Michigan State is the pick to win the Big Ten. Why not? The Spartans teem with talent for a program that went 27-9 last season while advancing to the Sweet 16. There’s Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Adreian Payne, Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine for a team ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation in some polls. But the hub of all this talent is Gary Harris. How good is the sophomore, who spurned the NBA to return to East Lansing? Listen to Tom Izzo.
Michigan lost key players in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway, Jr., from a team that reached the national title game. But this edition of the Wolverines looks formidable even though it has a combined 33 points to replace with Burke and Hardaway gone. A key guy: Glenn Robinson III.
Illinois is an interesting team with eight newcomers. Who will be a leader for a team coming off a 23-13 season that won a NCAA game? John Groce is looking to senior Joseph Bertrand, especially as a vocal leader. Among the new faces are three transfers from four-year schools: Rayvonte Rice (Drake); Jon Ekey (Illinois State); Ahmad Starks (Oregon State), though Starks was denied a waiver to play this season.
Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE
There is a full Saturday of action, as all 12 teams will play. The last time that happened? The third week of the season, September 14. And there are some interesting games, with Michigan’s trip to Michigan State the clear headline tilt. Here are looks at all six games as the season hits the homestretch.
I can’t wait to get to East Lansing for the Michigan-Michigan State game. I have been to the rivalry game before. But this year’s meeting appears to be a bit juicer than normal. Maybe it’s just me. Still, it sounds like the Michigan State game is personal for Michigan running back Fitz Toussaint.
When you think of Michigan State, you think defense. And, there is no better player on the Spartan “D” than cornerback Darqueze Dennard. The 5-11, 197-pound senior from Dry Branch, Ga., is in his third season as a starter and has 136 tackles and 25 passes defended (eight interceptions, 17 pass break-ups) in 37 career games, including 33 starts (22 consecutive).
The early returns are in, and the new penalty for targeting is having an impact. According to Big Ten officials coordinator Bill Carollo, there have been 54 targeting calls in 534 FBS games in 2013. Fifteen were subsequently overturned upon replay review, putting the number of disqualifications through 534 games and nine weeks of action at 39.
As we head full steam into the second half of the season, my mail box is getting stuffed with comments and questions. You know what that means: I have to reach into my mail bag and answer the best of your queries. Thanks for all of the interest! Keep the cards and letters coming! And don’t forget to watch this week’s top ten plays in this post, too.
Happy Tuesday! No doubt, the coaching offices at Minnesota still have to be filled with giddy Gophers assistants after that big win vs. Nebraska. Minnesota could get a lift in recruiting from the headline-making triumph on Saturday. Sure! It was a national story, and just the pick-me-up this program needed.
Not much movement in this week’s bowl projections. Ohio State is still No. 4 in the BCS standings and has a big hill to climb to get to the Nos. 1 or 2 spots. But Wisconsin still has time to perhaps be a BCS at-large bowl bid. The Badgers were just No. 24 in the BCS standings; they need to get into the Top 14. Michigan is No. 21; Michigan State is No. 22. The Spartans’ situation has improved, as have the bowl destinations for Iowa and Minnesota.
It’s Michigan State-Michigan week. And that’s a good thing. This heated rivalry is among the best in the nation. Each team looks like it may be headed in opposite directions. No doubt, a victory by the Spartans would greatly enhance their status as Legends Division front-runners. And, Mark Dantonio knows all about beating the Wolverines.
What did I learn in Week Nine? Ohio State and Michigan State are really good—and may be headed for a showdown in Indianapolis. Minnesota is a feel-good story that keeps getting better. Iowa is alive and well. And Northwestern’s season is on the edge.
If you somehow had any doubts prior to Saturday about who was the best team in the Big Ten, Ohio State surely cleared those up with its dominating effort vs. Penn State. Iowa and Minnesota were big risers. But Saturday wasn’t so good for Nebraska and Penn State. Here are my post-Week Nine Power Rankings, presented by ArcelorMittal.
With just four games, it was an abbreviated week of action in the Big Ten. But there was no shortage of excitement. A big revelation: Michigan State looks like the class of the Legends Division. Oh, and Ohio State sent a heck of a message by trouncing a Penn State team that was coming off a win vs. Michigan. Here is a wrap on Week Nine.
This was a program-defining win for Minnesota under Jerry Kill’s watch. But really, it was much more than that. The Golden Gophers’ 34-23 upset victory over No. 24 Nebraska was a testament to the foundation that Kill has laid since arriving in the Twin Cities in 2011. It also embodied the toughness Kill possesses as a coach and in his fight to control his epilepsy.
It’s that time of the week, time to take my Big Ten grid quiz to prep you for a big Saturday full of action. Clear your desks, take out your No. 2 pencils and get ready to have your brain bent. You’ll thank me later. I promise.
Saturday is almost here. Can you feel it? Can you sense it? OK, if you can’t, just fake it until you make it. Every team gets four downs to make something happen. So, why not me? That’s the idea behind this article.
Thanks goodness it’s Friday. Or, in my household, it’s called “Football Eve.” Pretty nice, huh? Let’s start daily links with this way-cool look at Big Ten teams and TV. Can you tell much about a program by the TV time slots it draws? It’s something Dan Hoppen of HuskersOnline.com looked at. Hoppen went back and tracked the starting times and TV networks for Nebraska games since the program joined the Big Ten in 2011 through this past weekend.
Another light, yet exciting week ahead, with four teams off–Indiana, Michigan, Purdue and Wisconsin. Still, this Saturday has a marquee, prime-time game to hang its hat on with Penn State playing at Ohio State.
Here is a good place to start daily links on this chilly Thursday in late October. Interesting piece from the great Tom Shatel: If Nebraska has the Big Ten blahs, it has only itself to blame. It seems some Huskers fans aren’t enamored with their new home. But, Shatel has some interesting insights: The inability to move up the rankings, or flag down the Associated Press voters? That’s on Nebraska’s inability to show well in a big game — most notably UCLA — not the mediocrity that is Big Ten football.
This is a light menu for Week 9, as there are just four games. Wisconsin, Michigan, Purdue and Indiana all are off this week. And there is just one marquee game, with Penn State playing at Ohio State looking to end the Buckeyes’ remarkable run of 19 victories in a row. Here’s a look at this week’s games.
Ra’Shede Hageman arrived at Minnesota in 2009 as a tight end, fighting for a place to fit in on Tim Brewster’s roster. Now, the 6-6, 311-pound senior has become arguably the best defensive tackle in the Big Ten under a new regime in the Twin Cities.
It’s that time of the week, time for me to reach into my mailbag. Keep those cards and letters coming, as there is much to talk about. This week, Ohio State’s BCS title game hopes, Michigan’s defense, Purdue’s Darrell Hazell and much more. So, let’s get started.