Big Ten: Andrew Luck

Comparing Hackenberg to past elite QBs

September, 19, 2014
Sep 19
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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Christian Hackenberg has made just 15 starts, but there is no shortage of hype surrounding the Penn State quarterback: One AFC scout recently called him the top quarterback in college football, and The Sporting News asked months ago whether he would go No. 1 in the 2016 NFL draft.

So, right now, how does Hackenberg stack up with the top quarterbackss of past years?

To find out, we looked at the first 15 starts of the past five quarterbacks who were taken first at their position in the NFL draft. The lone exception was the 2011 draft, where we skipped over Cam Newton since he made starts in junior college and instead went with the second drafted quarterback.

So far, Hackenberg has thrown for more yards than any of those past quarterbacks -- 310-of-519 passing (59.7 percent) for 4,037 yards, 24 TDs and 15 INTs -- although he’s also received the least amount of run support.

Here’s a closer look at those past quarterbacks:


Sam Bradford, Oklahoma, started from 2007 to 2009

No. 1 overall NFL draft pick (2010) by St. Louis Rams

Bradford
Bradford
The stats (in first 15 starts): 254-of-363 passing (70 percent), 3,304 yards, 38 TDs, 8 INTs; 31 rushes for 7 yards and no TDs

The run-game support (in first 15 starts): Oklahoma averaged slightly more than 41 carries a game for 190 yards (4.6 ypc). The Sooners ran the ball on about 59 percent of their offensive plays.

The highlights (in first 15 starts): Bradford didn’t come into Oklahoma as a highly touted recruit, but he stepped up in a big way when he won the job as a redshirt freshman. In his first career game, against North Texas, he set a school record for most passing yards in a half by going 20-of-22 for 350 yards. He won the Big 12 championship as a redshirt freshman and broke the NCAA freshman record for passing TDs.


Jake Locker, Washington, started from 2007 to 2010

No. 8 overall NFL draft pick (2011) by Tennessee Titans

Locker
The stats (in first 15 starts): 200-of-412 passing (48.5 percent), 2,523 yards, 15 TDs, 15 INTs; 218 rushes for 1,149 yards and 16 TDs.

The run-game support (in first 15 starts): Washington averaged 40 carries a game for 175 yards (4.4 ypc), but Locker was a big reason for that. Including Locker’s runs, this offense ran the ball 56 percent of the time.

The highlights (in first 15 starts): He went 3-12 in his first 15 games, but he was named the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year in addition to making some freshman All-American teams. His best game, statistically, came against Arizona in 2007 when he passed for 336 yards, rushed for another 157 yards and scored four total TDs. An injury derailed his sophomore season during the 16th game of his career.


Andrew Luck, Stanford, started from 2009 to 2011

No. 1 overall NFL draft pick (2012) by Indianapolis Colts

Luck
The stats (in first 15 starts): 207-of-358 passing (57.8 percent), 3,249 yards, 23 TD, 4 INT; 74 rushes for 494 yards and 3 TDs

The run-game support (in first 15 starts): Stanford averaged 41 carries a game for 228 yards (5.5 ypc), although Stanford aired it out the more Luck progressed. This offense ran the ball 63 percent of the time in Luck’s first 15 games.

The highlights (in first 15 starts): In back-to-back weeks as a redshirt freshman, Luck helped knock off two top-15 teams -- No. 7 Oregon, 51-42, and No. 11 USC, 55-21. He threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions in those two games. But this was a run-first team; Luck threw more than 29 passes just four times in those first 15 games, and it was no coincidence that all four were losses since Stanford was trying to mount a comeback. He led the Pac-10 in pass efficiency as a redshirt freshman, but really made a name for himself in 2010.


EJ Manuel, Florida State, started from 2009 to 2012

No. 16 overall NFL draft pick (2013) by Buffalo Bills

Manuel
The stats (in first 15 starts): 260-of-380 passing (68 percent), 3,251 yards, 18 TDs, 14 INTs; 144 rushes for 441 yards and 6 TDs

The run-game support (in first 15 starts): Florida State averaged 35 carries a game for 150 yards (4.3 ypc). The Seminoles also ran the ball 56 percent of the time.

The highlights (in first 15 starts): Manuel’s first 15 starts came over the span of three seasons, but he always had a high completion percentage. He posted a 3-1 record as a redshirt freshman and was the Gator Bowl MVP. Against Maryland, to keep FSU bowl-eligible, he led a game-winning touchdown drive with 2:31 left. He also started two games as a redshirt sophomore and won the job as a redshirt junior, when he really burst onto the scene.


Blake Bortles, Central Florida, started from 2012 to 2013

No. 3 overall NFL draft pick (2014) by Jacksonville Jaguars

Bortles
The stats (in first 15 starts): 269-of-423 passing (63.5 percent), 3,373 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs; 93 rushes for 287 yards and 8 TDs

The run-game support (in first 15 starts): Central Florida averaged 38 carries a game for 180 yards (4.7 ypc). The Knights also ran the ball 56 percent of the time.

The highlights (in first 15 starts): He redshirted, then played in 10 games as a redshirt freshman -- but didn’t start until his redshirt sophomore season. The Knights fell in the Conference USA title game, but Bortles was still named to the all-conference team and earned MVP honors in the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.

Pregame: Rose Bowl

January, 1, 2013
1/01/13
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Stanford (11-2) vs. Wisconsin (8-5)

Who to watch: The running backs. Wisconsin’s Montee Ball -- the Doak Walker award winner -- and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor -- a three-time 1,000-yard rusher -- are two of the best in the game. Both are the engines that make their respective machines go. Each team will work furiously to establish a running game. So while you are watching two of the elite running backs in the country, keep an eye on the lines as well -- because how each team’s big boys do will go a long way toward determining how the running backs do.

What to watch: For sure, the fourth quarter. These two teams have combined to play six overtime games, Stanford has had to overcome ties or deficits six times in the fourth quarter, and Wisconsin has lost all five of its games by a combined 19 points (four field goals and a touchdown). If this game is a microcosm of these teams’ seasons, then there should be high drama up until the final play.

Why to watch: Aside from the fact that it’s the Granddaddy, this game is oozing with subplots. You have Barry Alvarez making his return to coaching -- although for just one game. You have Stanford playing in its third consecutive BCS bowl game (Wisconsin as well, for that matter) even after the departure of Andrew Luck and a midseason quarterback change from Josh Nunes to Kevin Hogan. You have a Wisconsin team that some say backed into the Rose Bowl, and you have mirror teams with nearly identical philosophies.

Predictions: In case you missed it Tuesday morning, you can see the predictions from Pac-12 bloggers Kevin Gemmell and Ted Miller here. This is what the Big Ten bloggers are thinking.

B1G bowl primer: Rose Bowl

December, 24, 2012
12/24/12
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Our snapshots of each bowl game featuring a Big Ten team continues.

ROSE BOWL GAME PRESENTED BY VIZIO

Wisconsin (8-5) vs. Stanford (11-2)

Where: Rose Bowl; Pasadena, Calif.

When: Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET (2 p.m. PT)

TV: ESPN

About Wisconsin: The Badgers' road to the Rose Bowl has been anything but smooth. They had a shaky start that led to a change at both offensive line coach (Mike Markuson to Bart Miller) and starting quarterback (Danny O'Brien to Joel Stave). They had another quarterback change midway through Big Ten play (Stave to Curt Phillips), lost five games by a total of 19 points (three in overtime) and endured the loss of head coach Bret Bielema to Arkansas three days after a dominant performance in the Big Ten championship. This team isn't as strong as the previous two Badgers squads that played in Pasadena, but its resilience has been impressive. Hall of Famer Barry Alvarez will lead the Badgers after being asked to coach the team following Bielema's exit. Alvarez led Wisconsin to three Rose Bowl wins in his tenure and was inducted into the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 2009. Although the Badger offense has been inconsistent, it put up 70 points in the Big Ten championship and boasts a three-headed rushing attack of Montee Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon. An underrated defense kept Wisconsin in every game and ranks in the top 20 in both points allowed and yards allowed.

About Stanford: Arguably no FBS team finished the season playing better than Stanford, which won its final seven games following a controversial overtime loss at Notre Dame on Oct. 13. The Cardinal stunned recent nemesis Oregon in Eugene on Nov. 17 and punched their ticket to Pasadena with back-to-back wins against UCLA. An aggressive and physical defense fueled Stanford in its first season without Andrew Luck, as the unit led the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss, ranked third against the run and ranked 14th in points allowed. First-team All-Pac-12 linebackers Chase Thomas and Trent Murphy led the way for the defense, which allowed 17 points or fewer in nine games. The offense endured some predictable ups and downs without Luck, although redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan showed promise down the stretch.

Key players, Wisconsin: Ball didn't quite replicate his historic 2011 season, but he still performed extremely well in Big Ten play and earned the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back. The senior finished seventh nationally in rushing average (133.1 ypg) and scored 21 touchdowns, becoming the NCAA's all-time touchdowns king. The speedy White gives Wisconsin another excellent ball-carrying option, and Gordon had a breakout performance in the Big Ten title game (216 yards on nine touches). All-Big Ten linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor combined for 215 tackles, 25 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks to trigger the defense.

Key players, Stanford: Thomas and Murphy fuel Stanford's aggressive 3-4 defense, combining for 17.5 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss. Veteran linemen Henry Anderson and Ben Gardner add to the rush with a combined 27.5 tackles for loss. First-team All-Pac-12 safety Ed Reynolds has six interceptions on the season, while fellow safety Jordan Richards has three picks and 12 pass breakups. Running back Stepfan Taylor earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors after finishing 20th nationally in rushing (110.9 ypg). Senior tight end Zach Ertz, a John Mackey Award finalist, is the team's top receiver with 66 receptions for 837 yards and six touchdowns.

Did you know: Wisconsin is the first five-loss team ever to play in the Rose Bowl. The Badgers are the third Big Ten program to play in three consecutive Rose Bowl games, joining Ohio State (1973-76) and Michigan (1977-79). Alvarez is the only Big Ten coach to win Rose Bowls in consecutive years (1999, 2000). ... Stanford is making a team-record fourth consecutive bowl appearance, reaching a BCS bowl for the third straight year. The Cardinal have recorded 11 wins in three straight seasons for the first time. Wisconsin is making its fifth appearance in a BCS bowl game. Only six teams have made more: Ohio State (9), Oklahoma (8), Florida State (7), Florida (7), USC (7) and Virginia Tech (6). ... Stanford is 5-6-1 in 12 previous appearances in the Rose Bowl Game, including a 17-9 loss to Wisconsin in its last appearance in 2000. ... Alvarez becomes the fourth member of the College Football Hall of Fame to be inducted as an FBS coach and then coach a game after his induction, joining Chris Ault (Nevada), Bobby Bowden (Florida State) and Joe Paterno (Penn State). Alvarez will join Ault as the only Hall of Famers to come out of retirement to coach a game (Bowden and Paterno were inducted as active coaches).
Ball/JamesUS Presswire

Montee Ball and LaMichael James will highlight a showdown of high-powered offenses.

After a year's hiatus, the Rose Bowl is back to its traditional self: A Pac-12-Big Ten matchup.

And it looks like a good matchup of good teams with contrasting styles.

Sounds like a good time for a blog debate!

Ted Miller: Well, Brian, we’re back to a traditional Pac-12-Big Ten Granddaddy and it looks like a good one: Midwest power versus West Coast flash. I’m a little surprised that Oregon is favored against Montee Ball, Russell Wilson and that mammoth group of biscuit and gravy eaters you call an offensive line. Give me an idea of what the Ducks are up against with the Badgers' offense. Is it all power football, or is it more sophisticated than that?

Brian Bennett: You'd better believe the Badgers have the baddest bunch of big uglies in college football, with an offensive line that outweighs many NFL units. Add in a couple of good tight ends, a senior fullback and Wisconsin's dedication to the ground game and you can see why the program has been one of the best running teams in the country for several years now. But it's not just all brute. The thing that makes these linemen stand out is that they are nimble and can really move, and I think many defenses are shocked by that combination of strength and athleticism early in games. Wilson has also given this team an entirely new dimension with his ability to make plays on the move and his outstanding accuracy. Opponents have no choice but to respect the run when playing Wisconsin, and that makes this offense the most dangerous play-action team in America. You'll see receivers getting huge cushions in the passing game, and Ball can break tackles even when the box is loaded.

That's why the Badgers average 44.6 points per game, just a tick below Oregon's 46.2 average. My question for you is, can the Ducks' defense handle this kind of offensive power, especially in a 3-4 scheme?

[+] EnlargeBall
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireMontee Ball's 1,759 yards and 32 rushing touchdowns on the season have helped the Badgers score an average of 44.6 points per game.
Ted Miller: Oooooo. I’m telling Chip Kelly that you said the Ducks run a 3-4! He hates that. No idea why. Coordinator Nick Aliotti will tell you that the Ducks throw a lot of stunts and looks -- 3-4, 4-3, 2-5, etc -- and crazy stuff at you. They are fast, underrated and bigger than many think. Their top four defensive tackles, who are in a regular rotation, weigh 321, 300, 283 and 286 pounds.

Oregon has faced big, powerful teams before. Stanford and USC the past two years, in conference, and Auburn and LSU out of conference. Forgotten in the talk about how Auburn and LSU slowed down the Ducks' offense is how the Ducks' defense slowed down both sets of Tigers. Oregon outgained LSU 372-273 but was done in by four horrible turnovers. The Ducks held Auburn and Cam Newton to 22 points, its second-lowest total of the season.

Sure, Oregon’s defense ranks 59th in the nation in total yards while Wisconsin ranks eighth. But they yield similar numbers on yards per play: Oregon 4.93, Wisconsin 4.85. And the Ducks are slightly better on third down. Oregon’s defense’s biggest problem is its offense, which scores a lot of points despite ranking LAST in the nation in time of possession. The Badgers' defense, with an offense that ranks 22nd in time of possession, only faced 786 plays this year. Oregon faced 1,005. That skews numbers.

Wait. Did I get all stats-y there? Sorry. My answer to the size question is what Oregon will say leading up to the Rose Bowl. It’s nothing new for them. They play their game, run their stunts, use their speed and see what happens. Stanford, which has two first-round NFL draft choices on its O-line, would be the most natural comparison with the Badgers. And for two years in a row, no team has played good enough defense to beat the Cardinal and Andrew Luck other than Oregon.

While Badgers fans expect Whisky to run over the Ducks with size -- Big Ten thinking! -- Ducks fans believe they can exploit the Badgers' defense with speed and misdirection -- Pac-12 thinking! What about some Brian Bennett thinking: Do the Badgers have the speed on defense to keep up with the Ducks? Is Bret Bielema going to use past blueprints to thwart Kelly?

(Read full post)

The Heisman case for Montee Ball

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
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I'm going to give you a list of teams, and you tell me what they have in common:

Florida International, Pittsburgh, Florida, Ball State, Ohio State, Utah State, San Jose State, Auburn, UConn, Syracuse, Iowa State, Rice, Virginia, Maryland, Western Kentucky, Illinois, Central Michigan, Duke, Troy, Kansas, Middle Tennessee State, Buffalo, Marshall, Oregon State, Louisville, Colorado State, Indiana, Miami of Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Tulane, Tennessee, Idaho, UAB, Colorado, Penn State, Minnesota, Boston College, UNLV, Kent State, Memphis, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Akron, Florida Atlantic and New Mexico.

[+] EnlargeBall
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireWisconsin RB Montee Ball is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and three TDs per game this season.
Give up? Those 45 teams -- or about 37 percent of the entire FBS -- all have fewer touchdowns this season than one man: Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.

The Badgers junior is one of five Heisman Trophy finalists primarily because of his preposterous penchant for finding the end zone. He has 38 touchdowns in 13 games this season, just one shy of Barry Sanders' record of 39 set in 1998. Throw in Ball's passing touchdown to Russell Wilson against Indiana, and he has averaged three touchdowns per game this season.

OK, you say, but Sanders didn't get to count his bowl stats and played in only 11 regular-season games, while Ball has had 13 games and the Rose Bowl still to come. Agreed. Still, Sanders -- who added four touchdowns in his bowl game -- averaged a score every 8.67 touches. Ball is scoring a touchdown in every 7.24 touches this year. The goal for every offensive skill player is to reach the end zone, and nobody does that better than Ball, who has scored at least three times in eight games this season.

It's not like he is just some battering ram who plunges in after others have done the hard work, either. Ball has rushed for 1,759 yards -- more than any other FBS player this season -- and is averaging 6.4 yards per carry. In fact, his numbers compare very favorably with Wisconsin's 1999 Heisman winner, Ron Dayne:

Dayne, 1999: 303 carries, 1,834 yards, 19 touchdowns, 6.1 yards per carry; one catch for 19 yards.

Ball, 2011: 275 carries, 1,759 yards, 32 touchdowns, 6.4 yards per carry; 20 catches for 255 yards and six touchdowns.

Like Dayne, Ball plays for a two-loss Badgers team that is going to the Rose Bowl. If the argument against Ball is that his team is not in the title hunt, then why does Robert Griffin III have so much support for leading a 9-3 Baylor team? Ball's numbers across the board are better than Alabama's Trent Richardson, and he has played just as many tough defenses as Richardson has faced. The only thing that gives an edge to Richardson is SEC bias.

Andrew Luck is great, but his stats are down from last year, while LSU's Tyrann Mathieu could have hurt his team by incurring a one-game suspension earlier this season.

Sanders' record has stood for nearly a quarter-century, and Ball will fly past 40 touchdowns if he has an average game against Oregon in Pasadena. That record could last a long, long time. And if Ball doesn't win Saturday night, future college football fans may look back and wonder how a guy with the most touchdowns ever, one who outscored more than a third of the teams in his sport that year, could have possibly been snubbed for the Heisman Trophy.

Come chat with the award finalists

December, 8, 2011
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On Thursday, we'll be chatting up some college football award finalists in advance of The Home Depot College Football Awards show, which airs Thursday night (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

We'll be setting up shop, mingling with the finalists. So, check in to see who stops by to chat. We'll be grabbing some of the best players from the 2011 college football season, like Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, USC's Robert Woods and Boise State's Kellen Moore.

Big Ten mailblog

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
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Let's do this.

Mike from Cincinnati writes: Adam, Big fan of the blog. I know that today is a busy day with everything that went on this weekend. However, I have to say that I was a little surprised that you didn't mention anything about the passing of Joe Daniels. I know it's been a busy few days, but I think everyone can agree that Coach Daniels was not only a great coach, but a great man as well. His battle with cancer was well noted, but it is a sad day for Buckeye Nation.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, thanks for the note, and my apologies for not posting something sooner on Coach Daniels' passing. Very sad to hear about it. He meant a great deal to Ohio State's program and had an impressive coaching career. I would encourage all Big Ten fans to consider making a donation to Uplifting Athletes, an organization that helps raise funds and awareness to fight rare diseases such as kidney cancer, which Daniels fought courageously until his death.


Brian from Storm Lake, Iowa, writes: What do you think of Bo Pelini's chances are that he will land Mike Stoop's in as DC?

Adam Rittenberg: Stoops is in high demand as a defensive coordinator, and he'll have his pick of top programs to join in that role. He'd clearly rather have another head-coaching position, and some jobs are still out there. If Stoops goes the coordinator route, Nebraska should have a good shot because of Pelini's friendship with the Stoops family. That connection likely would need to be the deciding factor if Stoops is to join the Huskers' staff.


Andrew from Cleveland writes: Hey Adam, I wasn't sure who I should make this comment to, but I guess I'll go with the old vet. Did you notice that Michigan is the only team in the nation to have played 10 bowl teams? Not only that, but 11 of the teams we played were bowl eligible. I know that being a bowl team doesn't mean the same thing as before, but I think it shows consistency to be able to go through that many solid teams and end the season with only two losses.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm the Big Ten blog vet, but Bennett is MUCH older, trust me. Good point about Michigan's schedule. The Wolverines beat only one team (Nebraska) that appears in the final BCS standings but also recorded some decent wins (Notre Dame, San Diego State). Still, as you note, being bowl eligible isn't really that impressive any more. Six of Michigan's wins came against teams that had six or seven wins. It would have been nice to see Michigan face two of the better Leaders Division teams in Wisconsin and Penn State.


Neal from Atlanta writes: Northwestern is Playing Texas A&M in Texas. Purdue is Playing W. Michigan in Michigan. Illinois is playing UCLA in California. Penn State is playing Houston in Texas. Ohio State is playing Florida in Florida. And Nebraska and Michigan State are playing SEC teams in the Southeast. Iowa is the only non-BCS Big 10 team playing on a neutral fieldDon't you think it is more than a little disadvantageous to the Big 10, a conference trying to regain some respect, to be playing almost all of their opponents in their home states?

Adam Rittenberg: Sure, Neal, but what can you do? No one wants to play bowl games in Big Ten territory outside of the indoor facilities like Detroit's Ford Field. Most bowl games are affiliated with at least one conference that has teams near to its location. Would it make a difference to play the ACC in Florida? Or an SEC West team in the Cotton Bowl? This is just the way it is. The Big Ten could add some more bowl games against teams from non-AQ conferences, but that's not commissioner Jim Delany's style. He wants to play the best teams in the best leagues in the biggest games. The result is an incredibly difficult bowl lineup. It's why a .500 record for the Big Ten in bowls is like the ACC going 7-3.


Scott from Williamsport, Pa., writes: Adam, We PSU fans are a little less than thrilled with our bowl selection. Why did the conference not fight harder for one of its better teams? PSU has to bring in as much revenue to the conference as any of the other teams. Makes us wonder if the ACC would treat us better, they have more teams we would like to play anyway.

Adam Rittenberg: Scott, you make some good points, and Penn State's players deserved a better bowl after having nothing to do with the sex-abuse scandal. It's a tough situation but not a surprising one. But you have to look at this from the Big Ten's point of view, too. The league has valuable relationships with these bowls and their corporate sponsors. You also have an unprecedented situation at Penn State that will drag on for a while and bring negative publicity to the bowl game (again, not the players' fault). You had the Insight Bowl group that had dealt with its own negative-publicity situation in the past year. You had the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas not wanting to pair two teams (Penn State and Texas A&M) without permanent head coaches. Could the Big Ten have done more? Sure. But the league has bigger interests than Penn State -- again hard for Penn State fans to hear, but true -- and creating tension with its bowl partners might not be the smartest way to go. Again, I'm not saying it's right, but you have to look at it from both sides. Would the ACC have done more? We'll never know.


DaReganOnDaTrack from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: I love you guys. And I love where both of you had Michigan State: in the the top 13 at least. Im a die hard spartan fan and was in Lucas Oil. Seeing the ref throw the flag nearly brought tears to my eyes. Toughest Spartan loss since the the 07 michigan loss. I understand why Michigan State is not in BCS bowl. Its a business and its about money. But shouldn't they get the rankings right? Michigan State dropped 4 spots losing to the best team in the B1G by 3 points. Yeah, wisconsin was a 2 loss team. But one of their losses came to Michigan State!!!! In addition, how the heck is michigan 13, four spots better than MSU?!?!?! We have the same number of wins, plus the head to head and a tougher schedule!!! Im not complaining about the BCS bowl picks, Im complaining about what goes in to the ranking formula. Michigan State should not be four spots behind a team they beat and have the same number of wins, not to mention AFTER THEY LOSE A THE B1G TEN CHAMPIONSHIP BY THREE POINTS!!!! This needs to be fixed for all Conference Championship losers!!!

Adam Rittenberg: We love you, too, Regan. I think you have the right perspective on the whole BCS bowl selection/BCS standings situation. BCS at-large berths are based on brand name, fan base and other factors that have little to do with on-field performance. The Sugar Bowl is a business that made what it believes is a smart business decision by inviting Michigan. Hard to argue it from a business perspective. My bigger issue, like yours, is with the final BCS standings and the final coaches' poll. You can argue Michigan and Michigan State are evenly matched teams. Michigan State was one spot ahead of Michigan on both mine and Bennett's latest ESPN.com power rankings ballots. But to see the gap between the two schools on some of the coaches' final Top 25 ballots is ridiculous -- looking at you, Nick Saban, Les Miles and Bret Bielema. These teams shouldn't be six or eight spots apart. Michigan State should be higher than No. 17 in the final BCS standings.


Ted from Iron River, Mich., writes: Hey Adam; simple question for you. How does Russell Wilson miss out as one of the five candidates for the Heisman? Why couldn't you make the case for two players from one team, on that great offense, making the list? I think the two losses that supposedly tarnished his Heisman status, is easily restored given what he did in UW's final games, especially the B1G Championship. Thanks.

Adam Rittenberg: Ted, it's strange how Wilson fell so quickly out of the Heisman race. Even in Wisconsin's two losses, he rallied the team in the fourth quarter. It's not his fault the defense can't knock down a pass. To be fair, he wasn't nearly as sharp on the road this season than he was at Camp Randall Stadium, but he didn't bomb like some other Heisman candidates. The guy had one of the best statistical seasons in Big Ten history, much like Montee Ball did. But it's very hard for a team to send two players to New York that isn't competing for a national title. Also, it's hard to argue Wilson had a better season than Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, the two quarterbacks invited to New York. The case for Ball being better than Trent Richardson as the nation's best running back is a little stronger.

My Heisman Trophy ballot has changed every week for the last couple of months.

I'm not surprised there are more than three players going to the trophy presentation.

Five players were invited to New York for Saturday night's Heisman Trophy presentation -- quarterbacks Andrew Luck of Stanford and Robert Griffin III of Baylor, tailbacks Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Trent Richardson of Alabama and cornerback Tyrann Mathieu of LSU.

It's a shame the Heisman Trust didn't have room for three more quarterbacks because Houston's Case Keenum, USC's Matt Barkley and Boise State's Kellen Moore were just as deserving.

With five finalists going to New York, it figures to be one of the closer votes in recent Heisman Trophy history.

The closest vote in Heisman Trophy history came just two years ago, when Alabama tailback Mark Ingram edged Stanford's Toby Gerhart by only 28 points. Ingram received 227 first-place votes, Gerhart got 222 and Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, the second runner-up, received 203.

Given the number of finalists and their geographical regions, we could have another really close finish on Saturday night.

Luck, the runner-up to Auburn's Cam Newton last season, entered the 2011 season as the Heisman Trophy favorite. His performance didn't slip much this season, as he completed 70 percent of his passes for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

I still feel Luck might be the most valuable player on any team in the country. Without him, there's no way the Cardinal is ranked No. 4 in the country and playing No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Luck has done more with less, as Stanford lacks the game-changing playmakers that other teams have.

But Luck might still be the second-best quarterback in New York. Griffin, who is widely known as RG3, completed 72.4 percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with 36 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also ran for 644 yards with nine touchdowns.

Without him, the Bears wouldn't have beaten TCU, Oklahoma and Texas. Griffin's one drawback: He had a late interception that sealed the Bears' fate in a 36-35 loss at Kansas State on Oct. 1 and threw two picks in a 59-24 loss at Oklahoma State on Oct. 29. But with everything else RG3 has done this season, it's easy to give him a mulligan for the miscues.

LSU defense
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesRunning back Trent Richardson has been at his best in Alabama's biggest games.
I still believe Richardson is the best player in the country. He looked like the best player on the field in No. 2 Alabama's 9-6 loss in overtime to No. 1 LSU on Nov. 5. He had 89 rushing yards and 80 receiving yards in a game where every yard mattered. He finished the season with 1,583 yards with 20 touchdown runs and three touchdown catches. He's also Mr. Dependable, not losing a fumble in his past 520 touches and only once in 614 career touches.

Ball has been a scoring machine for the No. 10 Badgers this season, running for 1,759 yards with 32 touchdown runs and six touchdown receptions. His 38 total touchdowns are one shy of matching former Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record of 39 set in 11 games in 1988. Ball's production helped lead the Badgers to a Jan. 2 date against Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO.

Mathieu fell off my ballot after he was suspended from playing in the Tigers' 45-10 victory over Auburn on Oct. 22 for smoking synthetic marijuana. But his big plays helped the Tigers overcome deficits in each of their last two victories, over Arkansas and Georgia in the SEC championship game.

Mathieu -- aka the "Honey Badger" -- is the best player on the top-ranked team. He leads the Tigers with 70 tackles and has forced six fumbles and recovered five. He also is the most dynamic punt returner I've seen since Florida State's Deion Sanders. Mathieu has scored four touchdowns -- two on fumble returns and two on punt returns.

To penalize Mathieu for one foolish mistake wouldn't have been right. After all, Newton was briefly ruled ineligible at Auburn last season and 2010 Heisman Trophy finalist LaMichael James of Oregon was suspended from playing in last season's opener.

History at stake for Heisman hopefuls

December, 5, 2011
12/05/11
7:53
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On Monday the five finalists invited to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony were revealed. This year has featured one of the most interesting races for the Heisman as no one player has stood from the rest.

Here's a look at what a Heisman Trophy win -- or loss -- would mean to these players and their respective schools.

Trent Richardson, Alabama
Two seasons ago Trent Richardson was a part of a National Championship team with a Heisman Trophy winner, when running back Mark Ingram became Alabama's first winner. Richardson has nearly identical numbers to Ingram this season, and has already totaled 23 touchdowns compared to Ingram's 20 TD's.

If Richardson were to win the award it would put him and Ingram in some rare company. In the history of the Heisman Trophy only three times have two different players playing the same position at the same school won the award in a span of three seasons. It last happened when USC QB Matt Leinart won it in 2004 after Carson Palmer had taken home the award in 2002.

Andrew Luck, Stanford
Luck is listed second here as he finished second for the Heisman last season and Stanford has actually had the Heisman runner-up in each of the past two seasons (Toby Gerhart, 2009).

If Luck wins he would be the second player in Stanford history to win the award (Jim Plunkett, 1970) and join 1981 Herschel Walker as the only Heisman runner-ups to win the award the next season.

If Luck finishes second, Stanford would set a record. No school has ever had a Heisman runner-up in three consecutive seasons.

Montee Ball, Wisconsin
Montee Ball earned his invite thanks to his impressive numbers. Ball needs one touchdown in the Rose Bowl to tie Barry Sanders' FBS record for touchdowns in a season (39). Sanders won the Heimsan trophy during that 1988 season.

Ball's 38 touchdowns are the most by a Big Ten player since Eddie George had 25 in his Heisman Trophy winning 1995 season.

Robert Griffin III, Baylor
RGIII finished off a great regular season in which he threw 36 touchdowns compared to only six interceptions, while also leading Baylor to nine wins, its most since the 1986 season.

Griffin's invite is an accomplishment in its own considering he plays for Baylor. The Bears have only had one player finish in the top five of the Heisman vote in school history. In 1963 Don Trull finished fourth.

If Baylor's Robert Griffin III wins the Heisman Trophy this year, he will be just the third player since the BCS was established in 1998 to win the Heisman without his team playing in a BCS bowl game.

Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
The Honey Badger will take the trip to New York looking to join Charles Woodson as the only defensive backs to win the Heisman trophy.

Despite being a defensive player, recent history is on Mathieu's side to take home the award. Since 2003, seven of the past eight Heisman Trophy winners have come from the team at number one in the BCS standings entering the National Championship Game.
Five items to track Saturday night in the inaugural Big Ten championship game between No. 13 Michigan State and No. 15 Wisconsin.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Andrew Weber/US PresswireMichigan State coach Mark Dantonio might have some tricks up his sleeve in the Big Ten Championship game.
1. Third-down efficiency: Arguably no statistic has played a bigger role in Michigan State's past two victories against Wisconsin. Michigan State converted 50 percent of its third-down opportunities in each game -- 9 of 18 in 2010, 8 of 16 this year -- to repeatedly extend drives and put up points. The Spartans converted 8 of 13 third-down opportunities last Saturday at Northwestern but only rank No. 82 nationally on the season (38.5 percent). Wisconsin, meanwhile, leads the nation in third-down conversions (55.2 percent) and ranks 32nd in third-down defense (36.4 percent). "They're very good at converting third downs," Badgers defensive tackle Patrick Butrym said. "We need to come up with a good plan."

2. The R-word: For Michigan State, it's about respect, or lack thereof. Spartans players have been candid about the lack of respect they've received all season despite their success. "Every game we go into, we're the underdog," senior safety Trenton Robinson said. "Everybody says Michigan State is going to lose by this amount." Count the Vegas odds makers in that group, but Michigan State has used the outside view as fuel during its impressive season. Wisconsin, meanwhile, is downplaying another R-word -- revenge. Although Michigan State won the first meeting, Badgers players began stiff-arming the revenge story line immediately after last Saturday's win. They need to play with composure, especially since Michigan State drew no penalties in the teams' first meeting.

3. Neutral-site factor: The Big Ten has never had a title game before, and it will be interesting to see the atmosphere and how it impacts the game. Michigan State fans seem a bit more geared up than their Wisconsin counterparts, and the Spartans-Badgers fan split should be interesting. Will the game be a sellout? Should be close if it's not. Wisconsin hasn't been the same team outside Madison this season, but the Badgers won't be playing in a true road environment. Michigan State performed very well in its last two road games. The Spartans are the more tested team outside their own building this season. Wisconsin's best road/neutral-site win came against Northern Illinois, while Michigan State has beaten Iowa, Northwestern and Ohio State.

4. Special teams and The Gambler: Michigan State has held a decided edge in the kicking game in each of the past two meetings with Wisconsin. Keshawn Martin had a punt return for a touchdown in 2010, and the Spartans blocked a punt for a touchdown Oct. 22 to cap a huge second quarter. Wisconsin has had punts blocked in each of its two losses, and the Badgers can't let the dangerous Martin get free in the open field. Also, keep an eye on Spartans coach Mark Dantonio, who has shown he isn't afraid to call a trick play at key moments, particularly in the kicking game. Special teams is an area where Michigan State can capitalize.

5. MoneyBall's quest: Top Heisman Trophy candidates Trent Richardson and Andrew Luck aren't playing games Saturday, so Wisconsin running back Montee Ball gets one final big-stage opportunity to show why he's one of the nation's best players. Ball is five touchdowns shy of Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season record (39) and has scored at least twice in every game this season (seven games of three or more scores). Ball had 115 rush yards and a touchdown against Michigan State on Oct. 22 but missed some time after taking a shot to the head. Wisconsin's offense wasn't the same with Ball on the sideline. The Badgers will need Ball on the field for 60 minutes Saturday night, while Michigan State's defense must contain No. 28.

How we voted in the latest rankings

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
11:00
AM ET
It's that time again, as we once again reveal our ballots for the ESPN.com power rankings. We like to keep things transparent around here.

Brian Bennett's ballot

1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Arkansas
4. Stanford
5. Oklahoma State
6. Virginia Tech
7. Boise State
8. Oregon
9. Michigan State
10. Houston
11. Oklahoma
12. Wisconsin
13. USC
14. South Carolina
15. Georgia
16. Michigan
17. Clemson
18. Kansas State
19. TCU
20. Penn State
21. Baylor
22. Notre Dame
23. Nebraska
24. Georgia Tech
25. Virginia

Adam Rittenberg's ballot

1. LSU
2. Alabama
3. Arkansas
4. Oklahoma State
5. Virginia Tech
6. Stanford
7. Houston
8. Boise State
9. USC
10. Michigan State
11. Oregon
12. Wisconsin
13. Oklahoma
14. Georgia
15. Kansas State
16. Michigan
17. South Carolina
18. TCU
19. Penn State
20. Baylor
21. Clemson
22. Nebraska
23. Virginia
24. Notre Dame
25. West Virginia

Like most folks, Bennett and I reluctantly have put the top three SEC teams in the first threes spots on our ballot. We differ at No. 4, as Bennett continues to gush over Stanford and Andrew Luck, while I didn't penalize Oklahoma State as much as he did for the Pokes' loss to Iowa State. He has Boise State three spots higher than unbeaten Houston, while I have the Cougars ahead of the Broncos.

We both give Michigan State more love than most pollsters, as Bennett has the Spartans at No. 9 and I have them at No. 10. We both have Wisconsin at No. 12, while I have Michigan on spot higher (No. 15) than Bennett does. I'm also a bit higher on Penn State and Nebraska than my co-blogger. I have USC three spots higher than he does after the Trojans' big win in Eugene, while he likes South Carolina more than I do. Virginia makes an appearance on both of our ballots, and we both include one team the other person doesn't have (Georgia Tech for Bennett, West Virginia for yours truly).

Big Ten Friday mailblog

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
4:30
PM ET
A few emails before the weekend begins. Enjoy the games!

Greg from Norristown, Pa., writes: Adam, call me optimistic but I think there's a strong possibility that Penn State can win 3 of its last 4 games. The game I see them losing is Wisconsin. If the Badgers have 1 conference loss (MSU) and Penn State has 1 conference loss (Wiscy) doesn't that mean Wisconsin goes to the Championship Game? Do you think Penn State could still get into a BCS game at 10-2 with their only losses to Alabama and Wisconsin? Finally, if Penn State did win out, wouldn't a PSU v. MSU Championship Game be awesome?! We could bring back the ugliest trophy in college football, the Land Grant Trophy!

Adam Rittenberg: Ha, we all miss the Land Grant Trophy. It's a fine piece of craftsmanship. Yes, in the scenario you present, Wisconsin would go to the title game if it beats Penn State and both teams have one Big Ten loss. I think Penn State would be extremely appealing to some BCS bowl committees as an at-large selection, although it also depends on who else is out there. While Penn State lacks the dynamic offenses some bowls drool over, you have a national fan base and an iconic coach who might be working his final game. To your final point, a PSU-MSU matchup in Indy would be a defensive clash of the titans. While I'm guessing Wisconsin would drive up the TV ratings with its offense, Penn State and Michigan State would be a fun one, too.


Steve from Nebraska writes: Hey Adam--even after a year and a half, I can still be surprised by some of Taylor Martinez's decisions. Any chance his wind comments were aimed at riling up an MSU defense that has a history of disciplinary issues? My guess is we're going to need some free yards this weekend.

Adam Rittenberg: Steve, it's an interesting theory, although I think it's wishful thinking on your part. Although Martinez's comment certainly got the attention of Jerel Worthy and his fellow Spartans defenders, I don't think we'll see a flurry of yellow hankies on Saturday afternoon in Lincoln. Michigan State's defense doesn't have a history of disciplinary issues. It had an unusually high number of penalties in the Michigan game and played much more disciplined last week (no penalties). The Spartans know they won't have much margin for error on the road against T-Magic and the Huskers.


Alan from Evanston, Ill., writes: Adam, Love reading your stuff. Myself, along with my fellow Northwestern students have so far had a terribly frustrating season. We realize that our school does not have a historically successful football program and that in reality going to a bowl game should be a huge success, but should we be as disappointed as we are at how the Wildcats have played this year? While some of my compatriots envisioned a year of nine or ten wins and a possible march to the conference title game in Indy, I thought I was being rather conservative in predicting a seven win season. But to date the Cats are winless in conference play. In your opinion were our hopes warranted, and does this team have more talent than they are showing on the field?

Adam Rittenberg: Alan, one sign that a program has made strides is expectations. If Northwestern were 2-5 (0-4 Big Ten) and its fans weren't upset, it would be a major problem. That was the way things were for years in Evanston. So yes, you absolutely have the right to be upset that a senior-laden team coming off of three consecutive bowl appearances has dropped five consecutive games. The Wildcats have talent at individual spots and, for the most part, they've performed well offensively this year. But the defense has been pretty disastrous. It has been a combination of talent, scheme, communication breakdowns and lack of player development. While I didn't see Northwestern winning 9-10 games this year, I saw the Wildcats winning at least six.


Tim T. from Chicago writes: Adam, It seems that, outside of this and potentially the Big XII blog, the NU/MSU and OU/KSU games are being overlooked this week. Game Day is slated to make an appearance in Southern California where is suspect Stanford will have its way with USC and many of the football story lines have focused more on conference realignment and the upcoming LSU/Bama match-up still a week away. Why then, have these two games been relegated to below the fold news? Both games will have a significant impact on each respective team's conference championship aspirations and either boost or undercut their BCS standing.

Adam Rittenberg: Tim, this underscores how college football is all about the national championship game and little else. MSU-Nebraska is a huge game for the Big Ten, but it has no impact on the national title race. While Kansas State is undefeated, few think the Wildcats have a legitimate shot to run the table and reach the title game. Had Oklahoma won last week, setting up a game of two unbeaten teams, you'd hear a lot more about that contest. USC-Stanford is a big deal because Stanford is in the title mix, Andrew Luck is the Heisman frontrunner and USC is a program that always moves the needle nationally because of its location, its tradition and what it did the past decade under Pete Carroll.


CaliHawk from Berkeley, Calif., writes: Being from Berkely, I would expect you to do better than print flat out lies from Badger coach. They are behind three teams in Big10 alone the past three and half years. Count LSU, Alabama, Florida, Stanford, Oregon, Oklahoma and you see what I mean. Pretty sad my friend...stop the BB love its sickening.

Adam Rittenberg: Cali, you're right, I should have corrected Bielema later in the post, but I was relaying what he said he told to his team. The only thing that matters is if the Badgers believe their coach and come out and respond well at Wisconsin. He can use whatever stats he wants -- right or wrong -- as long as he gets the desired result. We'll see whether the Badgers can avoid a hangover Saturday night in Columbus.


D.D. from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Hi Adam. Okay, I was listening to one of the radio casts, and at one point you and Brian were discussing about whether the Big Ten will get two Big Ten teams into BCS games this year. You used Michigan State and Wisconsin as an example because there could be a possible rematch for the Big Ten Championship game. And that there's a good chance the loser might get shut out of a BCS bowl. I believe you were incorrect with the MSU losing scenario. If MSU wins out, they are 11-1 going into the Big Ten Championship, and if they lose they would be 11-2, not 10-2. And assuming Wisconsin and MSU win out, they would both have 11 wins. So one team will be 12-1 and the other will be 11-2. I'm guessing an 11-2 Big Ten team still won't matter considering what could happen to the Pac-12 and Big 12? Also, another question... Say MSU does lose the Big Ten Championship. That makes them 11-2. But then Michigan wins out as well, they'll be 11-1... I'm guessing there's a chance that Michigan could sneak into the BCS over MSU and other AQ teams (like what happened to Mizzou and Kansas in'07)?

Adam Rittenberg: D.D., thanks for correcting us. The Big Ten title game loser would be 11-2, not 10-2. Now I don't think the number of wins would affect a potential at-large berth as much as the number of losses. If a 10-2 or 11-2 Big Ten team is competing against an 11-1 Oklahoma State or an 12-1 Stanford, which team gets the at-large berth? As for your other scenario, history shows us that the loser of a conference title game has a tough time grabbing an at-large berth and could be passed up (Kansas-Missouri is a perfect example). Can you imagine the outcry in Spartan Country if Michigan got picked ahead of MSU, not just because of MSU's win this year but after what happened last year? Yikes.


Tom from PA writes: Adam,If PSU and Nebraska are both 8-1 and probably somewhere within the top 15, do you see the game being an 8 PM start? It's TBD now so hoping PSU gets at least one night game at home, especially the awesome exposure a whiteout gives the b1g on a national stage. It's also a classic rivalry game that goes back years. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Tom, it's not going to happen, unfortunately. The Big Ten doesn't schedule primetime games in November. And while the rule isn't totally set in stone, teams would have to apply to move the game to prime time. It's a process. So while it would be great to see Nebraska-Penn State under the lights, the league's policy will likely make that a 3:30 p.m. ET kick in Happy Valley.


Jason Z. from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, In your article about Denard and the past few collapses at U-M you said the "spartans outclassed the wolverines." I am sure you watched the game and to use that wording is pretty inappropriate. Sure they played better but I would watch your wording on something like that. The personal fouls speak for themselves.

Scott from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam, in your recent post "Denard: U-M collapses a thing of the past", you wrote:" Although the game had its share of controversy, the outcome was definitive: The Spartans outclassed the Wolverines."Outclassed is actually the one thing the Spartans didn't do. Classy teams don't get the kind and number of personal fouls MSU did. My hat goes off to MSU for their play. They definitely outplayed Michigan and deserved the win. But they also definitely didn't outclass anyone that day.

Adam Rittenberg: Sorry, guys, you need to consult the dictionary on this one. Outclassed is defined as: "To surpass decisively, so as to appear of a higher class." Another definition I found reads: "To defeat easily." Michigan State satisfied these definitions in the game against Michigan. Wolverines fans can keep whining about the personal fouls -- yes, I agreed with the Big Ten's suspension of William Gholston -- but certain Michigan players weren't exactly perfect citizens in that game, either. It's time to drop it and move on.


Scott from New Jersey writes: Adam,Why are we so quick to write off Luke Fickell? He has taking a hand that lost 9 starters on Defense, and had its 3 top offensive players suspended and a fourth one leave completely. He has had other suspensions from the Tressel era to 3 other players and all he has done is continued to recruit, and all projections are showing he should put together a great class in the midst of all the turmoil, and has his team in thick of the big ten title race with pretty much all freshman and sophomores. I know he is green and made some clock management mistakes, but I think he improves each game. With a full offseason and ability to maybe shape his own staff, my question to you is why shouldn't he be retained for a multi year deal?

Adam Rittenberg: Scott, you bring up several great points here. Fickell inherited a really messy situation at Ohio State. Then again, he isn't without blame for some of the shortcomings this season. The writing off of Fickell doesn't shock me as Ohio State fans aren't used to losing and want a fresh start from the Tressel era with a new regime and a potential savior coach. I hope Ohio State gives Fickell a real chance in these final five games and evaluates him after a full season before making a decision on the future. While I wouldn't blame Ohio State for going a different direction and bringing in a more experienced coach, Fickell deserves a chance, too. I have no doubt he will be an excellent head coach. If Ohio State lets him go, will the school ever have another chance to bring him back?
It's halftime at Camp Randall Stadium, and the only surprise so far is that it took Wisconsin nearly 10 minutes to score.

The Badgers have since picked up the scoring pace and lead Indiana 38-7 at the half. Indiana has had no answer for the Badgers offense, which has received touchdown runs from Montee Ball and James White and a touchdown pass from Ball to quarterback Russell Wilson.

Take that, Andrew Luck.

Not surprisingly, Wisconsin continues to pick up huge chunks of yards both with its run game and its passing attack. Other than one overthrow to Jared Abbrederis, Wilson has been sharp, completing 9 of 12 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. Both Ball (86 rush yards, 2 touchdowns) and White (84 rush yards, touchdown) should be making more trips to the end zone against an overmatched Hoosiers defense.

Indiana has moved the ball decently and reached Wisconsin territory on several possessions. But the Hoosiers haven't translated yards into many points, and Antonio Fenelus' interception of an Ed Wright-Baker pass in the end zone squashed any momentum for IU.

Junior college transfer Stephen Houston has provided a spark for IU at running back, racking up 109 yards on 12 carries, including a 67-yard scoring scamper.

Wisconsin isn't on pace for 83 points again and likely will play its reserves for a good portion of the second half. No need to risk Wilson, Ball and White for too much longer.
You know times are changing when the candidates for preseason awards are being announced through Twitter, but that's exactly what's happening with the 2010 Manning Award.

We learned through the Sugar Bowl's Twitter page today that Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien has been named to the preseason watch list, joining Stanford's Andrew Luck. We'll find out more watch list candidates, including others from the Big Ten, in the coming days.

Tolzien led Wisconsin to a 10-3 record and a Champs Sports Bowl championship in his first year as the starter. Once an afterthought in the Badgers' quarterback race, Tolzien beat out Dustin Sherer and Curt Phillips for the top job last summer. He went on to lead the Big Ten in pass efficiency (143 rating), passing for 2,705 yards and 16 touchdowns with 11 interceptions and completing 64.3 percent of his attempts.

Few pegged Tolzien to see much field time with Wisconsin, much less make preseason watch lists for national quarterback awards, so this is quite a story.
Northwestern has signed a 17-man recruiting class that is almost evenly split between offense (9) and defense (8). Pat Fitzgerald and his staff went heavy on wide receivers with four, and also picked up three defensive linemen and three defensive backs. The Wildcats also signed two quarterbacks, which is important after missing out on Andrew Luck last year.

A few facts about NU's class from the school's release.
  • The breakdown on NU's signees, by position: wide receivers (4), defensive line (3), defensive backs (3), linebackers (2), offensive line (2), quarterback (2) and running back (1).
  • The combined record of this year's class (from their senior season) is 131-62 (68 percent).
  • A pair of players from the same team, Trevor Siemian and Rashad Lawrence, both committed to Northwestern following a successful prep career at Olympia High School in Orlando.
  • Facebook played a role in the recruitment of 16 of the 17 signees.

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