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Tag:Adam Jacobi
Posted on: November 27, 2011 3:47 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 6:19 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 13



Posted by Adam Jacobi

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

WINNER: Wisconsin's lust for revenge

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

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

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

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

LOSER: The so, so, so fired Ron Zook

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

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

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

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

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

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

LOSER: Will Hagerup

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

WINNER: Montee Ball's Heisman campaign

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

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

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

LOSER: The "Heroes Game"


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

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

WINNER: Jerry Kill, eh?

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

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

LOSER: Michigan's classless fans

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

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



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Posted on: November 27, 2011 2:25 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 6:19 am
 

Can Andrew Luck still win the Heisman?



Posted by Adam Jacobi

Stanford just put the finishing touches on a 28-14 victory over Notre Dame, and Andrew Luck was his typical self in the victory: 20-30, 233 yards, four touchdowns and an interception for a QB rating of 169.2 (his season rating, by way of comparison, is now 167.5). Meanwhile, Stanford has finished the season at 11-1 and likely to move into the No. 5 spot in the BCS and No. 3 in the AP poll after Arkansas drops in the rankings on Sunday.

So what does this all mean for Luck's 2011 Heisman chances? 

The Case For

Luck's season numbers are stellar. We're looking at 261-373 (69.97% accuracy), 3170 yards, 35 touchdowns, and nine interceptions -- one of the most prolific and efficient lines in the nation. He's been the focal point of the Stanford offense, as tailback Stepfan Taylor has been merely good as the primary rushing threat on the offense (this isn't a situation like Wisconsin RB Montee Ball making Russell Wilson's job incredibly easy, in other words). Luck is an NFL prototype, standing 6'4" at 235 pounds, his reputation is spotless, he's got three quality years of play at QB, and he's intelligent in interviews off the field. He behaves like a Heisman winner and a coach's dream.

Also, as mentioned before, Stanford is probably going to finish in the Top 3 of the AP poll (a pool of people that's not exactly dissimilar to the Heisman voting ranks), and it'll likely be somewhere in a BCS bowl in January, even as a shot at the Rose Bowl eluded the team once again. All the while, Luck has been prominent in his contributions, throwing at least two touchdowns in every game and four touchdowns in three 2011 contests.

Also, Luck strikes a pretty sweet Heisman pose in the picture above.   

The Case Against

Luck's numbers might not be stellar enough this year. He's nowhere near NCAA passing efficiency leader Russell Wilson, and while Wilson's usage numbers are low enough that he's not receiving Heisman consideration anymore, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley, and Boise State's Kellen Moore all have similar amounts of attempts and completions, and aside from RG3 (one fewer passing TD), their touchdowns are all higher and their interceptions are all lower than Luck's. Luck's interceptions are up from last year, and his yardage and efficiency are both down (albeit slightly in all three cases). His rushing in 2011 is nowhere near the level of the last two years -- though voters probably won't mind that last fact.

Further, as mentioned before, Luck's Stanford team is likely to be ranked third in the AP poll on Sunday, but at the same time only fifth in the BCS. While that's not a disqualifier from Heisman consideration by any stretch of the imagination, it may not be high enough for some voters to consider taking Luck over, say, Trent Richardson from second-ranked Alabama. Moore and Keenum also have their teams in the Top 10, and again, their raw numbers are better than Luck's. Worse yet for Luck, regional Heisman voting bias is a very real thing, and the fact that Moore, Keenum, Barkley, and Griffin all play west of the Mississippi may mean Luck can't stand out among his peers in south and west-coast voting enough to overtake the strong showings of Richardson in the east or RG3 in Texas.

The Verdict

There's no question that Luck's going to New York as a Heisman finalist, and he's probably going to finish in the Top 3 or 4. But in such a loaded Heisman pack, it takes a lot to distinguish one's self as the best player in the nation. Trent Richardson's got highlight-reel plays and a likely berth in the BCS Championship. Robert Griffin III has the best efficiency among serious Heisman candidates and two high-profile last-minute victories. Montee Ball has the most touchdowns in one year since Barry Sanders in his legendary 1988 season. Kellen Moore has a 49-3 record and 134 passing touchdowns. Case Keenum rewrote the NCAA record books in career passing totals. In a field like that, what does Andrew Luck bring to the table better than anybody else, and is it a legitimate reason to vote for someone as the best player in the nation? Unfortunately for the Stanford faithful, we don't see how Luck answers that question well enough to bring home the Heisman.



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Posted on: November 26, 2011 7:34 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Wisconsin 45, Penn State 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WON. Penn State's vaunted defense was no match for Montee Ball and the Wisconsin rushing game, and the Badgers rolled to a 45-7 victory to clinch the Leaders Division title and an invitation to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. Ball rushed for 156 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries, and made significant progress toward the NCAA record for most total touchdowns in a season; the record set by Barry Sanders is 39, and Ball now has 34 with two games left to play.

WHY WISCONSIN WON: The Badgers obviously have a high-powered offense, one that doesn't make many mistakes, so it was going to be crucial for Penn State's defense to force Wisconsin into punts and turnovers, while the Penn State offense was going to have to limit its own mistakes and focus on ball control and long drives. That clearly didn't happen. Penn State turned the ball over four times while Wisconsin only lost one fumble late in garbage time, and Wisconsin scored 24 points off turnovers as it cruised to victory.

WHEN WISCONSIN WON: Penn State had forced punts on two of the first four Badger possessions (three, actually, if we're counting the punt in the second drive; Penn State committed a penalty on the play and Wisconsin turned the drive into a touchdown), and Wisconsin's lead was a somewhat precarious 14-7, when a Penn State punt pinned Wisconsin back at its own 17 midway through the second quarter. Wisconsin answered with a scintillating touchdown drive marked by two long Russell Wilson scrambles to push the lead to 21-7, and when fullback Michael Zordich fumbled the ensuing kickoff and gave Wisconsin the ball 31 yards away from the end zone with two minutes left in the half, it wasn't too difficult to figure out how this game was going to end.

WHAT WISCONSIN WON: Just as expected at the beginning of the season, Wisconsin will represent the Leaders division in the Big Ten Championship. Of course, the route there has been a little different than expected, and the Badgers' ranking at No. 15 is beneath the standards set by the program and its preseason No. 9 status. But there's some redemption to be had here, at the very least, and if Wisconsin exacts its revenge on Michigan State in the Big Ten title game then shines in the bowl game, it's reasonable to think the Badgers could still climb back into the Top 10.

WHAT PENN STATE LOST: For the first time since Week 6, Penn State is not the front-runner for the Leaders Division title. Unfortunately, the season is also now over, so Penn State is hereby thrown to the mercy of bowl selection committees having lost two of its last three. Obviously these are less than ideal circumstances for Penn State off the field, and if those circumstances are going to have any effect on Penn State's bowl bid, it's going to be a negative effect. So we'll see what all that means for the Penn State postseason, and whether the PSU athletic department even feels like going through the process in the first place.  
Posted on: November 26, 2011 4:03 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Michigan 40, Ohio State 34

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN WON. For the first time in nearly 3,000 days, Michigan has a victory over Ohio State in football. The Wolverines needed a ton of points to finally get over the hump, but when the dust settled, it was the Wolverines with a 40-34 victory. Denard Robinson was brilliant in victory, throwing for 167 yards and three scores on 14/17 passing and adding 26 rushes for 170 yards and two more TDs. For OSU, Braxton Miller looked like a force to be reckoned with in years to come, going 14-25 for 235 yards and two passing scores while rushing 16 times for 100 yards and other score -- a 19-yard beauty that gave OSU a 17-16 lead. 

WHY MICHIGAN WON: Michigan took a page out of Ohio State's gameplan and rushed nearly 75% of the time on Saturday, and it was a recipe for success. Robinson's 170 yards led the team, but Fitzgerald Toussaint added 120 yards of his own on 20 carries, and Ohio State really had no answer on defense for Michigan's physical rushing game. Even Robinson ran with authority, frequently putting his head down and fighting for extra yardage and first downs. His effort was as conspicuous as it was successful, and doubtless his Wolverine teammates fed off that determination.

WHEN MICHIGAN WON: When Courtney Avery intercepted a 4th down Braxton Miller pass with under a minute left. It looked as if Michigan was putting the game away on the prior drive, when Fitz Toussaint and Denard Robinson appeared to score touchdowns on consecutive plays. But Toussaint was ruled down a foot away from the goal line, and Robinson's score was wiped out by a holding call and a personal foul for a late hit, which pushed the Wolverines all the way back to the OSU 26. Brendan Gibbons would eventually convert a field goal from there to push the lead to 40-34, but that six-point margin meant Ohio State still had some life at the end of the game. 

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan beat Ohio State. Wait, let's try that again: MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE. The 10-win season is absolutely nice for the Wolverines, but they've been circling this game on their calendars since time immemorial, and to get a win in this rivalry after eight years of futility is a major, major accomplishment for Brady Hoke and his charges. 

WHAT OHIO STATE LOST: Without Terrelle Pryor or Jim Tressel, this was going to be a tough season for Ohio State no matter what, and the 6-6 (3-5) record certainly reflects that. Not many people in Columbus are really holding it against Luke Fickell, necessarily -- again, meeting Ohio State's usual standards of success was a nearly impossible task -- but Fickell at least had the opportunity to turn this year into a one-game season with a game against Michigan. "At least we still own Michigan" would have been a reassuring mantra as OSU fans prepared for a coaching regime change and NCAA punishment, but now Ohio State has to acknowledge that this is now, at long last, a two-team rivalry again.

THAT WAS CRAZY: In the second quarter, Ohio State caught a major break when Michigan punter Will Hagerup muffed a routine long snap. The miscue surprised everyone in the stadium, Hagerup included, and it led to this classic screencap of Hagerup's reaction to the ball in midair. Oh, it also led to a short field and an eventual field goal for the Buckeyes, but we're happier focusing the screencap.
Posted on: November 25, 2011 3:06 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 13

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.

So you're been eating turkey and Thanksgiving leftovers for two days now, you've still got an entire Saturday of football to get through. And really, is there any better way to work off all the weight you've gained over the holiday than by sitting on a couch watching football?

Of course not.

So strap yourselves in and prepare for one of the last Saturdays you'll have this season.

BREAKFAST

#9 Oklahoma vs. Iowa State - FX 12pm ET

Who'd have known this game could hold so much intrigue? Iowa State is coming off a huge win of Oklahoma State and Oklahoma is coming off a loss to Baylor. Is it possible that Oklahoma could get upset two weeks in a row, or that Iowa State could pull off consecutive upsets? Your first reaction is to probably think not, but then again, how many of us thought Iowa State would beat Oklahoma State last week? - Tom Fornelli

#23 Georgia Tech vs. #13 Georgia - ESPN 12pm ET

The Jackets simply can't ask for a better week to play the Dawgs. Todd Grantham only has a week to prepare his defense for the Tech triple-option; how focused that defense will be with the SEC Championship on deck is entirely debatable; and we're guessing Tech didn't spend all of their nine days between their Nov. 10 game vs. Virginia Tech and last Saturday's vs. Duke prepping for the Devils. But against Jarvis Jones and a Bulldog defense ranked second in the nation in rush defense, will any of that matter? - Jerry Hinnen

#15 Michigan vs. Ohio State - ABC 12pm ET

This would appear to be a prime opportunity for Michigan to exorcise the demons of Jim Tressel's dominance; for one, Tressel's not even there anymore, and more importantly, the Wolverines are probably better than the Buckeyes. Of course, "better" doesn't always equal "victorious" in a sport as maniacally unpredictable as college football, but we're sure Denard Robinson and his (intermittently) high-powered offense are just as eager to take this matchup off paper and onto the gridiron as OSU is. - Adam Jacobi

UConn vs. Rutgers - ESPN2 12pm ET

The schedule has worked out well for Rutgers to put themselves in a position to win a share of the Big East title for the first time in school history.  But accomplishing that feat still requires one more win to finish at 5-2 in league play.  Paul Pasqualoni's Connecticut squad is out of the hunt for a BCS bowl berth, but with Rutgers and Cincinnati left on the schedule they have two great opportunities to spoil someone else's fun. This game has been played close the last several years, and Connecticut's players will be looking for revenge after giving up a close 27-24 game to the Scarlet Knights a year ago.  Rutgers running back Jawan Jamison has emerged as the star in the offensive backfield in the second half of the season, and if he can get going early it should open up the defense for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu to pick on a struggling Huskies secondary. - Chip Patterson

LUNCH

#24 Auburn vs. #2 Alabama - CBS 3:30pm ET

If this game was being played on paper -- or a neutral venue -- there wouldn't be much intrigue to it. Alabama has the more efficient offense, has the far superior defense, and is favored by three full touchdowns in a series that (for all the "throw out the records" talk) rarely produces upsets. But the game's being played in Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium, where the Tigers nearly ruined the Tide's national championship hopes two seasons ago and where AJ McCarron may not be the steady quarterback he's been at home. So don't send the Tide to New Orleans just yet. - JH 

Virginia vs. #5 Virginia Tech - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

Virginia Tech's move to the ACC received some significant help from Virginia during the ACC's expansion in 2004.  The Hokies have repaid their Commonwealth brothers by winning four of six division titles and beating the Cavaliers every season since joining the conference.  Second-year head coach Mike London has Virginia playing their best football at the right time, winning six of their last seven contests.  There aren't a lot of stars on the roster, but they play smash-mouth football and have been incredibly opportunistic.  Virginia Tech must avoid turning the ball over and try to jump out to an early lead to force Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco to move the ball through the air.  Logan Thomas and David Wilson will be the key to the Hokies' ground game, as ball control will be necessary for either team to clinch the ACC Coastal Division and a berth to the ACC Championship Game. - CP

#16 Wisconsin vs. #19 Penn State - ESPN 3:30pm ET

This one's for half the Big Ten Tostitos, folks. Penn State's basically never been taken seriously as a division contender, yet here it is one win away from a trip to Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Wisconsin gets to continue its path to redemption if it wins here--and then there's just a rematch with MSU with the Rose Bowl on the line. It's a great offense vs. a great defense, and a lousy offense vs. a lousy defense. Compelling viewing all around. By the way, I think I owe Brent Musberger AND Frito-Lay royalties for that opening line. A rare tandem, that. - AJ

#10 Oregon vs. Oregon State - ABC/ESPN2 3:30pm ET

This isn't a rivalry, this is Civil War. The Ducks are looking to close out the Pac-12 regular season as North champions and host the first ever conference title game so who better to do so against than their rival up the highway? The Beavers are banged up but should put up a fight with quarterback Sean Mannion likely throwing the ball all over. - Bryan Fischer

DINNER

Florida vs. Florida State - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Gators and 'Noles are both living in a Sunshine State of Disappointment at the moment, but one team will get to head off to a bowl game with some measure of solace. Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks -- both teams' offenses have lagged behind their defenses this year, with FSU's 14-13 home loss to Virginia last week the latest evidence -- but 6-5 Gator record or not, the atmosphere at Florida Field should still be plenty hostile and relations between the teams still plenty frosty. - JH

#12 South Carolina vs. #17 Clemson - ESPN 7:45pm ET

Clemson enters the annual rivalry reeling after three frustrating performances that resulted in road losses to Georgia Tech and NC State. The Tigers have clinched a berth to the ACC Championship Game, but need to get a strong performance to get back on track. The Gamecocks on the other hand are just starting to put the pieces back together after a frustrating stretch of injuries and dismissals have revamped the offense. Connor Shaw had one of his best games of the season against Furman, but it was also Furman. The matchup to watch here will be South Carolina's dominating - but slightly banged up - defense against Tajh Boyd and the Clemson offense. The Tigers get star freshman Sammy Watkins back, after missing the NC State loss with a shoulder injury, but will it be enough to make up for a sputtering unit that was exposed by the Wolfpack in the 37-13 loss? - CP

#6 Stanford vs. #22 Notre Dame - ABC 8pm ET

This will be Andrew Luck's final chance to impress Heisman voters this season, and it could be his final game in Palo Alto. Luck will also be facing a team that he's had some trouble with, as in his two games against Notre Dame, Luck has thrown one touchdown and two interceptions. Though Stanford is also 2-0 in both of those games.  As for the Irish, a win over Stanford in Palo Alto to finish the regular season would be an excellent way to cap a season that started off poorly but has redeemed itself a bit since. - TF

LATE NIGHT SNACK

USC vs. UCLA - Fox Sports 10pm ET

USC returns to the Coliseum after their big upset win over Oregon and can end their season with a big win over crosstown rival UCLA. This might be the last game in the cardinal and gold for quarterback Matt Barkley and he'll want nothing more than to have a great game to secure a 10-win year despite sanctions. The Bruins are not only playing to beat the Trojans but also for a spot in the Pac-12 championship game and a South division title. - BF 
Posted on: November 23, 2011 3:41 pm
 

Sandusky lawyer: New complaint comes from family

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As reported on Tuesday, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is being investigated in two new cases of child abuse by Pennslyvania's Youth and Child Services. Under state law, this means that the two new accusers are still under the age of 18, while all the alleged victims in the charges Sandusky currently faces are now adults. Now, according to Sandusky's lawyer Joe Amendola, it appears that one of the two accusers comes from Sandusky's family.

Here's more from PennLive.com's Sara Ganim:

The attorney for Jerry Sandusky says one of the two new cases of alleged sexual abuse under investigation by Children and Youth Services was made by a family member.

Amendola said the allegations stem from difficulties within the child's immediate family. He said the assault is alleged to have occurred prior to Sandusky's arrest earlier this month, but was not brought to the authorities attention until after the former Penn State coach was charged.

The Patriot-News is withholding the child's relationship to Sandusky to shield the child's identity. 

Posted on: November 23, 2011 1:55 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Ohio State at Michigan

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: Bad Denard makes a housecall. If there's one area where Ohio State's struggles have been surprising, it's turnovers. OSU's +4 on the year, so that's good, but that's only because the Buckeyes barely ever give the ball away; they've done so 12 times in 11 games, which is tied with Michigan State for best in the Big Ten. But that +4 margin also means that the defense hasn't exactly been ball-hawking this year. Indeed, the 16 takeaways managed by the Buckeye D is tied for 8th best in the conference, and that's hardly in line with OSU's usual modus operandi (though the fact that one of the teams also tied at 16 is Alabama should tell you how necessary forcing turnovers really is). Still, OSU probably can't just play Michigan straight up and try to bend but not break and hope to come away with a victory; Denard Robinson is too explosive for that. He's also too error-prone for OSU not to take risks and force him into tough situations. A couple instances of Bad Denard this Saturday, and Ohio State could have the opening it needs to win.

MICHIGAN WILL WIN IF: Braxton Miller is forced to throw the ball. Ohio State has done a generally good job during Big Ten play of limiting what Miller is being asked to do, in terms of making reads or otherwise thinking on the fly. That's a recipe for disaster for nearly every true freshman quarterback (which is why most redshirt), so there's a reason why Miller is instead the team's leading rusher (though Boom Herron will probably surpass Miller by the end of the bowl game) this season in addition to his passing duties. Miller still completes fewer than 50% of his passes, and that may help make it easier for Michigan to get OSU into a third and long situation. Now, just because Miller drops back on a 3rd and 9 doesn't mean a pass is necessarily coming; Miller's not quite as gifted a scrambler to the sticks that Terrelle Pryor was, but he's already pretty close, and Michigan's going to need to account for that too. Nonetheless, it should be the Wolverines' goal to keep Ohio State well below .500 on third-down conversions, as that will likely lead to a victory. 

X-FACTOR: Urban Meyer. Ohio State has fought tooth and nail to keep the media's focus on this game and not the future of the program, which by all indications will not be spearheaded by Luke Fickell after this year. The problem is that the athletic department isn't very good at keeping secrets, because while it's certainly plausible that Meyer hasn't inked any contracts yet, the process is far enough along that the Columbus Dispatch is reporting the deal as done. Now, whether the Buckeyes have been able to maintain their focus on game week is the big thing, not whether the media has. And it certainly stands to reason that the players (especially the seniors) care more about the game in front of them than who may or may not be the coach going forward. And yet, and yet, every time the words "Urban Meyer" get said in the locker room, that's one more conversation that isn't about the game.



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Posted on: November 23, 2011 12:37 pm
 

REPORT: Urban Meyer to coach Ohio State next year

Posted by Adam Jacobi

After weeks of rumors and speculation, the Columbus Dispatch is reporting the inevitable: former Florida head coach Urban Meyer will be Ohio State's next head coach. According to the report, Meyer's agreement is in principle, as contract details have not been arranged, but those are often not finalized until after a head coach has been officially hired.

Here's more from the Dispatch:

Two well-placed sources at Ohio State University confirmed for The Dispatch this morning that Urban Meyer will be announced next week as the next head football coach of the Buckeyes.

Also, the sources said that though interim head coach Luke Fickell has not been in the loop, he will be taken care of when or if Meyer accepts the job. In what capacity, the sources weren’t sure.

Meyer had been a head coach with Bowling Green and Utah for two years apiece before assuming the lead role at Florida in 2005. He led the Gators to two national championships (2006, 2008) before resigning due to health concerns after the 2010 season. Meyer made a similar resignation in 2009, vowing in December to coach the team's bowl game and leave aftwards, but he soon backed off that plan and coached the Gators as usual the next year.

Meyer is still only 47 (48 at the beginning of the 2012 football season), so youth would appear to be on his side. And yet, the health concerns that have dogged him at Florida have primarily been stress-related, so unless he takes a markedly different approach to coaching at Ohio State, it stands to reason that health may be a concern again. Of course, it also stands to reason that Ohio State is acutely aware of this fact and will adjust its expectations of Meyer accordingly. If both parties have agreed to an arrangement, the issue would almost certainly have to be resolved.

This report seems to refute Meyer's statement made Wednesday morning through ESPN, which read in full: "I have not been offered any job nor is there a deal in place. I plan on spending Thanksgiving with my family and will not comment on this any further." While it is generally agreed upon that there has been no formal offer of a job, to describe the situation as reported by the Dispatch as "no deal in place" strains the limits of linguistic semantics. 

Ohio State is still awaiting word from the NCAA on its football program's fate; the Buckeyes have been rocked by allegations of widespread impermissible benefits to past and present players, and the program has seen the resignation of beloved head coach Jim Tressel, permanent ineligibility for starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, 12 vacated wins, and over 30 games' worth of suspensions handed down to current Buckeyes this season (including 10 for star wideout DeVier Posey, who just returned to play last Saturday). There has been no indication from the NCAA when the Committee on Infractions will rule on the OSU program, though it is expected to happen well before the start of next season.

 
 
 
 
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