Tag:Denard Robinson
Posted on: September 23, 2011 2:03 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2011 4:57 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 4

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.

Finally, we've reached the point of the season where conferences that aren't the Big Ten begin to offer actual meals rather than boring appetizers that add nothing. The SEC and ACC have delved into conference play a bit this season, but now the Big 12 and Pac-12 are diving in as well, which means we've got quite an impressive slate of games to sample from this weekend. 

BREAKFAST

#22 Michigan vs. San Diego State - Big Ten Network 12pm ET

Brady Hoke is San Diego State's old coach (haven't you heard?), so that's all anybody's going to talk about during the game. Don't focus on that fact too much, though, otherwise you're liable to stop paying attention to Denard Robinson, and that's a terrible idea. If Shoelace plays four quarters Saturday, he'll put up mammoth numbers on the Aztec defense. - Adam Jacobi

#25 Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina - ESPN 12pm ET

The Yellow Jackets kick off conference play with one of their most formidable Coastal Division opponents in the Tar Heels.  Georgia Tech leads the nation (yes, United States) in total offense right now, averaging just over 675 yards per game.  The numbers have been inflated thanks to a schedule, but the potency of Paul Johnson's option offense cannot be underestimated.  North Carolina's front seven is one of the ACC's best on paper, and Saturday is their chance for them to live up to the hype. - Chip Patterson

Pitt vs. Notre Dame - ABC 12pm ET

With so few must-see games going on in the morning, this matchup could prove to be quite entertaining. Notre Dame finally put a full 60 minutes together without driving off a cliff last week to pick up a win against Michigan State, and Pitt did quite the Notre Dame impression last Saturday while blowing a 27-10 lead over Iowa in the fourth quarter. Tune in for the future ACC follies! - Tom Fornelli

LUNCH

#3 Alabama vs. #14 Arkansas - CBS 3:30pm ET

The first clash of legitimate SEC heavyweights offers a compelling contrast in offensive styles: Arkansas's aerial circus of nationally-elite receivers and precision Tyler Wilson passes against a Tide attack that (thanks to the humdrum nature of AJ McCarron's performances to date) is likely to pound away with Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy, pound away some more, and when that fails? More pounding. Winner becomes heavy favorite to land at BCS bowl berth--at minimum. - Jerry Hinnen

#8 Texas A&M vs. #7 Oklahoma State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

The Big 12 no longer has a championship game, but this one could serve as a mini-playoff. The winner of this contest between two teams ranked in the top ten moves on to face Oklahoma later this season in a game that will likely decide the Big 12 title. Aside from the BCS implications, however, this matchup should be incredibly entertaining for all involved, as the Oklahoma State offense faces its toughest test of the season so far. - TF

#21 Clemson vs. #11 Florida State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

The Seminoles enter Death Valley banged and bruised after their 23-13 loss to top-ranked Oklahoma.  The most popular word in the pre game notes for Florida State is QUESTIONABLE, and thus so is the outcome of this game.  Clemson finally got their offense going against Auburn thanks to Tajh Boyd and breakout freshman Sammy Watkins, and the Tigers have a lot of momentum with their Atlantic Division rivals coming to town.  Last season this game was decided by a 55-yard walk-off field goal by Florida State kicker Dustin Hopkins.  Saturday's tilt could be just as close. - CP

Ohio State vs. Colorado - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

What looked like sort of a throwaway game in August now has some intrigue. Colorado's not very good at all, but Ohio State has its own quarterback issues to work out after last week's disastrous showing in a 24-6 loss at Miami. The game's in Columbus, so it's unlikely that all hell breaks loose, but if Colorado hangs around, you never know... - AJ

DINNER

#12 South Carolina vs. Vanderbilt - ESPN2 7pm ET

The upstart Commodores move up about three or four classes from their featherweight bout against Ole Miss when they travel to Columbia to take on Marcus Lattimore and Co. Knowing that Lattimore will get his and that the terrors on the Carolina defensive front will hamper any effort to run, any chance of Vandy springing the upset rests in the passing game--in Larry Smith taking advantage of the soft Gamecock secondary, and the ballhawking Vandy defensive backs wringing a couple of game-changing turnovers out of Stephen Garcia. - JH

Kentucky vs. #15 Florida - ESPN 7pm ET

You there, good sir (or madam): do you enjoy the spectacle of wholesale slaughter? Do you take pleasure in the most savage of horse-whippings? Then may we please direct your attention this-a-way to yonder annual meeting between the Wildcats and Gators, won by the Floridians by an average of 42 points these past three years. And with these unfortunate Wildcats having had their offensive teeth removed this offseason just hence -- from cuspid to canine! -- this sideshow could be the bloodiest yet! - JH 

#1 Oklahoma vs. Missouri - FX 8pm ET

Last year on a Saturday night in Columbia, the Oklahoma Sooners came into town sporting a new spot atop the rankings. They would not return home with that #1 next to their name. This season it's the Tigers who come to Oklahoma to once again face the top-ranked team in the land. Can Missouri destroy Oklahoma's national title chances two years in a row? Tune in to find out. - TF

#16 West Virginia vs. #2 LSU - ABC 8pm ET

Anticipation for this game has had Morgantown buzzing since Monday, and I suggest you are settled into your spot on the couch (if city officials haven't removed it yet) by kickoff.  Dana Holgorsen's offense has been among the most efficient in the nation, and LSU's defense has worn down and broken every challenger they have faced.  I expect the Mountaineers to feed off the home crowd and get a fast start, the question will be how long they can keep it up against the tenacious Bayou Bengals defense.  It's the heavyweight match up of the evening - no reason to miss this one. - CP 

LATE NIGHT SNACKS

Arizona vs. #10 Oregon - ESPN2 10:15pm ET

Oregon begins conference play this weekend and is looking for their 13th-straight league victory against Arizona. The Ducks have bounced back from their opening loss against LSU to blow out a pair of opponents and get the offense cranked up again. Arizona is in the middle of a rough stretch to open the season but they do have an excellent quarterback in Nick Foles, the third best passer in the country, who has yet to throw an interception. - Bryan Fischer

Arizona State vs. #23 USC - ESPN 10:15pm ET

Though USC is ineligible for the Pac-12 South title, they will essentially be settling it on the field as the Trojans head to Tempe to take on Arizona State. Dennis Erickson's team fell to Illinois in a close game last week but are hoping to get things going again. ASU has lost 11 straight to USC so this game is about more than winning a game, it's about ending a long streak with the best team the Sun Devils have had. This game is worth watching just to see linebacker Vontaze Burfict take on Matt Barkley and Robert Woods. - BF
Posted on: September 22, 2011 2:56 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 4



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.

Woman, she is proving to be a tough nut to crack. After her dominance in Week 1 of MWM, I chalked it up to beginner's luck. Then when she had another strong performance in Week 2 I didn't mind that much because I had a better week. But then she went and had another winning week last weekend, which means she's yet to get more games wrong than right.

This is becoming somewhat worrisome. Sure, it's still early in the season, but I've had to deal with her walking around talking smack for those three weeks, and it starts to wear on you. Which is why I'm clinging to the fact that after getting 11 games right in the first week, she picked 7 correct the next week and 6 last week. That's a downward progression! There is hope!

Could this finally be the week where she suffers the pain of a losing week, and has to hear me boast all day and all night? God I hope so.

Michigan (-8 1/2) vs. San Diego State - Saturday 12pm (All times Eastern)

Man - It's hard for me to truly predict what Michigan is going to do on any given weekend because I'm just not sure how serious Brady Hoke is about making Denard Robinson a passing quarterback. Yes, he makes some nice throws from time to time, but it's like buying a Ferrari and then only using it to go to the grocery store. That being said, I'll still take the Wolverines at home in this one. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "What better payback for the coach who deserted you than beating him up in his new house?  Unfortunately, he's the same coach who personally recruited you and designed your playbook. Don Corleone > Sonny Corleone." Pick: Michigan

Machine - Machines do not experience human emotion, so The Machine has no concept of Brady Hoke calling off the dogs against his former players as the Wolverines roll 45-17. Pick: Michigan

Alabama (-12 1/2) vs. Arkansas - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Tyler Wilson and the Razorbacks offense has had a nice start to the season, even without Knile Davis. Which makes that spread seem so very large, but at the same time, Arkansas hasn't faced a defense anywhere near the caliber of Alabama's. I'm not entirely comfortable with this pick, but I'll take the Tide defense at home and give up the points. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "The Tide rams and jams to a victory but Bobby Petrino's got a score to settle from last season, so I'll take the points.  (Some stormy personalities. You may be want to watch this from the comfort of your root cellar.) " Pick: Arkansas

Machine - The Machine sees a big upset this weekend, as Arkansas comes into Tuscaloosa and takes down Nick Saban's squad 35-24. Pick: Arkansas

Texas A&M (-3 1/2) vs. Oklahoma State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - This is one of the tougher games to figure out this weekend. You have a high-powered offense in Oklahoma State going against a Texas A&M offense that has been incredibly efficient so far this season. It's somewhat of a coin toss, and when that's the case, I have to go with the team I think has the better defense along with homefield advantage. Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "First time in over 35 years that two top 10 teams meet at Kyle Field.  Aggies coach Mike Sherman knows that revenge for an 0-3 record against OSU is best served red hot in front of 82,000 rabid fans." Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - The Machine has a lot of respect for Justin Blackmon and his tendency to destroy secondaries without remorse. Blackmon blows up for 189 yards and 3 touchdowns as the Cowboys say goodbye to Kyle Field and win 41-31. Pick: Oklahoma State

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

Man - With the question mark surrounding E.J. Manuel's availability this week, along with Florida State's recent track record in Death Valley, I have a very hard time giving up points with the Seminoles this weekend. I have to go with Clemson. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "With FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel questionable (and a ground game that's even more questionable), I have to take home field advantage + residual Tiger swagger from last week's victory + points." Pick: Clemson

Machine - This game was simulated with Manuel playing for Florida State, and it didn't matter. Clemson wins big, 38-14. Pick: Clemson

South Carolina (-16 1/2) vs. Vanderbilt - Saturday, 7pm

Man - Every part of me feels like I should pick South Carolina in this matchup because Marcus Lattimore is an absolute beast, and Vanderbilt is freaking Vanderbilt. But so far this year Vandy has looked pretty stout on defense, and the Gamecocks are giving up 33 points a game. Football gods help me, but I have to go with the Commodores. Pick: Vanderbilt

Woman - "Not sure how a team that's ranked 10th nationally in defense ends up with this spread.. Maybe it's a point for every three minutes Vandy's D is going to be on the field?  Regardless, I'll take 'em." Pick: Vanderbilt

Machine - The Machine recognize machines, and it does not care about this new Vanderbilt. Lattimore runs for over 200 yards and the Gamecocks roll 45-17. Pick: South Carolina

Kentucky vs. Florida (-17 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - Giving up that many points as a road team in an SEC conference game? That's insane, right? No, it's not because I've seen Kentucky play football this season, and insanity would be watching it again. Pick: Florida

Woman - "I hate these picks. Will Florida win by two touchdowns? Three?  Ten?  It's like playing roulette.  C'mon, lucky 18, 19, 20..." Pick: Florida

Machine - Bloodbath in Lexington. Florida wins 54-10. Pick: Florida

Oklahoma (-21 1/2) vs. Missouri - Saturday, 8pm

Man - This spread seems abnormally large to me given that Missouri isn't some doormat, and the Tigers did beat Oklahoma last season. That being said, I don't see a lot of the passes James Franklin completed against Arizona State a couple weeks ago finding their way to the hands of his receivers against this secondary. Plus I just don't see Oklahoma's offense struggling two weeks in a row. So I guess it's Boomer Sooner. Pick: Oklahoma

Woman - "Missouri, you and your bonnie Prince Gabbert kept Oklahoma from achieving its rightful place as heir to the BCS throne last season.  Well, it's time for you to apologize." Pick: Oklahoma

Machine - The Machine doesn't think Oklahoma will have too much trouble with Missouri this week, but it does feel that spread is a bit ridiculous as Oklahoma wins 34-21. Pick: Missouri

West Virginia vs. LSU (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Forget the actual game, I just wanna hang out with Les Miles and Dana Holgorsen for a night. You know that would be a good time. As for the game, though, I've seen what LSU's defense can do to high-powered offenses before, so I'm reauxling with the Tigers. Pick: LSU

Woman - "I'm gonna be honest with y'all.  I don't care who it is, until the Tigers lose, I'm picking Les." Pick: LSU

Machine - West Virginia's offense will definitely struggle against LSU, but the Mountaineers keep it close in a 24-20 loss. Pick: West Virginia

Arizona vs. Oregon (-16 1/2) - Saturday, 10:15pm

Man - I've seen Arizona play a few times already this season, and to be honest, I'm just not nearly as impressed with Nick Foles and the offense as I have been before this season. I just have a hard time believing that from what I've seen so far that this Wildcats offense can hang with Oregon for a full 60 minutes. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "Another year, another dogfight.  Question is, will it be like the 2009 squeaker or the 2010 2nd half blowout?   I'm picking Wildcats QB wonderboy Nick Foles to keep it close.  Oregon wins but doesn't cover." Pick: Arizona

Machine - Yeah, The Machine is pretty sure you're going to want to stay up late and watch this one. It's going to be rather fun to watch. Oregon wins 45-42. Pick: Arizona

Arizona State (-2 1/2) vs. USC - Saturday, 10:15pm

Man - I remember watching this game last season, and it was one of the crazier, more entertaining games of the year. USC eventually squeaked by with a 34-33 win, which was their 11th straight win over Arizona State. Five of those wins have come in Tempe, so as close as a lot of these games have been in recent years, until Arizona State proves to me that it can actually beat USC, I can't go any other way. Pick: USC

Woman - "Here's a sure bet:  Most Silicone At Any Football Game This Season.  Meanwhile, the Sun Devils haven't beaten the Trojans since 1999.  I'll go with that streak." Pick: USC

Machine - The Machine does not see a game like the one we all witnessed last year, as the Trojans win rather easily 27-14. Pick: USC

Season Record (Last week)



1. Woman 24-11 (6-4)

2. Man 21-14 (5-5)

3. Machine 17-18 (4-6) 
 

Posted on: September 19, 2011 6:01 pm
Edited on: September 19, 2011 6:35 pm
 

Big Ten poll reactions, Week 3

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)

6/7. Wisconsin

Wisconsin stays moving up, and for this I'm happy; the Badgers have looked like a Top 5 or 6 program every step of the way thus far, and now they're only 5 voter points away from overtaking Oklahoma State in the coaches poll. Of course, some voters might have a problem with the Wisconsin schedule thus far, and that's a valid thing to take into account (especially at this point in the season). So no howls of outrage here by any stretch -- especially when there's the rest of the poll to take umbrage with.

9/9. Nebraska

Needless to say, if I didn't agree with Nebraska's ranking last week, I'm not going to agree with it this week -- they're No. 16 in my Top 25, because I don't do the straight win-go-up, lose-go-down polling thing. The Huskers don't look like a Top 10 team at all so far -- not when it takes so long for the Huskers to put away the likes of Fresno State and Washington in Lincoln. They also don't look like a .500 team either, because this year's crop of teams drops off pretty precipitously after the first two tiers, and Nebraska looks to be on that third tier. Don't get me wrong -- they're still the team to beat in the Legends division. But 9th in the nation? No. Nooo no no no. Not yet. Not like this. 

22/21. Michigan

I personally still don't have Michigan in my Top 25 yet -- they're mighty close -- but I understand this ranking and I don't have much of a problem with it -- as of right now. Denard Robinson still terrifies me throwing the ball, though, and I still think this all crashes down in the last half of the season in a big way, but if Michigan takes care of SDSU this weekend and handles its first road test at Northwestern (who should have a healthy Dan Persa by then), it'll have earned a Top 20 spot.

UR/23. Michigan State

Yes, Michigan State is still ranked in the coaches poll and Illinois is not. The coaches poll is a joke. The real coaches don't even participate. I don't want to cover it like a serious thing anymore, but it just so happens to be a third of the BCS calculations so here we are every week, going through with this. Ugh.

24/UR. Illinois

With the Saturday win over then-No. 22 Arizona State, Illinois catapulted itself into the national conversation for the time being, and good for the Illini; they've got a legit quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase, a productive defense with a mean streak, and a schedule that lends itself to maybe as many as 10 regular season wins. They could -- nay, should be 6-0 heading into a home date with Ohio State on October 15. Giddyup!

Also receiving votes: Illinois (90 coaches votes), Michigan State (42 AP votes), Ohio State (16 AP votes, 92 coaches votes), Penn State (19 coaches votes), Northwestern (1 coaches vote)

Posted on: September 18, 2011 5:32 am
Edited on: September 18, 2011 5:56 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 17)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. It's Wisconsin, then everybody else. In a week where Ohio State and Michigan State both flunked their first major tests and Nebraska looked increasingly like a three-loss team in the making, Wisconsin blew out yet another opponent, this time working NIU 49-7. And yes, Northern Illinois is a MAC team, but a good one at that, and one that was expected by Vegas to keep the game within three scores. That went out the window by halftime, and the Huskies never looked capable of challenging Wisconsin. Russell Wilson (pictured above, striking a perhaps prophetic figure) looked fantastic once again, and now it's down to him and Denard Robinson in early consideration for first team All-Big Ten at QB.

As for things that aren't perfect about Wisconsin, it's a pretty short list. Russell Wilson did finally threw an interception, so he's clearly mortal, but even that's bad news for the Big Ten -- if he's mortal, then the rest of the Big Ten can't play its games against Wisconsin under protest (because immortal QBs have to be illegal, right?). We'll know way more once Nebraska comes to Madison on October 1, but until then, this is a one-team race.

2. It's Ohio State's turn to have no quarterbacks: Last week, Penn State's duo of Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin combined for a horrific 12-39, 144-yard passing tally in a 27-11 loss to Alabama. McGloin in particular submitted a near-impossible 1-10, 0-yard performance. But hey, at least it was against Alabama; facing Temple on Saturday, PSU went a much more reasonable 22-37 through the air for 216 yards (and confoundingly, McGloin looked far better than Bolden). Not great, but not awful.

No, awful had somewhere else to be, and this week, that was "under center for Ohio State." Ohio State lost to Miami under the lights at Sun Life Stadium, 24-6, and it looked capital-B Bad in the process. Facing Miami's secondary, which certainly isn't as good as Alabama's, QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller combined for the following line, which contains no typos: 4-18, 35 yards, 1 INT. Passer rating: 27.4. HELPFUL POINT OF COMPARISON: Penn State's passer rating vs. Alabama was 56.7. Yes, for as awful as Penn State look against the Crimson Tide defense, Ohio State was way, way worse on Saturday.

Needless to say, the OSU tailbacks weren't thrilled at the result. "I felt like me and Jordan were doing a great job in the run game, so I felt we should have just come out and ran at them," OSU tailback Carlos Hyde said after the game. "We should have manned up and ran straight at them, see if they could stop us. I think it would have worked. I mean, to me, I don't think they were stopping us on the run, so I feel like it probably would have worked."

Just as with Penn State last week, there will be better days for both OSU QBs over the rest of the season. There just has to be. Otherwise, we'll have two stadiums on the east side of the Big Ten, filled with 100,000+ fans who'll have nothing to say. And for once, neither will be the Big House. I KID, I KID, Michigan. You're a peach.

3. The Big Ten is almost certainly not expanding east: If one continues to subscribe to the theory that the Big Ten will join the ranks of the 16-team superconferences, one would have thought recently that its expansion would be largely eastward, with both the Big East and ACC seemingly vulnerable. Slight problem for that plan, though: the ACC is getting proactive in a hurry, and now the main suspects for Big Ten expansion to the northeast are all off the table. Syracuse and Pitt are in the ACC, and if the USA Today report is correct, UConn and Rutgers are next for the ACC. That basically dooms Big East football, and of the five football-participating conference members left (TCU, South Florida, West Virginia, Cincinnati, Louisville), none look like strong candidates for Big Ten membership and all that entails, to say nothing of their limited geographical desirability.

Moreover, even the potential big-ticket schools out there have severe challenges for fitting in the Big Ten. Texas and Notre Dame have their own lucrative television deals already, and thus probably zero interest in equal revenue sharing in the Big Ten Network's plan. The remaining Big 12 North teams are more likely to join the rest of the Big East's football programs en masse than to split entirely off of their traditional base of rivals and go it alone in a new conference. And after all that, there just aren't a lot of schools that would bring more value to the Big Ten than they'd command in an equal revenue sharing program -- at which point it makes no sense to expand at all.

So when Jim Delany says the Big Ten's "as comfortable as we could be" staying at 12 teams... he probably means it.

4. Even Michigan State can disappear on offense: I mentioned in the Big Ten Bullet Points that MSU had to put up large amounts of points to hang with Notre Dame, because the Irish were going to get theirs pretty much no matter what. Notre Dame held up its end of the bargain, racking up 31 points in a variety of ways. MSU? Not so much. The Spartans managed 13 points of their own, and that's almost entirely due to Notre Dame's rushing defense coming up big. The vaunted Spartan rushing attack managed just 29 yards on 23 carries, and MSU effectively abandoned the run in the second half after Notre Dame established a double-digit lead.

That's a shocking result for a backfield that was universally regarded as the second-best in the Big Ten, and the only one even close to matching the potency of Wisconsin's ground game. MSU's got plenty more tough road dates coming its way once conference play starts, and plenty more stout front sevens to face. If this is the way Michigan State responds to tough defenses, it's going to be a long year in East Lansing. 

5. James Vandenberg and Iowa are not dead (yet): When Pittsburgh took a 24-3 lead at Iowa late in the third quarter, Hawkeye fans began panicking; this was the worst deficit the Hawkeyes had faced in four years, and a larger deficit than Iowa had ever overcome for a win. Ever. Quarterback James Vandenberg looked out of sorts for most of the first three quarters, and announcers were wondering for the second straight week if he just couldn't overcome a shaky set of nerves. All of this on top of a three-overtime loss to rival Iowa State the week prior made the outlook dim and grim for Iowa.

All of a sudden, Vandenberg and the Iowa offense sprang to life, racing to a 60-yard touchdown drive in 1:55 of play, and when Pittsburgh could only manage a field goal in response after achieving a first and goal at Iowa's 3-yard line, Iowa smelled blood. The Hawkeyes stayed in a hurry-up offense for the rest of the game, and Vandenberg engineered three fast but sustained touchdown drives in the fourth quarter to bring Iowa back for the 31-27 victory. Vandenberg went 14-17 for 153 yards and three TDs in the 4th quarter alone, and none of his last four touchdown drives lasted any longer than 2:11 -- or went for any fewer than 60 yards.

Iowa can't rely on 153-yard, 3-TD quarters from its quarterbacks, ever, so this will almost certainly be a result in isolation from the rest of the season -- especially since there were a lot of recurring problems that Pitt exploited in both Iowa's pass rush and its secondary. But at the very least Iowa's not 1-2 right now, and it's not on the ledge of disaster and/or apathy before the conference season even begins. Whether the Hawkeyes can parlay this comeback into big things down the line remains to be seen, but it was a magical afternoon at Kinnick Stadium either way.

6. Northwestern is not kidding about bringing Dan Persa back slowly: Northwestern put Dan Persa in uniform for its Week 3 matchup against Army, and Persa warmed up with the offense, but when the Wildcats struggled for most of the contest, it was Trevor Siemian why came in to spell Kain Colter, not Persa. Siemian would throw a game-tying pass to Jeremy Ebert, but Army still ended up prevailing in a stunner, 21-14. With a bye week next for Northwestern, Persa should be ready to go for the next game on October 1. If so, that's a merciful end to the Kain Colter era for the time being, and Persa can probably right the Good Ship Northwestern just a tad.

One does have to wonder, though -- shouldn't someone in the football program have notified the athletic department that Persa probably wasn't going to play a snap until October before the department put up Persa For Heisman billboards? The billboards came down after just two weeks; did nobody know he'd still be out today? And here Northwestern was supposed to be the "smart" member of the Big Ten.

Posted on: September 14, 2011 7:00 pm
Edited on: September 14, 2011 7:02 pm
 

VIDEO: Michigan State-Notre Dame preview

Posted by Adam Jacobi

This is a generally good breakdown of Saturday's matchup, which -- apologies to Ohio State and Miami -- is the one Big Ten game I'm looking forward to the most this week. It's funny, Notre Dame is 0-2, Michigan State is undefeated and ranked 15th... and yet the Spartans are the ones looking to pull the upset, as Notre Dame's favored by 4.5 points (as of now).

One aspect of the game that I think is getting overlooked is how Notre Dame is going to handle the MSU rushing attack. Obviously, looking at the Michigan game isn't going to be terribly instructive (though the Michigan tailbacks ran for just 10 yards on eight carries), as Denard Robinson was the entire offense both through the air and on the ground, but South Florida rushed for only 126 yards on 42 carries against Notre Dame.  The Bulls were 2-14 on 3rd down conversions to boot, so when Notre Dame needed a stop on the ground, by and large, it got its stop.

Now, of course, Michigan State's backfield is much, much better than Michigan's or South Florida's. Both the Michigan State rushing offense and the Notre Dame rushing defense are going to get their stiffest test to date, and it'll be interesting to see which bows first. I've got Notre Dame winning a close one, personally, but nothing short of a blowout would surprise me. Can't wait for kickoff.
 

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Posted on: September 12, 2011 3:08 pm
Edited on: September 12, 2011 3:09 pm
 

Brian Kelly takes a shot at Ohio State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Life is frustrating for Brian Kelly right now. He's the head coach of a Notre Dame team that really should be 2-0 on the season, but is 0-2 thanks to ten turnovers -- five in the red zone -- in two games, and Denard Robinson. Kelly also believes that Notre Dame's schedule is a big reason why the team is 0-2, as he believes his team is playing tougher games this early in the season than some of its counterparts, like, say, Ohio State.

“We’ve made so many mistakes against two pretty tough teams coming out,” Kelly told the Chicago Sun-Times. “Again, as you see the schedule, Ohio State is playing Toledo. I mean, teams are playing easy games early on in the schedule. We don’t get that luxury. We have to go play in front of 115,000 [at Michigan Stadium]. Those mistakes are more glaring against opponents that are physically pretty good, as well.

“I believe that we’re going to be a good football team. We won’t be until we clean up the little things that keep popping up on Saturdays.” 

Why Kelly felt the need to take a shot at Ohio State's early season schedule, I'm not sure. What's further confusing about it is that Kelly is also taking a veiled shot at Toledo, a school that gave Ohio State just about all it could handle on Saturday, and one of the best members of the MAC conference which is exactly where Kelly helped make a name for himself coaching at Central Michigan. It was hardly an "easy game" for the Buckeyes.

Personally, instead of making excuses for the team's start by pointing out how tough Notre Dame's schedule is, I feel like Kelly should say that his team just isn't that good right now. After all, whether the Irish were playing South Florida, Michigan, Toledo or some tiny FCS school, it wasn't those teams fumbling at the goal line or making terribly advised passes in the red zone.

It was Notre Dame and the Irish have nothing to blame but themselves for this start.
Posted on: September 12, 2011 9:41 am
Edited on: September 12, 2011 10:03 am
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 2

Posted by Bryan Fischer

College football's encore weekend not only lived up to expectations, but beat them.

It also caused at least few hearts to skip a beat or two around the country. It seemed like every channel you were on, there was a game coming down to the wire or ready to head to overtime. From the noon games to the night games, last Saturday was one big, drama-filled day.

Notre Dame-Michigan, USC-Utah, Cal-Colorado, Washington-Hawaii, North Carolina-Rutgers, Auburn-Mississippi State, Ohio State-Toledo, Texas-BYU, Iowa State-Iowa, Vanderbilt-UConn and several others left everyone on the edge of their seats. There weren't a ton of great defenses among the group but that didn't hamper the fun as teams either came back or fell just short. Heck, the first night game in Ann Arbor had as much drama as any of them in just 72 seconds.

One game I was really looking forward to going into Saturday was between the Hedges and that game more than lived up to expectations and put one coach in even hotter water.

The game seemed to be South Carolina personified. It's why everybody's hand trembled writing them in to win the SEC East this year. Not only was it the Gamecocks' history but they had a quarterback who frustrated fans and Old Ball Coaches alike in Stephen Garcia. When he threw his first interception of the game, it was simply Garcia being Garcia. The ESPN director, as if he understood perfectly, cut to a shot of Garcia with his hands on his hips, staring down his mistake while clinching his lips and a coach yelling at him. Later in the game he rolled out of the pocket and threw a beautiful pass that reminded everybody of his talent. Again, just Garcia being Garcia.

This is a good and very talented Gamecocks team that can beat anybody on any given Saturday if they don't wind up beating themselves first.

“Georgia outplayed us, give them credit, they outplayed us but somehow or another we won the game,” Steve Spurrier said post game. “Somehow it happens like that. Somebody was looking out for us tonight.”

Running back Marcus Lattimore broke out for 176 yards and a touchdown as the team rode him for 27 carries. USC will have to be wearing of overusing Lattimore because he's the key to their success but at least he had 10 fewer carries than he did against the Bulldogs a year ago. His ability to find just a little hole and take off is special and he certainly can run very hard between the tackles.

On the other side of the ball, how scary is the Gamecocks' defensive line? We knew it was going to be good but maybe not quite this nasty. Melvin Ingram was superb, taking a fake punt 68 yards for a touchdown and scooping up a fumble for a touchdown after fellow end Jadeveon Clowney nearly took off the head of UGA quarterback Aaron Murray. Only in the SEC do 275-pound defensive ends score twice in a game and run 68 yards while doing so.

The thing about Clowney, the nation's consensus number one recruit out of high school, is how he stands out on every snap just due to his size. Then, as soon as the ball is snapped, he stands out for his explosiveness and physicality - making you drop your job and say 'Wow' a couple of times a game. Heck, Murray might want to leave school early just to get away from him. Clowney still isn't up to speed mentally but it's coming and coming quickly. If you're an SEC quarterback with South Carolina on the schedule, prepare your ice bath in advance.

For Mark Richt, he might have to go bang his head against the wall a few times after every game. He's had injuries and suspensions and even NCAA issues thrown his way but there's still no getting around the fact that this is a good group of players who haven't lived up to expectations. Just when it seemed like Georgia was about to break through, they'd commit a big error. The good news is it looked like freshman running back Isaiah Crowell got going, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown after breaking a few nice runs into the open field. But even as he took two steps forward, his fumble at midfield that Stephon Gilmore returned to the red zone was a step back. He's still a little behind in pass protection but the flashes he showed reminded everybody, coaches included, why he was so highly recruited out of high school.

The biggest thing that Richt can do next week is get his team to have fun against Coastal Carolina. There will be no avoiding hearing about his job status as the heat was turned up even higher after the loss - he has to get his team refocused before starting the heart of their SEC schedule. Get everybody involved, call some trick plays, something - anything - to get his team focused on having fun playing football instead of worrying about him. He can't eliminate all the distractions but he can get his team to buy back in week-by-week. The schedule is manageable enough that they could conceivably go 10-2 this year - more than enough to quiet critics for a few more months. The Bulldogs are talented but lost to two teams they should have to fall to 0-2 for the first time since 1996.

Now the trick is winning out using their own talented roster. No easy task but one that can certainly happen.

Stat of the week

If I had to take someone to Vegas with me, I just might select Gene Chizik. All he seems to do is give heart attack to the Auburn faithful and win last second games. The Tigers pulled off the upset this week against Mississippi State thanks to a goal line stand that kept quarterback Chris Relf out of the end zone by inches to preserve a 41-34 win at home.

"We'd prefer to win football games a lot different than we are, but there's something to be said when you can fight down to the end when it doesn't look good and still win the game," Chizik said after the game.

While the head coach certainly would prefer a less stressful ending to games, he might need to get used to them if his team is to keep winning. After taking nearly two hours just to play the first half against the Bulldogs, I was digging around looking for the total game time but managed to find an even more eye-popping stat.

Auburn's offense has averaged 56.5 plays during their first two games while the defense has averaged 90.5 snaps per game. Yes, the defense is almost literally on the field twice as long the offense. For a young team with issues on both sides of the ball, that's an uh-oh.

For comparison's sake, Arkansas has averaged 74.5 plays on offense and 57.5 on defense during their light non-conference schedule. Only two SEC teams have average more than 70 snaps on defense, and just six teams nationally have their defense on the field for more than 80 plays a game. No one even approaches 90 defensive plays a game. The national average for number of plays on defense is 67.3 and 68.8 on offense.

Up against that little issue, it's almost shocking Auburn's 2-0 but they are thanks to some late game heroics. Whether this is a serious flaw of just the byproduct of two crazy games remains to be seen but, bottom-line, Chizik needs to make some adjustments.

Other stats of note

- Michigan's Denard Robinson thrilled the country against Notre Dame and became the first UM quarterback to beat the Irish twice since Jim Harbaugh did so back in the late 1980's. He also has accounted for an astounding 96% of the offense the last two games between the schools.

- Texas has outscored its opponents 35-6 in the second half while USC outscored their opponent in the 4th quarter for just the fourth time in 15 games this weekend.

- Tyler Bray's 405 yards are the most for a Tennessee quarterback since the legend himself, Peyton Manning, wore orange. Bray finished 34-of-41 and tossed four touchdowns. Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers both had 10 catches for over 100 yards and the pair combined for three TD receptions.

- In the last 11 years, the Georgia-South Carolina series has only been decided by nine points or less eight times. Since 2004, the winner has had fewer than 20 points every year but 2009 and 2011.

- Alabama has not allowed a touchdown in the first quarter for seven straight games.

- Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly is a tackling machine once again this year. He has a nation's-best 35 total tackles while the next closest player has 27.

Yard-by-yard

- What an impressive, almost surgical attack led by Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys' offense came out and pretty much blew away the Arizona secondary on Thursday en route to a 37-14 win in Stillwater. Weeden connected on his 13 passes and finished up with a ho-hum 397 yards after slowing down in the second half. He's flown under the radar a little bit (even in his own state) but in 15 starts, he has only two losses by a total of 16 points. It's sometime easy to say a lot of his success is due to receiver Justin Blackmon but Weeden is the triggerman for what the team does. This team can also run the ball pretty well - Joseph Randle is 15th in the country in rushing - and should make for a fun Big 12 regular season when they play fellow top 15 teams Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

- Senior writer Bruce Feldman touched on FIU in his Sunday column but what a win for Mario Cristobal's program. Their win over Louisville was the first win ever for the program over BCS team and showed that the Golden Panthers are more than just the dynamic all-purpose superstar T.Y. Hilton. They take on another rising in-state program in UCF this week and if they can pull off the upset, a run at going undefeated isn't out of the question. It will be tough to stop the Knights but FIU has the athletes and coaches to make it a game.

- Speaking of Louisville, their game against Kentucky might be downright unwatchable. Louisville is a mess offensively and their defense is suspect. Luckily for Charlie Strong, they'll face a Kentucky team that has serious issues with both lines. It's going to really be rough once the Wildcats get into SEC play this year if they continue to play as sloppy as they have been during their first two games. Fans from both schools are probably counting down the days until basketball season already.

- If there's one thing that might be different under Luke Fickell at Ohio State, it's the offense is involving the tight end more. Senior Jake Stoneburner came into the season with 22 catches for 252 yards and two touchdowns. Through two games this season he has eight catches for 93 yards and four TD's and seems to be one of quarterback Joe Bauserman's favorite targets. The Buckeyes haven't look completely in rhythm on offense but that's not Stoneburner's fault.

- Not sure what to make of Texas' win over BYU other than it's a baby step back to respectability. Garrett Gilbert's not who Mack Brown wanted him to be coming out of camp, looking shaky again with some bad decisions before being pulled for David Ash and Case McCoy. Using Ash in some zone read situations was a good change of pace and was a productive play with their speed at running back - a group that finally got going, including freshman Malcolm Brown. The defense still is a concern, as BYU seemed to pick apart the middle of the field. Might take awhile for everybody to get comfortable with Manny Diaz' system but there's some talent on the team. Baby steps.

- Two quarterbacks in the Northwest were rolling this weekend. In Oregon, Darron Thomas and the Ducks offense seemed to be back in their normal sixth-gear against Nevada. Thomas had just 13 attempts - after throwing for 54 against LSU - but six of them were for touchdowns on Saturday. Freshman De'Anthony Thomas had over 200 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns. He's a small but tough back who has speed to burn, should be fun to see what Chip Kelly does with him as he learns more of the playbook.

At Washington, Keith Price got the Huskies off to a 2-0 start by throwing for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He connected on his first eight throws and has spread the ball around to a good receiving group well. Things got a little tight against Hawaii but Price and running back Chris Polk kept the Huskies moving. This team may not be a top 15-caliber squad but they're certainly going to give others fits if they can stop playing down to their competition at times.

- I was a bit shocked to see that Clemson opened up as a favorite against Auburn this week, their own issues aside. Dabo Swinney's club struggled against Wafford and things are not going to get any easier. The offense is productive in the stat sheet but in they're still struggling to adjust to Chad Morris' system. The rush defense in particular is very concerning, ranking 107th in the country after two games against a Sun Belt and an FCS opponent.

- Several people in the Alabama program told me that the Crimson Tide defense might be the best ever under Nick Saban. After watching two games, I think they're close to being right. The score was a bit closer than expected against Penn State at 27-11 but this is a very good group. They look faster and deeper than the national championship squad a couple of years ago and are not the opposing quarterback's best friend, to say the least.

Pulling Rank

My top 10 after week 2:

1. Oklahoma

2. LSU

3. Alabama

4. Boise State

5. Texas A&M

6. Stanford

7. Wisconsin

8. Florida State

9. Oklahoma State

10. South Carolina

Where we'll be this week

I'll be out at the Ineligible Bowl, Ohio State at Miami on Saturday. Senior writer Brett McMurphy is in Tallahassee for the top five showdown of Oklahoma and Florida State.

Across the goal line

There were a series of firsts in the USC-Utah game I was at this weekend. Trojans kicker Andre Heidari recorded the first points in Pac-12 conference history while teammate Marc Tyler will be in the record books for scoring the first touchdown. Thanks to their 17-14 win over the Utes, USC won the final Pac-10 game and the very first Pac-12 game.

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Wait, excuse me, thanks to their 23-14 victory.

In many ways, the first ever Pac-12 conference game - which wasn't really true because Colorado and Cal played earlier that day in an overtime "non-conference" game - featured many of the same elements of its Pac-10 predecessors. There were big plays on offense, a close game, USC on national (cable) television at night and, oh yeah, an officiating controversy.

As I walked down the steps of the Coliseum toward the field right before their drive, I kept thinking this was a welcome to the conference moment for Utah. Boy was it ever.

I was about 10 yards away when, on 4th down, DeVonte Christopher caught an in-route that seemed to fall just short of the first down marker. It seemed like a bad spot but the refs said it was a turnover on downs. Then they reviewed it, remarked the spot and gave Utah a first down. Saved by Pac-10… er, -12 replay officials.

Then there was the pass interference call on the next play. That set up the Utes' field goal attempt. I couldn't quite see the holder but was looking at the middle of the line in case the kick was blocked. Next thing I know the ball is bouncing right into the hands of USC corner Torin Harris and he's off to the end zone. The crowd and sidelines were going crazy as he raced to the end zone. I turned to talk to a colleague and saw a few players run out to get a better angle on the return. Seconds later I saw the flag, then the announcement that the game was over. The touchdown didn't count, but the game was over.

What just happened I wondered. Duty, however, called as I tried to grab a few players to talk about the win (or, in the case of the Utes, loss). I kept thinking how close Utah had gotten and, in their first conference game, they had played like they belonged despite coming up short in the win column. They came into a storied venue and almost knocked off the conference's most storied program. Utah is a good team that was well coached but wasn't quite good enough on a beautiful Saturday night in Los Angeles.

Then there was a tweet that popped up as I got back to the press box to begin transcribing. Hold your horses, the score was in question. The Pac-12 was reviewing what happened at the end of the game. As Michael Lev of the O.C. Register noted down on the field, the touchdown had huge implications for bettors across the country with USC favored by 8-8.5 points.

That's when the story changed from Utah being not quite good enough to, apparently, the Pac-12 officials "miss-communicating" and they were actually nine points from being good enough.

It was an unusual ending that I'm still trying to get my head around because the score itself changed after the fact - regardless what the conference says. The Caesars, MGM and Wynn sports books apparently stayed with the 17-14 result. The Hilton, Cantor, South Point sports books switched to 23-14. Some honored both. If you threw away a winning ticket, that is a bad beat that will be with you for a long time.

A finish that was wild, unbelievable and involved money. In a roundabout way, the first ever Pac-12 game got me very prepared for the Ineligible Bowl next week.

I knew you were good Larry Scott, didn't know you were this good.

Posted on: September 11, 2011 4:21 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 10)



Posted by Adam Jacobi


1. Michigan and Denard Robinson, the night is yours. What could there possibly be to say about the Michigan-Notre Dame contest that would properly suit such a game, such a finish? Then again, as those fake old Adidas uniforms (shown above) proved, "proper suiting" had no place in this game, so let's talk about it at length. Michigan slept through the first three quarters, trailing the Fighting Irish 24-7 at the third intermission in a game that didn't even seem that close, and Denard Robinson looked completely ill-suited to succeed in the Brady Hoke/Al Borges offense.

At that point, naturally, all hell broke loose. Michigan scored on the first play of the fourth quarter when Notre Dame stuffed a Wolverine halfback dive at the goal line and forced a fumble ... only the ball bounced right to Robinson, who ran the recovery in for an easy score before anybody else knew what was happening. Robinson would then engineer three more touchdown drives almost singlehandedly, the last taking all of three plays and 28 seconds before Roy Roundtree came down with the game-winning touchdown pass from Robinson with two ticks left on the clock.

The thing of it was, though, Robinson's passing wasn't even good. His accuracy was way off all day, and two of Robinson's three interceptions were absolutely unconscionable throws (including a screen pass that sailed at least five feet over his nearby receiver's head). Even after Robinson came to life late in the third quarter, his big plays were mostly underthrows and jump balls that so markedly didn't fit the arc and timing of the routes that Notre Dame's secondary struggled to adjust to where the throws ended up being, even while they were ostensibly providing good coverage.

And yet still, football is not about style points, it is about actual points, and those comical throws ended up netting Michigan enough actual points to seal the victory and set off a party at the Big House that didn't stop until the police were forced to tell the student section to go home. May all college football games end so delightfully for the home partisans, right?

2. It was pretty rough everywhere else. Michigan beat Notre Dame. That was a marquee win for the conference, without a doubt. But elsewhere, Big Ten members lost to Alabama (fine), Virginia (um), Iowa State (no), Rice (NO), and New Mexico State (NOOOOOOO). The wins, by and large, weren't really impressive either. Ohio State barely scraped by Toledo, and Nebraska caught four tough quarters from Fresno State. And those are two ranked division crown contenders! In the Big Ten! Elsewhere, Illinois and Northwestern throttled their FCS opponents, while Michigan State and Wisconsin took care of business against two wretched FBS opponents in FAU and Oregon State, respectively. That's, um, not a good week.

Of course, BCS Championships aren't won in Week 2, only lost, and aside from maybe Iowa (though that ISU win didn't look like an upset at all), the teams that lost today by and large weren't serious contenders for division titles to begin with. We've got a lot of football left in the year, and teams turning their seasons around after a rocky opening are hardly rare in college ball. That all said, if it's not time to panic yet for the five Big Ten teams with blemished records, it's certainly time for significant concern.  

3. Jerry Kill gets seizures sometimes. The TCF Bank crowd was shocked into silence and play was stopped in the waning seconds of the Minnesota-New Mexico State game on Saturday when Gophers head coach Jerry Kill collapsed and went into a seizure on the sideline. Kill would end up on the ground for about 15 minutes before being carted off and hospitalized. Shortly thereafter, Minnesota medical staff would assure reporters that Kill's life was never in danger, that he has had this seizure disorder for years, and that he will be fine, but still -- that was a terrifying sight.

The interesting aspect of the episode's aftermath is the series of revelations about Kill's disorder, namely that not only will Kill be fine, but he's had similar incidents before and never ended up missing a game of work. That seems unusual to people unfamiliar with seizures -- which would be most people, if we're being honest -- since generally, when someone collapses suddenly, doctors aren't clearing them to work the next week. And yet that's precisely the case with Kill, who has not been given a timetable for a return but will likely do so for Minnesota's next game. Let's hope his seizures don't make a habit of returning, of course, but let's also be thankful that they're generally not life-threatening or even career-altering.

4. Penn State's quarterback situation may be worse than we all imagined. Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Alabama's defense is fantastic this year. Not only is it easily the best Penn State will face this year, it might be one of the ten best defenses Joe Paterno has ever faced. They're going to make a LOT of quarterbacks look bad this year.

That all said, Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin didn't just look bad on Saturday, they looked like they didn't belong on a D-I football field. Bolden finished 11-29 for 144 yards and one interception, and McGloin was an incomprehensible 1-10 for 0 yards. Really. Their wide receivers didn't do them a whole lot of favors, it should be pointed out, and Alabama's coverage was suffocating, but Bolden and McGloin routinely made bad throws regardless of the coverage. It can't have helped that the two QBs were rotated in and out with casual-at-best regard for their on-field performances, and it's likely that JoePa tires somewhat of the platoon situation in the near future, but it was also obvious that neither quarterback is playing at anywhere near a high level, and that's a dire situation without an obvious or effective fix. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this could easily submarine Penn State's season, and Joe Paterno really doesn't have many more seasons to sacrifice to the Bad QB What Are You Gonna Do gods.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com