Wednesday links: Big week for MSU hoops, football

The college hoop season opened last Friday, but it REALLY opened last night with that big double-header that featured No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Michigan State. Let’s start daily links there. The Spartans delivered a nice salvo to the rest of the nation with their victory over the mighty Wildcats. What did the win mean? Well, it’s November, so not much. But MSU will become the No. 1 team in the nation. And, the victory showed the preseason hype is justified.

“We didn’t win a Big Ten championship,” Gary Harris said. “We didn’t win a national championship.”

True. But Michigan State did send a message that it may indeed be the team to beat this season. Yep, it’s gonna be a fun winter in East Lansing. Amid the fervor over the goings-on in Chicago, you may not have noticed that Indiana squeaked by some school called “LIU Brooklyn” by one point.

Big Ten Men’s Hoops Standings
Conference Overall
W-L W-L
Michigan State 0-0 2-0
Indiana 0-0 2-0
Ohio State 0-0 2-0
Illinois 0-0 2-0
Iowa 0-0 2-0
Minnesota 0-0 2-0
Michigan 0-0 2-0
Wisconsin 0-0 2-0
Nebraska 0-0 2-0
Purdue 0-0 1-0
Penn State 0-0 1-0
Northwestern 0-0 1-0
View Full Standings

Let’s file this under “valuable lesson learned.” Sounds about right.

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Now as for Michigan State’s football team, the Spartans will have no shortage of motivation when it plays at Nebraska.

To begin with, the Spartans are 0-7 all-time vs. Nebraska. Oh, and the Legends Division title will be on the line when the Spartans travel to Nebraska.

“Well, we’ve never run from facing Nebraska, but that is the one football team that we have not beaten since coming here, so that remains a goal of ours,” Spartans coach Mark Dantonio said. “But I think there are bigger and more important things to worry about than just – we’ve got to beat Nebraska to accomplish our goals, and that’s why it’s such a big game. But that is a fact, as well.

“But they’re a good football team. They’ve got a great tradition. They’ve got a great environment to play in. It’s going to be exciting to go into that environment and play, and our players have to understand what that’s all about. The last time we went there, I don’t know that our players understood the environment. A little different. So this year at least we have that experience behind us, and now we can move forward.”

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Ohio State wideout Evan Spencer created some waves when he recently was quoted as saying the Buckeyes would “wipe the field” with the other teams competing to play in the BCS title game—particularly Alabama and Florida State.

Well, needless to say, Urban Meyer wasn’t fired up.

Listen to Meyer’s weekly Big Ten teleconference: 

“I’m very disappointed. I can’t stand that,” Meyer said Tuesday on the weekly Big Ten coaches teleconference. “He certainly is not the spokesman for our team. As a result, Evan won’t talk to the media for a long, long time.

“You don’t do that. That’s not good sportsmanship and that’s not what we expect. I understand he’s a young man and made a minor mistake, but we just don’t do that. You talk about your teammates, talk about the team and move on.”

Meyer may not like it. But the media does!

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Nice Q&A with Penn State linebacker Mike Hull by Audrey Snyder of Pennlive.com. How can this leaky Nittany Lions defense be fixed, Mike?

Hull: “I would definitely say there’s still a lot of room for improvement. We need to play together as a unit. It seems like most guys are doing things right but every now and then there are a few plays here and there where you’ll have 10 guys doing something and then one guy not, which is the challenge of football. It’s an imperfect sport but we’ve got to strive to get everyone on the same page.”

Having better depth also certainly would help Penn State. But, I have a feeling the Nittany Lions defense will look pretty good vs. a moribund Purdue offense this Saturday. You see, Purdue is the get-well card for every ailing team. Don’t believe me? Check out this statistical comparison to see the edge Penn State has over Purdue.

See what I mean? It looks like it’s gonna be a fun Saturday in Beaver Stadium.

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Iowa is off this week. But Rick Brown and Andrew Logue at HawkCentral.com discuss what the Hawkeyes can do to beat Michigan in their next game. I wonder what will be the Wolverines’ state of mind if they arrive in Iowa City riding a three-game losing skid?

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Wisconsin’s hopes for a BCS bowl appear to be waning.

Foxsports.com Wisconsin points out that the 2012 team that finished the regular season 7-5, placed third in its own division and never won more than three consecutive games played in a Rose Bowl. The 2013 team with a potential to finish the regular season 10-2, hold the second-best record in the entire conference and close with seven straight victories could miss a Bowl Championship Series game entirely.

This is a great example of the notion that timing is everything in life.

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It was a bummer to hear Northwestern running back Venric Mark is done for the season because of an ankle injury. But he intends to apply for a medical hardship. The good news: Mark fits the standards for a medical hardship. So, he apparently has that going for him … which is nice.

NCAA bylaws state that a medical hardship waiver is granted “when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport.”

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Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges has been feeling some heat as the Wolverine offense has struggled of late. Watch him address issues in this video.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what plays you call if you can’t block. Borges says the unit is suffering growing pains. Oh, and it’s not predictable, as Huskers DE Randy Gregory suggests.

But, apparently, this fan was so worked up about the play-calling that he got busted for drunk driving. You can’t make this stuff up, people.

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It goes without saying that Nebraska coach Bo Pelini has oodles of respect for the Michigan State defense.

“When you’re up there as high as they are in all the categories they’re in, they’re as good as it comes,” Pelini said Tuesday on the Big Ten teleconference. “They’ve earned it. It’s not like any preseason hype or anything like that, this is for real. They’re doing it and they do it week after week.”

Listen to Pelini’s teleconference here:

Check out these numbers: The Spartans rank No. 1 in the nation rushing defense (43.4 yards per game), total defense (210.2) and pass efficiency defense (90.29 ranking). They’re also No. 3 in passing defense (166.8 yards per game) and scoring defense (11.6 points per game).

Sobering stuff for a beat-up Huskers offense.

If Cornhuskers fans already weren’t worked up enough about the Michigan State defense, here are more things to fret about.

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TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: This sounds perfect.

My take: Interesting.

My take: This is a good idea.

When people are denied Runzas, they become angry.

My take: So there is that. Thank you.

My take: Altogether now: Wow!

My take: He is special, no doubt.

My take: It’s gonna be brutal.

My take: The power of Izzo.

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About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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