Spartans, Huskers battle shapes up

Happy Football Friday! The analysis of the Michigan State at Nebraska game continues. Why not? It’s gonna be a great battle that essentially will determine the Legends Division race. But the latest injury news from Lincoln isn’t great, as the offensive line is banged up. Not good news for a Huskers team facing a terrific Spartans front.

Husker coach Bo Pelini confirmed Mike Moudy is “doubtful” for Saturday’s game. The junior guard injured has an injured shoulder. Also, senior tackle Jeremiah Sirles (MCL sprain) is unlikely to play, too. The status of Nebraska’s other injured guard Jake Cotton remains unclear. Cotton did go through some workouts at practice this week, but it’s not certain to what degree and whether he could possibly play.

Much has been made about the Michigan State defense. In case you haven’t heard, it’s pretty good. But Nebraska quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr., thinks it can be beat. And, the Huskers have a plan.

“We sat down as a staff last week and went around the table — each coach got to express what he thought we needed to do to win the game,” Nebraska offensive line coach John Garrison told the Lincoln Journal Star. “We all came back to, ‘We have to have a manageable game for Tommy.’

Big Ten standings
Leaders
Conference Overall
Ohio State 5-0 9-0
Wisconsin 4-1 7-2
Indiana 2-3 4-5
Penn State 2-3 5-4
Illinois 0-5 3-6
Purdue 0-5 1-8
Legends
Conference Overall
Michigan State 5-0 8-1
Nebraska 4-1 7-2
Minnesota 4-2 8-2
Iowa 3-3 6-4
Michigan 2-3 6-3
Northwestern 0-5 4-5

“He’s a young guy. He can be very successful. But we have to put him in successful situations. Don’t give him the fire hose, give him the garden hose to drink out of.”

***

David Jones of Pennlive.com says Purdue is the ultimate pick-me-up for what’s ailing Penn State. And, he’s correct.How much has Purdue struggled? The offensive line has floundered mightily—and that’s putting it mildly.

Jones points out that there is no running game. Consider this: No Purdue running back has broken a gain of more than 18 yards all season. The only two runs of more than 20 yards were by quarterback Rob Henry (who’s now a DB) and wideout B.J. Knauf.

In last week’s 38-14 loss to Iowa, the Boilers scored a touchdown in the first quarter. It was the first time they had scored against a first-team defense in a month. You get the idea.

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As if things weren’t going poorly enough for Michigan, the program received another blow when the nation’s No. 1 recruit picked Alabama after the Wolverines long were considered to be the front-runner for the services of defensive end Da’Shawn Hand from Virginia.

“They don’t lie to you, they tell you how it is,” Hand said during his live announcement. “I know when I go in, I’m not going to be No. 1 on the depth chart. They had the most freshmen playing this year, so anything is possible.”

Don’t weep too much for the Wolverines. Michigan’s 2014 class currently has 15 prospects, including the country’s No. 2 overall player in five-star cornerback Jabrill Peppers.

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The stock of Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman has taken a dip, according to Mel Kiper, Jr. He has the Gopher going in the second round. Just two weeks ago, Kiper had Hageman No. 21 on his big board. The point: draft projections in November are, well, worthless.

[ MORE: BTN.com's Tom Dienhart's latest answers to your football questions ]

Interesting item here: Nebraska legend and Heisman winner Johnny Rodgers has been granted a pardon for a felony conviction stemming from a 1970 gas station theft he committed as an 18-year-old freshman.

While serving two years’ probation, Rodgers became one of the greatest players in college football, helping the Huskers earn national titles in 1970 and 1971 and winning the Heisman Trophy in 1972. Rodgers has characterized the crime as a youthful, drunken prank that has sullied his reputation for more than four decades.

“I have long past paid my debt to my community and state,” Rodgers wrote in his application. “I would hope that I proved over the years that I am deserving of a second chance.”

A nice story.

***

Rick Brown of HawkCentral.com tells us why November is a critical month for this Iowa team.The Hawkeyes already are bowl eligible at 6-4. But, their resume lacks a marquee win—unless you wanna call the victory at Minnesota “marquee.”

A victory over Michigan and/or Nebraska to finish the season certainly would enhance the perceptions of this 2013 season for the Hawkeyes. Iowa is 1-1 in November so far. Brown notes that the program hasn’t had a winning record in November since 2008, when it went 3-1. The Hawkeyes were 4-11 in November between 2009 and 2012.

***

Here is a look at three important things for Northwestern in its game vs. Michigan.

Mentality, offensive balance and pass rush are the keys. For me, offensive balance is most critical. It also will be key for the line to block well, which has been an issue often this season for a Wildcats squad that’s mired in a five-game losing skid.

Don’t forget: You can watch the live Field Pass pregame camera from Northwestern and see both teams warming up on Saturday one hour before the game only on BNTN2Go. More info here.

***TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: Gonna be a great matchup.

My take: This isn’t good.https://twitter.com/JeffSvoboda/status/401070501683937280

My take: It could.https://twitter.com/audsnyder4/status/401131345193091072

My take: I expected more production from the position.

My take: Uh-oh.https://twitter.com/carminjc/status/401127855657988096

My take: Well, I don’t think Christian Hackenberg will be too frazzled. He’s a true freshman who plays with the cool of an upperclassman.

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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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Show Comments (1 Comment)
1 Post Your Comment
bigtengrad on 11/15/2013 @ 1:13pm EDT Said:

The MSU/Nebraska game would make for better TV if Nebraska didn’t have all the injuries. Kinda too bad–could have been a really good game.

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