Tag:Denard Robinson
Posted on: October 8, 2011 11:26 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 11:31 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Michigan 42, Northwestern 24

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN WON. After a slow start, Michigan outscored Northwestern 28-0 in the second half to earn a 42-24 victory in Evanston. Denard Robinson overcame three early interceptions to lead the Wolverines with 325 yards passing and 117 yards on the ground. The win pushes Michigan's record to 6-0, its best start since 2006 when the Wolverines opened the season 11-0.

WHY MICHIGAN WON: For the first half, Northwestern looked like the sharper team; the Wildcats led 24-14 and that was only after a pair of dropped passes in the end zone by Northwestern receivers before a half-ending field goal. Michigan came out strong in the second half, and once the turnovers started for Northwestern, this game was in hand for the Wolverines.

WHEN MICHIGAN WON: Michigan took the lead in the third quarter, but this one didn't appear to be truly in the bag until Northwestern failed on a 4th down conversion with a little over seven minutes left -- and more on that play in a bit. The Wildcats wouldn't get the ball back until there was 2 minutes left and an 18-point Michigan lead, and at that point the game's functionally over.

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: This was Michigan's first game away from home, and also a quality test of Michigan's mettle -- especially with a 10-point deficit. Denard Robinson, in particular, righted his ship and got out of the second half without committing a turnover, which was instrumental in Michigan's comeback. The Wolverines don't have much time to enjoy the victory, though, as a road game at Michigan State looms this week.

WHAT NORTHWESTERN LOST: Believe it or not, Northwestern's now on a three-game losing streak, dropping contests to Army, Illinois, and now Michigan. The Wildcats surrendered a late, backbreaking touchdown drive to both Army and Illinois, and now the complete second half collapse is on Northwestern's resume. Dan Persa at least looked good this week, though certainly not at his 2010 levels of play. This game might have gone a different way if Northwestern played as sharp as it did in the first half, but alas, no such luck -- and now Northwestern is 2-3. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: On Northwestern's 4th down play mentioned earlier, Persa had his helmet ripped off by a blitzing Jordan Kovacs in the pocket. He stayed up and scrambled to get the play off, but it feel incomplete. Pat Fitzgerald screamed for a face mask penalty, which he didn't get... but Fitzgerald did get a 15-yard penalty for his efforts to persuade the officials. At a high volume. Two inches from the officials' faces. Oh, and Persa was ruled down at the point where Kovacs took off his helmet, so it went down as a 10-yard sack. Not fun times for the Wildcats, there.

Posted on: October 7, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 2:41 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 6

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. 

This is a bit of a bizarro week in your college football diet, as most of the big games on Saturday will be taking place earlier in the day while our nighttime offerings lack some of those bolder flavors we all love. But that's fine, because with some of the entrees you'll be served during the day, you might not have enough room for that 32-ounce steak once dinner comes around.

Though hopefully you have room for one of those steaks at breakfast.

BREAKFAST

#3 Oklahoma vs. #11 Texas - ABC 12pm ET

This is a pretty wonderful way to start the day, isn't it? There are a lot of great rivalries in the world of college football, and this one has to be considered one of the best. For years the winner of this game basically helped decide who was going to win the Big 12, and it will go a long way in deciding the conference champion again this year. Also, Texas finds itself ranked near the top ten once again after a terrible 2010 season, and while things seemed to have turned around in Austin, this game will be the first real indication of how far the Longhorns have come. - Tom Fornelli 

#13 Georgia Tech vs. Maryland - ESPNU 12pm ET

The Yellow Jackets keep scoring in bunches and riding their offense to methodical wins, while Maryland desperately is trying to put the pieces back together following a pair of home losses.  The Terps offense finally got back in a groove against Towson, particularly getting a boost from the return of wide receivers Quintin McCree and Ronnie Tyler.  Maryland's high-tempo offense must keep drives alive in order to give their defense time to rest on the sideline.  Additionally, the defense must get stops on third down or Georgia Tech will slowly wear down Maryland on both sides of the ball.  Let's casually call this one "The Friedgen Bowl" since former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen said he "could care less about Maryland" and "is flying a Georgia Tech flag now." - Chip Patterson

North Carolina vs. Louisville - ESPN2 12pm ET

Louisville's offense is struggling, averaging less than 20 points per game and ranking dead last in the Big East.  The matchup against North Carolina's talented front seven will provide plenty of work for the Cardinals inexperienced offensive line.  Louisville's greatest strength on defense might be their secondary, but this Tar Heels team has become uncharacteristically run-heavy.  The emergence of Gio Bernard has changed the face of the offense, as the redshirt freshman will look to continue his streak of 100+ yard games to four.  Something that hasn't been done by a North Carolina running back since Ethan Horton in 1984. - CP

LUNCH

#1 LSU vs. #17 Florida - CBS 3:30pm ET

What happens when a Honey Badger smells blood? We may find out when Tyrann Mathieu and the rest of the LSU defense hosts a Gator attack missing John Brantley and still licking the wounds from its strangling at the hands of Alabama. Whatever hope Florida has will rest in their defense shutting down the Bayou Bengals' power-running game, but the return of the bruising Spencer Ware from a hamstring problem won't help them. - Jerry Hinnen [Video Preview]

#20 Kansas State vs. Missouri - ABC 3:30pm ET

Raise your hand if you thought before the season started that Kansas State and Missouri would be pegged as a game appearing on a national network during the middle of the season. Okay, now put your hand down, liar. Missouri has been a bit up and down this season as James Franklin has grown accustomed to filling Blaine Gabbert's shoes, and he doesn't have the easiest defense to go against this week. Then there's Kansas State which has caught just about all of us by surprise so far this year, as Bill Snyder has once again lifted this program back into Big 12 contention. - TF

#21 Virginia Tech vs. Miami - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

Both of these teams need a win if they plan to contend with Georgia Tech for the Coastal Division title, but neither team has put together a truly impressive performance that makes me think they could.  It will be a chance for both teams to prove (to themselves, really) that they belong at the top of the ACC.  Miami has been wildly inconsistent on both sides of the ball this season, but get a huge boost with preseason all-conference safety Ray-Ray Armstrong returning from suspension.  The Hokies' offense will need more than David Wilson to beat the Canes, and that responsibility falls on quarterback Logan Thomas.  Thomas' development has taken longer than some expected, but this would be a great time for him to grow up and lead VT to a huge home win over their longtime rivals. - CP

Penn State vs. Iowa - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

This has been a rather one-sided affair over the last decade or so, but give Iowa-PSU credit: the games are generally exciting, with six of the last 10 meetings featuring either single-score margins or a 4th quarter lead change. Expect more of the same this week, with Iowa bringing the conference's most prolific passing game (seriously) to town and Penn State hoping to turn their offensive fortunes around against a surprisingly green Hawkeye defense. - Adam Jacobi

DINNER

#10 Arkansas vs. #15 Auburn - ESPN 7pm ET

Last year's meeting produced an SEC regulation-time record 108 points, and judging by Tyler Wilson's 500-yard passing day last week (and Texas A&M's 381 yards rushing), Arkansas looks ready to do their part for a repeat performance. But this time, the Tigers have to hope their improving defense can keep them out of a shootout--a struggling passing game has Gus Malzahn's unit leaning heavily on Michael Dyer and ground-out first downs. - JH

Northwestern vs. #12 Michigan - Big Ten Network 7pm ET

If it weren't for that Russell Wilson fellow over in Madison, this game might feature the best two QBs in the conference, as Dan Persa leads the Northwestern charge against visiting Denard Robinson and the Wolverines. Persa shined in his first week back from that Achilles injury last year, but missed the last few minutes for precautionary reasons after an awkward tackle. Can Northwestern make headway against a newly re-energized Michigan defense, or will the Wolverines keep rolling along? - AJ

#7 Stanford vs. Colorado - Versus 7:30pm ET

Colorado isn't terribly good this season but the Buffaloes are rebuilding their program under new head coach Jon Embree and do have several weapons Stanford has to contain. The Buffs are 36th in passing offense and sophomore Paul Richardson is averaging 95 yards receiving a game. As always though, the reason to tune into this game is Heisman candidate Andrew Luck and a balanced attack that can beat you through the air or on the ground. Plus, you never know when something like this is going to happen and make you say wow. - Bryan Fischer

#14 Nebraska vs. Ohio State - ABC 8pm ET

Before this season, this game looked like the second half of a brutal conference opening for Nebraska. Wisconsin held up its end of the bargain last week by beating the Huskers 48-17, but Ohio State is hardly the challenge it used to be without Terrelle Pryor and a host of other stars. If Nebraska's going to show it belongs among the Big Ten elite, it has to bring the pain against a reeling OSU ballclub this week. - AJ

LATE NIGHT SNACK

BYU vs. San Jose State - ESPNU 10:15pm ET

Not exactly a marquee matchup, I know, but it's football and it's on your television. Plus, aside from getting pasted by Utah a few weeks ago, BYU hasn't played a game this season that didn't come down to the final minutes, so the possibility of some midnight HAM is totally in play here. - TF
Posted on: October 6, 2011 3:06 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 6


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 dug a pretty deep hole for myself in the first week of the season. After picking 15 games that week, I found myself three games behind both Woman and Machine. I don't know what happened that week, maybe it was because I hadn't seen any teams play this season, and I didn't have much to base my selections on. Maybe I just wanted to make this competition more challenging.

I don't know.

All I do know is that I'm out of the hole. Yes, it took a month, but after Machine imploded on its own, I have now caught Woman. This week I overtake her and reclaim the throne for men everywhere.

Oregon (-24 1/2) vs. Cal - Thurday, 9pm (All times Eastern)

Man - Ever since losing to LSU the Ducks offense seems to be on a mission to prove that the opening night debacle was a fluke. I don't think it was, but I also don't doubt Oregon's ability to put up 60 on Cal. So while I'm leery of this spread, I'm rolling with it anyway. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "How am I supposed to make this pick without an advance peek at the Ducks new sexy-time home jerseys? Here's how: Eight of the last 11 games between the two schools have been decided by 10 points or less." Pick: Cal

Machine - The Machine prefers the hippies who live amongst the trees, not in them. Oregon in a rout, 49-17. Pick: Oregon

Georgia Tech (-15 1/2) vs. Maryland - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I don't think Maryland is going to win this game, but I really feel that at some point the Terps are going to play a game on offense that is much better than anything we've seen the last few weeks. I'm hoping that it's this Saturday, because I'm taking those two touchdowns. Pick: Maryland

Woman - "Maryland, you're up against a team averaging 50 points a game, half your defense is sidelined, you have freshmen playing in their places, and your offense is still trying to 'find itself' - kinda hard when it can't stay on the field for more than thirty seconds. But hey, how 'bout them uniforms!" Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - The option offense that Georgia Tech runs is a reminder of a world in which The Machine did not exist, therefore The Machine refuses to acknowledge it even exists. Maryland wins 27-20. Pick: Maryland

Oklahoma (-9 1/2) vs. Texas - Saturday, 12pm

Man - There's a part of me hoping that Texas can pick up a win this weekend just because I think it'd make the rest of the Big 12 season incredibly interesting, but even though we already know Bryan Harsin knows how to beat Oklahoma, I'm just not convinced that the Longhorns are ready for this yet. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Just heard an analyst say the Red River Rivalry is a traditionally close game. Really? I checked scores and the winner has prevailed by 10 or more points 7 times out of the last 10 years. With an experienced Landry Jones pitted against a QB committee, it's gonna be 8 out of 11." Pick: Oklahoma

Machine - We have a clean sweep here, as The Machine tells us that Landry Jones will throw for 428 yards and 4 touchdowns as Oklahoma knocks off Texas 37-20. Pick: Oklahoma

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Miami - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I feel like I'm reading a story about another Miami player being lost for the season every day, and even though the Hokies got a wake-up call from Clemson last week, I still think Virginia Tech is a superior team to Miami. Pick: Virginia Tech

Woman - "A blood rivalry in one of the toughest venues in the country. Miami's got a strong defense but the Hokies need to get the taste of Clemson out of their mouths. They'll win but it won't be a runaway. (And hey, Hokies: bonus points for anyone who posts a pic of David Wilson's tricked-out maroon and burnt orange 1978 Thunderbird. I am jonesing to see it.)" Pick: Miami

Machine - The Machine isn't worried about Virginia Tech's performance last week, but it does seem concerned about all the "viruses" that Miami is dealing with on its injury report. Tech wins 31-17. Pick: Virginia Tech

Kansas State vs. Missouri (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Bill Snyder has made me a believer in the Wildcats, as has Arthur Brown and that defense. James Franklin has not done the same for the Missouri offense. You want to give me points with a team I believe in at home? I'll take them. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "So, Vegas is picking a .500 team on the road over an undefeated top-20 team? I guess not enough people were betting." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - James Franklin goes off for 410 total yards and 4 touchdowns as Mizzou puts an end to Kansas State's unbeaten season, 38-14. Pick: Missouri

LSU (-13 1/2) vs. Florida - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Here's a better bet for this game: How long until Jeff Driskel decides he doesn't want to play football. I mean, the freshman began his career last week coming on for an injured John Brantley against Alabama. This week he gets the LSU defense. That is no way to begin a career. Pick: LSU

Woman - "Les is more." Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine has no concept of fear, so it obviously has no idea what Jeff Driskel is going to be dealing with on Saturday night. Florida wins 24-20. Pick: Florida

Arkansas (-10 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 7pm

Man - If this game is anything like the contest between these two schools that we saw last year, it's going to be very fun, and it's not going to be over before midnight. Still, the more I think about it the less I feel like I can trust the Auburn offense to keep up with Arkansas after Michael Dyer collapses from exhaustion following his 83rd carry in the third quarter. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "Auburn pulled it out against a scattered South Carolina last week but they were just staving off the inevitable. The Tigers are still last in the SEC in total defense, pass defense and scoring defense and first in the hearts of an Arkansas team that wants revenge. (By the way, I have unearthed some rare NSFW archival footage of native Auburn fans watching last year's Auburn/Arkansas game. Particularly fascinating are the propane tanks inside the house.  Now I know how Margaret Mead must have felt when she first set foot in Samoa.)" Pick: Arkansas

Machine - The Machine doesn't see quite the same shootout we saw last year, but there's not a whole lot of defense in this one either. Arkansas overpowers the Tigers in the end and wins 41-30. Pick: Arkansas

Northwestern vs. Michigan (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - Northwestern is just a different team with Dan Persa, and I feel like this could be the toughest test the Michigan defense has faced all year. I'm not sure who is going to win or lose, but I'm pretty sure it's going to come down to the final minutes, so I'm taking the points. Pick: Northwestern

Woman - "Northwestern has committed a lot to its 'Persa Strong' campaign. Maybe too much. They'll slap on some Kinesio and stick him out there again but I'm betting he's sidelined before the end of the third quarter and this becomes a blowout." Pick: Michigan

Machine - Apparently The Machine reads Denard Robinson's now deleted Twitter account, as Denard struggles on Saturday night and Northwestern prevails 33-20. Pick: Northwestern

Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - So far this season I've seen Texas Tech struggle at times with Kansas and Nevada the last two weeks. Sure, I've also seen Texas A&M collapse against Oklahoma State and Arkansas, but Texas Tech isn't Arkansas or Oklahoma State. The Aggies right the ship this week. Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "Before the pick: After 70 years, we need a little sad goodbye music to commemorate the end of this historic rivalry. Okay, back to business. Hey, Aggies, once burned, shame on you. Twice burned, are you flipping kidding? I'm not putting my hand into the flames a third time, especially when I'm getting points." Pick: Texas Tech

Machine - The second half collapses end this week, as the Aggies have a relatively easy time in Lubbock, winning 45-27. Pick: Texas A&M

Nebraska (-10 1/2) vs. Ohio State - Saturday, 8pm 

Man - I honestly have no faith in either one of these offenses right now, but I'm more confident that Nebraska actually has an offense. I'm not sure I can say the same about Ohio State. Pick: Nebraska

Woman - "After last week's respective debacles, this game feels like I'll be watching two bloodied fighters hoping the other taps the canvas first.  The Buckeyes might put up a fight for the first five minutes but the Huskers ground and pound will drop them soon enough." Pick: Nebraska

Machine - Nebraska enjoys Big Ten games at home a lot more than it does on the road, and the Huskers knock off Ohio State 24-20. Pick: Ohio State

Standings

Season Record (Last week)

1. Woman 34-21 (6-4)
2. Man 34-21 (7-3)
3. Machine 29-26 (6-4) 
Posted on: September 29, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 12:14 am
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 5


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.

Good news, my fellow containers of the Y chromosome: while we have yet to overtake her, we have crept ever closer to Woman this week in the standings. Woman is reeling from her first losing week of the season, and it has her shaken to the core. She's looking over her shoulder and she sees us drawing nearer. Her confidence is shaken. 

She knows it's only a matter of time before Man rises up and takes his rightful place atop the throne.

And that time is now.

Pitt vs. South Florida (-2 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All Times Eastern)

Man - Is there anything more exciting than the beginning of Big East football season? Of course there is, in fact, there are a lot of things more exciting. I'll still watch anyway, and since I had to suffer through 60 minutes of a Pitt game last weekend, I'm picking South Florida on principle. Pick: South Florida

Woman - "Skip Holtz's Bulls smacked Notre Dame around who, in turn, smacked Pitt around.  That should make this pick easy but a short week + travel for South Florida and Heinz Field + two embarrassing losses in a row + points for the Panthers makes me waver.  (By the way, am I the last person to realize the Holtz family are living the song 'SKIP to my LOU'?  Ewwww.)" Pick: Pitt

Machine - The Machine foresees a bad night for B.J. Daniels in Ketchup Stadium on Thursday night, as he throws 3 costly interceptions and the Panthers emerge victorious, 27-20. Pick: Pitt

Michigan (-20 1/2) vs. Minnesota - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This is a tough one to call. Not because I don't think Michigan is going to win, but because I'm not sure I trust Michigan's defense enough to give up nearly three touchdowns in the spread. Though I suppose that if Michigan could beat San Diego State by 21, then it should be able to handle Minnesota. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Ah, yes, that storied rivalry known as the Little Brown Jug Bowl. Word is, next year they're changing it to the 'Little Brown Change Dish You Made for Your Dad at Summer Camp'.Bowl." Pick: Michigan

Machine - It seems the Machine is more committed to making Denard Robinson a pocket passer than Brady Hoke is, as Robinson throws for over 300 yards while rushing for only 27. Michigan wins rather easily, but Minnesota covers the spread, 38-20. Pick: Minnesota

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - The last meeting between these two teams before they're conference rivals once again. I picked Texas A&M to end its losing streak against Oklahoma State last week, and the Aggies let me down. I don't know if I'm ready to make that mistake again. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "'Welcome to the SEC, Aggies! Please accept these brass knuckles in your nether regions from Bobby Petrino.' 'Why, thank you, Razorbacks! Please enjoy our blood curdling practice cheers outside your hotel window at 3am.'" Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - You may want to reconsider the SEC, Aggies. The Machine tells us of a ritual sacrifice taking place in Dallas on Saturday morning, as Arkansas wins 42-21. Pick: Arkansas

Illinois (-6 1/2) vs. Northwestern - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I was at the meeting between these two teams last season at Wrigley Field and I still remember Mikel LeShoure running wild on the Northwestern defense. I'm not a big fan of trusting Ron Zook with anything, but even if Dan Persa does play this weekend, he's going to have a bit of rust to shake off. Pick: Illinois

Woman - "Oh, Sweet Sioux, here we - yawn - go again.  With or without Persa, the Wildcats are a strong team with the extra bye week to prepare. And give me the points from a Ron Zook-coached team any day." Pick: Northwestern

Machine - The Machine believes in the Fighting Zooks, but it also knows that Pat Fitzgerald's teams always keep things close. Illinois wins 24-21. Pick: Northwestern

South Carolina (-10 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Before last week's game against Vanderbilt, South Carolina had failed to cover in any of its first three games this season. Which makes that spread seem a bit large, because although I know Auburn isn't the same team this season, it's offense has still proved to be pretty potent. I'm going to go with Auburn to at least keep it interesting. Or, more accurately, I'm going with Stephen Garcia allowing Auburn to keep it interesting. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "Seems like a mighty big line for an offense whose quarterback has thrown nearly as many picks as passes, until you realize he's up against a team who would have their hands full defensing this." Pick: South Carolina

Machine - Remember the Georgia Dome! South Carolina gets its revenge for the SEC title game last season, kicking the defending champs while they're down, 34-20. Pick: South Carolina

Kansas State vs. Baylor (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - At some point this year you're likely to see the "Robert Griffin For Heisman" bandwagon rolling through your town, and when you do see it, I'll be the guy driving it. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "I don't care what record Kansas State brings to this contest, until Robert Griffin III does something - anything - to prove otherwise, I'm doubling down on the amazing Baylor QB. A game I will not miss." Pick: Baylor

Machine - Not even the Machine is impervious to RG3, though it sees Griffin only being able to complete 70% of his passes this week. Baylor rolls 38-14. Pick: Baylor

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 6pm

Man - I understand that expecting a Clemson meltdown is the natural thing to do, but at the same time, this Clemson team has already survived contests against Florida State and Auburn. Virginia Tech hasn't played anybody yet, and while I think playing at home gives Tech the edge, I don't think it's going to come easy, either. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Virginia Tech should be stuffed on cupcakes by now and ready for some real football. Meanwhile, despite tougher opposition, I haven't been overwhelmed by Clemson's play and think the bubble will burst on Saturday. But I'm going to guess they'll cover." Pick: Clemson

Machine - It won't be very high-scoring, but the Machine sees an exciting game in our future. After a touchdown run by Andre Ellington gives Clemson a 21-20 lead with less than two minutes left, Logan Thomas leads a nice drive to set up a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to give the Hokies a 23-21 victory. Pick: Clemson

Florida vs. Alabama (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - I haven't seen much of the Gators this season, but from what I'm told, John Brantley hasn't been completely terrible at all. Which is definitely a bonus for Florida. That being said, Brantley hasn't had to face this Alabama defense yet. I expect a tough, low-scoring battle in this one, but I feel like Trent Richardson will break through at some point, and it may be all Alabama needs. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "Florida under Will Muschamp and his offensive coach Charlie Weis is strong in new, exciting ways, but I just can't seen them holding back Satan Saban and the Crimson juggernaut. Maybe next year." Pick: Alabama

Machine - I hope you like defense, because the Machine says there will be a lot of it in The Swamp on Saturday night. The Tide doesn't exactly roll as much as it drowns. Alabama wins 13-7. Pick: Alabama

Wisconsin (-9 1/2) vs. Nebraska - Saturday, 8pm

Man - This seems like a trap. That spread just feels really big considering this game is between the two teams who are supposed to be the best in the Big Ten. Then you start thinking about how Nebraska has looked so far this season compared to Wisconsin, and it makes a bit more sense. That being said, who exactly has Wisconsin played? It's hard to make this call, but I think Taylor Martinez makes some key mistakes in a hostile environment on Saturday night and the Badgers capitalize. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Welcome to the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, Round One. Of course, this version is going to be played in the cacaphonous craziness that is Camp Randall, led by a Badgers team with a dominant defense and a sterling new QB. By January, Nebraska should have the kinks worked out but this week they will yield to a superior home team." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine says "If there's one Big Ten game you're going to watch this weekend, make it this one, because it's going to be crazy! Wisconsin holds off Nebraska 35-34." In other news, if your Playstation starts talking to you, it's probably time to turn it off or get some sleep. Pick: Nebraska

Stanford (-20 1/2) vs. UCLA - Saturday, 10:30pm

Man - If Jim Harbuagh were still around, this one would be easy to pick. With David Shaw in charge, I'm just not as sure that Stanford won't slow things down a bit once this game is in hand late, and UCLA has been somewhat bi-polar this season, so I'm not sure which team to expect. Screw it, I'll go with Stanford. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Through some hard-hitting investigative journalism, I've procured copies of Stanford's playbook and UCLA's. So... yeah. Stanford wins but without star linebacker Shayne Skov, I think they won't quite cover." Pick: UCLA 

Machine - Andrew Luck is an unstoppable killing machine. He throws for 6 touchdowns and runs for another as Stanford obliterates the Bruins, 52-17. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 28-17 (4-6)
2. Man 27-18 (6-4)
3. Machine 23-22 (6-4)
Posted on: September 26, 2011 5:29 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 5:34 pm
 

Big Ten poll reactions, Week 4

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 the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

7/7. Wisconsin

I've said for the entire year that Wisconsin's closer to fourth or fifth in terms of talent and play quality, and there's nothing the Badgers have done to indicate that they're not one of the five best teams in the nation. Unfortunately, the Badgers have also played noooobody, especially compared to the six teams ranked above the Badgers, so I can't muster up any disapproval of Wisconsin sitting at seventh in both polls. Fortunately, the non-conference slate is over, and Wisconsin's playing a real opponent this week. Finally.

8/8. Nebraska

Hey, there's Wisconsin's conference opener right there, Nebraska! Nebraska's now only one spot behind Wisconsin, which if you've actually seen both teams play this year, is preposterous. The Huskers' trip to Madison is, I suspect, going to push both teams back toward where I think they both belong--mainly, Wisconsin at 5, and Nebraska at 15. So if Wisconsin wins by two scores, like I'm predicting, I don't think Nebraska falls very far in my rankings. That's what the 15th best team ought to do in a road game at the fifth best team, isn't it? Of course, in Win Go Up Lose Go Down Poll World, Nebraska's about to tumble, but that just seems like a correction that I don't need to make on my end. And yes, Sensitive Nebraska Fan, I am totally biased against your team now and forever, even while I still think the Huskers win the division title. Whatever you need to sleep at night.

19/19. Michigan

Michigan as the third-highest ranked team in the Big Ten? Shows you what going 4-0 gets you, I suppose. This is higher than I have Michigan, although not by as much as before, and as long as Denard Robinson remains bulletproof things will continue to improve in Ann Arbor. It's just, jeez, that last half of the schedule might mean a 1-5 finish for the Maize and Blue. I'm letting it affect my voting habits for Michigan. I shouldn't yet. Punish the teams the losses they have and not the ones that loom, right? Right. So I suppose No. 19 is fine -- for now.

24/22. Illinois

This ranking is about right. Illinois continues its unlikely unbeaten spree and will probably do so until at least October 15 when it hosts Ohio State. But honestly, that's going to be like a late-oughts Boise State 6-0: One tough opponent, and the rest a set of cupcakes that all but the worst BCS conference teams could go 5-0 against. And yet no matter how many qualifiers you attach to it, unbeaten is still unbeaten, and that puts Illinois on a higher level than 8 of their conference mates so far. Borderline Top 25 works for Illinois until the Ohio State game; that's when their conference season really kicks off.

NR/25. Michigan State

Sure, the Spartans slaughtered Central Michigan. I still don't trust that rushing attack after how well Notre Dame shut it down, and I won't trust it until MSU runs on a real defense. Sayyy, Michigan State goes to Ohio State this week! Show me something good, Sparty, and I'll be happy to return MSU to my Top 25 at once.

Also receiving votes: Michigan State (51 AP votes), Ohio State (15 AP votes, 61 coaches votes), Penn State (12 AP votes, 34 coaches votes), Northwestern (5 coaches votes) (what seriously oh god why)
Posted on: September 26, 2011 10:07 am
Edited on: September 26, 2011 2:20 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 4



Posted by Bryan Fischer


As much as it frustrates the rest of the country, there's a reason why the SEC is continually touted as the nation's best conference. There's a reason why they've won five straight BCS championships.There's a reason why the league is so competitive. And it's not hard to figure out either.

Defense, and lots of it. S-E-C Speed, S-E-C D.

With nearly half the league ranked 75th or worse in total offense through four games, five ranked teams and a 25-4 non-conference record don't happen by accident. Six teams are in the top 30 in scoring defense, including Alabama and Florida in the top five.

For LSU, the fearsome part of their defense is the backend. Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu repeated as Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week thanks to six tackles and two turnovers against West Virginia. A week earlier, his teammate Morris Claiborne was tabbed for the award after two interceptions against Mississippi State. If there's a better pair of corners in the country on one team, they're in the NFL. Mathieu's interception that he took down to the one right before halftime helped stretch the Tigers' lead to 20 and Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown ended all hopes of a Mountaineers rally and kept momentum planted firmly on the LSU sideline.

"West Virginia did a very good job, but our defense showed up to play and we got off to a nice start," Les Miles said after the game. " Morris Claiborne’s return was right on time, and we were able to finish it off. We made some mistakes, but we overcame that adversity."

What was surprising Saturday was just how little pressure LSU's front seven were able to get on opposing quarterback Geno Smith. He finished with a school-record 468 yards of total offense as the Tigers game up more yards in a game than they had since 2005. Giving up chunks of yards to a Dana Holgorsen-led offense is nothing new, but what kept the game in LSU's favor was the big play ability of coordinator John Chavis' defense.

Ultimately, the Tigers don't win by scoring, they win by scoring on defense.

Mathieu, who wears Patrick Peterson's old number seven, is as ball-hawking as you can get. Peterson was a one-man island last season, often taking away half of the field by himself in zone coverage if he wasn't locking up his man one-on-one. While Mathieu isn't as good in coverage as the man he took over for, he has a great feel for the game and reads plays as well as anybody on the back half. When he roams or blitzes, things just happen - as they did in Morgantown on Saturday. Despite losing Peterson, this secondary is better and deeper than it was a year ago as Claiborne and others have elevated their game. As one NFL scout told CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel, there are actually more than four NFL players among this group.

Read more about Tyrann Mathieu in Bruce Feldman's Big Picture

"The offensive game plan was not a problem," Holgorsen said. "Turning the ball over four times is a problem, and they have something to do with that too. They have a pretty good defense."

LSU has scored first and led at halftime in each of the Tigers' games this year. It's all part of the plan: Score first, play defense, be opporunistic and win the fourth quarter.

Alabama uses a similar strategy. Before the season, one person inside the program said what many had been saying: this defense was better than 2009's championship squad and might be one of the most talented ever under Nick Saban. They might have an even faster secondary than LSU and use the speed to play everything in front of them, swarming to ball seconds after the snap.

Against Arkansas, they also delivered shot, after shot, after shot on quarterback Tyler Wilson. The 3-4 the team runs allows Saban and coordinator Kirby Smart to mix in plenty of zone blitzes to create pressure on quarterbacks who rarely can tell where it's coming from before the snap. The Tide recruit athletes who can move well in they scheme more than anything and that's translated into a fearsome unit that is living up to their reputation as the best in the country. They play smart and play well.

"Well we set out to establish that we were going against the best offense in the SEC and a lot of people were labeling us as the best defense in the SEC, so we wanted to go out and show people what we were capable of with all cylinders turning," linebacker Dont'a Hightower said.

Though the highlight of the game with Arkansas was Marquis Maze's punt return for a touchdown, that was nearly the straw that broke the razorback's back. As Saban and others admitted it was a defensive play, DeQuan Menzie's interception, that shifted the momentum after the offense couldn't convert on the goal line.

"That was a big turning point in the game from a momentum stand point, and you know, we need to make more plays like that, get more turnovers," Saban said. "People are going to see what we do and figure out ways to deal with it. Our challenge is to get better every day."

That's a scary thought - for Alabama or for any SEC defense. Can't wait to see them match up with LSU on November 5 as much as the offensive coordinators do not.

Stat of the week

After wrapping up a 56-31 win over Rice, just about everybody was talking about Heisman candidate and Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III. Look up the box score and it's easy to see why: he went a ho-hum 29-33 for 338 yards and five touchdowns as the Bears racked up 673 yards of offense. Even more eye-popping was the fact that he threw more touchdowns than incompletions for the second consecutive game. Griffin has also thrown more touchdowns (13) than incompletions (12) this season. He is completing 85% of his passes, hasn't thrown an interception and is throwing for nearly 12 yards per attempt. As one would expect, he tops the NCAA efficiency rankings, just ahead of Wisconsin's Russell Wilson.

Other stats of note

- Florida beat Kentucky for the 25th time in a row and by at least 34 points for the fourth straight year.  The Wildcats are on the losing end of the two longest active losing streaks to one team, the other being the 26 game streak to Tennessee.

- Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz set a school record and tied the NCAA record by throwing seven touchdown passes against UC Davis over the weekend. He sat out the second half after the Warriors led 49-0 at half but not before he also passed for a school record 424 yards in a half.

- Notre Dame is dead last in the country in turnover margin at -2.50 a game. The Irish have given the ball away 15 times in four games, more than they did in all of 2009 and 2006. The defense has forced just five this year.

- Quarterback Denard Robinson is the nation's leading rusher at 168.7 yards per game, over 15 yards a game more than runner up LaMichael James. While that's pretty impressive, he wouldn't be in the top spot were it not for the NCAA not counting his stats from the game against Western Michigan - which was stopped early. Of course, who knows, he might have been able to pad his stats during that game and still be in the lead a few weeks later like he is now.

- Texas A&M running back Cyrus Gray had his nine-game streak of at least 100 yards rushing broken. The Aggies really went away from the ground game in the second half and never did establish Gray against Oklahoma State. Meanwhile, Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden set school records for completions (47) and passing yardage (438).

- James was back to putting up video game numbers for Oregon against Arizona this weekend. He rushed for a school record 288 yards and also set the all-purpose mark. His first quarter touchdown run also gave him the Ducks record for career touchdowns as well. His 288 yards were more than the Wildcats have rushed for all year (249).

- Florida Atlantic had just one first down against Michigan State but racked up 20 against Auburn's defense in a 30-14 loss. The Owls are dead last in the country in offense and have scored only 17 points all year. 62% of FAU's offensive yardage this year came against Auburn.

- South Carolina's defense allowed just 77 yards to Vanderbilt and only five first downs all game. Defensive stud Melvin Ingram scored yet another touchdown, his third in as many weeks. By reaching the end zone, Ingram is tied for third on the team for points scored with quarterback Stephen Garcia.

- A few miles away from Columbia, Clemson receiver and freshman sensation Sammy Watkins is leading the Tigers in scoring after 141 yards receiving and two touchdowns in a victory over Florida State. Through four games this year he has 433 yards receiving and six touchdowns, marks that would have placed him second and third on the team respectively in each category last year.

- Four teams topped the 400 yard rushing mark last Saturday, led by Air Force rolling up 595 yards against hapless Tennessee State. Oregon had 415 yards against Arizona, Florida rushed for 405 against Kentucky and Army pounded Ball State for 402 yards. A team has rushed for over 400 yards 10 times this year while a team has passed for over 400 yards 22 times through week four.

- According to SI.com's Stewart Mandel, Illinois is 4-0 for the first time since 1951. I'm with him, how is that possible?

- Georgia Tech has six plays of 70+ yards this year and seven one-play scoring drives.

Yard-by-yard

-  Hats off to Mike Gundy's halftime adjustments. After being held about 1,000 points below their average in the first half to trail by 17, the Cowboys offense exploded as Brandon Weeden started picking apart Texas A&M's secondary with intermediate passes on their way to a comeback win. The Aggies turned the ball over three times and anytime you give Weeden the ball on a short field, watch out. The most telling sign was the lack of panic on the OSU sidelines as they fell behind. Though they hadn't been in the position before, it was as if they knew what to do and went out and executed. The defense isn't quite as good as Oklahoma's but they'll be able to ride the offense quite far in Big 12 play.

- I'm not quite ready to say the Michigan defense is good but it's certainly much improved and solid enough in a weaker Big Ten for new coordinator Greg Mattison. After the much maligned unit struggled all of last year, they seemed to turn a corner against a very good offense in San Diego State. The Wolverines shutout talented running back Ronnie Hillman and the Aztecs in the first half, the first time they've pulled off the feat in the first half in over two years. Hillman hadn't fumbled since the first carry of his freshmen season last year and yet coughed it up twice. We've been in this position with the Wolverines before last year - a fast start, Denard Robinson being Denard Robinson - before fading badly at the end in Rich Rodriguez' last year as head coach. This year, though, might be different. The schedule is manageable and with the defense being more opportunistic than they have been in the past, Michigan could have a much different ending.

- Michigan's archival Ohio State doesn't have the kind of stability that the Wolverines have but they had to be encouraged with the solid first start for quarterback Braxton Miller. He didn't cause anybody to label him the "next" anything after going 5-13 for 83 yards and rushing for 83 yards but it looks like he's the future after a disastrous passing game for the Buckeyes I saw firsthand against Miami. What's funny is the last time I saw Ohio State play on the road was a couple of years ago at USC. The offense struggled and the next game a talented true freshman by the name of Terrelle Pryor started for the first time. Pryor tossed four touchdowns in that game and led the Buckeyes to an 8-1 record as a starter. While Miller didn't come anywhere close to looking like his predecessor, he looked comfortable running the offense and playing with what the defense was giving him. No one's saying he'll be able to replicate what Pryor did on the field but it looks like yet again the Buckeyes have another true freshman ready to lead them into Big Ten play this year.

"I slept pretty good," he said of his first start. "I really didn't have any jitters at all."

With improved play from Miller and the rest of the offense, head coach Luke Fickell might sleep better too.

- There's no offense quite like Georgia Tech's. It's an option attack but one that has a dangerous passing game that is part of the reason the Yellow Jackets are leading the nation in yards per game. They piled up 496 yards on Saturday in a nice win over North Carolina. Quarterback Tevin Washington is the triggerman but unlike previous players at the position under Paul Johnson, he looks like he can legitimately get the ball down the field accurately. Of course, it helps to throw the ball to 6-foot-5 receiver Steven Hill. There were times where he looked just like Calvin Johnson while making one-handed catches on his way to 151 yards and a touchdown. Hill might be the best receiver no one's really talking about but with Washington throwing the ball and running back Orwin Smith helping out on the ground, expect to hear more about Georgia Tech going forward.

- Poor N.C. State fans. As if it weren't enough to see former quarterback Russell Wilson at the helm for a top 10 team, Thursday's blowout loss to Cincinnati couldn't have given anybody any confidence in what's to come this season. The offensive line gave up six sacks to go on top of three turnovers, two of which were interceptions thrown by Wilson's replacement Mike Glennon without much thought. There's some talent on the team but clearly not enough in a much tougher ACC this year. It's going to be a long season until North Carolina's Committee on Infractions hearing for Wolfpack fans.

- I thought the Clemson game would be a bit of a letdown game for Florida State and while they made it close, the execution just was not there for the Seminoles. Of course they wanted to win and definitely were without some key players, but they invested so much into the game against Oklahoma one would have to think that they spent a little too much time watching film from last week instead of film of the Tigers. Just when it seemed like the defense was ready to make a stop or the offense get going, there'd be a penalty (they finished with 11 for 124 yards). On the other side, it finally appears that Clemson is getting the hang of offensive coordinator Chad Morris' new hurry-up system. Tajh Boyd still has moments that must make Morris rip out some hair but he is looking much more comfortable behind center. With electric freshman Sammy Watkins making plays every time you tune in, it's easy to see why there's plenty of optimism in Death Valley.

"I'm super excited about how our players keep growing this offense and executing. And we're only four games into this offense," Morris said. "It's crazy."

- Penn State beat Eastern Michigan 34-6 as part of the Big Ten's weekend of home games against directional schools to raise money for themselves. The Nittany Lions might have come out with a victory but it was a costly one - starting outside linebacker Mike Mauti will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Considered to be the team's best backer, this is needless to say a big blow to a team that already has struggled some on both sides of the ball. Mauti missed the 2009 season with an ACL injury to his other knee and was limited at times last year due to a shoulder injury. Senior corner D'Anton Lynn was also hurt and had to be transported to the hospital to have his head and neck examined after a hit.

- Speaking of Penn State, the team that almost beat them last week, Temple, ended up routing Maryland 38-7. Steve Addazio has quietly taken what Al Golden left him and turned the Owls in a forced to be reckoned with. Junior back Bernard Pierce is the Northeast's best kept secret, as he rushed for five touchdowns and 149 yards to power Temple's first road win over a BCS foe in nine years.

- How bad is Oregon State? The Beavers lost 27-19 to a UCLA team that is not without their own issues on both sides of the ball. Many expected them to get a boost - they were favored at home - with the return of all-purpose threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni but it was to no avail. It's the worst start of the Mike Riley era and unlike many of his previous teams, there's just no execution. There's been issues behind the scenes and at quarterback on offense while the defense is still breaking in plenty of new players. As Pac-12 play continues, don't expect things to get any easier until the Beavers get back to their roots of playing smart football and keeping the turnovers to a minimum. For UCLA, it was a game they just had to have if they're to sneak into a bowl game this year. According to the LA Daily News , a joyous Rick Neuheisel told a group of fans after the game  "Anybody have fun on the flight here? Not as much as you'll have on the flight home!" Of course, he also added that the Bruins haven't been 1-0 in the conference, "in a long time."

More on College Football
Analysis
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
That Okie State rallies past Texas A&M is insult enough. That the Aggies cough up a 17-point halftime lead to a Big 12 power on their way to SEC is more than Dennis Dodd can stand.
Read >>
Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
LSU proves worthy No. 1 by beating three ranked teams on the road, whipping West Virginia on Saturday. Read >
Gregg Doyel Gregg Doyel
Notre Dame's Brian Kelly is an offensive genius and generally a wise man. Gregg Doyel says that intellect pushes Kelly to rely on defense. Read >>
Related links
Video
Quote of the week

"Big 12! Big 12! Big 12!" - Oklahoma State fans after their victory at Kyle Field. Perhaps it was also fitting that Texas A&M had two 12th man penalties on defense early in the game.

Quote of the week, part II

"The speed of the game, it's kind of lighting struck the outhouse and we were in it." - Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter after the Wildcats' 48-10 loss to Florida.

Tweets of the week

"Arizona will always be a basketball school.. So Child please!" and "If one more person EVER tells me Arizona is turning into a "football" school .. Can kiss the baby"

- Former Arizona forward Derrick Williams during his football team's blowout loss to Oregon. Ouch.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Stanford

6. Wisconsin

7. Oklahoma State

8. Oregon

9. Virginia Tech

10. Nebraska

Where we'll be this week

The big CBS primetime matchup between Alabama and Florida from the Swamp will have Mr. College Football himself, Tony Barnhart, in attendance. Dennis Dodd will be at Camp Randall for Nebraska's first Big Ten conference game against Wisconsin while Brett McMurphy will be listening to 'Enter Sandman' as Clemson plays at Virginia Tech. I've got early duty as I'll be at Texas A&M's first SEC conference game (well, first unofficial one anyway) against Arkansas at Cowboys Stadium.

Leaning this way

Alabama at Florida (8 p.m. ET, CBS)

The past three meetings has featured one of two teams ranked number one overall and while neither will be in the top spot in the polls this year, a top 12 matchup awaits down in the Swamp. Both the Gators and Tide have tough defenses that are ranked in the top five nationally in the three big defensive categories (total/rushing/scoring defense) so each offense figures to have a little more trouble moving the ball than they have so far this year. Alabama's speed will be the difference as they bottle up Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps to come out with a victory.

Nebraska at Wisconsin

Welcome to the Big Ten Nebraska. Camp Randall should be jumping around as they welcome in the Cornhuskers and Taylor Martinez. Look for Russell Wilson to continue to be sharp and not turn the ball over and the Badgers' defense to make just enough plays to win. Martinez should be able to move the ball though, Wisconsin's defense hasn't really been tested - much less by an offense like Nebraska's.

Clemson at Virginia Tech

The first big test for both teams as Clemson goes on the road to take on Frank Beamer's squad. Clemson made several key mistakes that kept Florida State in the game last week and if they turn the ball over, that plays right into the Hokies game plan. Virginia Tech should win but don't be surprised if this is a close ACC battle.

Category: NCAAF
Tags: ACC, Air Force, Al Golden, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Army, Ball State, Baylor, BCS, Bernard Pierce, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Braxton Miller, Brett McMurphy, Bruce Feldman, Bryan Fischer, Bryant Moniz, Calvin Johnson, Camp Randall, Chad Morris, Chris Rainey, Cincinnati, Clemson, Cowboys Stadium, Cyrus Gray, D'Anton Lynn, Dana Holgorsen, Denard Robinson, Dennis Dodd, DeQuan Menzie, Derrick Williams, Dont'a Hightower, Eastern Michigan, FAU, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, Frank Beamer, Geno Smith, Georgia Tech, Greg Mattison, Gregg Doyel, Hawaii, Heisman, Illinois, James Rodgers, Jeff Demps, Joe Halahuni, John Chavis, Kentucky, Kirby Smart, Kyle Field, LaMichael James, Les Miles, LSU, Luke Fickell, Marquis Maze, Maryland, Melvin Inrgam, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Gundy, Mike Mauti, Mike Riley, Mississippi State, Morris Claiborne, N.C. State, NCAA, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, Non-BCS, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State, Orwin Smith, Pac-12, Patrick Peterson, Paul Johnson, Penn State, Rice, Rich Rodriguez, Rick Minter, Rick Neuheisel, Robert Griffin III, Ronnie Hillman, Russell Wilson, Sammy Watkins, San Diego State, SEC, SEC, South Carolina, Stanford, Stephen Garcia, Steve Addazio, Steven Hill, Stewart Mandel, Tajh Boyd, Taylor Martinez, Temple, Tennessee, Terrelle Pryor, Tevin Washington, Texas A&M, Tony Barnhart, UC Davis, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
 
Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:19 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 12:19 pm
 

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



Posted by Adam Jacobi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on: September 24, 2011 4:09 pm
Edited on: September 24, 2011 4:21 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Michigan 28, San Diego State 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN WON. Denard Robinson continued his assault on the record books, moving up to second in Big Ten history for rushing yards by a quarterback in today's win over visiting San Diego State. Robinson rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-7 victory for the Wolverines, and Michigan's defense was stout in its best performance of the year.

WHY MICHIGAN WON: For the fourth time this season, Michigan won a football game, and for the fourth time this season, it was all Denard Robinson with the effort. Robinson's passing stats weren't thrilling -- under .500 passing, under 100 yards, and two interceptions -- but his throws were generally on target, and the passing game still provides a balance that helps open up rushing opportunities for the lightning-fast quarterback.

Better yet, Michigan is starting to get some production from its tailbacks, as Fitz Touissant rushed for 67 yards on 13 carries, and Vincent Smith added nine rushes for 47 yards and a score (shown at right). The more Michigan can depend on its running backs, the fewer hits Robinson will need to take; clearly, that's a positive development.

WHEN MICHIGAN WON: This game was pretty much a no-doubter from the opening kick, but it wasn't until the middle of the fourth quarter, when Michigan held firm on a 4th and 1 then needed just four rushes to go 57 yards for its only score of the half, than the Wolverines effectively put the game out of reach. 

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: The Wolverines have never had trouble putting games together in September, so Michigan fans aren't likely to read a whole lot into Saturday's win. Still, it was nice to see Michigan live up to its ranking at this point in the season.

WHAT SAN DIEGO STATE LOST: The Aztecs are down from last season, and not just because Brady Hoke left for Michigan; they're just on the lower portion of the success cycle that most mid-majors usually find themselves on. There's probably some consternation about blowing the 4th and 1 in Michigan territory on a drive that could have made this a one-possession game, but mostly this game was more of a foundation for teaching than a missed opportunity for a win.

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