather report looked grim at that point, and it was unlikely that the game could be finished before at least 10:00. Still, even though it's admirable that there are rules with the protection of fans and players in mind like this, it also seems decidedly un-football to do so. Oh, if it weren't for that pesky liability. Alas.
3. The Leaders Division is Wisconsin's to lose right now. Sure, Wisconsin's defense struggled at times with the UNLV rushing attack, but not disastrously so, and the second unit of the Badger offense was pretty pedestrian. That's all true. What Wisconsin showed on offense on Thursday rendered that all moot. Russell Wilson made the best reads of anybody in the Big Ten in Week 1, and he's only been in Madison for a few months. He also showed the best rushing acumen of any Big Ten quarterback not named Taylor Martinez or Denard Robinson. And oh yes, the Wisconsin rushing attack is as mansome as ever. The Badgers don't have a bruiser anymore, and mountain man Gabe Carimi is off starting in the NFL, but the mashing will continue apace for another year as long as James White and Montee Ball are healthy.
If Wisconsin had a decent second quarterback (or if presumptive backup Jon Budmayr's arm were healthy), or if this game were in November, it might have hung 70 or 80 on UNLV. The offense scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight possessions, and the only reason it didn't get eight was because it got the ball in its own territory with only 47 seconds left (that ended up being a field goal). It was 51-3 early in the second half. Yes, it's only UNLV, but the Badgers are probably going to score at least 31 points in every game in the Big Ten. Do you really see any team that's going to outscore them?
4. Being a running back at Iowa is still a catastrophic idea. Iowa tailback Marcus Coker was expected to be the workhorse of the Iowa offense in 2011, so it was jarring to say the least to see him put two fumbles on the turf early in the first quarter of Iowa's opener against Tennessee Tech. In came true freshman Mika'il McCall, who wowed fans with 61 yards on nine carries in the first quarter. For a backfield that's short on experience, that kind of firepower would be crucial over the course of the Big Ten season.
So naturally, McCall suffered a broken ankle on his ninth carry, and he is gone for the year, according to Kirk Ferentz. McCall is just the latest in a series of Iowa runing backs who have been stricken with serious injuries, missed seasons, or other early exits over the last few years, a list that includes former starters Jewel Hampton (ACLs, transfer), Adam Robinson (concussions, dismissal), Brandon Wegher (personal issues, transfer), Paki O'Meara (concussions), and even in a sense Shonn Greene (academics, early NFL entry). Former starting fullback Brad Rogers is also sidelined with a heart issue, although he's still working to rejoin the Hawkeyes at some point. It's a legacy of disaster that some have semi-jokingly blamed on the "Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God." The evidence seems to be overwhelmingly in the favor of such a god existing. At any rate, here's hoping McCall recovers well from his broken ankle and the Big Ten sees him again in 2012.
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Adam Robinson, AIRBHG, Akron, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, Big Ten, Brad Rogers, Brandon Wegher, Denard Robinson, Gabe Carimi, Iowa, James White, Jewel Hampton, Jim Tressel, Jon Budmayr, Luke Fickell, MAC, Marcus Coker, Michigan, Mika'il McCall, Montee Ball, Mountain West, Non-BCS, Ohio State, Paki O'Meara, Russell Wilson, Shonn Greene, Taylor Martinez, Tennessee Tech, Tennessee Tech, Terrelle Pryor, UNLV, Week 1, Western Michigan, What I Learned, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 3, 2011 7:14 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
NEBRASKA WON. That's quite the start for Nebraska. The No. 11 Cornhuskers dispatched Chattanooga by a score of 40-7 on Saturday. The man of the match was undoubtedly Taylor Martinez, who racked up 135 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Martinez also threw for 116 yards on 11-22 passing -- rather pedestrian numbers, especially considering the competition -- but his throws were generally accurate, even if some of the reads weren't ideal.
WHY NEBRASKA WON: Nebraska is a borderline Top 10 FBS team and a darkhorse national championship contender; Chattanooga's barely in the Top 25 of FCS. This was a mismatch from the start, and even a slew of Husker fumbles wouldn't be enough to keep this game even remotely close.
WHEN NEBRASKA WON: This game was never really in doubt, but it was still just 13-0 Cornhuskers late in the second half with Nebraska facing a 4th and 2 on the Chattanooga 46. Nebraska elected to go for it. Before the snap, Taylor Martinez obviously saw something he liked, and he called an audible before running an easy option around the left corner for the score. Martinez's escort down the corner was his pitch man, also unaccounted for. 20-0, ballgame.
WHAT NEBRASKA WON: Nebraska's off on the right foot for its inaugural Big Ten season, to be sure, but it would have been nice to see Brion Carnes (1-1, 19 yards) get more than a half-quarter of garbage time in at quarterback for the Huskers. Taylor Martinez may not suffer the same complications this year that plagued him down the stretch in 2010, but given his role in Nebraska's offense it's definitely a possibility, so it would behoove Bo Pelini to have as much experience as possible waiting behind Martinez in case bad luck strikes in a key game.
WHAT CHATTANOOGA LOST: Other than a game, not too much. The Mocs stayed healthy, and although there was some chippiness near halftime, they generally kept their composure and sportsmanship intact throughout the course of the game. This was a paycheck game, pure and simple, and there probably won't be much time spent on game film for 'Nooga before it moves on to its home opener against Jacksonville State next week.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Nebraska's Jared Crick got the ball into teammate Cameron Meredith's hands twice. Crick is a defensive tackle. Meredith is a defensive end. On one play in the third quarter, Crick deflected a screen pass high into the air, and Meredith came down with the interception at the Moccasin 3-yard line. Rex Burkhead would score on the next play. Later, in the first play of the fourth quarter, Crick blocked a Nick Pollard field goal attempt so easily that the ball hit somewhere around his armpit. The ball bounced away, right into the hands of Meredith, who returned it 13 yards (though a penalty nullified Meredith's return).
Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 4:57 pm
Kirk Cousins, Senior, Michigan State
For as many high-level quarterbacks as there are in the Big Ten, it looks as if the stars have aligned the best for Kirk Cousins this year. Cousins returns his stable of running backs, two of his top three wideouts (and experienced senior backups at the third receiver and starting tight end), and his same offense from 2010. Cousins also didn't suffer a catastrophic injury last year. Oh, and Cousins is a very, very good passer. There isn't another quarterback in the conference that can make all of those claims, so while the MSU schedule is just brutal this year, if any losses occur, it's unlikely that a healthy Cousins will be to blame for any of them.
Also watch for: Even without Terrelle Pryor lining up under center, this is a loaded position in the conference. Denard Robinson and Dan Persa can also make legitimate claims as the top quarterback in the conference, and Wisconsin newcomer Russell Wilson might get there by the end of the year. This is a conference where Nathan Scheelhaase and Taylor Martinez are competing to even be mentioned in the top five quarterbacks. Big Ten secondaries, beware.
Edwin Baker, Junior, Michigan State
In a Spartan backfield loaded with depth, Baker is the best of the bunch, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs in his sophomore campaign. Baker is a low, powerful rusher with some of the best instincts in the conference, and he’ll be counted on to produce even more -- provided he can keep his talented teammates from stealing even more carries in 2011.
Montee Ball, Junior, Wisconsin
Ball gets the nod here just for being a year ahead of his teammate listed below, but the truth is both are going to be major weapons for the Badgers this year. Ball was a hair away from hitting 1,000 yards rushing last year, but his nose for the end zone is impeccable; he scored 18 rushing touchdowns last year, which is even more ridiculous considering half-man, half-truck John Clay was also a Badger last year and scored 14 TDs of his own. 20 touchdowns is totally in play for Ball this year.
Also watch for: All the true sophomores. There's a lot of them. First of all, both Baker and Bell have superlatively talented teammates in their backfields; Ball's partner in crime is reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White, who racked up 1,057 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman. Meanwhile, the Spartans have true sophomore big back Le'Veon Bell, who rushed for 605 yards at 5.7 yards a carry last year. Iowa boasted its own a true freshman breakout star in Marcus Coker, who scorched Missouri for 219 yards and two scores in the Insight Bowl. Penn State's starting tailback Silas Redd was also a true freshman in 2010, looking impressive as he tallied 437 yards (5.7 yards per carry) in relief of since-departed Evan Royster. Ohio State has a trio of workhorses in its backfield in Rod Smith, Jaamal Berry (8.3 ypc as, yep, a true freshman in 2010), and suspended starter Boom Herron. Meanwhile, junior Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) and senior Jason Ford (Illinois) have been significant contributors in the backfield for years, and both have opportunities to put forward a big year.
Derek Moye, Senior, Penn State
Penn State may not have its quarterback situation shored up just yet, but one thing for sure is that whoever steps forward will have the conference's best target to aim at. Moye is 6'5" and fast, and he led the Nittany Lions' receiving corps with 53 catches, 885 yards, and eight TDs -- all team highs last year. Ostensibly, both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin (PSU's dueling QBs) have an even better rapport with Moye than they did last year, so don't be surprised to see all three of Moye's stats rise in his senior campaign.
Marvin McNutt, Senior, Iowa
McNutt first came onto the scene in 2009, when he was listed ahead of returning starter (and future Iowa record-holder in career receptions and receiving yards) Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on Iowa's depth chart coming out of camp. McNutt and Johnson-Koulianos eventually played their way into starting roles alongside each other, but the more surprising aspect was that McNutt -- recruited as a quarterback out of high school, and the Hawkeyes' 3rd stringer under center the year prior -- could work his way into the starting lineup that easily. McNutt quickly emerged as the surest catcher on the team, and his big play ability has put the Hawkeyes' career touchdown reception record in dire jeopardy (he needs just five scores to match Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes at 21).
Also watch for: Jeremy Ebert of Northwestern has a record of production that's as good as just about anybody else in the conference, and his familiarity with Dan Persa is going to be key as Persa continues to work his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. Ohio State wideout DeVier Posey was a favorite target -- by a pretty wide margin -- of Terrelle Pryor, and it's hardly a stretch to think that whoever OSU's new QB might be will depend on Posey often (once Posey comes back from suspension, anyway). 6'5" Indiana WR Damarlo Belcher would probably be in the NFL today if he had held onto a game-winning 4th down pass against Iowa last season. He didn't, the Hawkeyes won, new Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson convinced Belcher to stay, and here we are. Keshawn Martin and BJ Cunningham should both put up big numbers for Kirk Cousins at MSU.
Drake Dunsmore, Senior, Northwestern
From a purist's standpoint, Dunsmore is not technically a tight end; he's classified by Northwestern as a "superback," which means he can be found all over the place in the Wildcats' different offensive sets. He fits the same role that a tight end usually does, however, mixing a healthy amount of both blocking and receiving. Think of Dunsmore as Northwestern's Frank Wycheck. Also, think of him as Dan Persa's safety valve, being the second-leading receiver returning to the Wildcats and by far the leader among Big Ten tight ends with 40 receptions in 2010.
Also watch for: If Dunsmore's role as "superback" is too much of a departure from tight end for comfort, Nebraska TE Kyler Reed could easily take Dunsmore's place on this list. Reed's athleticism makes him one of the toughest tight ends to cover in the league, and at 18 yards per reception in 2010, he's proven the ability to move chains as well as any end in the conference. His eight touchdowns (tops among Big Ten TEs) don't hurt either.
Center Mike Brewster, Senior, Ohio State
Forget the Big Ten, Mike Brewster might well be the best center in the nation. In a position that usually attracts shorter linemen, Brewster stands tall at 6'5" 305 and still boasts elite technique. The four-year starter has become something of a folk hero in Columbus, and for good reason: he's probably going to be an All-Pro at the next level.
Guard Kevin Zeitler, Senior, Wisconsin
Now that First Team All-Americans Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt are gone to the NFL, the Wisconsin offensive line needs a new anchor, and Zeitler likely fits that bill. Zeitler is the most experienced offensive lineman on the Badgers, with 22 starts to his name, and his senior season should be his best.
Guard Joel Foreman, Senior, Michigan State
Foreman worked his way into the starting lineup early in his redshirt freshman season, and never relinquished the role. 36 starts later, he's the premier guard in the Big Ten, and his ability to get to the second level has been critical to Michigan State's considerable success rushing the ball. Foreman's pass protection skills are also stellar; it's no accident that Kirk Cousins has flourished as a passer over the last few years.
Tackle Mike Adams, Senior, Ohio State
Mike Adams shouldn't be on this list. He should be in the NFL, because he likely would have been a first-round pick last year. His role in the tattoo scandal and subsequent NCAA investigation led Jim Tressel to demand Adams return for his suspension-shortened senior season, and here we are. With the aforementioned Carimi off in the NFL, Adams takes over the mantle as the best tackle in college football, and his return to the Buckeyes' lineup after his five-game suspension is going to be a major factor in the Buckeyes' fight to stay atop the conference.
Tackle Riley Reiff, Junior, Iowa
As Iowa's left tackle, there's no denying Reiff has big shoes to fill; his recent predecessors include former All-Americans (and first-round NFL draft picks) Robert Gallery and Bryan Bulaga. Reiff could soon fit that bill himself; he's a big, mean masher who excels in downfield blocking and at the point of attack. Reiff's pass protection isn't as impressive quite yet, but he's still got two seasons left at Iowa to take that next step. He may not need two before the NFL comes calling.
Also watch for: Michigan center David Molk would probably be first-team in just about any other conference, but with Brewster manning the role for OSU, Molk is relegated to second-team status here. RT J.B. Shugarts is a third senior starter on the line for the Buckeyes, and if his foot injury is healed, he'll likely have a big year. Wisconsin RT Josh Oglesby is back from an injury that robbed him of all but two games in 2010, and he could easily play his way into all-conference consideration.
DE Cameron Meredith, Junior, Nebraska
In Meredith’s first year starting in 2010, he racked up 10 quarterback hurries and 6.5 TFLs. That would be disconcerting enough by itself, but with the bevy of talent in the front seven, most of the help blocking will have to be devoted to other defenders -- meaning Meredith will likely be on an island with his opposing tackles, terrorizing them and opposing quarterbacks all season long. Look for his sack numbers to go way up in 2011.
DE Vince Browne, Senior, Northwestern
One of the most underappreciated players in the Big Ten is probably Vince Browne, who registered seven sacks and 15.5 TFL in relative obscurity last year. The spotlight's on Browne now as a consensus preseason first-team all-Big Ten player, and his production continues to improve, he'll quickly make Wildcats fans forget about former all-conference DE Corey Wootton.
DT Jared Crick, Senior, Nebraska
It's slightly unfair to Crick (pictured above right) that he shared a defensive front with former Heisman candidate DT Ndamukong Suh, because it only invites comparisons between the two rather than letting Crick define his own legacy at Nebraska. On the other hand, earning comparisons to Suh is fantastic news for Nebraska, because it means Crick's incredible. Crick is a likely All-American at DT, with 32 TFLs to his name over the last two seasons and the potential to pass 20 TFLs this year. He's big, strong, and disruptive, which probably means instant double-teams on the majority of snaps in 2011. That still might not be enough to slow Crick down.
DT Mike Martin, Senior, Michigan
Last year, Mike Martin faced the same challenge that former teammate Brandon Graham did in 2009: being the best defensive lineman on a truly terrible defense. At the very least, Martin gets another crack at helping the Wolverines turn their defense around, and with the arrival of Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator, that looks to be a real possibility. Martin wasn't at 100% very often last year, but he's healthy right now, and that plus the move back to a 4-3 lineup (with space eater William Campbell next to him at NT) should be enough to propel Martin and the Wolverines DL to a much-improved season.
Also watch for: Jerel Worthy is a monster on the interior for Michigan State and may supplant Martin as a first-team DT by season's end; Worthy's production needs to improve, though. Iowa DT Mike Daniels is in his second year of starting, and the aggressive senior showed flashes of potential last season. He's going from the "fifth starter" in 2010 to the leader of the retooling Iowa defensive line. Ohio State DE Nathan Williams is in his second year starting for the Buckeyes, and he's expected to put together a solid senior year.
Michael Mauti, Junior, Penn State
When healthy, Mauti is one of the most fearsome linebackers in the Big Ten. It's that health that poses a bit of an issue. Mauti missed all of 2009 with an ACL injury, then struggled through various maladies last season -- including a shoulder injury suffered against Ohio State. Sheer probability suggests Mauti will have better luck with injuries this year, and he's manning the inside linebacker spot in a defense that puts the ILB in the best position to make plays. Tackles will be plentiful for the talented junior this year.
Lavonte David, Senior, Nebraska
It's bad enough for Nebraska's opposing offensive linemen that they have to deal with Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler at defensive tackle at the same time. It's worse that behind them lurks All-American candidate MLB Lavonte David. With needing three blockers to engage Crick and Steinkuhler a near-certainty, Davis will be free to get to the edges and and hit the point of attack, both things the speedy linebacker can do extremely well. Look for unholy amounts of production from David in 2011.
Chris Borland, Sophomore, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's defense wasn't spectacular last year, but with an offense scoring over 30 points in all but one Big Ten game, it didn't need to be. That defense is getting a major boost this year as 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Borland returns after taking a medical redshirt last season. Borland is strong and aggressive, and he represents a significant step up from departing MLB Culmer St. Jean. It wasn't exactly easy to run on Wisconsin last year, but it'll be legitimately tough now.
Also watch for: Andrew Sweat takes over as the leader of Ohio State's defense now, and the rangy OLB is poised for a big year. Iowa MLB James Morris stepped in as a 215-pound true freshman last year, and now that he's bigger, he may never leave the starting lineup; Iowa coaches are especially high on him. Senior Nate Stupar is versatile and productive, and he'll help bolster the Penn State linebacking corps in a big way.
Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Senior, NebraskaWith former teammate and All-American CB Prince Amukamara off to the NFL, it's Dennard's time to shine as Nebraska's lockdown cornerback. He showed all the necessary potential last year as opposing quarterbacks threw for under 50% all season long (tops among BCS teams), and while the loss of Amukamara might push opposing passer ratings up a bit, throwing at Dennard is still going to be a terrible, terrible idea.
Cornerback Shaun Prater, Senior, Iowa
Prater's interceptions are about to drop precipitously. Not because the returning All-Big Ten cornerback is about to get any worse, but with his accolades and the uncertainty in the rest of the Iowa secondary, there isn't going to be a whole lot of sense in testing Prater anymore.
Safety Aaron Henry, Senior, Wisconsin
Henry, a cornerback for the Badgers until 2010, made a successful transition to safety by registering 58 tackles, seven PBUs, and a pair of interceptions last year. With a year of experience at free safety under his belt and a wealth of athleticism to boot, Henry should be even better in 2011.
Safety Trenton Robinson, Senior, Michigan State
It's hard to argue with results, so it's hard to argue with Trenton Robinson's eight passes broken up and four interceptions; only Northwestern cornerback Jordan Mabin had more passes defended last season, with 14 PBUs and a pick. Robinson is also the leading tackler among returning MSU starters, so look for a big senior year in center field for him.
Also watch for: Iowa CB-turned-safety Micah Hyde might have a case for being on this list after scoring two touchdowns off interceptions last year, but he’ll need to produce at his new position for Iowa before any accolades come his way. True sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen is a rising star in Purdue’s secondary after two defensive scores of his own; he’ll be getting All-American consideration before his career’s over. Also, as mentioned before, Jordan Mabin led the conference in passes broken up by a pretty substantial margin. That's worth something.
Derek Dimke, Senior, Illinois
Dimke is the returning first-team All-Big Ten kicker, and for good reason; the Lou Groza watch list member was 24-29 on field goals last year, and he's got one of the strongest legs in the conference. Look for another all-conference performance this year.
Brad Nortman, Senior, Wisconsin
Not only is Nortman one of the best (if not often-used) punters in the conference, he also led the Big Ten in rushing average after gaining 17 yards on a fake punt in Wisconsin's 31-30 win over Iowa last year. Sadly, Nortman's one rushing attempt did not qualify him for the official league crown. With the top three punters in the 2010 Big Ten all graduating, Nortman has an opportunity to step up and put together a big senior year.
Tags: Aaron Henry, Adam Jacobi, Alfonzo Dennard, All-Big Ten Team, Andrew Sweat, Baker Steinkuhler, Big Ten, BJ Cunningham, Boom Herron, Brad Nortman., Brandon Graham, Bryan Bulaga, Cameron Meredith, Chris Borland, Corey Wootton, Culmer St. Jean, Damarlo Belcher, Dan Persa, Danan Hughes, David Molk, Denard Robinson, Derek Dimke, Derek Moye, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, DeVier Posey, DJK, Drake Dunsmore, Edwin Baker, Evan Royster, Frank Wycheck, Gabe Carimi, Illinois, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Jaamal Berry, James Morris, James White, Jared Crick, Jason Ford, JB Shugarts, Jerel Worthy, Jeremy Ebert, Joe Foreman, John Clay, John Moffitt, Jordan Mabin, Josh Oglesby, Keshawn Martin, Kevin Zeitler, Kirk Cousins, Kyler Reed, Lavonte David, Le'Veon Bell, Marcus Coker, Marvin McNutt, Matt McGloin, Micah Hyde, Michael Mauti, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Adams, Mike Brewster, Mike Daniels, Mike Martin, Montee Ball, Nate Stupar, Nathan Scheelhaase, Nathan Williams, Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Prince Amukamara, Purdue, Rex Burkhead, Ricardo Allen, Riley Reiff, Rob Bolden, Robert Gallery, Rod Smith, Russell Wilson, Shaun Prater, Silas Redd, Taylor Martinez, Terrelle Pryor, Terrelle Pryor, Tim Dwight, Trenton Robinson, Vince Browne, William Campbell, Wisconsin
Posted on: August 1, 2011 4:22 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2011 4:24 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has a reputation for being a bit of a hothead. A reputation that was only solidified during Nebraska's 9-6 loss to Texas A&M in College Station last November. That's the game which most people will remember seeing Pelini lay into quarterback Taylor Martinez on the sideline in the first half.
However, that wasn't the only time during that game that Pelini seemed angry. Just about every shot of him on the sideline that night showed Pelini displaying a face that could only be described as "oh my god that guy is going to kill EVERYBODY." It was a rage that was understandable considering his team was called for 16 penalties totalling 145 yards compared to the two false starts that were called on the Aggies.
Well, for an insight into what really lit Pelini's fire that night, in an interview with the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel, Pelini said that the refs that night told him his team was going to get the shaft.
I'd been on a late, tight deadline that wild and crazy Saturday night when Pelini cemented his image as a raging volcano. There were 16 penalties against Nebraska. I ripped Pelini rather than the officials. I thought that he brought the chaos on himself. But I had heard plenty of stories since. I needed to ask a question I wished I'd had the opportunity to ask after that game.By doing it different, Pelini explains that he'd have been just as angry, but he wouldn't have shown the anger and caused so many people to hide behind their couches that night.
Now whether or not Pelini is telling the truth about what the officials told him is another story. If it is, that's not exactly the type of thing that any conference would want to hear about taking place in its games. Whether Nebraska was leaving for the Big Ten or not, the idea that a conference would stack the deck against a team isn't good for anybody.
Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:15 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Coming into this year's media gathering, the Big Ten decided not to hold its annual media poll with the usual preseason player of the year, predicted order of finish (heretofore limited to the top three finishers), and all of that. It seemed odd, but from the Big Ten's perspective, it wasn't exactly a vital aspect of the whole operation.
Funny thing, though; just because the Big Ten isn't holding a poll doesn't mean it's not going to happen. So lo and behold, 24 beat writers from around the conference -- two per school -- got together and held their own poll anyway.
Here's the breakdown from the Detroit Free-Press, listed with the total amount of voting points (six for first, five for second, on down the line) with first-place votes in parenthesis.
1. Nebraska (19) 139
1. Wisconsin (22) 141
Title game matchups:
First of all, there are scant few surprises herein. Nebraska's the class of the conference, Wisconsin's next, and there's a pretty big dropoff after that. That said, whoever decided Michigan was going to win the Legends Division in Brady Hoke's first year -- the rebuilding period right after another rebuilding period -- should stop sending joke ballots and ruining it for the rest of the readers. Another demerit for whoever decided to put somebody below Minnesota, since the Gophers are just a mess right now.
As for the Leaders Divison, no surprises here, aside from a preposterous first-place vote for Penn State. Ohio State would be worth a look here if Terrelle Pryor were still on the five-game suspension, but with Joe Bauserman (or whoever else) under center, the Buckeyes are decidedly inferior to Wisconsin -- so long as Russell Wilson's healthy, anyway.
Speaking of quarterbacks -- this would be the year to celebrate them. The top three offensive players are all QBs, according to voters, and five of the 10 players who received votes were QBs. Here's the breakdown (again, with first-place votes parenthesized):
1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (14) 52
Yes, that's two different Wisconsin tailbacks on the list, and at least one will likely be in the top five of voting at the end of the season. As for the leading vote-getter, it's worth pointing out that Robinson's most dangerous weapon is still his feet... and Michigan's planning on limiting his carries this season. Yes, that's a wise move for keeping Robinson healthy, but the more he's standing still in the pocket and throwing, the less he's playing to his strengths. He'll still make it work, in all likelihood, since it's Denard flippin' Robinson we're talking about here, but those gaudy numbers we saw last season may be coming down a bit. Just a bit.
In other voting, Jared Crick dominated defensive player of the year voting, and Bret Bielema was named the top coach in the Big Ten over close runners-up Kirk Ferentz, Bo Pelini, and Pat Fitzgerald (in that order). Crick is a fine choice, and the four coaches who led voting deserved to. One could make a good case for Pat Fitzgerald to be higher, but these are small quibbles; we're not talking about Ron Zook ending up in second place or anything.
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Big Ten, Big Ten Preseason Poll, Bo Pelini, Brady Hoke, Dan Persa, Denard Robinson, Derek Moye, Edwin Baker, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, James White, Jared Crick, Joe Bauserman, Kirk Cousins, Kirk Ferentz, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Brewster, Montee Ball, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pat Fitzgerald, Penn State, Preseason Polls, Purdue, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, Taylor Martinez, Terrelle Pryor, Wisconsin