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Tag:Michigan State
Posted on: October 30, 2011 3:35 pm
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 9



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: Beavis and Burkhead - It's impossible to discuss either Taylor Martinez or Rex Burkhead without mentioning the effect they've had on each other and Nebraska's success. They're like a buddy comedy, bringing out the best in each other while highlighting their differences; Martinez is often erratic through the air but almost always hits Burkhead in stride, while the slower Burkhead can be an effective decoy on options to spring Martinez for big gains on keepers. They work in tandem, and it would be jarring to see either of them try to replicate their success this year alone.

This week, Nebraska managed just 270 yards against Michigan State, but 233 of those yards (and all three touchdowns) came from either Martinez or Burkhead. Against the statistically best defense in the Big Ten, that's no small task. If the Huskers intend to continue toward the Big Ten Championship, it will be on the backs of their maddening quarterback and devastating tailback, ever inseparable.

LOSER: Michigan State's rushing game, again - Coming into Saturday's action, Michigan State was ranked dead last in the Big Ten in rushing yardage per game. Now, afterwards, nothing has changed. Facing a middling Nebraska defense that continues to miss All-American DT Jared Crick, the Spartans as a team managed only 101 yards on 30 carries. The passing game was even worse (11-27, 86 yards), but still: this was supposed to be a rushing attack that could take over games -- or at the very least reliably keep the chains moving. Instead, thanks to some lackluster blocking, these guys aren't even able to solve a defense with seven men in the box. If this serial failure to rush the ball effectively continues, MSU's not going to hold onto its claim for the division title.

WINNER: Braxton Miller - Yes, Ohio State is running the ball almost exclusively. But that offensive approach isn't possible if Joe Bauserman is the starter, because a diet of nothing but rushes is easy for a defense to figure out if there's only one potential ball-carrier in the backfield. That's not the case with Braxton Miller running the show, though; if Miller drops back in the pocket, he's got the opportunity to look for rushing lanes as well as open receivers. That's extremely stressful for defenders who have to decide whether to stay in coverage or crash the line once Miller takes off. That's what got Devin Smith so wide open for the game-winning score on Saturday, and it's exactly how other mobile quarterbacks like Terrelle Pryor and Denard Robinson find guys free in the secondary so often. 

LOSER: The Big Ten bandwagon - Anyone still feel like Wisconsin is a Rose Bowl-quality team? Anyone? With Wisconsin on a two-game slide and the defense looking like a liability (which it always was, it just didn't matter when the Badgers were scoring at will), the Big Ten now looks like it has zero elite teams, not one. Whoever goes to the Rose Bowl -- probably Michigan State, Michigan, or Penn State -- is due for a shellacking at the hands of whoever the Pac-12 puts forth (Stanford and Oregon being the key contenders here).  

WINNER: Whoever's starting at quarterback against Iowa - Consider the list of Indiana's Tre Roberson, Iowa State's Steele Jantz, Minnesota's MarQueis Gray, Northwestern's Dan Persa, and Penn State's Matt McGloin. What do they all have in common? They've all spent extensive time this season not being their team's starting quarterback, usually splitting time if not outright benched for poor play. They've all also lit the Iowa defense up, combining for a 149.95 passer rating and a 69.3% completion rate, numbers far higher than each QB's season rates. These are quarterbacks that a good defense feasts on; instead, Iowa lets them run wild.

The news gets worse for the Hawkeyes, as Kirk Cousins and Denard Robinson are both looming in the upcoming schedule. If Iowa can make the since-benched Steele Jantz look like a one-week Heisman candidate, imagine the devastation Robinson will rain down upon the Hawkeye defense.

LOSER: The 3:30 slate of games and anyone unlucky enough to witness them - In the strongest evidence yet that close games are not automatically good games, Illinois-Penn State and Iowa-Minnesota were decided by a grand total of four points, featured lead changes in the last three minutes, and were enough to set college football back decades. Illinois-PSU was scoreless through the first 41 minutes of play, and featured as many punts as points (17) -- a stat made even more horrifying when combined with the seven turnovers the game also featured.

Meanwhile, in Iowa's 22-21 loss, the Hawkeyes drove into Minnesota territory on their first four possessions and got a grand total of zero points on those drives; they would add a lost fumble inside Minnesota's 30 in the third quarter. Minnesota, meanwhile, was incinerated by Marcus Coker on the ground, giving up over 250 yards and eight yards a pop to the Iowa sophomore -- and Minnesota won. It was just a bad, shoddily-executed game all around, and nobody needs to see that unless they've got a vested rooting interest. 

WINNER: Quietly, Michigan's title hopes - During the Michigan State-Nebraska game, ESPN erroneously showed a graphic of Iowa at 6-1 (2-1) on the year, presupposing that the Hawkeyes' 44-41 loss to Iowa State didn't happen. This gaffe went unnoticed in the booth, as Urban Meyer twice made mention of Iowa being a "quiet 6-1" and a challenger for the Legends Division crown.

We bring that up not to nitpick ESPN, but to point out that if even Iowa was getting division title mention as of Saturday morning (NOTE: all that talk is obviously done now), then Michigan's gone straight past "darkhorse" and into "invisihorse" territory, even though the Wolverines are still a one-loss team. Yes, MSU still holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Michigan, but if all it takes is another loss out of the team that just got worked by Nebraska for Michigan to be in the driver's seat here, that's not exactly asking much.

LOSER: For once, not Ron Zook - No, we're clearly not declaring Ron Zook a winner this week, not when his players just dropped their third straight game and are on the brink of pure freefall after a 6-0 start. No no, he is no winner. But at the very least, this week, Illinois did not look outcoached -- just outplayed. Gone were the howlers of game management and terrible playcalls, although that's scant consolation when the alternative is four turnovers and two missed field goals. At the very least, though, those are execution problems (it's not as if Zook called "the fumble play"), and even with those problems Illinois wins this game if it weren't for PSU's 80-yard touchdown drive on its last possession of the game. So chins up, Illinois fans: your coach didn't blow this one.

Posted on: October 29, 2011 3:57 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 4:45 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Nebraska 24, Michigan State 3

Posted by Adam Jacobi

NEBRASKA WON. The Nebraska defense was stout in victory on Saturday, holding No. 11 Michigan State to just 187 yards and 12 first downs in an easy 24-3 victory at Memorial Stadium. Kirk Cousins was especially ineffective for MSU, going 11/27 for 86 yards and one interception. Meanwhile, Rex Burkhead was an absolute monster for the Huskers, with 35 carries for 130 yards and two scores, and a 27-yard touchdown reception on top of it.

WHY NEBRASKA WON: It would be wrong to take anything away from Nebraska's effort on Saturday, which was both exemplary and the best of the Huskers' season. Having said that, there was only one team that came ready to play in this game. Nebraska routinely converted 3rd and long on what was supposed to be the best defense in the Big Ten, and the toll of those physical drives on the MSU defense became readily evident down the stretch.

WHEN NEBRASKA WON: The game was still well within reach for MSU with the game at 17-3 midway through the third quarter. Rex Burkhead had just left the field with an injury and Nebraska faced a 3rd and 11 near midfield. Unfortunately, Taylor Martinez found Kenny Bell for a 20-yard first down, Burkhead came back in the game on the next snap, and Martinez found Burkhead out of the backfield for an easy 27-yard touchdown on the next play. That pushed the score to 24-3, where it would remain for the rest of the game, and MSU never threatened to score after that.

WHAT NEBRASKA WON: Nebraska's not only tied for the division lead now, it's got a tiebreaker lead on the Spartans. Road games at Michigan and PSU also loom for the Huskers, but still: this was a huge win. The Husker defense, which had long been a weak spot of this season's team (even before Jared Crick was lost for the year), was dominant against the Spartan offense. For once, Nebraska looked like it belonged in the Top 15, and it's got its biggest win of the season to show for it.

WHAT MICHIGAN STATE LOST: Gone for Michigan State is its perfect conference record, which is the biggie here; the Spartans are now in a four-team tie with one loss in the Legends Division (pending Iowa's game at Minnesota). But this is the second time that Michigan State has been utterly stifled on offense this season, which is shocking given the amount of talent at every portion of the MSU offense. The Spartans are still in decent shape in the division race, but their offensive production on road games has been disturbingly absent. That can't continue. 

THAT WAS CRAZY: Kirk Cousins threw an interception. Just one. It should have been more, but on 3rd and goal near the end of the first half, an errant Cousins throw found its way into the waiting arms of Nebraska DB Daimion Stafford, who was off to the races for what was about to be a 95-yard pick-six. Unfortunately, Stafford was so eager to take the interception to the house that he never secured possession, and he dropped the ball to the field for a harmless incompletion. MSU took the field goal instead to make the score 10-3. So yes, a 24-3 loss is bad enough, but this could have easily been a 31-0 win for Nebraska.

Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 2:51 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 28: Secondary breakdown

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.

DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 8, or the number of wins for LSU in the series in the past 11 meetings. Before that uptick the Bayou Bengals trailed the Tide 42-16-5 in the all-time series and had never defeated Alabama three consecutive times. The man most responsible for the change in fortunes? Nick Saban, who went 4-1 against the Tide in his five-year stint at the LSU helm between 2000 and 2004, ending a run of 9 Alabama victories in 11 years. Saban hasn't had quite as much success turning the tables -- yet -- in Tuscaloosa, going 2-2 against LSU in his four years at Alabama.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who has the better secondary? Or maybe more importantly: which team matches up better against the opponents' receivers?

Amongst the many superlatives that will be thrown around regarding this game, here's one that's entirely deserved: these are the best two secondaries in college football. 

And with all due respect to, say, Michigan State or Virginia Tech, we're not sure it's close. Between Alabama's fivesome of safeties Mark Barron and Robert Lester and corners Dre Kirkpatrick, Demarcus Milliner and Dequan Menzie, and LSU's of safeties Eric Reid and Brandon Taylor (or Craig Loston) and corners Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne and Tharold Simon, it's possible the teams will combine for 8 or 9 future NFL defensive backs. (Hell: maybe 10)

So who's better? The stats give Alabama a slight edge, with the Tide having allowed an opposing QB rating of 83.68 to LSU's 96.49, just 4.5 yards per-pass attempt to LSU's 5.4, and a completion percentage of 48.1 to LSU's 53.1. (All of these numbers for both teams rank among the best in the nation, of course.) Alabama has also reached "total shutdown" phase more often, holding five of their opponents to a QB rating of 90 or worse while LSU has unlocked that achievement just three times.

In LSU's favor, though, is that 1. they've played the tougher schedule, thanks to facing teams like Oregon and West Virginia 2. they're more likely to come up with the big play, with 11 interceptions to Alabama's 9 and Mathieu among the national leaders in forced fumbles 3. as could be particularly important in a matchup of such fierce ground games, they're more involved in stuffing the run, with Taylor, Reid, Mathieu and Claiborne all among the Tigers' top five tacklers. 

So call all of that a draw. What about matchups? The Tide will be facing the toughest cover in the head-to-head in the form of Rueben Randle, now leading the SEC in average yards per-completion by a substanial margin, and they can't forget about true freshman Odell Beckham Jr. (27 receptions, 334 yards). Those are two of only three LSU targets in double-digit receptions for the year, though, while the Tide boast seven. Marquis Maze (pictured at the top of this post, opposite Mathieu in the 2010 meeting) leads the way, of course, with 39  catches and 482 yards.

So as with so many other aspects of LSU-Alabama, who wins the head-to-head between the secondaries will likely come down to whether the Tide can stop the big play. They couldn't last year, when the Tigers averaged 15 yards a completion. And on the other side of the ball, as relatively mistake-free as AJ McCarron has been, he hasn't faced the ball-hawking likes of Mathieu and Claiborne yet.

But if Barron and Lester can provide the necessary help against Randle over the top and McCarron stays in control, the matchup should swing in the Tide's favor--between their wider array of targets on offense and the LSU secondary's occasional pliability (see the 463 passing yards yielded to West Virginia), they should be more able to consistently disrupt the LSU passing game more often than LSU disrputs theirs. Especially with the Tide defenders having the advantage of homefield, we'll give the thinnest of  edges to Alabama here.

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: That this LSU-Alabama game has already reached such colossal importance means it's a good time to remind fans of both sides that there's things that are actually more important than football (it's true!), and the continuing efforts to provide relief in the wake of the tragic April 27 tornadoes that ripped through the Tuscaloosa area are one of those things.

That's why Louisana chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto have paired up with Tide football legend Bob Baumhower to hold the first-ever "Lousi-Bama Gumbo Bowl," a charity fund-raising event for tornado relief to be held outside Bryan-Denny Stadium ... and produce the new Guinness World Record holder for the Largest Pot of Gumbo. If you weren't interested before ... 

The team will create a monster pot of gumbo, using a 300-year-old cast iron pot from the sugar cane fields of South Louisiana. The World's Largest Gumbo recipe calls for 750 pounds shrimp, 450 pounds catfish fillets, 100 pounds claw crabmeat, 50 pounds white crabmeat, 200 pounds alligator meat, and 25 pounds Louisiana crawfish tail meat.

The recipe will include 200 pounds of diced onions, 75 pounds of diced celery, 100 pounds of diced green bell pepper, 150 pounds of sliced okra, 50 pounds of dehydrated garlic, and 20 pounds of butter. After simmering for three hours, the pot will be weighed via a forklift. Then, the delicious, steaming contents will be doled out to hungry football fans during the pre-game tailgate.

Pardon us while we wipe up our drool. Tickets to the event can be purchased here. For more information (including the charities to benefit, click here

LSU's coaches have been committed to showing their defense a running back with something like Trent Richardson's power in practice. How committed? Richardson's role on the scout team has been played by a linebacker, freshman Trevon Randle. Not that Claiborne is planning on going strength-on-strength with Richardson no matter how much practice he gets on Randle. 

"Any way you can get him on the ground, you just get him on the ground,” Claiborne said of the Tide star. “I know where I’m going. I’m going for the legs.” (Not a bad plan, Morris, though we doubt Randle's going to help get you ready for feet like these, either.)

Via And the Valley Shookthe LSU film department has put together a trailer for the game. And it's one we find hard to imagine won't get the blood pumping for both Tiger fan and neutrals alike:

THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: Hey speaking of Richardson, we've got some good news for LSU fans. Here's what he said Thursday about the bye week:

“My body is probably in the best condition it's been in since I've been in college, and now I get a break, and my body will feel even better when I come back.” 

Oh, wait, sorry; that's terrible news.

Overall, the Tide's attitude towards LSU has been what you'd expect: respect, but clearly not too much respect. See, for instance, this al.com video of Maze discussing Mathieu. Or this quote from senior center William Vlachos on the LSU defense:

“They're dominant,” Vlachos said. “They're solid all the way around. Their coordinator does a really good job with their defense. That's something everybody's been talking about, and we're looking forward to the challenge of playing against a great defense.”

That's nice and all, but where's the bulletin board material, guys? (Our best guess: somewhere on the LSU side. Both teams are very much reflections of their head coaches, and who do you think might slip up and say something overconfident and/or "smack"-like: Saban or Les Miles?)

The honors have continued to roll in for the Tide defense. Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and offensive lineman Barrett Jones three of the 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award,  and Hightower and Barron have been named quarterfinalists for the Lott IMPACT Award.


Posted on: October 28, 2011 2:53 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 9

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.

Last week's menu was full of surprises as both Wisconsin and Oklahoma fell from the ranks of the unbeatens, and this weekend could include a lot more of the same as Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Stanford and Clemson all face challenges. Yes, we'll have to wait another week before LSU and Alabama are available, but there's plenty here this week that should help stem that hunger.

BREAKFAST

#13 Nebraska vs. #9 Michigan State - ESPN, 12pm ET

It's not often that the marquee matchup of the Big Ten kicks off before noon local time, but that's what we've got this week with Michigan State visiting Nebraska with an 11:00 CT kickoff time. The Spartans come off a stunning 37-31 win against Wisconsin, and Nebraska comes off a bye week; those factors combined with an early kickoff means it's going to be difficult not to come out flat in this contest. Whoever sustains a high effort from the first to the fourth quarter seems likely to get the win here. - Adam Jacobi

#16 Texas A&M vs. Missouri - FX, 12pm ET

These two teams will meet for the final time as Big 12 rivals, but that doesn't mean it will the the last time they meet in a conference game does it, Mizzou? Wink, wink, nudge. It's a big game for both teams as Texas A&M still has an outside chance at a Big 12 title and BCS game but can't afford another loss, and Missouri really needs a win or its bowl hopes could be in some trouble. - Tom Fornelli

Florida State vs. North Carolina State - ESPNU, 12pm ET

Florida State played themselves out of the national picture with three straight losses, dropping them from the polls and the ACC title race.  The Seminoles redemption tour welcomes N.C. State to Tallahassee on Saturday, with both teams at 4-3 hoping to move one step closer to bowl eligibility.  Since EJ Manuel's return to the lineup after suffering a shoulder injury in the loss to Oklahoma, the Seminoles offense has regained some the early-season production that had pundits talking "title contender."  But N.C. State boasts one of the league's best defensive playmakers in sophomore David Amerson.  Amerson leads the nation with eight interceptions, even returning one for a touchdown.  The Seminoles have a lot of talent on the outside, but Manuel (seven interceptions in six games) needs to be wary of where #1 is at all times. - Chip Patterson

Vanderbilt vs. #8 Arkansas - SEC Network, 12:21pm ET

At 4-3, the Commodores are just two wins away from doing something in one year under James Franklin they've done only one other time in their past 29 seasons--go to a bowl game. And with potential All-American corner Casey Hayward leading a secondary capable of keeping Jarius Wright and the Hog receivers (mostly) under wraps, the potential for a stunner is there. Is new quarterback Jordan Rodgers really up to moving the ball consistently against an SEC defense, though? - Jerry Hinnen

LUNCH

#3 Oklahoma State vs. Baylor - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Do you like to see a lot of points scored and very little defense getting in the way? Well then I've got good news for you, because Oklahoma State and Baylor are going to score a lot of points and not play much defense. This could truly be one of those games in which the first team to score 50 wins, and Baylor is just as capable of put points up in bunches. There's a chance that another Oklahoma school could suffer its first lost this Saturday. - TF

#10 Kansas State vs. #11 Oklahoma - ESPN, 3:30pm ET

Kansas State has been one of the biggest surprises in college football this season, getting off to a 7-0 start and even winning a couple of shootouts along the way. That being said, the real test for Bill Snyder and the Wildcats begins on Saturday when they face Oklahoma. The Sooners are likely to be a bit cranky following last week's loss, and will be looking to end Kansas State's unbeaten season as well. - TF

#22 Georgia vs. Florida - CBS, 3:30pm ET

CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart has written that Mark Richt's job is on the line in this one, and given that the Dawgs won't win this year's well-water SEC East without a win Saturday -- begging the question of when he ever would win the East again -- we're inclined to agree. The good news is that unless John Brantley provides a serious spark to the Gator offense, he has the team to get the job done; the Gator front hasn't looked its best against straight-ahead power running games, and Isaiah Crowell gives Georgia plenty of pop in that department. - JH

#21 Penn State vs. Illinois - ABC/ESPN2, 3:30pm ET

Coming into the season, it seemed far more likely that these two teams would have three losses apiece eight games in than three combined. But even with the Illini fading, they're still 6-2, and PSU currently leads the Big Ten with a 7-1 (4-0) mark. As such, there are major consequences for both the Legends Division race and bowl positioning here -- not to mention two of the Big Ten's best wideouts in A.J. Jenkins and Derek Moye. Don't sleep on this game -- there'll probably be some late-game theatrics, and when Ron Zook's involved, that's a recipe for chaos. - AJ

DINNER

Tennessee vs. #14 South Carolina - ESPN2, 7:15pm ET

Can Justin Worley hack it? If the Vols' new true freshman starter can hang in there against Melvin Ingram, Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Gamecock pass rush (no mean feat), the pieces could be in place for an upset. Carolina's ground game could be completely MIA without Marcus Lattimore, Connor Shaw looked awfully wobbly his last road game, and Tauren Poole has finally given the Vols a rushing game with a pulse. With Derek Dooley's seat growing ever-slightly-warmer and Carolina's East hopes on the line, this is a big one for both teams. - JH

Georgia Tech vs. #6 Clemson - ABC, 8pm ET

The primetime rematch of the 2009 ACC title game (which the NCAA will tell you "didn't happen") was a possible selection for ESPN's College Gameday two weeks ago when both teams were undefeated. But since two straight Georgia Tech losses, this game has lost some of the luster it once carried. That does not make it any less of a trap game for the undefeated Tigers. Clemson's BCS dreams could be erased in the dust clouds of Paul Johnson's grinding option attack, which when run effectively can eat up game clock and wear down opposing defenses. If ABC is broadcasting this game in your region, it should definitely be worth your time to watch for fireworks. - CP

#20 USC vs. #4 Stanford - ABC, 8pm ET

The first top 20 match up in the Coliseum in over three years, this has turned into the game of the week thanks to a marquee quarterback showdown featuring Andrew Luck and Matt Barkley. This game likely comes down to defense - as in who can stop who - as the Cardinal has a trio of talented tight ends 6-foot-6 or taller and the Trojans have All-American candidate in wide receiver Robert Woods. - Bryan Fischer

Ohio State vs. #12 Wisconsin - ESPN, 8pm ET

If this game were in Madison, the Badgers would probably cruise. It ain't. Fresh off their first loss in their first game in a truly hostile environment, Russell Wilson and crew have to travel to Columbus to face a Buckeye team that's just finding its stride after injuries and suspensions rocked its first half of the season. And just to up the ante even further, this one's under the lights. What a way to end a great slate of Big Ten action. - AJ

LATE NIGHT SNACK

Washington vs. Arizona - Fox Sports, 10:30pm ET

Looking for a good old fashioned, late night, Pac-12 shootout? Look no further than the Huskies and Wildcats. Both teams have struggled defensively and Washington gave up over 400 yards rushing to Stanford last week. Keith Price and Nick Foles are two quarterbacks who are a joy to watch and they have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. Like offense? This is your game. - BF 
Posted on: October 27, 2011 4:07 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 9



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

I learned a few things about myself last weekend. First of all, I learned that passing my girlfriend in the standings of our year-long picks competition brought me more satisfaction than I ever thought possible. In fact, probably a lot more than it should. I mean, should I be so thrilled with myself at being able to pick college football games -- a sport I cover for a living -- better than my girlfriend who kinda-sorta pays attention alongside me on Saturday afternoons?

Probably not.

The other thing I learned is that the girlfriend is taking this competition very seriously. There wasn't much joy in Womanville on Saturday as she kept seeing the teams she picked fail, knowing that I was overtaking her in the standings. I've been sleeping with one eye open all week.

Nebraska (-4 1/2) vs. Michigan State - Saturday, 12pm (All times Eastern)

Man - This is not the easiest game to pick, as I'm never sure what to expect from Nebraska in any given week, and this is still the same Michigan State team that lost to Notre Dame. That being said, sometimes things happen for a reason, so I'm going to ride the momentum of Michigan State's win last week. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "After watching the Spartans rewrite the ending of '300' against both Michigan and Wisconsin, I just can't go against them, especially if I'm getting points. (Given my recent track record, congratulations, Nebraska!)" Pick: Michigan State

Machine - The Machine has no concept of religion, therefore no Hail Marys can save Sparta this weekend. Nebraska wins 27-17. Pick: Nebraska

Texas A&M (-11 1/2) vs. Missouri - Saturday, 12pm

Man - While I admire the way James Franklin stood up after last week's turnover-laden performance to take the blame for Missouri's woes, I'm not putting any faith in Franklin or the Tigers offense until they give me a real reason to. Oh, and SEC! SEC! SEC! Pick: Texas A&M

Woman - "Hey, Mizzou, as you prepare to make your high-drama Big 12 exit, thinking you might want to come up with something better than falling on your butt and having your skirt fly up over your head." Pick: Texas A&M 

Machine - Texas A&M left first, and therefore it has the upper hand. Aggies roll 34-21. Pick: Texas A&M

Rutgers vs. West Virginia (-6 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Before last weekend I thought West Virginia was the only thing you could count on in the Big East. Now? Good luck. While I don't want to underestimate the impact of Eric LeGrand's appearance before the game starts, I can't help but feel it will wear off by halftime and West Virginia will get rolling. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "When picking a Big East game, I have learned that the best strategy is a coin, a hard surface and a stiff shot of whiskey. West Virginia should win but with paralyzed player Eric LeGrand miraculously leading the Scarlet Knights onto the field, I'll call "tails" and hope it stays close." Pick: Rutgers

Machine - The Machine knows nothing of human emotions or the lifts they can provide. West Virginia stomps all over Rutgers, winning 44-13. Pick: West Virginia

Kansas State vs. Oklahoma (-13 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I have this nagging feeling that Oklahoma's loss last weekend may have woken a sleeping giant, and that the Sooners are going to take it out on Kansas State this weekend. I just can't shake it. Still, sometimes you have to go with your heart, and since Kansas State is one of my favorite stories so far this season, I'm not giving up on it. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I know the Sooners are looking for someone to beat up on after that shameful loss to Texas Tech last week.  But giving thirteen and a half points to a 7-0 team playing at home, the same team who beat the team that beat Oklahoma? Ooooooo-kay." Pick: Kansas State

Machine - Well, it was fun while it lasted, Wildcats. Oklahoma wins 47-17. Pick: Oklahoma

Oklahoma State (-15 1/2) vs. Baylor - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Quite simply, there is no game this weekend I'm looking forward to more than this one. The over/under on this game was set at 79.5 and my original reaction was "That's WAY too low." I don't know who wins, but I know there's going to be a lot of points and very little defense. So I have to take the points. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Not much else to say here." Pick: Oklahoma State

Machine -  The Machine seems to agree with me about the lack of defense and the overabundance of real good times in this one. This is Pitbull's Dr. Pepper Lock Of The Week. Oklahoma State 51-45. Pick: Baylor

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

Man - I'm way too confident in Georgia to win this game, and that worries me a bit, but I'm still going with the Bulldogs. Pick: Georgia

Woman - "Uncertain who will prevail but I will bet that the average blood alcohol content of the tailgaters will be the reverse equivalent of that spread." Pick: Georgia 

Machine - Everybody in the club getting tipsy, especially the offenses. Georgia wins 16-10. Pick: Georgia

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

Man - I have no idea what to expect from a South Carolina offense that is now without both Stephen Garcia and Marcus Lattimore. Throw in the fact that this game is in Knoxville and things get even more confusing. That being said, Tennessee is starting a quarterback this week who wasn't even supposed to play this season, so I'm going with Steve Spurrier. Pick: South Carolina

Woman - "All four of Tennessee's losses have been against SEC teams, which is to say, good teams.  The Vols will go down fighting. In a bad wig." Pick: South Carolina 

Machine - The Machine recognizes Marcus Lattimore as one of its own, but The Machine also knows that it was built to be replaced. South Carolina wins 23-17. Pick: South Carolina

Georgia Tech vs. Clemson (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Georgia Tech's been in a bit of a freefall the last few weeks, and while I think that the Jackets will be able to move the ball with relative ease against the Clemson defense, I can't help but feel like the Tigers just have too many weapons on offense. Tech won't be able to keep up. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "For the first six weeks, the Yellow Jackets were stinging everything in their path. Then came two dismal away games and lots of questions. Yeah, they're up against 8-0 Clemson but they're also at home, and with a rivalry where 14 of the last 16 games have been decided by an average of 4.6 points, well..." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - Down goes Dabo! Down goes Dabo! Georgia Tech wins 31-27. Pick: Georgia Tech

Ohio State vs. Wisconsin (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - The Ohio State of late October is much better than the one we saw to begin the season thanks to the return of some key suspended players. That being said, the offense still isn't anything wonderful, and though I expect that Russell Wilson and the Badgers will have some trouble on Saturday night, I still feel they'll pull off the win. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Both teams have their seasons on the line and the loser can kiss the Rose Bowl goodbye. But until last week's stunning loss, the Badgers won each of their games this season by at least 31 points. They won't get close to that number but will beat the spread and keep this magic year going." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Ohio State will manage to cover, but The Machine doesn't think you should expect a lot of excitement in this one as Wisconsin escapes Columbus with a 13-10 win. Pick: Ohio State

USC vs. Stanford (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Listen, I have no problem taking Stanford against anybody when the Cardinal are giving up 20 points in the spread. You think I'm not going to jump on a spread this small? Sorry, USC, but just because Stanford hasn't played a great team yet this season doesn't mean they're playing one this weekend, either. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Hey, look, it's the One Percent Bowl! Stanford is LSU plus 300 more SAT points and a tan.  Pick against them at your own peril." Pick: Stanford

Machine - Hope you enjoyed that win in South Bend, Trojans, because the good times end on Saturday night. Stanford wins 31-14. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Man 51-34 (6-4)
2. Woman 50-35 (3-7)
3. Machine 44-41 (6-4)
Posted on: October 26, 2011 5:19 pm
Edited on: October 26, 2011 5:29 pm
 

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 26: Rematch possible?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.



DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 10, or the number of first downs the Crimson Tide defense is allowing per-game, rounded very slightly up. The actual number: 9.9, best in the nation by nearly four first downs a game. LSU ranks fourth, at 14.5 per game. 10 is also the number worn by AJ McCarron, the SEC's No. 2 most efficient passer behind ... Jarrett Lee.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Could the Tide and Tigers stage a winner-take-all rematch in the BCS national championship game?


Lots of other people are asking this question, so we will too. And the best answer we can offer is: Probably not. But it's too soon to rule it out entirely.

As pointed out this week by resident CBSSports.com BCS expert Jerry Palm, it's safe to assume poll voters don't want a rematch after they vaulted No. 4 Florida over No. 3 Michigan in the wake of the Gators' SEC championship victory (and No. 2 USC's upset loss) in 2006. "I think there is a sense that it isn't fair to make the winner beat the loser again," Palm writes, and that's even before discussing the logical allure of taking the team that has a BCS conference championship over the one that doesn't (assuming their records are equal). As long as voters have a viable option other than the rematch, they'll take it.

So how would we come by a situation in which there is no viable option? Here's how:

1. A tight, competitive game Nov. 5. If one team blows out the other, the push for a rematch is going to immediately be reduced to just-barely-more than nothing. It would help if LSU was the team absorbing the narrow defeat, too, since the Crimson Tide get to play host.

2. Losses by Oklahoma State, Stanford and Clemson. (Oh, and Kansas State.) By season's end, the schedule conquered by any candidate from that pool would make them a no-brainer for the BCS title game. But will any of them cross the finish line unblemished? Football Outsiders numbers guru Bill Connelly pegs the Cardinal with the best chance of the foursome ... but at just 22 percent. The collective odds of one of them running the table is much better, but as Oklahoma and Wisconsin showed last weekend, avoiding the upset bug for a whole season is always easier said than done.

3. Continued dominant play from the LSU-Alabama loser paired with extra defeats or lackluster play from teams like the Sooners and Badgers. Down-and-out as they appeared to be Saturday, an Oklahoma Big 12 conference championship on the heels of a win over previously undefeated Oklahoma State or a Big Ten title for the Badgers won with a dominant revenge victory over an 11-1 Michigan State would thrust either directly back into the BCS championship game spotlight (assuming the game was reduced to taking a one-loss team). If the LSU-Alabama loser continues to destroy all comers, though, and the Sooners, Badgers, or any other one-loss team doesn't look the part, the voters could opt for the rematch.

That's already a lot of hoops to jump through before we even start asking whether the voters would take an undefeated Boise State over the LSU-Alabama loser, a debate potentially so headache-inducing we're cringing at the thought of it. So for now, the safest assumption is that it's win-in-Tuscaloosa-or-else for LSU and Alabama's national title chances. But we can't call that assumption a certainty just yet.

Want a second opinion? Here's CBSSports.com's Tony Barnhart:



THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: Tyrann Mathieu's Twitter smack talk might have rubbed some opponents the wrong way, but the Tide's Courtney Upshaw doesn't seem likely to be all that bothered. In fact, when asked about the Bayou Bengals, he seems like something of a fan (emphasis added):
"I watch LSU, honestly ... Whenever we have a chance in the hotel, we're watching games, me and my roommate. There are a bunch of guys when I'm watching I'm like, 'Wow, those guys are real good.' And Tyrann Mathieu, I like that guy to death."
Right up until kickoff, we imagine.

The Tide returned to practice Tuesday after taking Monday off, but per Nick Saban haven't started LSU-specific game prep just yet. “[Wednesday] we'll work hard on fundamentals, and start later in the week with our preparation for the game we have next week," he said.

On the Tide injury front, starting right guard Anthony Steen has recovered from the concussion that kept him out of the Tide's win over Tennessee and is expected to return to the starting lineup vs. LSU. (His replacement vs. the Vols, Alfred McCullough, will now serve as the backup left tackle after the loss of Cyrus Kouandjio.) But there was some minor bad news as the Tide will miss reserve linebacker Jonathan Atchison, due to undergo bicep surgery this week. Atchison had appeared in two games this season without a tackle.

VIDEO BREAK: So, yes, this little promotional video was made by an (ahem) rival network. But it's too good not to share:



THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE:
If you read yesterday's Daily this didn't come as a surprise, but the "Synthetic Three" were officially reinstated to the Tiger roster yesterday and practiced with the team. "We're preparing them to play," Les Miles said. "We plan on using them."

It goes without saying that having players like Mathieu, Spencer Ware and Tharold Simon around for the biggest game of their careers might be a little helpful. But Miles has to be particularly happy the issue has been resolved as quickly as it has been; brilliant as they are, all three players are only sophomores and will no doubt need an ample amount of practice time to be fully ready for an opponent like Alabama. If the decision (reportedly made by athletic director Joe Alleva) had dragged out much further, the results could have been seen on the field.

On the topic of suspensions, Miles dropped this typically wonderful Milesism:
"It's a real lifetime lesson. Just put yourself in the wrong spot and have proximity to real issues, and suddenly you're out of control. When you don't have control of the decisions that need to be made for your happiness, that's misery."
Like the Tide, the Tigers also got some good injury news on the offensive line. Miles said starting center P.J. Lonergan is practicing again after an ankle injury sidelined him the past two weeks, setting him up for a return vs. the Tide.  "He could really have played Saturday," Mile said. "It just worked out that we didn't need him."

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Posted on: October 26, 2011 5:01 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Wisconsin at Ohio State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WILL WIN IF: Russell Wilson hasn't lost his mojo. Wilson had a rough game in Wisconsin's 37-31 loss to Michigan State last week, complete with two very regrettable throws that ended up getting intercepted, but his stats still weren't very bad, and he's still the second-rated passer in the NCAA so far this season, barely trailing Robert Griffin III. That said, for as great as MSU's defense has been all year long, Wilson's not going to get much respite this week -- even though the Buckeyes' defensive production hasn't yet reached its overall talent level yet.

OHIO STATE WILL WIN IF: It gets four quarters of dominance from its defense. Ohio State's biggest win of the season came against Illinois, when it stifled the Illini attack and surrendered all of seven points for the game. In OSU's most embarrassing loss, the defense still only allowed 10 points to the same MSU team that just put 37 on the scoreboard last week. And for two and a half quarters, Nebraska had been bottled up by the Buckeyes, trailing 27-6. We know how that one turned out, of course, but that's the point: If the Buckeyes go hard for 60 minutes, they can effectively shut down just about anybody. And if OSU doesn't bring defensive intensity for the entire game, an offense like Wisconsin's is more than capable of racking up points in a hurry.

X-FACTOR: The crowd. Ohio Stadium has long been the paramount of the Big Ten's arenas, and it's not hard to see why: the place is huge, seating over 100,000 fans, and its double-tiered setup makes those rabid Buckeye partisans even more deafening, which they usually are. Usually. But with OSU's struggles, the fans have been muted at times, even turning downright hostile during the MSU 10-7 victory in the conference opener. If Wisconsin can jump all over the Buckeyes early -- particularly with defensive stops -- the crowd should be a little more hospitable for Russell Wilson and company to run their offense.
Posted on: October 26, 2011 12:27 pm
 

Keys to the Game: Michigan State at Nebraska

Posted by Adam Jacobi

MICHIGAN STATE WILL WIN IF: The rushing game starts living up to its preseason billing. Coming into the season, the general consensus was that Wisconsin had the best stable of running backs, but Michigan State with Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell, and Larry Caper was a close second. Well, we're halfway into the season, and guess who's dead last in the Big Ten in rushing offense? Indeed: Sparty, at a paltry 138 yards a pop. Nebraska's defensive line is still reeling from the loss of Jared Crick, but it's generally good enough to keep blockers off Lavonte David so the dynamic linebacker can make plays. The challenge to MSU's offensive line is clear: blow open holes and let the running backs do their thing.

NEBRASKA WILL WIN IF: It avoids 3rd and long. Taylor Martinez's passing numbers as a whole aren't horrible this season; he's 67th nationwide in passing efficiency, and his interception rate of 3.93% is downright palatable. Still, Martinez struggles mightily when the opponent knows he needs to throw; he's been chided by announcers for his entire career for his unique mix of poor mechanics and bad read progressions. Getting Nebraska to 3rd and long is much easier said than done, however, with both Martinez and Rex Burkhead so adept at moving the chains on the ground. 

X-FACTOR: As opposed to most of the Big Ten's top games of the season, this matchup between No. 9 MSU and No. 13 Nebraska won't exactly be under the lights; the two teams are kicking off at 11:00 a.m. local time. Usually, the early games are reserved for non-conference cupcakes and basement dwellers. Will the two teams be able to put forth their best 60 minutes with such an early kickoff? Or will it be a 17-point game one way or the other halfway through the second quarter with an announcer snarkily wondering whether the losing team left its effort on the bus?
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com