Tag:Nebraska
Posted on: November 6, 2011 2:48 pm
 

Big Ten poll reactions, Week 10

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)

12/12. Penn State

During its bye week, Penn State ascended to the highest spot of any Big Ten team in either poll -- mainly by dint of the Huskers' shocking upset. Meanwhile, the football program, athletic department, and school administration are embroiled in a scandal of potentially nightmarish proportion. So yeah, there isn't a ton of interest in poll rankings at Penn State right now -- nor ought there be.

13/13. Michigan State

It's a little difficult to differentiate between two-loss Big Ten teams this season; there's plenty of them. But there's a strong case to be made for Michigan State to be atop them all; the Spartans have navigated a brutal schedule this season, and it's only just now beginning to lighten. Oh, and Iowa hosts the Spartans this week. A win at Kinnick would justify a ranking around here, but another lackluster road performance from the Spartan offense will probably lead to loss number three -- and a general evaporation of the notion that MSU is anything better than the 20th best team in the nation or so.

16/14. Wisconsin

Wisconsin is starting its climb back up the rankings after two straight last-minute losses to Michigan State and Ohio State sent them from No. 4 to No. 19 in the AP, a not-at-all-hyperbolic, totally reasonable reaction from pollsters. Unfortunately, road games with Minnesota and Illinois coming up aren't going to do much for the Badgers' standing in voters' eyes unless there's a bevy of losses in front of them. Fortunately, everybody outside the Top 7 or so right now is capable of losing on any given week, so we may yet see the Badgers come close to the Top 10 before bowl season.

19/17. Nebraska

This is Nebraska's lowest ranking of the season, and it's extremely hard to justify anything better than this after dropping a 28-25 contest to Northwestern on Saturday. Yes, the Huskers demolished Michigan State a week prior, so we're not going to call them a paper tiger or anything. Nebraska just needs to start playing at a high level consistently, and it needs to start now; Nebraska travels to Penn State this week, followed by a game at Michigan and the season finale against Iowa. Anything from 10-2 to 7-5 is possible; it's time to remove any doubt at long last whether Nebraska is a Top 20 team this year. 

22/21. Michigan

Another road game against a Big Ten team with a pulse, another loss for Michigan. Fortunately for the Wolverines, this week's contest at Illinois is the last away from the Big House for the rest of the year. This ranking seems too low for a two-loss Big Ten team, but Michigan's second-best win is, what, San Diego State? Western Michigan? Northwestern? Michigan needs a Big Ten win against a team with a winning record at some point, otherwise it'll be just another disappointing year in Ann Arbor.

Also receiving votes:

Ohio State (50 AP votes, 22 coaches votes), Iowa (4 AP votes, 8 coaches votes) 

Posted on: November 6, 2011 4:15 am
Edited on: November 6, 2011 12:04 pm
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 10



Posted by Adam Jacobi

A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

B1G B1G B1G WINNER: Chaos

How much wilder is the Big Ten after this 10th week of play than before? Consider, now, that four of the six Legends Division teams are still in plausible contention for that crown, or that Penn State could still find itself at 6-2 (or worse) in the conference, setting off a similar scramble in the Leaders Division. This year, Minnesota has beaten Iowa, Purdue has beaten Illinois, and now Northwestern has beaten Nebraska in Lincoln. Did you see that one coming? Yes? Liar.

Sure, some might note that the ACC already tried having everybody in the conference go 6-2 or worse, and the result is a shambolic title race -- and a sham BCS bowl participant. And yes, generally, it's better to have a conference champion in the BCS' Top 12, where they'd be eligible to participate in a BCS bowl even without the conference title, but still: a little madness never hurt anybody, and what better way to demonstrate to the Big Ten faithful how much drama a division race can add to a season?

LOSER: Penn State

This was supposed to be a peaceful week off for Joe Paterno and Penn State, who would be watching gleefully as losses by Nebraska and Michigan would leave PSU as the only one-loss team in the conference. Instead, nobody in State College is talking football today; instead, it's the litany of serious crimes facing Jerry Sandusky -- and what role PSU brass may have played in keeping Sandusky's alleged crimes under wraps.

We're not going to comment on Sandusky's charges; we trust our readers to form their own opinions at this point. We'll just say that it's beyond depressing that Penn State is 8-1 (5-0), Joe Paterno is the Division I's winningest coach of all time, and the Penn State president still needs to be issuing statements assuring people that his athletic director and treasurer didn't try to cover up a serial child molester in violation of Pennsylvania state law. But alas: here it is, and here we are. Ugh; back to football.

WINNER: Michigan State's division title hopes

On its face, Michigan State's performance today was, if anything, lackluster; the Spartans let lowly Minnesota take a lead into the fourth quarter in a game in East Lansing, and MSU only won by 7 points after letting Minnesota drive into Spartan territory in the game's final seconds. And yet, Michigan State still won, and that gives the Spartans sole possession of first place in the Legends Division after Michigan and Nebraska both dropped contests Saturday. Unlike every other contender in the conference, MSU has no games against ranked opponents left; there are, however, road tests at Iowa and Northwestern looming, so it's not exactly time to start booking hotel rooms in Pasadena quite yet. Still, this is as commanding a position as anybody's held in this division thus far. 

LOSER: Michigan's division title hopes

It's getting to be difficult to imagine a scenario in which Michigan plays for the Big Ten Championship in Indianapolis this December. The Wolverines dropped to 3-2 in the league, and while that's still just a game off the lead with three games yet to play, it's to whom Michigan has lost that should prove most problematic for the Wolverines. Iowa and Michigan State both hold head-to-head tiebreakers over Michigan and a non-division loss, so really, the only way Michigan takes this division is by winning it outright. There is a plausible path to that: MSU loses to Iowa and Northwestern, Iowa loses to Nebraska, and Nebraska loses to Michigan. But that's about it.

WINNER: Iowa's offensive stars

Iowa's numbers on offense weren't spectacular in the Hawkeyes' 24-16 win over Michigan; 302 total yards and 15 first downs were all the Hawkeyes managed in 56 offensive plays. Not bad, no, but not spectacular. Nonetheless, there were some very familiar faces responsible for the lion's share of that production -- Marcus Coker had 132 yards and two scores, James Vandenberg was 14-21 for 171 yards and a score, and Marvin McNutt (seen at right, divorcing J.T. Floyd from his helmet) caught nine passes, a career high, for 101 yards. Overall, that's a pattern that has put several Hawkeyes among the league leaders with three games left in the regular season.

Coker leads all Big Ten rushers with 1101 yards on the season; Montee Ball is a close second with 1076. In receiving, McNutt trails only A.J. Jenkins (1030 yards) with 959 yards, and his nine receiving touchdowns lead the league. Meanwhile, Vandenberg is third in the Big Ten in passing efficiency, with a 154.83 rating and 18 touchdowns to only four interceptions. Officially, Vandenberg is second only to I-A leader Russell Wilson in the NCAA's eyes, as Dan Persa hasn't played in 75% of Northwestern's games yet, but that doesn't seem totally fair to Persa, who meets the other qualification of 15 pass attempts per game even counting the games he missed. We see you, Dan.

LOSER: Any notion of Rex Burkhead as a Heisman candidate

For a little while, Rex Burkhead was starting to gain steam as a potential darkhorse candidate -- not a potential winner, but certainly someone that might at least score a free trip to New York in December. Nebraska would have to win out as a one-loss Big Ten champion, though, and Burkhead would have to keep coming up as big as he has all season long. Do all that, and it might be good enough to get some major national attention.

Well, that clearly didn't happen. Nebraska's rushing attack was bottled up by Northwestern, of all defenses; the Wildcats had been ranked 95th nationwide coming into Saturday's contest, ceding 194 rushing yards per game. And yet, Nebraska managed only 122 yards on the ground in the 28-25 loss, and Burkhead was particularly ineffective: 22 rushes, 69 yards, one score, and one costly fumble inside Northwestern's 5-yard line. Worse, only three of those 22 rushes gained first downs, while Burkhead converted for a score or first down on only two of six rushes on 3rd and 4th down. That? That's not good.

WINNER: Kain Colter

Say this about Pat Fitzgerald: he doesn't much care for traditional labels on players. How else to explain Kain Colter, who for the last four weeks has averaged 55 yards rushing, 55 yards passing, and 71 yards receiving per game in a QB/WR hybrid role in support of Dan Persa? This week, Colter's versatility was especially useful, as Persa would leave the game at the half after sustaining a shoulder injury; Colter responded by scoring three touchdowns in the second half of Northwestern's upset victory.

Colter and Persa had seen their roles increasingly specialized coming into this week's action, with Persa taking the lion's share of the passing duties and Colter rushing far more often. Indeed, even though he only played a half, Persa threw 14 passes in this week's game; Colter, meanwhile, threw six. So there still isn't a ton of trust from Pat Fitzgerald in Colter's throwing ability yet. At the same time, this platoon seems awfully similar to 2009, when Persa was primarily a rushing threat in relief of Mike Kafka. That clearly didn't hamper Persa's prospects as a thrower down the road, and the current setup shouldn't be construed as a permanent indictment of Colter's passing ability.

LOSER: Denard Robinson's legs 

Last year, in the Gator Bowl blowout that would seal Rich Rodriguez's fate with Michigan, the Wolverines tried to go for it on five fourth downs. In each one, a pass play was called for Denard Robinson; in each one, Michigan failed to convert, as the pass fell harmlessly incomplete on each attempt. This week, Robinson had led Michigan to Iowa's 3-yard line with under 20 seconds to play and a first and goal. This time around, Brady Hoke called four straight passes for Robinson; in each one, Michigan failed to score, as the pass fell harmlessly incomplete on each attempt.

This is not to argue that Robinson should never pass or anything of that sort. It's just that Robinson is at his most dangerous on the move, and when a drive or a game's on the line, by and large, it's not smart to have him stand still and look to pass. Junior Hemingway came awfully close to making a great catch on 2nd down and Roy Roundtree may have had a legitimate gripe for pass interference on 4th down (though it was far less obvious in real time), but still: Denard Robinson is the most dynamic runner in the Big Ten; why not try a run-pass option? With deep apologies to ZZ Top, Robinson has legs, and he knows how to use them. Give him a chance to do that!

Posted on: November 5, 2011 7:37 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Northwestern 28, Nebraska 25

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NORTHWESTERN WON. Northwestern stunned the Big Ten today by upsetting 10th-ranked Nebraska at Memorial Stadium, 28-25. Kain Colter was a dynamo for the Wildcats, scoring three TDs, leading the team in passing with 115 yards, leading the team in rushing with 17 carries for 58 yards and two scores, and finishing second in receiving with three catches for 57 yards.

WHY NORTHWESTERN WON: There was one team that was able to move the ball on the ground effectively in this game, and that was Northwestern. The Wildcats held Nebraska to just 103 yards rushing on 30 attempts, and that inability to wear down the Wildcat defense meant Nebraska couldn't control the pace of the game. Meanwhile, the Wildcats notched 207 yards and three scores on the ground, most of which came after Dan Persa left the game with a left shoulder injury.

WHEN NORTHWESTERN WON: When Nebraska's onside kick went about 25 yards and was recovered without incident by Northwestern with 18 seconds left. With Nebraska out of timeouts, all it took was one kneel to finish the win off for the Wildcats. 

WHAT NORTHWESTERN WON: This won't just be Northwestern's biggest win of the season, it might be on the short list of best wins for any Big Ten team this year. The Wildcats went to a Top 10 team, (at storied Memorial Stadium, no less), lost their starting quarterback in the first half, and still not only won, but did so while holding the lead for over 47 minutes of gameplay. For a team perilously close to losing bowl eligibility (Northwestern was 3-5 coming into the game), pulling off a win like that could be enough to turn around a season.

WHAT NEBRASKA LOST: The Huskers had been the highest-ranked team in the conference coming into today's game -- and the early leaders in the Legends Division race. That, obviously, is out the window now. Nebraska's one Michigan State loss away from controlling its own destiny in the race again, but there aren't many potential losses left on the Spartans' schedule. This loss probably eliminates Nebraska from BCS at-large contention, though, if the Huskers were to lose in the Big Ten Championship. Make no mistake: this is a bad loss for Nebraska, and one that'll probably cost it when it comes to bowl selection.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Nebraska had trouble stopping Northwestern in the fourth quarter, but one thing the Huskers could stop was the clock; Nebraska didn't use a single timeout until there was under a minute left in the game. What that meant, then, was that the Wildcats burned over two full minutes off the clock between the time it got inside the 5-yard line and when Colter finally scored a touchdown. At that point, Bo Pelini had let the clock run down to 1:34, and Nebraska just plain didn't have the time necessary to mount two scoring drives. When you're losing by two scores, you need to maximize the length of the game, and Pelini failed miserably at that.

Posted on: November 3, 2011 4:15 pm
Edited on: November 5, 2011 4:50 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 10



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.

As defined by Webster's, hubris means "exaggerated pride or self-confidence." Unfortunately, I didn't need to look that up because I'm already quite familiar with hubris, as is Woman. For you see, as human beings, we are prone to suffering from feelings and getting a bit too full of ourselves. Because of this hubris that both Woman and I experienced, we seem to have forgotten there was a third member of this competition.

The thoughtless, emotionless machine. Now, after a mediocre week from both Man and Woman, the Machine has made its move. The two-horse race now has a third member, and things should get interesting down the home stretch.

Colorado vs. USC (-22 1/2) - Friday, 9pm (All times Eastern)

Man - It's been hard to watch USC the last two weeks and not be very impressed with what the Trojans have been doing. Compare that to how Colorado has played all season, and I don't really care if it's at home and is getting over 3 touchdowns, I'm not relying on it. Pick: USC

Woman - "Hey, Tom, have you noticed while we're fighting each other, the zombie Machine is catching up fast? All I can say is, I'm Shane, you're Otis. As for the Pac-12 Loser Bowl, let's review the numbers. Colorado lost to Stanford 48-7.  Stanford needed triple OT to best USC. And the line starts to look smaller..." Pick: USC 

Machine - Does not really appreciate being called a zombie, but it agrees with Woman anyway. USC wins 42-13. Pick: USC

West Virginia (-14 1/2) vs. Louisville - Saturday, 12pm

Man - When it comes to the Big East your first option should always be to lean toward chaos, but from what I've seen from Louisville this season, I just don't see the Cardinals being able to hang with the Mountaineers. Which means Louisville will probably win 9-7, but I'm picking West Virginia anyway. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "West Virginia should have this won but Louisville is coming off a two-week high, beating both Rutgers and Syracuse. With both teams tied at 2-1 in the Big East standings, I'm guessing the game will be closer than the spread. (And by the way, kind of sad that Cardinals cheerleaders don't feel safe enough to cheer at Mountaineer Field.)" Pick: Louisville

Machine - Geno Smith is going to have a day to remember, as he throws for over 400 yards and 5 touchdowns as West Virginia rolls 49-21. Pick: West Virginia

Iowa vs. Michigan (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Normally in a Big Ten game played in Kinnick Stadium if I saw Iowa was getting points I wouldn't have to think that much before going with the Hawkeyes. Unfortunately this year's Iowa team is not something I want to depend on for anything, and Michigan has a lot left to play for, so I'm rolling with the Wolverines. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Big Blue's one slip this season was on the road.  But with a stout defense, Denard Robinson at the helm, and an opponent that's underperformed all season, I'm thinking Kinnick Stadium won't pose much of a threat to the Wolverines." Pick: Michigan

Machine - The Machine must not have seen Iowa play against Minnesota last week, because it doesn't see the Hawkeyes having a whole lot of trouble with the Wolverines. Iowa wins 28-17. Pick: Iowa

Nebraska (-17 1/2) vs. Northwestern - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Nebraska is a team that worries me every week, but after seeing what it was able to do with Michigan State in Lincoln last week, I'm going to put that fear aside and trust that Rex Burkhead will run all over the Northwestern defense. Pick: Nebraska

Woman - "It's a shame Northwestern QB Dan Persa can't play defense.  And it's really a shame the Northwestern defense can't play defense. Not gonna be pretty (especially at crazed Memorial Stadium)." Pick: Nebraska

Machine - The Machine sees the Nebraska offense taking full advantage of the Northwestern defense, but it also sees Dan Persa and company having some success as well. Nebraska wins 38-30. Pick: Northwestern

Oklahoma (-13 1/2) vs. Texas A&M - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - When it comes to picking games against the spread I try to subscribe to the idea of never picking the underdog unless you think the underdog has a legit chance of winning the game. I don't think Texas A&M is going to go into Norman and hand the Sooners a second straight home loss, but I also think that the Aggies will cover what's nearly a 2 touchdown spread. So screw my rules. Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "The Aggies have been my Kryptonite, letting me down every time I've picked them. That said, they haven't lost a game this season by more than seven points and have won all their away games. So, once more into the breach. Sooners win but Aggies cover." Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - Our worst fears are being realized. The Machine is adapting to reality, as it sees Texas A&M carry a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter only to lose 31-24. Pick: Texas A&M

Pitt vs. Cincinnati (-2 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - I feel like I'm punishing myself for even including this game in the picks. I mean, seriously, it's the Big East. I have no idea what's going to happen, so let's let this nickel decide. Pick: Pitt

Woman - "Some of the most excruciating college ball I've watched this season has been at the butterfingery hands of Pitt. Losing leading rusher Ray Graham for the season with a torn ACL does nothing to make the Panthers more appealing against the Big East leader." Pick: Cincinnati

Machine - The loss of Ray Graham will not be a huge blow to the Panthers this week, as they squeeze out a win against the Bearcats, throwing the Big East into total disarray. Pitt wins 28-27. Pick: Pitt

Arkansas (-4 1/2) vs. South Carolina - Saturday, 7:15pm

Man - A South Carolina offense that was already struggling before losing Marcus Lattimore for the season and has seemingly forgotten it has Alshon Jeffery on the road against an Arkansas offense averaging 37 points a game but also has a defense that's struggled to stop Ole Miss and Vanderbilt the last few weeks. So I'm just going to go with the home team. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "The Gamecocks 7-1 record is pretty misleading. They've scored a total of no more than 16 points three out of the last four games and, after dumping QB Stephen Garcia, now must deal with star RB Marcus Lattimore out for the season with a knee injury.  Meanwhile, Arkansas has averaged 37 points a game. Let's see, 37 minus 16 = " Pick: Arkansas

Machine - We got ourselves a clean sweep here, as Arkansas wins 31-14. Pick: Arkansas

Alabama (-4 1/2) vs. LSU - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Ah yes, the Game of The Century For This Year. Much like most of you, I've been looking forward to this one for weeks. A part of me didn't even want to pick this one just so I'd have no reason to care what the final score was and I could just enjoy it, but I also don't want to give a game away to the Woman or the Machine. I don't know who is going to win this game, but I do know that there are two incredibly good defenses facing each other. So points will be at a premium in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night, and since that's the case, I'm going to take the free points and LSU. Pick: LSU

Woman - "I made the horrible mistake of picking against the Tigers once this season.  That's once too many.  Calling Baton Rouge [Les Miles]." Pick: LSU

Machine - Shocking, I know, but The Machine has always been more of a Nick Saban fan than a Les Miles one. Alabama wins 28-20. Pick: Alabama

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

Man - Remember what we saw the Oklahoma offense do to Kansas State last week? I don't think that was a mirage, and now the Wildcats are facing an even more explosive offense and on the road. I let my heart pick the Wildcats last week, but this week I'm listening to my head. Let's hope I'm not as stupid as I think I am. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "The Wildcats have the unenviable task of coming off an embarrassing loss only to face the number three-ranked team in the country. The bad news for KSU: they're going to lose two games in a row. The good news: it won't be by more than three touchdowns." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Well, Kansas State, you'll always have September and the first three weeks of October. The Machine sees Brandon Weeden picking up where Landry Jones left off, and the Cowboys win 51-20. Pick: Oklahoma State

Washington vs. Oregon (-15 1/2) - Saturday, 10:30pm

Man - Washington is averaging 39 points a game at home this season while Oregon is giving up over 25 points per game to Pac-12 opponents not named Colorado on the year. So if they want to give me more than 2 touchdowns with Washington at home, I'm going to take Washington. Pick: Washington

Woman - "It's the very last game ever at storied Husky Stadium and this is an intense rivalry folks east of the Rockies don't appreciate. The Huskies might lose but will not go gentle into that good night." Pick: Washington

Machine - The Machine thinks you should stay up late to watch this one, because it's going to be a shootout. Oregon wins 48-42. Pick: Washington

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Man 55-40 (4-6)
1. Woman 55-40 (5-5)
3. Machine 52-43 (8-2)

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Posted on: November 3, 2011 11:53 am
Edited on: November 3, 2011 2:08 pm
 

DeLoss Dodds: 'We're not a bully'

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Ever since the landscape of the Big 12 started to change with Texas A&M announcing that it was leaving the conference for the SEC, there's generally been one school that has taken that largest portion of the blame in public opinion: Texas. Many believe that the reasons schools like Texas A&M and Missouri want to leave was because they were tired of the preferential treatment they believed Texas has received in the conference over the years.

The school has also been portrayed as a bully of sorts, forcing the Big 12 to do things its way. Which is a perception that athletic director DeLoss Dodds doesn't agree with at all.

"We have stuck our neck out to save the Big 12, and we're not a bully," Dodds told the Missourian. "We didn't cause it. Our goal has been, and continues to be, to keep something together for the Big 12 and that's what we're going to do, good Lord willing."

Dodds then talked about the Longhorn Network again, reiterating that the network was never supposed to be a great revenue producer, but that when ESPN came around saying they'd give the school $15 million a year for it, it was kind of hard to turn down.

"Would you have said no? Would Missouri have said no?" Dodds said. "No, they wouldn't have said no, they would have taken it. And we took it.

"So are we being a bully? No, we feel like we're probably being good guys. Does somebody think we're being a bully? Well that's up to them to think we're a bully. We want to keep the conference together, we want equal sharing, we want our own network for our kids, we'll give half of it to the university. If somebody can poke a hole in that, poke a hole in it."

Well, there are holes that can be poked. Texas may be trying to keep the conference together, but it was also flirting with the idea of joining the Pac-12. As for wanting the equal sharing, that didn't come about until the Pac-12 had turned it down and the school was getting that $15 million a year for the Longhorn Network. It's a lot easier to give up that extra money you were getting from the Big 12 when you have a revenue stream that none of the other schools have.

Still, that being said, I don't see Texas as being a bully. I just see Texas as a school that's doing the exact same thing schools like Missouri and Texas A&M are doing, that Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia are doing, and that Nebraska and Colorado did before them.

It's looking out for its own self-interest. That's it.

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Posted on: November 2, 2011 11:43 am
Edited on: November 2, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Conference Title Race Reset, Week 10

Posted by Chip Patterson

With the regular season winding down, we'll check in on the conference title races in all 11 FBS conferences. The contenders, key games, and some early predictions on who will claim the league's automatic bowl berth.

SEC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Auburn

EAST CONTENDERS
1. South Carolina (5-1)(7-1)
1. Georgia (5-1)(6-2)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Alabama (5-0)(8-0)
1. LSU (5-0)(8-0)
3. Arkansas (3-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: South Carolina at Arkansas, LSU at Alabama

Pick: LSU. This could easily be Alabama, but right now I've got the Bayou Bengals winning 21-17 in Tuscaloosa. Regardless, whoever wins the SEC West will likely be the one to win the SEC Championship in Atlanta. Even with a victory over Alabama, LSU would still need to beat Arkansas in the regular season finale in Baton Rouge. South Carolina owns the head-to-head against Georgia, so the Bulldogs will need to win out and hope for a Gamecocks loss this weekend to win the East.

BIG 12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Oklahoma

CONTENDERS
1. Oklahoma State (5-0)(8-0)
2. Oklahoma (4-1)(7-1)
2. Kansas State (4-1)(7-1)

Week 10 Key Games: Kansas State at Oklahoma State, Texas A&M at Oklahoma

Pick: Oklahoma. I like the way the Sooners responded to getting upset by Texas Tech in their performance against Kansas State. Unless the Cowboys continue to showcase the defense that was on the field against Baylor - which they might - I have a hard time seeing the Sooners' offense getting stopped in the Bedlam Rivalry. Oklahoma State also has a tough road against Kansas State and on the road against Texas Tech before that season finale. Could be the Cowboys, but right now I'll take the Sooners.

PAC-12
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Oregon

NORTH CONTENDERS
1. Stanford (6-0)(8-0)
2. Oregon (5-0)(7-1)
3. Washington (4-1)(6-2)

SOUTH CONTENDERS
1. Arizona State (4-1)(6-2)
2. UCLA (3-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Arizona State at UCLA, Oregon at Washington

Pick: Stanford. If Arizona State beats UCLA this weekend it should basically lock up the USC-less South Division for that bid to the inaugural Pac-12 title game. The North will be a more difficult challenge for the Cardinal, but the resiliency showed by Andrew Luck and the offense after the pick-six in fourth quarter was just one of those moments that makes you believe this is their year to win the league.

BIG TEN
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game (Rose Bowl or National Championship)
2010 Champion: Wisconsin (Rose Bowl berth)/Michigan State/Ohio State

LEGENDS CONTENDERS
1. Michigan (3-1)(7-1)
1. Nebraska (3-1)(7-1)
1. Michigan State (3-1)(6-2)

LEADERS CONTENDERS
1. Penn State (5-0)(6-2)
2. Wisconsin (2-2)(6-2)
2. Ohio State (2-2)(5-3)
2. Purdue (2-2)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Michigan at Iowa, Northwestern at Nebraska, Purdue at Wisconsin, Indiana at Ohio State 

Pick: Wisconsin. Penn State has been the surprise of the league, now sitting as the only team undefeated in conference play. But with Nebraska and road trips to Ohio State and Wisconsin on the schedule, I think the Badgers will have a chance to win the division in the regular season finale. The Legends Division is a little more cloudy, but right now Michigan State's remaining schedule is the most favorable among the three contenders. I like the Badgers to exact their revenge on Sparty in a rematch from the upset in East Lansing.

ACC
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Virginia Tech

ATLANTIC CONTENDERS
1. Clemson (5-1)(8-1)
2. Wake Forest (4-2)(5-3)
3. Florida State (3-2)(5-3)

COASTAL CONTENDERS
1. Virginia Tech (4-1)(8-1)
2. Georgia Tech (4-2)(7-2)

Key Week 10 Game: Florida State at Boston College

Pick: Clemson. This weekend won't reveal much more about the ACC title race, with the top teams in the conference sitting this out this first weekend in November. But the Hokies and Yellow Jackets will square off in Atlanta next Thursday, a game that could seal the division for either team. Wake Forest will get their shot at the Tigers, but a Clemson win should st them up for a return to the ACC title game in Charlotte.

BIG EAST
Champion Destination: BCS Bowl Game
2010 Champion: Connecticut (Fiesta Bowl berth)/West Virginia/Pittsburgh

CONTENDERS
1. Cincinnati (2-0)(6-1)
2. West Virginia (2-1)(6-2)
2. Louisville (2-1)(4-4)
2. Pittsburgh (2-1)(4-4)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisville at West Virginia, Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

Pick: Cincinnati. The league-leading Bearcats do play three of their final five conference games on the road, but they will get to play host when West Virginia comes to town. If Cincinnati can get another game on the Mountaineers, I like their chances to emerge as a 1-loss Big East champion. West Virginia has to finish their season on the road against South Florida on a Thursday night. So far in 2011, Big East home teams are 6-0 when playing conference games on a weekday night.

CONFERENCE USA
Champion Destination: Liberty Bowl
2010 Champion: UCF

EAST CONTENDERS
1. Southern Miss (3-1)(7-1)
1. East Carolina (3-1)(4-4)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Houston (4-0)(8-0)
1. Tulsa (4-0)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Tulsa at UCF, Southern Miss at East Carolina

Pick: Houston. Winner of this weekends East Division showdown should take front seat for the Conference USA title game. Either way I'm not sure either team could beat Houston. Tulsa will have their chance to play spoiler to the Cougars, hosting Case Keenum and Co. in the final game of the regular season, but they'll have to get by UCF and Marshall to have that opportunity.

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE
Champion Destination: Maaco Bowl
2010 Champion: TCU

CONTENDERS
1. TCU (3-0)(6-2)
2. Boise State (2-0)(7-0)
2. Wyoming (2-0)(5-2)

Key Week 10 Games: TCU at Wyoming, Boise State at UNLV

Pick: Boise State. The only hurdle left for the Broncos is TCU, and the Horned Frogs' defensive drop-off from 2010 has been well documented. The game also will be played on the Smurf Turf in Boise, and I like Kellen Moore's chances to dissect that defense from under center at home. With the possibility of the Broncos earning a BCS bid, there is also significant competition for those extra bowl spots. I do like TCU to finish ahead of Wyoming for the second-place spot.

WAC
Champion Destination: Poinsettia/Hawaii/Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2010 Champion: Nevada/Boise State/Hawaii

CONTENDERS
1. Nevada (3-0)(5-3)
2. Hawaii (3-1)(5-3)
2. Louisiana Tech (3-1)(4-4)
4. Fresno State (2-1)(3-5)

Key Week 10 Games: Louisiana Tech at Fresno State, Utah State at Hawaii

Pick: Nevada. The Wolf Pack bounced back from a 1-3 start with four straight wins to jump out ahead of the conference. The ground attack has been grooving, and they will have a week off before hosting Hawaii in a crucial battle for the top spot in the league. With Week 10 off and three of their final four contests at home, I like Nevada's chance to emerge as the top team in the WAC.

MAC
Champion Destination: GoDaddy.com Bowl
2010 Champion: Miami (OH)

EAST CONTENDERS
1, Temple (3-2)(5-3)
2. Ohio (2-2)(5-3)
2. MIami (OH) (2-2)(3-5)

WEST CONTENDERS
1. Northern Illinois (4-1)(6-3)
1. Toledo (4-1)(5-4)
3 Eastern Michigan (3-1)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Northern Illinois 63, Toledo 60. Temple at Ohio, Ball State at Eastern Michigan

Pick: Northern Illinois. Tuesday night's 123-point touchdown extravaganza provided thrilling mid-week action for college football fans, but it was also a huge win for the Huskies in the battle for the West Division title. Temple and Ohio will have a similar battle on Wednesday night, as the division races should have much more clarity heading into the weekend.

SUN BELT
Champion Destination: New Orleans Bowl
2010 Champion: FIU/Troy

CONTENDERS
1. Arkansas State (4-0)(6-2)
2. La.-Lafayette (5-1)(7-2)
3. Western Kentucky (4-1)(4-4)
4. Florida International (2-2)(5-3)

Key Week 10 Games: Florida International at Western Kentucky, Arkansas State at Florida Atlantic, La.-Monroe at La.-Lafayette

Pick: Arkansas State. Both La.-Lafayette and the Red Wolves have winnable Week 10 games before facing each other Nov. 12 in a game that could decide the Sun Belt Champion. With no conference title game you can never count out ties, but I like Arkansas State next week to at least pick up the head-to-head tie breaker in the final standings.


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Posted on: November 1, 2011 2:10 pm
Edited on: November 1, 2011 2:13 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Northwestern at Nebraska

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NORTHWESTERN WILL WIN IF: The Wildcat defense shuts down Rex Burkhead. Seriously, if Rex Burkhead can't rush for more than 2-3 yards a pop, Nebraska's probably in trouble, because Burkhead is the unquestioned workhorse of this vaunted rushing attack; he's averaging over 25 carries per game in Big Ten play, and logged 35 rushes last week and three total TDs in the Huskers' 24-3 win over Michigan State. The one small, tiny, insignificant detail: keeping Burkhead bottled up for four quarters is basically impossible, even for a good defense. Northwestern's defense? Not so good. The Wildcats give up about 200 yards per game on the ground alone, and 31.5 points per game. That's going to have to change this week, or Burkhead and Nebraska are going to run up the score.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: They don't make Dan Persa look like Superman. One thing that's become evident over the course of the season is that Dan Persa is not at his 2010, pre-injury level of play. That's to be somewhat expected, considering it's an Achilles injury we're talking about here, but it's to the point that Pat Fitzgerald isn't even using Persa's rushing ability anymore; that role falls to Kain Colter, who's certainly dangerous as a rusher (and receiver, when need be) in his own right -- but Colter's so harmless as a passer that one look at who's under center is usually all it takes to figure out whether Northwestern's going run or pass. Now, Persa's still a talented thrower, and he's got a stable of capable receivers, so if Northwestern's going to keep this game at all close, it'll be by passing the ball -- if Nebraska keeps Persa's passing numbers out of the stratosphere, this should be a relatively easy Husker win.

X-FACTOR: Bad Taylor Martinez. At his best, Taylor Martinez is a dual threat with the ability to make big plays with his arm or his feet, and defenses usually have to account for both possibilities. Of course, Taylor Martinez is rarely at his best, and he's usually good for one or two horrifying interceptions per game. He certainly has the ability to keep Northwestern in this game when the Wildcats shouldn't be; at the same time, if he takes care of the football, this one'll probably be over by the time the fourth quarter starts.

Posted on: October 31, 2011 7:47 pm
 

Big Ten poll reactions, Week 9

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)

9/9. Nebraska

I've wanted to see this Nebraska from the start, and here it is. The defense played up to the hype for the first time all year, Rex Burkhead was an absolute ox, and Taylor Martinez only threw one unforgivable pass. Bo Pelini may have even smiled.

So with the Huskers at 7-1 and finally possessing a big-time win, yes, No. 9 is fair. It'd be great to see a road win, and what do you know: Nebraska travels to Happy Valley then the Big House after this week's home tilt with a plucky Northwestern team.

13/13. Michigan

It is a fact that Michigan still hasn't beaten anybody of note outside of that miracle comeback against Notre Dame. It's also a fact that Michigan's offense hasn't been tested by a decent defense since MSU dismantled it a couple weeks ago (no offense, Purdue). And yet still, this is a 7-1 team that'll probably be able to coast its way to double digit wins, and even in a down Big Ten, that's probably worth a Top 15 spot; it's not as if the other conferences are much better once you get out of the Top 10 anyway.

16/15. Penn State
15/16. Michigan State

These two teams are functionally tied, and they've got the stingiest scoring defenses in the Big Ten, so they get to share a blurb here. Penn State seems like the worst one-loss team in a BCS conference, but so far, Alabama (you know, the team that's about to beat LSU) is been the only team that proved it could beat the Nittany Lions. Michigan State, meanwhile, is still 6-2 and in pretty good shape in the Legends Division race, but hidden in the Spartans' 17-4 record since the start of last season is the fact that all four of those losses have been by at least 18 points and away from Spartan Stadium -- not the stuff of champions, that. Still, MSU doesn't face any more ranked opponents for the rest of the season, so as long as the Spartans don't lay another egg at Kinnick Stadium this year look for them to have a strong chance to make it to Indianapolis -- probably to face Penn State, who holds a 2.5 game lead in its division.

19/17. Wisconsin

Oh, Wisconsin. Don't let them see you like this. Don't let them see you in hysterics after those two ridiculous Hail Marys submarined your hopes and dreams of an undefeated season. You deserve better than 19th in the nation; you really do. In fact, strictly from a "power poll" perspective, you still probably deserve to be as high as, say, Michigan -- even though that defense is just lousy. The Badgers can't ride a blowout over Nebraska at Camp Randall for the whole year, though, and it's time for this team to get back on track immediately.

Also receiving votes: Ohio State (37 AP votes, 21 coaches votes) 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com