Tag:Denard Robinson
Posted on: September 11, 2011 12:13 am

QUICK HITS: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN WON. The Michigan Wolverines won a thriller in Ann Arbor Saturday night, coming back from a 24-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to upend the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 35-31 in what will be one of the wildest finishes of the year. Denard Robinson was his usual do-everything self, throwing for 338 yards and four touchdowns, and rushing for 108 yards and another score. The two teams scored three touchdowns in the final 1:12 of the game, with Michigan's winning score coming with just 0:02 left on the clock.

HOW MICHIGAN WON: Two words: Denard Robinson. Robinson threw for three of his four touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone (and rushed in a one-yard fumble recovery for the fourth), and he accounted for 237 of Michigan's 240 yards in that final quarter of play. He made throws that required his receivers to make the more athletic adjustment to the ball, and the Wolverines responded admirably; Roy Roundtree, Junior Hemingway, and Jeremy Gallon in particular made play after play on deep passes in the second half, even in heavy coverage.

WHEN MICHIGAN WON: Notre Dame led for the vast majority of the game, and even Michigan's first lead of the game only lasted for 42 seconds. But Denard Robinson led Michigan straight down the field in three plays and found Roy Roundtree on a jump ball in the end zone with two seconds left, giving Michigan its final margin of victory.

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: This victory was inestimably important for Brady Hoke and his charges, as they put together a rally that will be remembered for decades and beyond by Michigan faithful. That it came against rivals Notre Dame and under the lights adds an extra layer of mythic glory to it all. The Michigan offense looked dead to rights in the first three quarters. Now future opponents know the deluge can happen at any moment, even in the new-look Al Borges offense.

WHAT NOTRE DAME LOST: Notre Dame should believe that it had no business losing that game, because it didn't. QB Tommy Rees shredded Michigan all night long, with the Irish racking up over 500 yards from scrimmage (315 passing, 198 rushing tonight) for the second straight game and registering 28 first downs to Michigan's 16. Unfortunately, Notre Dame also turned the ball over five times for the second straight week, with two turnovers coming inside Michigan's 5-yard line and another coming inside the Michigan 30. That's a lot of points coming off the board, and in a four-point loss, those mistakes are fatal. Notre Dame has a lot going for it, especially on offense, but the turnovers cannot continue.

That monumental bad fortune, however, might have an insidious cause: the logos on Notre Dame's helmets were three-leaf clovers, and not four-leaf clovers. What ever happened to the "luck of the Irish"?

THAT WAS CRAZY: The entire fourth quarter. All of it. Everything. College football is the greatest sport in America and this game is why. 

Posted on: September 9, 2011 3:02 pm

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 2

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.

Admittedly the menu this week is not as artery-clogging as last week's, but that's probably a good thing. After the five-day all-you-can-eat buffet that was the first week of the season, we should all eat a bit lighter this week. Of course, just because we won't be feasting on meals guaranteed to shorten our life spans, that doesn't mean there aren't some tasty entrees at our disposal.

Let's take a look at what we have to dine on this Saturday.


#8 Wisconsin vs. Oregon State - ESPN 12pm ET

It's hard to imagine two seasons starting in such opposite directions. Oregon State dropped an overtime thriller to Sacramento State, while Wisconsin breezed to victory over UNLV. If these teams play at the same level tomorrow, this could be a historic blowout. And we all like watching touchdowns by the bucket, don't we? - Adam Jacobi

#17 Michigan State vs. FAU - ESPN2 12pm ET

Howard Schnellenberger's five-game road trip to kick off his farewell season rolls into Detroit to face a Spartan team looking to rebound from a sluggish start. This was supposed to be a home game for FAU, but with the $70-million stadium in Boca Raton still under construction the contest was moved to Ford Field.  After coaching from the press box last week due to complications from hip surgery, Schnellenberger will return to the sideline and try to inspire more than 137 yards of offense for the Owls.  Michigan State fans will also want to see more cohesion out of the Spartans, who committed eight penalties and never really hit their stride against an inferior Youngstown State squad. - Chip Patterson

Auburn vs. #16 Mississippi State - SEC Network 12:21pm ET 

It won't have the divisional title implications of the Georgia-South Carolina matchup, but both the Tigers and Bulldogs will be fighting every bit as tooth-and-nail for a victory here as their Eastern counterparts will later in the day. Dan Mullen's State team wants to cement its status as a legitimate West division factor but simply can't without a win over the brutally inexperienced Tigers; Auburn, meanwhile, is in desperate danger of being branded a one-year wonder if they follow up their escape from Utah State with a loss in one of the most winnable games on their SEC slate. - Jerry Hinnen


#23 Penn State vs. #3 Alabama - ABC 3:30pm ET

If Penn State fans want some respect from the national media for this team, the Nittany Lions are going to have to earn it on the national stage, hosting No. 2 Alabama. The Tide is loaded again this year, but like PSU, there's some QB drama at Bama. Watch to see if McCarron or whoever else the Tide throws out there on Saturday can handle what promises to be a maniacally loud Beaver Stadium. - AJ

#13 Oregon vs. Nevada - FX 3:30pm ET

After getting embarrassed by LSU's defense in the opener, I expect Mark Helfrich to have the attack meter all the way turned up against the Wolf Pack. Darron Thomas, LaMichael James, and Co. have not derailed from their 2010 form, it just seems these massive SEC defenses are the Ducks' kryptonite.  After a frustrating loss, coaches will want to take advantage of every single snap against their next opponent.  You will want to watch this game because Oregon will put the foot on the gas pedal (Cliff Harris!) and never let up for four quarters. - CP 

Air Force vs. #25 TCU - Versus 3:30pm ET

You can be sure that TCU didn't exactly enjoy having the entire country see Baylor tear its defense apart last Friday, and the unit is going to look to save some face against Air Force on Saturday afternoon. This game will also mark the beginning of the final year of Mountain West conference play for the Horned Frogs, and I'm sure they'd like to go out with quite a bang. - Tom Fornelli

Georgia vs. #12 South Carolina - ESPN 4:30pm ET

Well, this is it: the defining game of Mark Richt's Georgia tenure. Lose it, and any shred of momentum from the "Dream Team" offseason or hope of a divisional title (most likely) is gone. Win it, and the Dawgs suddenly sit in the East catbird seat with the SEC's easiest schedule on tap. It's either the miserable end for one of the sport's most visible coaches, or the giddy start to a stunning reclamation project, with no in-between ... and Stephen Garcia's involved, too. A must-watch. - JH


#24 Texas vs. BYU - ESPN2 7pm ET

The Big 12 of the future! Does BYU win the game in hopes of gaining a Big 12 invite, or does it show its true Big 12 street cred by allowing Texas to walk all over it? Tune in to find out! Seriously, though, this will be a much better indication of how improved Texas is this year than last week's game against Rice. BYU is fresh off a nice road win against Ole Miss and should provide a much tougher test for the Longhorns. - TF

USC vs. Utah - Versus 7:30pm ET

The Pac-12 officially kicks off conference play and it should be a good one as former BCS busters Utah will try and prove they can play with the conference's most storied program from the get-go. USC's record-setting pair of quarterback Matt Barkley and wide receiver Robert Woods won't have much time to throw the ball around as the Utes have a very good front seven this year. Old friend Norm Chow also returns to the Coliseum, this time with a solid quarterback in Jordan Wynn, so it should be a fun league opener. - Bryan Fischer

Michigan vs. Notre Dame - ESPN 8pm ET

The first night game in the history of the Big House has plenty to offer everyone. How will Michigan's defense perform this week now that it might have to play an entire 60 minutes, and do so against a Notre Dame offense that features a lot more weapons than Western Michigan's did. Also, will Denard Robinson have an encore performance of his game against the Irish last year? That's the one that made him a household name last September when he accounted for 502 yards of total offense and 3 touchdowns. - TF


UCLA vs. San Jose State - 10pm ET

Rick Neuheisel cares. He might be the only one at UCLA who cares, but he really does care passionately about his alma matter. The Bruins hope to turn things around after their disappointing loss to Houston in which the defense looked like a mess. San Jose State isn't the most appealing opponent but it's the only late night game on Saturday and the Bruins should get the offense going no matter who's in the backfield. - BF
Posted on: September 3, 2011 11:37 pm

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 3)

Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Ohio State isn't back, because they never went anywhere to begin with. Let's get one thing out of the way: Ohio State was only playing Akron. Beating Akron proves nothing. The Buckeyes probably aren't going to be the last team to beat Akron by 42 points this season.  And yet, that sure looked like Jim Tressel's Ohio State, didn't it?

It makes sense that OSU still looks mostly the same, to an extent; Luke Fickell is a Jim Tressel disciple, and the rest of the Tressel staff is still in place. Further, the vast majority of OSU's superior talent is back. Terrelle Pryor is gone, obviously, and there are a handful of starters who are suspended for the early going. But OSU's real strength didn't lie in its starters' talent, it was having second- and third-stringers who could start for pretty much any other team, and those guys are all still around. So Fickell's got some institutional advantages in place.

But keeping those players focused in the middle of what's arguably OSU's largest scandal is much easier said than done, and Fickell deserves a ton of credit for maintaining control of the program when it looked like all hell would break loose. Nobody's talking about Terrelle Pryor in Columbus today, they're talking about the Buckeyes. That's the way it ought to be. 

2. It's like thunder! And lightning! On its face, it seems silly to discuss non-catastrophic weather in a column called "what I learned"; everyone's got that sort of thing figured out by, oh, third grade. But I did learn that even in the legendary, leaderish Big Ten, they will flat-out cancel the rest of a football game on account of lightning if it persists long enough. 

That's precisely what happened Saturday, when Michigan and Western Michigan officials decided to call off a 34-10 contest with over a full quarter remaining in the game. The weather report looked grim at that point, and it was unlikely that the game could be finished before at least 10:00. Still, even though it's admirable that there are rules with the protection of fans and players in mind like this, it also seems decidedly un-football to do so. Oh, if it weren't for that pesky liability. Alas.

3. The Leaders Division is Wisconsin's to lose right now. Sure, Wisconsin's defense struggled at times with the UNLV rushing attack, but not disastrously so, and the second unit of the Badger offense was pretty pedestrian. That's all true. What Wisconsin showed on offense on Thursday rendered that all moot. Russell Wilson made the best reads of anybody in the Big Ten in Week 1, and he's only been in Madison for a few months. He also showed the best rushing acumen of any Big Ten quarterback not named Taylor Martinez or Denard Robinson. And oh yes, the Wisconsin rushing attack is as mansome as ever. The Badgers don't have a bruiser anymore, and mountain man Gabe Carimi is off starting in the NFL, but the mashing will continue apace for another year as long as James White and Montee Ball are healthy.

If Wisconsin had a decent second quarterback (or if presumptive backup Jon Budmayr's arm were healthy), or if this game were in November, it might have hung 70 or 80 on UNLV. The offense scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight possessions, and the only reason it didn't get eight was because it got the ball in its own territory with only 47 seconds left (that ended up being a field goal). It was 51-3 early in the second half. Yes, it's only UNLV, but the Badgers are probably going to score at least 31 points in every game in the Big Ten. Do you really see any team that's going to outscore them?

4. Being a running back at Iowa is still a catastrophic idea. Iowa tailback Marcus Coker was expected to be the workhorse of the Iowa offense in 2011, so it was jarring to say the least to see him put two fumbles on the turf early in the first quarter of Iowa's opener against Tennessee Tech. In came true freshman Mika'il McCall, who wowed fans with 61 yards on nine carries in the first quarter. For a backfield that's short on experience, that kind of firepower would be crucial over the course of the Big Ten season.

So naturally, McCall suffered a broken ankle on his ninth carry, and he is gone for the year, according to Kirk Ferentz. McCall is just the latest in a series of Iowa runing backs who have been stricken with serious injuries, missed seasons, or other early exits over the last few years, a list that includes former starters Jewel Hampton (ACLs, transfer), Adam Robinson (concussions, dismissal), Brandon Wegher (personal issues, transfer), Paki O'Meara (concussions), and even in a sense Shonn Greene (academics, early NFL entry). Former starting fullback Brad Rogers is also sidelined with a heart issue, although he's still working to rejoin the Hawkeyes at some point. It's a legacy of disaster that some have semi-jokingly blamed on the "Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God." The evidence seems to be overwhelmingly in the favor of such a god existing. At any rate, here's hoping McCall recovers well from his broken ankle and the Big Ten sees him again in 2012.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 3:17 pm

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 1

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.

While Thursday and Friday night serve as delicious appetizers for the new college football season, one that feels like it took forever to get here, the big games start on Saturday. Since it's been a while since you planted your behind on a couch on a Saturday morning and stayed there all day, you're probably going to need some help navigating through the day.

So lucky for you, the Eye On College Football crew has brought the Saturday Meal Plan back. It's your weekly menu of which games should be on your plate and where you can find them.


#18 Ohio State vs. Akron - ESPN, 12pm ET

So many questions for Ohio State on Saturday. Will the Luke Fickell-era offense look any different? Who's going to shine between QBs Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller? How much will the team miss its eight suspended players? Does Akron stand a chance anyway? - Adam Jacobi

#23 Auburn vs. Utah State - ESPN2, 12pm ET

Despite some close calls, Auburn hasn't lost to a school outside the current BCS conferences since Southern Miss upset the Tigers back in 1991. (USM's quarterback that day was a guy named Brett Favre, who would later become famous for inventing the cell phone camera.) So it's going to take a very good team by WAC standards to break that streak, and the Aggies -- the WAC's sixth-place finisher a year ago, now without star quarterback Diondre Borel -- very likely aren't that team. Most of the drama on the Auburn sidelines should concern which of their FBS-high 16 new starters look ready for their close-up, most notably new quarterback Barrett Trotter. But if Trotter and the other Tiger cubs come out nervous -- particularly the true sophomore defensive tackle pairing of Jeffrey Whitaker and Kenneth Carter, who could have their hands full with USU's veteran line -- things could stay competitive for longer than Gene Chizik would like. - Jerry Hinnen

Boston College vs. Northwestern - ESPNU, 12pm ET

You never like to start the season with injury concerns, and that this case for the star player on both these rosters. Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa was listed as "questionable" for Saturday's opener as he continues to recover from an achilles injury that ended his 2010 campaign, but popular belief seems to be that he will see the field. Boston College running back Montel Harris underwent his second arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss the game. Making matters even more difficult for the Eagles was an ankle sprain to talented backup Andre Williams. Williams will start and appears ready to go, but there will be more pressure on quarterback Chase Rettig to establish a passing attack against the Northwestern defense. Don't expect Persa to get any easy looks from the Boston College defense, led by All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly. - Chip Patterson


#16 Notre Dame vs. South Florida - NBC, 3:30pm ET

Year Two of the Brian Kelly Era in South Bend gets under way in a game against a former Notre Dame coach, and the son of the man who last brought a national championship to the school, Skip Holtz. There's a lot to look at in this game for both teams. Namely, will Notre Dame finally start to live up to the expectations placed on it every season, and which B.J. Daniels is going to show up for South Florida? - Tom Fornelli

#25 USC vs. Minnesota - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Perhaps it is saying something about how quiet Lane Kiffin has been at USC that one of the more notable things about this game is actually about the opposing coach. The Jerry Kill era begins in earnest on the road and he brings a Minnesota team that barely resembles the one that lost to the Trojans a year ago. The Gophers will compete with dual-threat MarQueis Gray at quarterback and a solid linebacking corps but it will be a tough task to pull of the upset against the firepower of the USC offense. Matt Barkley and Robert Woods are a fun pair to watch while Trojan fans will be nervous to see if the defense looks any better than it did last year. - Bryan Fischer

Michigan vs. Western Michigan - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30 pm ET

It's a new era for Michigan -- again -- and Brady Hoke's charges are going to face a stiff challenge from MAC stalwarts Western Michigan. Yes, seriously. The Wolverines probably won't be suffering for points with Denard Robinson leading the new offense, but the Broncos are more than capable of hanging around in this one, as standout QB Alex Carder should find plenty of opportunities to advance the ball through the air. Keep an eye on this one for some possible afternoon fireworks. - AJ

Ole Miss vs. BYU - ESPN, 4:45pm ET

Life in the SEC West isn't easy for anybody, but if Ole Miss is going to get to six wins and back to a bowl game this year, then this is one of those games the Rebels need to win. Though it's not like BYU is just going to hand the game to them, as the Cougars would like to get their new life as an independent off on the right foot, and what better way to do that than by getting a win against the SEC? - TF


#22 Florida vs. FAU - ESPNU, 7pm ET

The first sign that not everything was well in Gatorland in 2010 was Florida's season opener vs. Miami (Ohio), when Urban Meyer's team gained all of 25 yards through three quarters and wheezed their way to a 34-12 victory. Unfortunately for Meyer, the RedHawks wound up one of the nation's most surprising teams. But just as fortunately for Will Muschamp, his debut as Gator head coach shouldn't be nearly so stressful--FAU has been pegged for the bottom rungs of the Sun Belt, and will be breaking in a new quarterback and six new defensive starters in the Swamp. Most Gator fans should wind up watching quarterback John Brantley rather than the scoreboard, as a steady, solid outing by the much-maligned senior would boost his and his team's confidence considerably. - JH

#1 Oklahoma vs. Tulsa - FX, 8pm ET

The Sooners are the preseason favorite of many people throughout the country, and Saturday night will be their first chance to show people why. This game had a lot more upset potential before the arrest and suspension of Tulsa wide receiver Damaris Johnson, but the possibility that it's a lot closer than most would expect is still there. - TF

#4 LSU vs. #3 Oregon - ABC, 8pm ET

It's not just the game of this year's opening week; it would be the game of every year's opening week. And that's just looking at the rankings of the two teams--add in the Will Lyles drama at both schools, the Tigers' August bar brawl and subsequent Jordan Jefferson suspension, Cliff Harris' and Russell Shepard's respective troubles, Chip Kelly's history of nonconference woes, Jarrett Lee's potential redemption, LaMichael James kicking off his Heisman campaign, the bevy of other All-American candidates on both rosters, and the one-and-only Les Miles, and this game is as intriguing as intriguing gets. For the Ducks, victory may come down to their revamped offensive front giving Darron Thomas enough space to get Kelly's option-game going. Tiger end Sam Montgomery, though, is the kind of elite defensive lineman the Ducks have struggled with even with veteran lines. For LSU, if Lee can avoid turnovers, the Tigers' advantage on both lines-of-scrimmage should eventually prove decisive. But given the Ducks' ball-hawking ways, that's much easier said than done. The one thing we can say for certain: we'll be watching. - JH

#19 Georgia vs. #5 Boise State - ESPN, 8pm ET

Another year, another high profile season opener for the Broncos. Heisman candidate Kellen Moore will lead Boise State into a not-so-neutral Georgia Dome to face the Bulldogs in the annual Chick fil-A Kickoff. Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, who said this week he hopes to emulate Moore's success, will be trying to make his own statement after an impressive freshman season in 2010. The Georgia-heavy crowd in Atlanta will not be the only uphill battle for the Broncos. Boise State is undersized defensively in comparison to the Bulldogs offensive line, and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is sure to use the 3-4 scheme to put some added pressure on Moore. However, Moore does take care of the ball (74-9 TD:Int ratio last two seasons) and Georgia will be counting on the unproven true freshman Isaiah Crowell to anchor the running game. Get the "LAST" button ready, because you'll want to see both Top 25 showdowns in the primetime slot. - CP


Hawaii vs. Colorado - ESPN2, 10:15pm ET

This Pac-12 life isn't too bad, is it, Colorado? Your very first game and you get a trip to Hawaii to show for it. Unfortunately for the Buffaloes, they still have to face a Hawaii offense featuring dark horse Heisman candidate Bryant Moniz that puts up points in bunches. This game should be an entertaining way to end your Saturday. - TF 
Posted on: August 29, 2011 4:27 pm
Edited on: August 29, 2011 7:46 pm

Michigan releases Week 1 depth chart

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Michigan Wolverines released their first depth chart of the regular season on Monday, and although there's nothing as startling as last year's benching of Tate Forcier in favor of Denard Robinson (in retrospect, a very very good move, but still quite jarring at the time), there are a few head-scratchers as Brady Hoke gets ready to lead his charges into their first game against Western Michigan.

First, the depth chart in full, helpfully formatted by mgoblog:

QB D. Robinson D. Gardner  
RB M. Shaw OR 
F. Toussaint
V. Smith S. Hopkins
FB J. McColgan S. Watson  
WR 1 J. Hemingway K. Grady J. Jackson
WR 2 R. Roundtree J. Gallon M. Odoms
TE K. Koger B. Moore S. Watson
LT T. Lewan M. Schofield  
LG R. Barnum E. Mealer  
C D. Molk R. Khoury  
RG P. Omameh E. Mealer  
RT M. Huyge M. Schofield  

W. Heininger

N. Brink  
NT M. Martin W. Campbell  
DT R. Van Bergen Q. Washington  
WDE C. Roh J. Black F. Clark
MLB K. Demens J.B. Fitzgerald

M. Evans

WLB M. Jones B. Herron B. Hawthorne, 
D. Morgan
SLB C. Gordon J. Ryan B. Beyer
SS T. Gordon C. Johnson J. Furman
FS J. Kovacs M. Robinson  
CB1 T. Woolfolk B. Countess G. Brown

C. Avery OR 
JT Floyd

T. Anderson  
P M. Wile OR 
S. Broekhuizen
K B. Gibbons OR 
M. Wile
PR J. Hemingway OR 
D. Dileo OR 
J. Gallon OR 
M. Odoms
KR J. Gallon K. Grady V. Smith

First of all, the notion of a four-way tie at punt returner is just a little funny, isn't it? One would assume that the punt returner of the week would just be whoever's out of the rotation at WR, so as to keep legs fresh where possible, but still -- four punt returners!

But speaking of that rotation at wide receiver, that is definitely Martavious Odoms at third string WR2, with nary an "OR" to keep him in the conversation as a top reserve option. That's a little surprising; Odoms has 22 starts to his name through his career in the maize and blue, and although he ceded that starting role to Junior Hemingway in the early stages of 2010 after a season-ending foot injury, Odoms is still a much more experienced option than either Jeremy Gallon or the prodigal Kelvin Grady. Odoms has also been seen with a cast on his left arm for a while, and ice on his right shoulder; perhaps this is just a matter of a lack of practice time getting Odoms back up to speed? We'll likely know the answer to that question in about three or four weeks, provided Odoms stays healthy; if he's not moving back up the depth chart by then, we'll know Hoke has moved on to other options at wideout.

Past that, it's very nice to see Troy Woolfork atop the CB depth chart after the horrific dislocated ankle he suffered last August, ending his 2010 season before it began. His talent and experience were both sorely missed by an already comically thin Michigan secondary last year, so here's to Woolfork putting together the healthy and productive senior season he was supposed to have last year, and here's to modern orthopedic medicine turning a guy around from a dislocated ankle to back starting at cornerback in just 12 months. That's phenomenal.

Oh, and it'd be nice to know who's actually starting at tailback, wouldn't it?
Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 4:57 pm

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big Ten team

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here are one writer's choices for the preseason All-Big Ten team. 



Kirk Cousins, Senior, Michigan State

For as many high-level quarterbacks as there are in the Big Ten, it looks as if the stars have aligned the best for Kirk Cousins this year. Cousins returns his stable of running backs, two of his top three wideouts (and experienced senior backups at the third receiver and starting tight end), and his same offense from 2010. Cousins also didn't suffer a catastrophic injury last year. Oh, and Cousins is a very, very good passer. There isn't another quarterback in the conference that can make all of those claims, so while the MSU schedule is just brutal this year, if any losses occur, it's unlikely that a healthy Cousins will be to blame for any of them.

Also watch for: Even without Terrelle Pryor lining up under center, this is a loaded position in the conference. Denard Robinson and Dan Persa can also make legitimate claims as the top quarterback in the conference, and Wisconsin newcomer Russell Wilson might get there by the end of the year. This is a conference where Nathan Scheelhaase and Taylor Martinez are competing to even be mentioned in the top five quarterbacks. Big Ten secondaries, beware.


Edwin Baker, Junior, Michigan State

In a Spartan backfield loaded with depth, Baker is the best of the bunch, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs in his sophomore campaign. Baker is a low, powerful rusher with some of the best instincts in the conference, and he’ll be counted on to produce even more -- provided he can keep his talented teammates from stealing even more carries in 2011.

Montee Ball, Junior, Wisconsin

Ball gets the nod here just for being a year ahead of his teammate listed below, but the truth is both are going to be major weapons for the Badgers this year. Ball was a hair away from hitting 1,000 yards rushing last year, but his nose for the end zone is impeccable; he scored 18 rushing touchdowns last year, which is even more ridiculous considering half-man, half-truck John Clay was also a Badger last year and scored 14 TDs of his own. 20 touchdowns is totally in play for Ball this year.

Also watch for: All the true sophomores. There's a lot of them. First of all, both Baker and Bell have superlatively talented teammates in their backfields; Ball's partner in crime is reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White, who racked up 1,057 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman. Meanwhile, the Spartans have true sophomore big back Le'Veon Bell, who rushed for 605 yards at 5.7 yards a carry last year. Iowa boasted its own a true freshman breakout star in Marcus Coker, who scorched Missouri for 219 yards and two scores in the Insight Bowl. Penn State's starting tailback Silas Redd was also a true freshman in 2010, looking impressive as he tallied 437 yards (5.7 yards per carry) in relief of since-departed Evan Royster. Ohio State has a trio of workhorses in its backfield in Rod Smith, Jaamal Berry (8.3 ypc as, yep, a true freshman in 2010), and suspended starter Boom Herron. Meanwhile, junior Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) and senior Jason Ford (Illinois) have been significant contributors in the backfield for years, and both have opportunities to put forward a big year.


Derek Moye, Senior, Penn State

Penn State may not have its quarterback situation shored up just yet, but one thing for sure is that whoever steps forward will have the conference's best target to aim at. Moye is 6'5" and fast, and he led the Nittany Lions' receiving corps with 53 catches, 885 yards, and eight TDs -- all team highs last year. Ostensibly, both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin (PSU's dueling QBs) have an even better rapport with Moye than they did last year, so don't be surprised to see all three of Moye's stats rise in his senior campaign.

Marvin McNutt, Senior, Iowa

McNutt first came onto the scene in 2009, when he was listed ahead of returning starter (and future Iowa record-holder in career receptions and receiving yards) Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on Iowa's depth chart coming out of camp. McNutt and Johnson-Koulianos eventually played their way into starting roles alongside each other, but the more surprising aspect was that McNutt -- recruited as a quarterback out of high school, and the Hawkeyes' 3rd stringer under center the year prior -- could work his way into the starting lineup that easily. McNutt quickly emerged as the surest catcher on the team, and his big play ability has put the Hawkeyes' career touchdown reception record in dire jeopardy (he needs just five scores to match Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes at 21).

Also watch for: Jeremy Ebert of Northwestern has a record of production that's as good as just about anybody else in the conference, and his familiarity with Dan Persa is going to be key as Persa continues to work his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. Ohio State wideout DeVier Posey was a favorite target -- by a pretty wide margin -- of Terrelle Pryor, and it's hardly a stretch to think that whoever OSU's new QB might be will depend on Posey often (once Posey comes back from suspension, anyway). 6'5" Indiana WR Damarlo Belcher would probably be in the NFL today if he had held onto a game-winning 4th down pass against Iowa last season. He didn't, the Hawkeyes won, new Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson convinced Belcher to stay, and here we are. Keshawn Martin and BJ Cunningham should both put up big numbers for Kirk Cousins at MSU.  


Drake Dunsmore, Senior, Northwestern

From a purist's standpoint, Dunsmore is not technically a tight end; he's classified by Northwestern as a "superback," which means he can be found all over the place in the Wildcats' different offensive sets. He fits the same role that a tight end usually does, however, mixing a healthy amount of both blocking and receiving. Think of Dunsmore as Northwestern's Frank Wycheck. Also, think of him as Dan Persa's safety valve, being the second-leading receiver returning to the Wildcats and by far the leader among Big Ten tight ends with 40 receptions in 2010.

Also watch for: If Dunsmore's role as "superback" is too much of a departure from tight end for comfort, Nebraska TE Kyler Reed could easily take Dunsmore's place on this list. Reed's athleticism makes him one of the toughest tight ends to cover in the league, and at 18 yards per reception in 2010, he's proven the ability to move chains as well as any end in the conference. His eight touchdowns (tops among Big Ten TEs) don't hurt either.


Center Mike Brewster, Senior, Ohio State

Forget the Big Ten, Mike Brewster might well be the best center in the nation. In a position that usually attracts shorter linemen, Brewster stands tall at 6'5" 305 and still boasts elite technique. The four-year starter has become something of a folk hero in Columbus, and for good reason: he's probably going to be an All-Pro at the next level.

Guard Kevin Zeitler, Senior, Wisconsin

Now that First Team All-Americans Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt are gone to the NFL, the Wisconsin offensive line needs a new anchor, and Zeitler likely fits that bill. Zeitler is the most experienced offensive lineman on the Badgers, with 22 starts to his name, and his senior season should be his best.

Guard Joel Foreman, Senior, Michigan State

Foreman worked his way into the starting lineup early in his redshirt freshman season, and never relinquished the role. 36 starts later, he's the premier guard in the Big Ten, and his ability to get to the second level has been critical to Michigan State's considerable success rushing the ball. Foreman's pass protection skills are also stellar; it's no accident that Kirk Cousins has flourished as a passer over the last few years.

Tackle Mike Adams, Senior, Ohio State

Mike Adams shouldn't be on this list. He should be in the NFL, because he likely would have been a first-round pick last year. His role in the tattoo scandal and subsequent NCAA investigation led Jim Tressel to demand Adams return for his suspension-shortened senior season, and here we are. With the aforementioned Carimi off in the NFL, Adams takes over the mantle as the best tackle in college football, and his return to the Buckeyes' lineup after his five-game suspension is going to be a major factor in the Buckeyes' fight to stay atop the conference.

Tackle Riley Reiff, Junior, Iowa

As Iowa's left tackle, there's no denying Reiff has big shoes to fill; his recent predecessors include former All-Americans (and first-round NFL draft picks) Robert Gallery and Bryan Bulaga. Reiff could soon fit that bill himself; he's a big, mean masher who excels in downfield blocking and at the point of attack. Reiff's pass protection isn't as impressive quite yet, but he's still got two seasons left at Iowa to take that next step. He may not need two before the NFL comes calling.

Also watch for: Michigan center David Molk would probably be first-team in just about any other conference, but with Brewster manning the role for OSU, Molk is relegated to second-team status here. RT J.B. Shugarts is a third senior starter on the line for the Buckeyes, and if his foot injury is healed, he'll likely have a big year. Wisconsin RT Josh Oglesby is back from an injury that robbed him of all but two games in 2010, and he could easily play his way into all-conference consideration.  



DE Cameron Meredith, Junior, Nebraska

In Meredith’s first year starting in 2010, he racked up 10 quarterback hurries and 6.5 TFLs. That would be disconcerting enough by itself, but with the bevy of talent in the front seven, most of the help blocking will have to be devoted to other defenders -- meaning Meredith will likely be on an island with his opposing tackles, terrorizing them and opposing quarterbacks all season long. Look for his sack numbers to go way up in 2011.

DE Vince Browne, Senior, Northwestern

One of the most underappreciated players in the Big Ten is probably Vince Browne, who registered seven sacks and 15.5 TFL in relative obscurity last year. The spotlight's on Browne now as a consensus preseason first-team all-Big Ten player, and his production continues to improve, he'll quickly make Wildcats fans forget about former all-conference DE Corey Wootton.

DT Jared Crick, Senior, Nebraska

It's slightly unfair to Crick (pictured above right) that he shared a defensive front with former Heisman candidate DT Ndamukong Suh, because it only invites comparisons between the two rather than letting Crick define his own legacy at Nebraska. On the other hand, earning comparisons to Suh is fantastic news for Nebraska, because it means Crick's incredible. Crick is a likely All-American at DT, with 32 TFLs to his name over the last two seasons and the potential to pass 20 TFLs this year. He's big, strong, and disruptive, which probably means instant double-teams on the majority of snaps in 2011. That still might not be enough to slow Crick down.

DT Mike Martin, Senior, Michigan

Last year, Mike Martin faced the same challenge that former teammate Brandon Graham did in 2009: being the best defensive lineman on a truly terrible defense. At the very least, Martin gets another crack at helping the Wolverines turn their defense around, and with the arrival of Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator, that looks to be a real possibility. Martin wasn't at 100% very often last year, but he's healthy right now, and that plus the move back to a 4-3 lineup (with space eater William Campbell next to him at NT) should be enough to propel Martin and the Wolverines DL to a much-improved season.

Also watch for: Jerel Worthy is a monster on the interior for Michigan State and may supplant Martin as a first-team DT by season's end; Worthy's production needs to improve, though. Iowa DT Mike Daniels is in his second year of starting, and the aggressive senior showed flashes of potential last season. He's going from the "fifth starter" in 2010 to the leader of the retooling Iowa defensive line. Ohio State DE Nathan Williams is in his second year starting for the Buckeyes, and he's expected to put together a solid senior year.


Michael Mauti, Junior, Penn State

When healthy, Mauti is one of the most fearsome linebackers in the Big Ten. It's that health that poses a bit of an issue. Mauti missed all of 2009 with an ACL injury, then struggled through various maladies last season -- including a shoulder injury suffered against Ohio State. Sheer probability suggests Mauti will have better luck with injuries this year, and he's manning the inside linebacker spot in a defense that puts the ILB in the best position to make plays. Tackles will be plentiful for the talented junior this year.

Lavonte David, Senior, Nebraska

It's bad enough for Nebraska's opposing offensive linemen that they have to deal with Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler at defensive tackle at the same time. It's worse that behind them lurks All-American candidate MLB Lavonte David. With needing three blockers to engage Crick and Steinkuhler a near-certainty, Davis will be free to get to the edges and and hit the point of attack, both things the speedy linebacker can do extremely well. Look for unholy amounts of production from David in 2011.

Chris Borland, Sophomore, Wisconsin

Wisconsin's defense wasn't spectacular last year, but with an offense scoring over 30 points in all but one Big Ten game, it didn't need to be. That defense is getting a major boost this year as 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Borland returns after taking a medical redshirt last season. Borland is strong and aggressive, and he represents a significant step up from departing MLB Culmer St. Jean. It wasn't exactly easy to run on Wisconsin last year, but it'll be legitimately tough now.

Also watch for: Andrew Sweat takes over as the leader of Ohio State's defense now, and the rangy OLB is poised for a big year. Iowa MLB James Morris stepped in as a 215-pound true freshman last year, and now that he's bigger, he may never leave the starting lineup; Iowa coaches are especially high on him. Senior Nate Stupar is versatile and productive, and he'll help bolster the Penn State linebacking corps in a big way.


Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Senior, Nebraska

With former teammate and All-American CB Prince Amukamara off to the NFL, it's Dennard's time to shine as Nebraska's lockdown cornerback. He showed all the necessary potential last year as opposing quarterbacks threw for under 50% all season long (tops among BCS teams), and while the loss of Amukamara might push opposing passer ratings up a bit, throwing at Dennard is still going to be a terrible, terrible idea. 

Cornerback Shaun Prater, Senior, Iowa

Prater's interceptions are about to drop precipitously. Not because the returning All-Big Ten cornerback is about to get any worse, but with his accolades and the uncertainty in the rest of the Iowa secondary, there isn't going to be a whole lot of sense in testing Prater anymore.

Safety Aaron Henry, Senior, Wisconsin

Henry, a cornerback for the Badgers until 2010, made a successful transition to safety by registering 58 tackles, seven PBUs, and a pair of interceptions last year. With a year of experience at free safety under his belt and a wealth of athleticism to boot, Henry should be even better in 2011.

Safety Trenton Robinson, Senior, Michigan State

It's hard to argue with results, so it's hard to argue with Trenton Robinson's eight passes broken up and four interceptions; only Northwestern cornerback Jordan Mabin had more passes defended last season, with 14 PBUs and a pick. Robinson is also the leading tackler among returning MSU starters, so look for a big senior year in center field for him.

Also watch for: Iowa CB-turned-safety Micah Hyde might have a case for being on this list after scoring two touchdowns off interceptions last year, but he’ll need to produce at his new position for Iowa before any accolades come his way. True sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen is a rising star in Purdue’s secondary after two defensive scores of his own; he’ll be getting All-American consideration before his career’s over. Also, as mentioned before, Jordan Mabin led the conference in passes broken up by a pretty substantial margin. That's worth something.



Derek Dimke, Senior, Illinois

Dimke is the returning first-team All-Big Ten kicker, and for good reason; the Lou Groza watch list member was 24-29 on field goals last year, and he's got one of the strongest legs in the conference. Look for another all-conference performance this year.


Brad Nortman, Senior, Wisconsin

Not only is Nortman one of the best (if not often-used) punters in the conference, he also led the Big Ten in rushing average after gaining 17 yards on a fake punt in Wisconsin's 31-30 win over Iowa last year. Sadly, Nortman's one rushing attempt did not qualify him for the official league crown. With the top three punters in the 2010 Big Ten all graduating, Nortman has an opportunity to step up and put together a big senior year.

Posted on: August 2, 2011 10:20 am
Edited on: August 5, 2011 4:03 pm

Podcast: Top five QBs in the nation

Adam Aizer and J. Darin Darst unveil their top five quarterbacks of 2011 ... and let the debate begin. Both Aizer and Darst have Stanford's Andrew Luck, Boise State's Kellen Moore and Oklahoma's Landry Jones in their top three, but you will be surprised at the order and who is ranked No. 1.

Also debated is the best quarterback in the Big Ten ... is it Northwestern's Dan Persa or Michigan's Denard Robinson? A few other names are tossed around, including Houston's Case Keenum, Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden and Oregon's Darron Thomas. Who else should be in the Top 5?

Listen to the podcast below:

Posted on: July 26, 2011 6:15 pm

'Unofficial' Big Ten poll puts Nebraska at top

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Coming into this year's media gathering, the Big Ten decided not to hold its annual media poll with the usual preseason player of the year, predicted order of finish (heretofore limited to the top three finishers), and all of that. It seemed odd, but from the Big Ten's perspective, it wasn't exactly a vital aspect of the whole operation.

Funny thing, though; just because the Big Ten isn't holding a poll doesn't mean it's not going to happen. So lo and behold, 24 beat writers from around the conference -- two per school -- got together and held their own poll anyway.

Here's the breakdown from the Detroit Free-Press, listed with the total amount of voting points (six for first, five for second, on down the line) with first-place votes in parenthesis.


1. Nebraska (19) 139
2. Michigan State (4) 118
3. Iowa 82
4. Michigan (1) 71
5. Northwestern 69
6. Minnesota 25


1. Wisconsin (22) 141
2. Ohio State (1) 113
3. Penn State (1) 95
4. Illinois 76
5. Purdue 52
6. Indiana 27

Title game matchups:
Nebraska over Wisconsin (10)
Wisconsin over Nebraska (7)
Wisconsin over Michigan State (3)
Nebraska over Ohio State (1)
Nebraska over Penn State (1)
Wisconsin over Michigan (1)
Michigan State over Wisconsin (1)

First of all, there are scant few surprises herein. Nebraska's the class of the conference, Wisconsin's next, and there's a pretty big dropoff after that. That said, whoever decided Michigan was going to win the Legends Division in Brady Hoke's first year -- the rebuilding period right after another rebuilding period -- should stop sending joke ballots and ruining it for the rest of the readers. Another demerit for whoever decided to put somebody below Minnesota, since the Gophers are just a mess right now.

As for the Leaders Divison, no surprises here, aside from a preposterous first-place vote for Penn State. Ohio State would be worth a look here if Terrelle Pryor were still on the five-game suspension, but with Joe Bauserman (or whoever else) under center, the Buckeyes are decidedly inferior to Wisconsin -- so long as Russell Wilson's healthy, anyway.

Speaking of quarterbacks -- this would be the year to celebrate them. The top three offensive players are all QBs, according to voters, and five of the 10 players who received votes were QBs. Here's the breakdown (again, with first-place votes parenthesized):

1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan (14) 52
2. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern (4) 26
3. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State (2) 18
4. Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State (1) 16
5. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (1) 14
6. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin (2) 9
7. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska 4
8. James White, RB, Wisconsin 2
9. Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State 2
10. Derek Moye, WR, Penn State 1

Yes, that's two different Wisconsin tailbacks on the list, and at least one will likely be in the top five of voting at the end of the season. As for the leading vote-getter, it's worth pointing out that Robinson's most dangerous weapon is still his feet... and Michigan's planning on limiting his carries this season. Yes, that's a wise move for keeping Robinson healthy, but the more he's standing still in the pocket and throwing, the less he's playing to his strengths. He'll still make it work, in all likelihood, since it's Denard flippin' Robinson we're talking about here, but those gaudy numbers we saw last season may be coming down a bit. Just a bit.

In other voting, Jared Crick dominated defensive player of the year voting, and Bret Bielema was named the top coach in the Big Ten over close runners-up Kirk Ferentz, Bo Pelini, and Pat Fitzgerald (in that order). Crick is a fine choice, and the four coaches who led voting deserved to. One could make a good case for Pat Fitzgerald to be higher, but these are small quibbles; we're not talking about Ron Zook ending up in second place or anything.

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