Big Ten: Antavian Edison

As spring practice kicks off around the Big Ten, we're taking a look at one potential breakout player for each team. We're looking for players who could take a major step during spring ball, so those who have started multiple seasons or earned All-Big Ten recognition in 2012 aren't eligible.

Purdue kicks off the series with ...

Dolapo Macarthy, WR, junior, 6-foot-5, 220 pounds

Purdue's mystery-filled quarterback competition will take center stage this spring, but the signal-callers also need some reliable targets in the passing game. The Boilers lose Antavian Edison to graduation, and O.J. Ross was indefinitely suspended last month. Macarthy likely would have moved into a bigger role regardless of Ross' status, but his responsibility now increases.

He finished fourth on the team with 28 receptions in 2012, racking up 252 receiving yards and a touchdown. Macarthy's size certainly jumps out, and he could be a bigger threat as an outside receiver in Purdue's new offense after averaging just 9 yards per catch as a sophomore. Macarthy came to Purdue as a walk-on quarterback after spending time at a prep school and a junior college. He moved from quarterback to receiver and seems to have found a home there.

Purdue kicks off spring ball March 18, and it will be interesting to see how coach Darrell Hazell and new offensive coordinator John Shoop use Macarthy alongside probable No. 1 receiver Gary Bush.
I thought it would be fun to borrow an idea from our friends at the SEC blog -- they're on our good side after this post -- and look at which Big Ten offenses return the best triumvirates (quarterback, running back, receiver) on offense.

It turned out to be quite challenging. And a little depressing.

No Big Ten squad brings back a 2,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher (running back) and a 1,000-yard receiver from 2012. After all, Penn State's Allen Robinson was the lone Big Ten pass-catcher to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in 2011. Although the Lions return Zach Zwinak, who finished with exactly 1,000 rush yards, they lose 3,200-yard passer Matt McGloin.

The benchmark seems to be 2,000 pass yards, 900 rush yards and 600 receiving yards. Two teams qualify here, and they would have met in the Big Ten title game if one hadn't been on postseason probation.

Here are the Big Ten's top three offensive triumvirates ...

1. NEBRASKA
2. OHIO STATE
  • QB Braxton Miller* -- 2,039 pass yards, 15 touchdowns, six interceptions
  • RB Carlos Hyde -- 970 rush yards and 16 touchdowns
  • WR Corey Brown -- 669 receiving yards and three touchdowns
3. INDIANA
*-Miller led Ohio State in rushing with 1,271 yards.

Why are only three teams listed? Because no other Big Ten offenses merit mentions. They're either losing key pieces or looking for much more production from the pieces they have.

Northwestern brings back a 1,300-yard rusher in Venric Mark but lacks the passing and receiving components. Despite losing Montee Ball, Wisconsin brings back two talented running backs (James White and Melvin Gordon) and a solid receiver (Jared Abbrederis), but none of its three quarterbacks eclipsed 1,200 pass yards in 2012.

Penn State has the receiver and the rusher, but its leading returning passer (Steven Bench) had 12 yards in 2012. James Vandenberg was the only Iowa Hawkeye to attempt a pass in 2012, and he's gone. Purdue loses its top passer (Robert Marve), top rusher (Akeem Shavers) and top receiver (Antavian Edison).

Michigan likely would have had two-thirds of the equation if Devin Gardner had played quarterback all season, but the Wolverines lose their only consistent rushing threat in Denard Robinson. Speaking of rushers, Le'Veon Bell leaves a huge void (1,793 yards) at Michigan State, which brings back 2,500-yard passer Andrew Maxwell and two 500-yard receivers (Keith Mumphery and Bennie Fowler).

Personnel losses are part of college football, but the limited list of Big Ten "triumvirates" illustrates how many teams are returning proven pieces on offense. The quarterback and receiver positions are particularly lacking.
After a brief break for signing day, the postseason position rankings return with the wide receivers and tight ends. The Big Ten had only one team (Indiana) rank in the top 30 nationally in pass offense, and the league's overall depth at receiver and tight end wasn't good at all, but a few groups of pass-catchers stood out.

As a reminder, these rankings are based solely on performance during the 2012 season and factor in both star power and depth. Here's a look at our preseason rundown.

There's clear separation with the top three groups, while the bottom four could be rearranged just about any way you want (if you enjoy that sort of thing).

Now let's get started ...

[+] EnlargeCody Latimer
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsReceiver Cody Latimer should have a productive season in Indiana's pass-oriented system.
1. Indiana (Preseason ranking: 8): The Hoosiers attempted 58 more passes than any other Big Ten team, but they had plenty of reasons to do so and merit top billing here. Speedster Shane Wynn led the squad in receptions with 68, but Cody Latimer emerged into the star of the group, recording 51 receptions for 806 yards and six touchdowns. Like Latimer, Kofi Hughes stretched the field and averaged nearly 15 yards per reception. Tight end Ted Bolser also made nice contributions (41 catches, 445 yards). IU had five receivers or tight ends finish with at least 23 receptions.

2. Nebraska (Preseason ranking: 2): The Huskers' multitude of big-play threats nearly put them in the top spot, as they helped Nebraska finish with the Big Ten's top offense (460.8 ypg). Wideout Kenny Bell led the way with 863 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 50 receptions (17.3-yard average). Receiver Jamal Turner and tight ends Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton all averaged at least 13 yards per reception. Quincy Enunwa became a nice No. 2 target with 42 receptions for 470 yards.

3. Penn State (Preseason ranking: 7): Few saw this coming before the season, and our preseason capsule about the Nittany Lions began with, "Justin Brown gives the Nittany Lions a solid top option." Whoops. Even though Brown transferred in the wake of the NCAA sanctions, Penn State found surprise stars in wide receiver Allen Robinson and tight end Kyle Carter. Robinson won the Big Ten's Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year Award after leading the league in receptions (77), receiving yards (1,013) and touchdown catches (11). Carter (36 catches for 453 yards) might have been the league's top tight end, a position where Penn State had unparalleled depth. Players like wideout Brandon Moseby-Felder and tight end Matt Lehman emerged later in the season.

4. Purdue (Preseason ranking: 5): There's definitely a drop-off after the top three groups, but Purdue had a nice crop of receivers who likely would have put up bigger numbers if quarterback Robert Marve had stayed healthy all season. Wideouts O.J. Ross (56 receptions, 454 yards) and Antavian Edison (58 receptions, 682 yards) both finished in the league's top five in receptions, while Gary Bush also eclipsed the 40-catch mark. Young wideout Dolapo Macarthy showed promise, and tight ends Gabe Holmes and Crosby Wright combined for 47 receptions.

5. Michigan (Preseason ranking: 6): No offense to Denard Robinson, but Michigan's receiving corps truly got its chance to shine once Devin Gardner took control at quarterback. Michigan became a much more pass-oriented offense and stretched the field with several players. Jeremy Gallon turned in a very solid junior season with 49 receptions for 829 yards and four touchdowns (16.9-yard average). Roy Roundtree came on strong late in the season and made the catch of the year in the league against Northwestern to force overtime. Michigan received nice contributions from wideout Drew Dileo and young tight end Devin Funchess (five touchdowns), and Gardner himself made some plays early on before switching permanently to QB.

6. Ohio State (Preseason ranking: 9): Coach Urban Meyer is looking for much more from Ohio State's perimeter players, but in a pass-challenged league like the Big Ten, Ohio State's receivers and tight ends finish in the middle of the pack. Corey Brown quietly produced a 60-catch season, finishing fourth in the league in receptions (5 rpg). Devin Smith had half as many receptions as Brown but finished with nearly the same yardage total (669-618) as he became Braxton Miller's top deep threat. Jake Stoneburner had four touchdown catches, while sophomore tight end Jeff Heuerman showed some promise.

7. Northwestern (Preseason ranking: 1): Thanks to the emergence of Venric Mark, Northwestern became a much more run-driven offense than we anticipated before the season, although the receiving corps underachieved a bit. The Wildcats had no true stars, although they boasted some nice balance as four players recorded at least 29 receptions. The big bright spot late in the season came from freshman tight end Dan Vitale, who recorded 28 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns. USC transfer Kyle Prater wasn't much of a factor (10 catches, 54 yards). Quarterback Kain Colter might have provided the best performance from a Northwestern receiver when he moved there against Indiana and recorded career highs for both receptions (9) and receiving yards (131).

8. Michigan State (Preseason ranking: 11): It says something about the Big Ten when Michigan State's receivers, who received heavy criticism for much of the season, finish in the top two-thirds of the rankings. But the Spartans simply produced a lot more than the groups below them. They had arguably the league's top tight end in Dion Sims, who recorded 36 receptions for 475 yards before opting to skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft. Freshman Aaron Burbridge emerged at receiver during Big Ten play (29 receptions, 364), and the Spartans had three receivers record at least 36 receptions and two -- Keith Mumphery and Bennie Fowler -- with more than 500 receiving yards.

9. Wisconsin (Preseason ranking: 3): Wisconsin had a major shortage of depth, which hurt during a season where three different players started at quarterback. The Badgers had one of the league's best wide receivers in Jared Abbrederis (49 receptions, 837 yards, 5 TDs), and Jacob Pedersen won the Big Ten's Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year award, albeit in surprising fashion. But no other players recorded 20 receptions and Wisconsin ended up finishing last in the Big Ten and 111th nationally in passing.

10. Iowa (Preseason rank: 4): The Hawkeyes struggled to consistently pass the ball, and getting into the end zone proved to be nearly impossible as they finished with just seven receiving touchdowns. Kevonte Martin-Manley, the group's bright spot with 52 catches for 571 yards, was the lone Hawkeye with multiple scoring receptions in 2012. Keenan Davis fell short of expectations and while C.J. Fiedorowicz put up nice numbers for a tight end (45 receptions, 433 yards), many expected more from him as well. Like several Big Ten squads, Iowa struggled with depth at receiver.

11. Illinois (Preseason ranking: 10): We had concerns about Illinois' skill-position talent and depth before the season, and it proved true. Although the Illini had four players record at least 25 receptions, two of them -- receptions leader Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson -- play running back. Ryan Lankford was the team's top wideout with 469 receiving yards and five touchdowns, while Darius Millines once again struggled to stay healthy. Spencer Harris contributed 21 catches for 252 yards and two scores, but Illinois needed much more to spark the league's worst offense.

12. Minnesota (Preseason ranking: 12): Like many of their Big Ten brethren, the Gophers lacked playmakers on the edge to provide balance on offense. Their best threat, A.J. Barker, left the program in not-so-quiet fashion after a spat with head coach Jerry Kill. Barker appeared in only eight games but still had 11 more receptions than any other Minnesota player. Receivers like Isaac Fruechte, Derrick Engel and Devin Crawford-Tufts showed flashes, and tight end John Rabe had four touchdown grabs, but Minnesota needs a lot more from this group going forward.
As a Chicago Bears fan, my fingers are trembling as I type this ...

According to reports, Purdue has hired John Shoop as its new offensive coordinator.

FootballScoop.com first reported Shoop's hiring, and the Big Ten Network also is reporting it. Purdue hasn't officially confirmed the addition of Shoop to Darrell Hazell's staff.

OK, John Shoop. That John Shoop? Yes, that John Shoop. (Chill goes down spine). Breathe, Adam, breathe ...

I'm going to give Shoop a chance to show he won't do to Purdue's offense what he did to the Bears' offense from 1999-2003. Every new Big Ten assistant deserves somewhat of a clean slate from the Big Ten blog.

Sorry, just had a flashback of a bubble screen for minus-3 yards. Focus, Adam.

Shoop coordinated some decent offenses at North Carolina toward the end of his tenure as Tar Heels' offensive coordinator (2007-2010). Players like quarterback T.J. Yates and wide receiver Hakeem Nicks developed nicely under his watch in Chapel Hill. He remains in demand, interviewing for NFL coaching positions in recent weeks. And Shoop certainly boasts enough experience for this job.

He takes over a Purdue offense that loses its top two quarterbacks from 2012 (Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush), its top running back in Akeem Shavers, a valuable receiver in Antavian Edison and several starting linemen. Quarterback will be Shoop's primary focus as he figures out who will lead the Boilers in 2013.

Will there be some Bears jokes made? Yes. Will there be some jokes about Shoop and Jim Bollman being on the same offensive staff? Plenty. Hazell has made some, well, interesting hires so far at Purdue. But maybe it works out in the end and Boiler fans are crankin' up Salt-N-Pepa by the end of the season.

Pregame: Heart of Dallas Bowl

December, 30, 2012
12/30/12
11:00
AM ET
Oklahoma State (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) vs. Purdue (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten)

WHO TO WATCH: Oklahoma State receiver Josh Stewart may be the most underrated player in the Big 12. He caught 96 passes for 1,154 yards to notch his first 1,000-yard season as a sophomore, despite the Cowboys starting three different quarterbacks throughout the season because of injuries. The 5-foot-10, 178-pound Denton, Texas, native had a huge encore after a strong freshman season as Justin Blackmon's protege, and has at least 147 receiving yards in three of his past four games.

WHAT TO WATCH: To get the answer to two questions: Can Oklahoma State prove it wants to be in this game, and can Purdue overcome one of the biggest Vegas lines of the bowl season, at well over two touchdowns? With an 11-point lead in Bedlam, the 7-3 Cowboys had somewhat of a shot to crash the BCS. The Pokes blew that lead to rival Oklahoma and lost to Baylor a week later, tumbling all the way down to the Big 12's No. 8 bowl tie-in -- muddled at 7-5 with four other Big 12 teams. Meanwhile, Purdue had to win its final three games of the season just to reach a bowl, though all three wins came against non-bowl teams with a combined four Big Ten wins. Purdue's got the edge in the "Want To Be Here" rating, but the Pokes are the better team on paper. Can they prove it on the field?

WHY TO WATCH: Hey, you have to watch. It's the Big 12's only New Year's Day Game, even though the Big Ten has five bowl games the same day. You've always got to be careful with big underdogs in bowl games. They love to play fast and loose in the last game of the year with nothing to lose. Purdue might make this entertaining, and teams with interim coaches (Patrick Higgins steps in for the fired Danny Hope at Purdue) have done OK this bowl season. Ask Cincinnati, San Jose State and Utah State about that trend.

PREDICTION: Oklahoma State 37, Purdue 17. Upset potential aside, I'm going with the safe bet for the Pokes here, who will win this game with another solid game from Clint Chelf and open up a really interesting spring quarterback derby in Stillwater. Purdue's Robert Marve finished the season in style, despite playing on a torn ACL, but that ends against Oklahoma State, who finally gets an interception from one of the starting corners, Justin Gilbert or Brodrick Brown.

Bonus predictions from Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett!

Brian Bennett: There's a reason why the Boilers were the biggest underdog on the board in bowl season. They've got an interim coach in Patrick Higgins and have been exposed by some of the better offenses on their schedule, which is a frightening prospect against the high-flying Cowboys. I believe a healthier defensive line will give Purdue a chance in this one, and Oklahoma State is not going to be really pumped up to be in this game a year after playing in a BCS bowl. Robert Marve tosses a couple of scores and Akeem Shavers runs for 135 yards. But in the end, the Pokes -- led by 175 receiving yards from Josh Stewart -- have a little too much for Purdue in a wild one. ...Oklahoma State 31, Purdue 27

Adam Rittenberg: Again, the Big Ten team might be more motivated than the Big 12 squad, but can Purdue keep up on the scoreboard? I don't think so. Although cornerbacks Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen give the Boilers' a chance against the pass-happy Pokes, Purdue isn't consistent enough or dangerous enough on offense to pace Oklahoma State. I agree Marve has a nice performance in his final college game and Antavian Edison scores twice, but Purdue will be playing catch up after a rough first half and falls short. ... Oklahoma State 38, Purdue 28

Big Ten predictions: Bowl picks

December, 27, 2012
12/27/12
10:00
AM ET
Big Ten bowl season officially arrives tomorrow night when Minnesota kicks off the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas against Texas Tech.

Heavens knows I need a new season to begin after a horrible showing in the regular season, when I finished a full five games behind Rittenberg. My pride suffered, and so did my bank account when I was forced to pick up his steak at St. Elmo's in Indy.

But bowl season offers a chance at redemption, not just for me but for the Big Ten as a whole after the league took some beatings in the fall. Here are our picks for the seven bowl games involving conference teams:

Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas

MINNESOTA vs. TEXAS TECH (Dec. 28)

Brian Bennett: The Red Raiders have an interim coach, and Minnesota has had a month to heal the many injuries that ravaged its offense late in the season, both of which are positives for the Gophers. I think Matt Limegrover will find some creative ways to use MarQueis Gray. Still, Minnesota lacks the weapons to go up and down the field against a high-scoring Big 12 team. Michael Carter and the Gophers secondary will make some plays but not enough to stop Texas Tech, which pulls away after a close first two-and-half quarters. ... Texas Tech 31, Minnesota 17.

Adam Rittenberg: The Gophers' defense is much improved in Year 2 under Tracy Claeys, but you need a decent amount of offensive firepower to keep pace with Texas Tech. Like you, my concern is the lack of playmakers surrounding Philip Nelson and Gray. Both men will see time at quarterback and help the Gophers take a first-half lead, but a Minnesota turnover changes the game and Texas Tech strikes for two fourth-quarter passing touchdowns to win. ... Texas Tech 34, Minnesota 21

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

TCU vs. MICHIGAN STATE

Adam Rittenberg: This figures to be a close, low-scoring game that likely comes down to how much progress Michigan State's offense has made in the past month or so. TCU is loaded with young talent and could contend for the Big 12 title next year, but I saw the Frogs' regular-season finale against Oklahoma and wasn't overly impressed. A heavy dose of Le'Veon Bell combined with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Andrew Maxwell to Dion Sims gives Michigan State just enough, as the Spartans' defense rises to the occasion once more. ... Michigan State 21, TCU 17


Brian Bennett: I've been wrong about Michigan State most of the year, so what's one more? The extra 15 practices must have helped the Spartans' sluggish passing game at least a little bit, and TCU will have to adapt to a more physical style of play than it saw in the Big 12. Johnny Adams' turf toe injury worries me, but I like Bell to rush for 150 yards in probably his final college game, while Maxwell provides optimism for 2013 with 200 yards passing. Max Bullough makes a defensive stop at the end of the game to seal it. ... Michigan State 20, TCU 16


Heart of Dallas Bowl

PURDUE vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (Jan. 1)

Brian Bennett: There's a reason why the Boilers were the biggest underdog on the board in bowl season. They've got an interim coach in Patrick Higgins and have been exposed by some of the better offenses on their schedule, which is a frightening prospect against the high-flying Cowboys. I believe a healthier defensive line will give Purdue a chance in this one, and Oklahoma State is not going to be really pumped up to be in this game a year after playing in a BCS bowl. Robert Marve tosses a couple of scores and Akeem Shavers runs for 135 yards. But in the end, the Pokes -- led by 175 receiving yards from Josh Stewart -- have a little too much for Purdue in a wild one. ... Oklahoma State 31, Purdue 27


Adam Rittenberg: Again, the Big Ten team might be more motivated than the Big 12 squad, but can Purdue keep up on the scoreboard? I don't think so. Although cornerbacks Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen give the Boilers' a chance against the pass-happy Pokes, Purdue isn't consistent enough or dangerous enough on offense to pace Oklahoma State. I agree Marve has a nice performance in his final college game and Antavian Edison scores twice, but Purdue will be playing catch up after a rough first half and falls short. ... Oklahoma State 38, Purdue 28


TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl

MISSISSIPPI STATE vs. No. 20 NORTHWESTERN (Jan. 1)

Adam Rittenberg: Is this the year Northwestern ends the bowl losing streak? I think it is for several reasons. Northwestern has its most complete team under coach Pat Fitzgerald. The Wildcats can run the ball effectively and perform well for the most part on special teams. Plus, they ended the season playing better than Mississippi State. Northwestern never makes it easy and will have some tense moments in this one, but Venric Mark and Kain Colter will find room, combining for 175 rush yards and two scores. Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian comes in to throw a third-quarter touchdown and linebacker Chi Chi Ariguzo seals the win with an interception. ... Northwestern 27, Mississippi State 24


Brian Bennett: No more monkeying around. Northwestern finally has a more manageable bowl matchup, though it's certainly still not an easy assignment. The month off should help refresh the legs of Colter and Mark, who work their option magic against a mediocre Mississippi State run defense. Mark scores twice on the ground and also returns a punt for a touchdown. The Bulldogs' Tyler Russell shreds the Northwestern defense for 300 passing yards, but Jeff Budzien hits a game-winning field goal with no time left. Fitzgerald and his players party like it's 1949. ... Northwestern 28, Mississippi State 27


Outback Bowl

No. 10 SOUTH CAROLINA vs. No. 18 MICHIGAN (Jan. 1)

Brian Bennett: I like this matchup a lot and think Michigan can get some things done on offense with a month to prep the Devin Gardner/Denard Robinson combo. But South Carolina's fearsome defense has shut down better attacks in wins against Clemson and Georgia this season and will soon enough figure out Al Borges' bag of tricks. Michigan jumps ahead early on a long Robinson run and a Gardner touchdown pass. Jadeveon Clowney & Co. lock things down in the second half, and Connor Shaw runs for a pair of scores for the Gamecocks. ... South Carolina 24, Michigan 17


Adam Rittenberg: It'll be a lot of fun to watch Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan match up against Clowney. Two potential first-round draft picks going at it. I agree Borges will get really creative in this one, but Michigan's offensive line won't be able to stop the Gamecocks for four quarters. The Wolverines make a nice rally in the third quarter as Gardner finds Robinson on a touchdown strike, but South Carolina controls the ball and the clock in the fourth. ... South Carolina 21, Michigan 16


Capital One Bowl

No. 7 GEORGIA vs. No. 16 NEBRASKA (Jan. 1)

Adam Rittenberg: It's hard to have much faith in Nebraska after what we witnessed in Indianapolis. Great teams don't let down on defense like the Huskers did. Great teams don't play such a chaotic brand of football with so many turnovers. Maybe the Huskers face a napping Bulldogs team, jump ahead behind their dynamic offense and hold on for the win. But I don't see it. Georgia will be sluggish early, but I get the sense Aaron Murray wants to make a statement after the way the SEC championship game ended. Murray and the Bulldogs light up the Huskers in the second half, while Taylor Martinez commits two costly turnovers. ... Georgia 38, Nebraska 23

Brian Bennett: Does either team want to be here? Can either defense stop the other? Those are the main questions leading into this game. I'm not too worried about the disappointment angle but am concerned about Nebraska's ability to slow down Murray, Todd Gurley and a well-balanced Bulldogs offense. The Huskers and Taylor Martinez absolutely must hang onto the football in this one, but I see Jarvis Jones forcing a couple of costly turnovers. Nebraska will do a good job against the pass but will give up too much in the running game, as Gurley goes for 150 and a pair of scores. Martinez compiles 300 total yards but is pressured more often than he's used to and forces a couple of bad throws. Georgia owns the fourth quarter. ... Georgia 35, Nebraska 24.


Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO

WISCONSIN vs. No. 6 STANFORD (Jan. 1)

Brian Bennett: These two teams share a lot of similar traits, as Stanford is the most Big Ten-like Pac-12 team imaginable. The line of scrimmage will be for grown men only. I'd like Wisconsin's chances a lot better if the team didn't have to deal with the distraction of the coaching turmoil. No matter what the Badgers say, that had to hurt their preparation at least a little bit. Plus, the Cardinal seem a little better equipped to throw the ball if the rushing game gets stuffed, while Wisconsin is a little more one-dimensional and will face one of the best run defenses in America. Never count out Barry Alvarez in Pasadena, but I think Montee Ball will have to work a little too hard for his yards in this one. Stanford beats the Badgers at their own game, running the clock out late with a physical rushing attack as Wisconsin goes 0-for-Pasathreena. ... Stanford 24, Wisconsin 21.


Adam Rittenberg: We can't agree on every pick, can we? Nah. Barry's back and I'm a believer. Stanford's defense is as good as advertised, but the Badgers' offense is confident after the Big Ten title game and once again will empty the playbook. The Badgers score early on some razzle-dazzle, and receive a strong performance from Ball (150 rush yards, 2 TDs) in his final collegiate game. Stanford's pressure forces a turnover in the third quarter that changes momentum, but Wisconsin's underrated defense will be the difference, as Chris Borland forces a Stepfan Taylor fumble in crunch time. Alvarez improves to 4-0 in the Rose. ... Wisconsin 24, Stanford 23


Season records

Adam Rittenberg: 76-21 (.784)
Brian Bennett: 71-26 (.732)
Our snapshots of each bowl game featuring a Big Ten team continues.

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Purdue (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State (7-5)

Where: Cotton Bowl, Dallas

When: Noon ET, 11 a.m. CT

TV: ESPNU

About Purdue: The Boilers returned more starters (18) than any other Big Ten team, and fourth-year coach Danny Hope told anyone who listened that he'd have his best squad in West Lafayette. Purdue looked decent through the first four games, but things felt apart once Big Ten play kicked off. Blowout home losses against Michigan (44-13) and Wisconsin (38-13) led to a five-game losing streak to begin Big Ten play. Purdue lost an overtime heartbreaker to Ohio State in a game it controlled most of the way. To the Boilers' credit, they didn't quit and won their final three games to become bowl eligible. Hard-luck quarterback Robert Marve played despite a torn ACL and revived the offense down the stretch. A 6-6 record wasn't enough to save Hope, however, and Purdue dismissed the coach on Nov. 25. Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins will led Purdue in the bowl game.

About Oklahoma State: It's a surprise to see Oklahoma State in this game as the Pokes figured to end up a little higher on the Big 12's bowl pecking order. Still, Mike Gundy's team dropped its final two games and three of its final five to finish 7-5. Despite losing quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon from the 2011 team, Oklahoma State displayed its typical offensive prowess, finishing fourth nationally in scoring (44.7 ppg), fifth in total offense (548.9 ypg) and seventh in passing (333.4 ypg). The Cowboys scored fewer than 30 points in just one game and eclipsed 50 points four times. Quarterback J.W. Walsh and receiver Josh Stewart spark the passing game, but Oklahoma State also can run the ball with Joseph Randle. The Cowboys struggle against the pass (112th nationally) and generated only 17 takeaways this season.

Key players, Purdue: Marve has been fairly effective even with the ACL injury, firing 13 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. He has several weapons to attack Oklahoma State's secondary in veteran receivers Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross and Gary Bush. Akeem Shavers is the Boilers' featured back, averaging 4.7 yards per carry. Purdue's best player is senior defensive tackle Kawann Short, a potential first-round draft pick who recorded 14.5 tackles for loss, six sacks and four blocked kicks this season. The Boilers also boast playmakers at cornerback in Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen.

Key players, Oklahoma State: The Pokes have no shortage of playmakers on offense, and it all starts with Walsh, who ranks fifth nationally in pass efficiency (165.7 rating). Stewart ranks seventh nationally in receptions (8 rpg) and 17th in receiving yards average (96.2 ypg). Randle led the Big 12 in rush yards (1,351) and ranks 18th nationally in rushing average (112.6 ypg). Senior linebacker Alex Elkins leads the team in tackles. Oklahoma State boasts an All-America kicker/punter in Quinn Sharp.

Did you know: The teams have met just once before in the 1997 Alamo Bowl, a 33-20 Purdue victory under first-year coach Joe Tiller. Purdue quarterback Billy Dicken passed for 325 yards as Purdue overcame a 13-10 deficit by scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter to secure the win. ... Purdue will play in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 2006 and 2007. ... Oklahoma State appears in a record seventh consecutive bowl game under Gundy, who has a 4-2 record in the postseason.

Heart of Dallas Bowl

December, 2, 2012
12/02/12
9:58
PM ET
Purdue Boilermakers (6-6) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (7-5)

Jan. 1, 12 p.m. ET, Dallas (ESPNU)

Purdue take from Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: Purdue will be playing in its second straight postseason when it kicks off the Heart of Dallas Bowl, but that wasn't enough to save head coach Danny Hope's job. Hope was fired on Nov. 25 after a 6-6 season, and assistant Patrick Higgins will serve as interim coach for this game.

Hope was confident this would be his best team at Purdue, and the Boilers got off to a decent 3-1 start that included a close loss at Notre Dame. But with an excellent opportunity to make noise in a probation-ravaged Big Ten Leaders Division, the Boilermakers lost their first five conference games, including multi-touchdown losses to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Penn State.

The team did rally to win its final three games to salvage a bowl trip, sparked by Robert Marve returning as the starting quarterback. Fans had been calling for that move for weeks, and Marve delivered despite tearing his ACL in the second week of the season and eschewing surgery.

Hope did make some inroads in increasing the overall team speed, and the offense boasts some exciting playmakers such as running backs Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt and receiver Antavian Edison. Defensive tackle Kawann Short is a potential first-round NFL pick, and Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson form one of the Big Ten's top cornerback tandems -- and they will be needed against Oklahoma State's high-powered passing game.

This team was talented enough to push Ohio State to the absolute brink in Columbus yet unfocused enough to fall behind 44-7 at Minnesota. How the Boilermakers respond and play against the Cowboys without their head coach is anyone's guess.




Oklahoma State take from SoonerNation's Brandon Chatmon: OSU coach Mike Gundy has done one of the best coaching jobs of his career as the Cowboys made Big 12 history with three quarterbacks throwing for 1,000 yards or more. Wes Lunt, J.W. Walsh and Clint Chelf each had their moments this season as the starting quarterback for the Pokes and each signal-caller led OSU to a double-digit win over a Big 12 opponent.

The constant in the Cowboys’ offensive attack is running back Joseph Randle, the Big 12’s leading rusher with 1,351 rushing yards. His toughness, versatility and playmaking set the tone for OSU’s offense. It could be the final game for the junior, who may elect to leave early for the NFL after three seasons as a key member of OSU’s offense.

OSU’s defense had an up-and-down season, holding four Big 12 opponents to 21 points or fewer before allowing more than 600 yards of total offense to Oklahoma and Baylor in its final two games. Defensive tackles Calvin Barnett and James Castleman have been the tone-setters for the Cowboys' defense. When they play well, OSU’s defense is noticeably better.

Keep an eye on the Cowboys' defense on third down. In the losses to OU and Baylor, the Cowboys allowed more than 50 percent of third downs to be converted.
Purdue's 2012 season has been, if nothing else, a wild ride.

It started on a steady incline in nonconference play, with a small dip during a respectable loss at Notre Dame Stadium. The Boilers then went into a free-fall, dropping their first five Big Ten contests, four in blowout fashion (three at home). But the ride wasn't over. Purdue wasn't finished.

The Boilers needed to win their final three games to become bowl eligible, and, after some predictable bumps, they got there. Even Saturday's 56-35 triumph against Indiana in the Bucket game had some crazy twists and turns, but in the end, Purdue prevailed.

The game featured three lead changes and a 14-point, third-quarter Purdue lead squandered in a matter of minutes. But in the end the Boilers (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) received enough from senior running back Akeem Shavers and a host of playmakers on defense to retain the Old Oaken Bucket for the second straight season.

Shavers was brilliant from the start and recorded 126 rush yards, 99 receiving yards and three touchdowns (1 rush, 2 receiving). Quarterback Robert Marve completed 20 of 29 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns on senior day, while Crosby Wright, O.J. Ross, Antavian Edison and Gary Bush all contributed big plays for the Purdue offense.

Both teams had momentum-turning interceptions. A Marve pass late in the first half pinballed to Indiana's Greg Heban, who had a long return to set up the go-ahead score. Early in the third quarter with the game tied 21-21, Purdue's Frankie Williams went all Willie Mays and corralled an interception near the Boilers goal line. Purdue scored two plays later. But the biggest pick came with Purdue up 42-35, as senior safety Max Charlot squeezed a deflected pass from Coffman. Marve connected with Shavers five plays later and the Boilers never looked back.

Indiana (4-8, 2-6) received a huge first-half performance from running back Stephen Houston (123 rush yards, 3 TDs), but Coffman's three picks proved costly. Then again, Indiana's defense was so bad that it didn't matter. Purdue racked up 558 yards and routinely carried Hoosiers defenders down the field.

Kevin Wilson's team improved in Year 2 and should have a chance to go bowling next year with eight home games. But the defense still isn't at a Big Ten level. Not even close. Talent remains the biggest issue, but Wilson might need to look at his coaching staff as well after the way this season ended.

Speaking of coaching changes, will Purdue make one in the coming days? Danny Hope still wants more time to implement his master plan, but most Boiler fans want him out and attendance Saturday remained disappointing. Then again, Purdue beat the teams it was supposed to this season and nearly stunned Ohio State in Columbus.

Athletic director Morgan Burke, it's your move.

Big Ten predictions: Week 13

November, 21, 2012
11/21/12
9:00
AM ET
After a historic week off the field, the Big Ten steps between the lines Friday and Saturday for the final time in this regular season. All 12 teams are in action, and several rivalry games are on tap, highlighted by The Game between Michigan and Ohio State.

As for the blogger predictions race, Brian Bennett is sort of like his old league, the Big East. On life support. He's six games behind Adam Rittenberg with only one week to go.

Let's get to the predictions ...

Friday

No. 14 NEBRASKA at IOWA

Brian Bennett: Iowa needs a hero and will be holding out for one until the end of the night. Not happening. Nebraska is on a roll right now, and will push around a Hawkeyes team that has little to play for and no ability to keep up with the Huskers on the scoreboard. Taylor Martinez puts up one last argument for Big Ten offensive player of the year honors with 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing as Nebraska punches its ticket to Indy. ... Nebraska 38, Iowa 17

Adam Rittenberg: As you wrote last week, there's no stopping the Huskers now. Bo Pelini's team knows what it needs to do, and everyone has taken care of business against Iowa's flat-lining defense in recent weeks. Martinez continues his major awards push with four total touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), and RB Ameer Abdullah adds a long scoring run as Nebraska leads throughout and earns the right to represent the Legends Division at the championship game. ... Nebraska 35, Iowa 10

Saturday

No. 19 MICHIGAN at OHIO STATE

Adam Rittenberg: The Game has become a lot more interesting for two reasons -- Devin Gardner's emergence at QB for Michigan, and Ohio State's progress on the defensive side. Gardner will make some plays and get Michigan out to an early lead on a scoring pass to Roy Roundtree, but Ohio State will respond behind RB Carlos Hyde, who will get the ball more (as Urban Meyer said he would) and finish with 120 rushing yards and two scores. The Game lives up to its billing and goes down to the wire. Braxton Miller scores the game-winning touchdown with 25 seconds left. ... Ohio State 24, Michigan 21

Brian Bennett: Meyer said Tuesday he would open up the offense after getting conservative at Wisconsin. Combine that with Gardner and Denard Robinson on the other side, and I think we're in for a shootout. I could see either side winning, but after 11 straight wins, how can you pick against the Buckeyes? Miller wills them to another victory, finishing with 375 total yards and four touchdowns. ... Ohio State 35, Michigan 31

ILLINOIS at NORTHWESTERN

Brian Bennett: Both schools want to be known as Chicago's team. Unfortunately for Illinois, it has become the Cubs of the Big Ten. The Illini have given us no reason to think they will win a Big Ten game since the middle of last season, and that's not going to change in the finale against Northwestern. The Wildcats' defense steals the show here, holding Illinois without a touchdown in a low-scoring win. ... Northwestern 21, Illinois 9

Adam Rittenberg: Tim Beckman's squad will fight hard for a quarter or so, but if Northwestern's backfield of QB Kain Colter and RB Venric Mark is healthy, the Illini are in trouble. Mark breaks free for a long scoring run, and Northwestern pulls away early in the third quarter. The Wildcats record another defensive touchdown and end their mini slide against the Illini, who finish 2-10. ... Northwestern 27, Illinois 13

INDIANA at PURDUE

Adam Rittenberg: Purdue clearly has more to play for, but I kind of like Indiana to play Boiler Spoiler. Cameron Coffman rallies the Hoosiers with three second-half touchdown passes, and while Purdue gets good performances from QB Robert Marve and WR Antavian Edison, a fourth-quarter turnover allows the Hoosiers to win The Bucket in Ross-Ade Stadium and end Purdue's season. ... Indiana 31, Purdue 28

Brian Bennett: I agree this one will be close, but I think Purdue is hungry to get back to a bowl and atone for a terrible 0-5 start to Big Ten play. The Boilers have found a spark since Marve became the starting QB, and their defense has gotten healthier. Marve throws three TDs, and Josh Johnson picks off two passes as the Boilers hold on. ... Purdue 28, Indiana 27

MICHIGAN STATE at MINNESOTA

Brian Bennett: Really tempted to pick Minnesota here, but the Gophers are banged up on both sides of the ball. Assuming Michigan State comes to play, the Spartans' physical style will take its toll. Minnesota jumps ahead early, but the Spartans mount a comeback in the second half and go ahead for good on an Andrew Maxwell TD pass to Dion Sims. Michigan State -- finally -- wins a close game to go bowling. ... Michigan State 24, Minnesota 17

Adam Rittenberg: Like you, it wouldn't shock me to see Minnesota win, but the injuries combined with a young quarterback facing a ferocious defense prove to be too much. The Spartans have their typical red zone stalls in the first half but come alive following a pick-six by CB Darqueze Dennard. Michigan State takes a second-half lead, and holds on behind Le'Veon Bell and the run game to squeak into a bowl. ... Michigan State 20, Minnesota 16

WISCONSIN at PENN STATE

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State will have the emotional edge on senior day, but how well has that worked out for the Lions this season? It didn't help against Ohio in the opener or Ohio State under the lights in an electric atmosphere. Even an emotionally charged game at Nebraska didn't go the Lions' way (thanks in part to the replay crew). Penn State takes its customary early lead, but Wisconsin chips away behind two touchdowns from Montee Ball and moves ahead in the fourth quarter. However, the Lions have one final push, and senior QB Matt McGloin sneaks into the end zone with 10 seconds left and does the discount double check move as Penn State prevails. ... Penn State 21, Wisconsin 20

Brian Bennett: It should be an emotional day for Penn State's seniors, who will be remembered by Nittany Lions fans for a long time. I don't see how Wisconsin, coming off an overtime loss to Ohio State and knowing the Big Ten title game is next week, can possibly match Penn State's energy. The Badgers come out flat against the hot-starting home team and never catch up. Ball gets the touchdowns record, but it's not enough as McGloin and Allen Robinson continue their assault on the Penn State record books. ... Penn State 24, Wisconsin 14

Season records

Adam Rittenberg: 71-19 (.789)

Brian Bennett: 65-25 (.722)
I give Adam a lot of grief about his fantasy failings, but the reality is he's got me on the ropes right now.

The Trombone Shorties' 94-89 victory last week against Non-Gingervitis gives Rittenberg a 6-5 series edge with two weeks to go. If he wins this week, it's over. And since I'm also going to lose the picks contest, that would be a bitter pill to swallow.

The Shorties didn't have anybody score more than 20 points last week, but they had a balanced effort led by Taylor Martinez (20), Venric Mark (16) and the wise waiver-wire pickup of Minnesota's defense (18). My team was much more top-heavy, as I got 37 points from Montee Ball and 15 from Kain Colter but not much elsewhere. I took the calculated gamble of keeping Braxton Miller on his bye week, and it cost me.

My strategy was to sacrifice Week 11 in hopes of building a super team for the final two weeks. Let's hope it works, or else Adam might be celebrating two big victories in Indianapolis this December.

Brian adds Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell and drops Iowa RB Damon Bullock

Rationale: I now have officially stolen the Shorties' original starting backfield. It was either Bell or Ohio State's Carlos Hyde for the top pick. Wisconsin's run defense is a little bit better than Northwestern's, though, and I've decided to spread out some of my risk in a must-win week. I'm hoping Bell's legs will be fresh after the bye weeks. How does 45 carries sound, Le'Veon?

Adam adds Michigan's defense and drops Minnesota's defense

Rationale: The Gophers got the job done last week against Illinois, but they face a much tougher task this week against Nebraska on the road. Michigan, meanwhile, should bounce back defensively against a shaky Iowa offense in the Big House. Jake Ryan, Jordan Kovacs and crew throttle the Hawkeyes.

Brian adds Michigan WR Devin Gardner and drops Indiana WR Cody Latimer

Rationale: Yep, Gardner at wide receiver. That's where he's eligible in the ESPN game, so I'm picking him up and hopefully enjoying all his stats at quarterback this week. Fair? Well, it's no different than Colter earning points at receiver while playing quarterback. And everyone who has played fantasy sports successfully knows you have to use the rules to your favor when possible. Plus, the Denard Robinson injury wrecked my team, so I'm offering no apologies.

Adam adds Michigan's kickers and drops Indiana's kickers

Rationale: While Indiana could put up some points in State College, it's a riskier bet than thinking Michigan will score a lot against Iowa. Give me Brendan "brunette girls" Gibbons and the points, please.

Brian adds Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis and drops Purdue WR Antavian Edison

Rationale: Edison probably has a better chance to put up points this week versus Illinois, especially since Wisconsin barely threw the ball last week. But with my back against the wall, I want proven fantasy superstars. I'll go to war with Abbrederis any day.

Adam adds Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde and drops Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah

Rationale: Abdullah has been great, but Rex Burkhead could be back this week to take away some of his carries. I expect a high-scoring game in Madison, and Hyde will find the end zone at least once for the Buckeyes.

Brian adds Nebraska's defense and drops Iowa's defense

Rationale: I had too much faith in Iowa last week to shut down Purdue, and while the Hawkeyes still managed a respectable nine fantasy points, I want no part of this defense at Michigan. Instead, give me Nebraska's Blackshirts, who have been playing well and should provide problems for Minnesota.

Brian adds Northwestern's kickers and drops Iowa's kickers.

Rationale: My Iowa purge continues this week. I'm going with the Wildcats' kickers, figuring Jeff Budzien might be needed a couple of times if the offense stalls against a tough Michigan State defense.

Our complete rosters for Week 12:

The Trombone Shorties

Penn State QB Matt McGloin
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez
Northwestern RB Venric Mark
Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
Penn State WR Allen Robinson
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Michigan defense
Indiana kickers

Non-Gingervitis

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Northwestern QB Kain Colter
Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell
Wisconsin RB Montee Ball
Michigan WR Devin Gardner
Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis
Nebraska defense
Northwestern kickers

Big Ten picks rewind: Week 11

November, 13, 2012
11/13/12
9:00
AM ET
I stayed in Indianapolis this past weekend while covering the Wisconsin-Indiana game, and Friday night, the wife and I dined at St. Elmo Steak House.

After all, I needed to sample the dinner Brian Bennett will be buying me on the eve of the Big Ten championship game. Needless to say, the shrimp cocktail was as advertised -- my sinuses are still recovering -- and the steak just as delicious. We skipped on the pecan pie or chocolate cake, but they looked great. They'll look great on Bennett's tab, too.

What's that? You think I'm too confident about the predictions race? There are two weeks of games left, after all. But Bennett sits a full five games behind me after Week 11. Not even his beloved St. Louis Cardinals can close such a gap. He's cooked. Just like the steak I'll be ordering at St. Elmo.

We both missed on Purdue in Week 11, but I had the edge on the Nebraska-Penn State game (thanks, replay crew). Here's a look back at the Week 11 predictions.

WEEK 11/SEASON RECORDS

Adam Rittenberg: 4-1, 65-19 (.773)

Brian Bennett: 3-2, 60-24 (.714)

Rewind time ...

Wisconsin at Indiana
  • Bennett's pick: Wisconsin 31, Indiana 24
  • Rittenberg's pick: Wisconsin 34, Indiana 27
  • Actual score: Wisconsin 62, Indiana 14
  • 20-20 hindsight: We had the winner right, but that's about it as a game many forecast to be close was anything but. Wisconsin running backs Montee Ball and James White blew away my predicted rushing total (210 yards) with 359 combined yards, while making Bennett's prediction (300) look respectable. They also combined for five touchdowns (I predicted three). Wisconsin did display a sense of urgency, as I wrote, and Curt Phillips made a few key throws, including a fourth-down conversion early in the second half.
Northwestern at Michigan
  • Bennett's pick: Michigan 30, Northwestern 21
  • Rittenberg's pick: Michigan 23, Northwestern 17
  • Actual score: Michigan 38, Northwestern 31 (OT)
  • 20-20 hindsight: Neither of us envisioned such a high-scoring game or such a wild ending, but both offenses came to play for 60 minutes. I correctly pegged Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner for two touchdown passes, and Northwestern weapons Venric Mark and Kain Colter combined for two touchdowns in the first 35 minutes of the game (I said they would in the first half). Bennett thought Denard Robinson would see time for Michigan (he didn't), and while Michigan forced a fumble, it was by Jibreel Black, not Jake Ryan.
Purdue at Iowa
  • Bennett's pick: Iowa 24, Purdue 13
  • Rittenberg's pick: Iowa 27, Purdue 19
  • Actual score: Purdue 27, Iowa 24
  • 20-20 hindsight: Bennett nailed Iowa's score, but both of us expected the Hawkeyes to defend their home turf in a meeting of disappointing teams. Iowa's James Vandenberg actually threw a touchdown pass, as Bennett had predicted, but it was to tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, not to wide receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley. Purdue didn't score on its first drive, as I had forecast, and while quarterback Robert Marve threw two touchdown passes, neither went to wide receiver Antavian Edison.
Penn State at Nebraska
  • Bennett's pick: Penn State 27, Nebraska 24
  • Rittenberg's pick: Nebraska 30, Penn State 28
  • Actual score: Nebraska 32, Penn State 23
  • 20-20 hindsight: This actually proved to be my best score prediction, and I correctly pegged Penn State to jump ahead early behind a Zach Zwinak touchdown run. Matt McGloin's costly interception came in the third quarter, not the fourth, as I had predicted, and Kenny Bell didn't record a touchdown catch for the second straight game. Bennett correctly forecast Penn State to build an early lead, but Nebraska indeed completed one of its patented comebacks (Bennett said the Huskers wouldn't) and prevailed.
Minnesota at Illinois

  • Bennett's pick: Minnesota 24, Illinois 14
  • Rittenberg's pick: Minnesota 23, Illinois 20
  • Actual score: Minnesota 17, Illinois 3
  • 20-20 hindsight: I guess we should know better, but we both expected more from Illinois' offense on its home field. We came fairly close on Minnesota's score, and but I had Rodrick Williams giving the Gophers a boost in the run game, rather than Donnell Kirkwood, who racked up a career-high 152 rush yards and two touchdowns. We both pegged Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson for touchdown passes (he threw none), and Illinois never took the fourth-quarter lead I thought it would.
Purdue's season has been a near-total disaster to this point. But the Boilermakers still have a chance to get back to a bowl for a second straight season.

For a team that had lost all five Big Ten games, most of them by healthy margins, and had a coach on the hot seat, the Boilers played with a lot of heart and grit today on the road against Iowa. Not always great execution, but great effort.

And that was -- just barely -- enough. Paul Griggs drilled a season-long 46-yard field goal as time expired for the 27-24 win. That improved Purdue to 4-6, with games remaining at Illinois and at home against Indiana. Both are very winnable, which means the Boilers could qualify for a bowl. The question is: Would that be enough to save Danny Hope's job? (A more easily answerable question: aren't there too many bowls if this Purdue team makes one?)

Purdue outplayed Iowa in most facets, but lost three fumbles, one of which was scooped up by Micah Hyde for a touchdown. And the Boilers bungled an easy scoring chance at the end of the first half. They outgained Iowa 490-264 but still needed some late-game heroics from Robert Marve to get in position for the winning kick.

Iowa was dominated on the line of scrimmage by Purdue's defense, which got a big game from Kawann Short. The Hawkeyes mustered just 74 rushing yards on 31 carries and couldn't get into the end zone late when they had a chance to go in for the go-ahead score. Kirk Ferentz decided to go for it on 4th and 3 from the Purdue 35 in the final minute, but an Iowa speciality -- a pass short of the first-down sticks -- resulted in a turnover on downs. Marve then ran for 17 yards and threw a 20-yard pass to Antavian Edison to set up the winning kick.

This is an embarrassing home loss for Ferentz and Iowa, which has now lost four straight and will need to win out at Michigan and against Nebraska to reach bowl eligibility. That's almost for sure not happening. Fans will question Ferentz's decision to go for it on fourth down, but the bigger problem remains a complete ineptitude on offense and, especially on Saturday, poor tackling by the defense.

Purdue can relate to season-long problems. But on this day, at least, the Boilers can celebrate a big victory, and think about the very real possibility of still making it to a bowl.
Last year, our Big Ten fantasy league turned out to be an anti-climactic clobbering in favor of my team, Non-Gingervitis. This year, we should have an exciting race to the finish line.

Rittenberg's Trombone Shorties eked out a 120-109 victory to tie up our season series 5-5 with three weeks left to play. Who will end the year strong and claim the coveted fantasy title?

Adam got two huge performances last week from Nebraska's Taylor Martinez (46 fantasy points) and Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (30 ), plus another 21 from Penn State's Matt McGloin. I got 30 points from Braxton Miller and 31 from his Ohio State teammate Carlos Hyde, and my waiver-wire pickups of Iowa's Damon Bullock (16) and Purdue's Antavian Edison (15) worked out pretty well. But I was killed by Denard Robinson not playing at Minnesota despite Michigan coach Brady Hoke saying all week that Robinson was fine. Even a subpar game from Shoelace would have been enough to put me over the top. Not that I'm bitter. (Hoke!!!!)

My team has some serious decisions to make this week with Ohio State on a bye and Robinson again questionable. Do I gut my roster and go for the win this week but risk losing studs like Miller, Hyde and Robinson on waivers? Or do I ride out the storm and hope to finish with back-to-back wins in Week 12 and 13 for a narrow victory?

Let's find out. I'm up first with this week's pickups:

Brian adds Wisconsin running back Montee Ball and drops Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde

Rationale: Hyde has been terrific the past several weeks, but he can't help me versus Idle. So I'll happily welcome back Ball to my team so we can relive our championship memories from 2011 -- and hopefully create some new ones if he can steamroll Indiana's defense.

Adam adds Northwestern running back Venric Mark and drops Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell

Rationale: Bell is off this week, and while Mark faces a formidable Michigan defense, the Wolverines are better against the pass than the run, and Mark is good for at least one big play a week, either on offense or on special teams. He'll be a factor Saturday.

Brian adds Indiana wide receiver Cody Latimer and drops Ohio State wide receiver/tight end Jake Stoneburner

Rationale: My hunch on Stoneburner didn't pay off last week as he failed to score any points, and Ohio State is off this week. So I'll give Latimer a shot after his three-touchdown performance last week versus Iowa.

Adam adds Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah and drops Indiana running back Stephen Houston

Rationale: Maybe I'm a bit too Husker-heavy this week, but Abdullah has done an excellent job filling in for Rex Burkhead, and he has recorded three straight 100-yard rushing performances. With Penn State defensive tackle Jordan Hill banged up, I think Abdullah plays well again Saturday.

Brian adds Iowa's defense and drops Penn State's defense

Rationale: Nothing against the Nittany Lions, but playing on the road against the conference's top offense is not a good fantasy formula. I'll roll the dice with the up-and-down Hawkeyes, who get a badly struggling Purdue team at home.

Adam adds Minnesota's defense and drops Ohio State's defense

Rationale: Ohio State is off this week, and this pickup has a little more to do with Illinois' offensive ineptitude than anything else. Minnesota's defense has been better, though, especially against the pass, and I expect the Gophers to force some takeaways in Champaign, where they've been very good as of late.

Brian adds Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter and drops Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson

Rationale: And there's the risky move. I already have Miller on a bye and refuse to drop the fantasy MVP. I don't like the vibes coming out of Ann Arbor, where Hoke still won't say whether Robinson will play this week. I can't risk not having any quarterbacks this week, so even though I don't love Colter's matchup on the road at Michigan, I've got to make this move.

Adam adds Indiana's kickers and drops Nebraska's kickers

Rationale: Like many of my waiver pickups, this one looked pretty good at the time but hasn't paid many dividends. Indiana has received good production from Mitch Ewald in Big Ten play, and I think he'll be a factor in the game against Wisconsin.

Our complete rosters for Week 11:

The Trombone Shorties

Penn State QB Matt McGloin
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Northwestern RB Venric Mark
Penn State WR Allen Robinson
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Minnesota defense
Nebraska kickers

Non-Gingervitis

Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Northwestern QB Kain Colter
Iowa RB Damon Bullock
Wisconsin RB Montee Ball
Purdue WR Antavian Edison
Indiana WR Cody Latimer
Iowa defense
Iowa kickers
What time is it? Prediction time, whoop.

Three weeks remain in the regular season, and Brian Bennett needs them to be very good ones. He trails Adam Rittenberg by four games in the season standings. If Bennett can't mount a late surge, Rittenberg promises to make him a poor man at St. Elmo in Indianapolis the eve of the Big Ten title game.

Five games are on the slate this week, so let's begin.

WISCONSIN at INDIANA

Brian Bennett: It's the biggest Indiana game in almost 20 years. Unfortunately, the Badgers are about to turn the Cinderella Hoosiers back into a pumpkin. Wisconsin will struggle to get much going in the passing game under new quarterback Curt Phillips, but it won't matter as Montee Ball and James White lead a 300-yard rushing effort and Bret Bielema's team clinches a berth in Indy. ... Wisconsin 31, Indiana 24

Adam Rittenberg: Hoosier Nation should be fired up for this one, and Indiana will ride the momentum to an early lead on a Cody Latimer touchdown catch. But Wisconsin eventually will settle down and start controlling the line of scrimmage, displaying the necessary sense of urgency. The line will wear down the Hoosiers in the second half, and Ball and White will combine for 210 rush yards and three scores. Phillips will make some key throws down the stretch as Wisconsin prevails to secure a spot in Indy. ... Wisconsin 34, Indiana 27

No. 24 NORTHWESTERN at MICHIGAN

Adam Rittenberg: This one will be closer than the oddsmakers think, as Northwestern matches up decently and should be a bit healthier following the open week. But Michigan's defense will do enough to slow down Kain Colter and Venric Mark, who will combine for two first-half touchdowns but not much after that. The Wolverines' big-play pass game will come alive behind Devin Gardner, who will fire two more touchdown passes as Michigan remains perfect at home under Brady Hoke. ... Michigan 23, Northwestern 17

Brian Bennett: Denard Robinson will play some but split time with Gardner at quarterback. Both are effective enough to lead Michigan to a victory because the Wolverines' defense knows how to slow down a running team. Jake Ryan will force a key second-half fumble, and Michigan will keep its Legends hopes alive. ... Michigan 30, Northwestern 21

PURDUE at IOWA

Brian Bennett: Somebody has to win between these two scuffling teams, and I've got more confidence in Iowa than a dysfunctional Purdue outfit right now. James Vandenberg and Kevonte Martin-Manley will hook up for a pair of scores, and the Hawkeyes' defense will shut down the Boilers after their usual early score. ... Iowa 24, Purdue 13

Adam Rittenberg: I guess we're contractually obligated to pick a winner here, huh? OK, well here it goes. Purdue will have its typical great first drive and jump ahead on an Antavian Edison touchdown catch from Robert Marve. But Iowa eventually will take control on its home field behind Damon Bullock, who will record 120 rush yards and two scores. Vandenberg will start slowly but come alive in the second half as Iowa hands Purdue a sixth Big Ten loss and ensures the Boilers won't be bowling for the second straight year. ... Iowa 27, Purdue 19

PENN STATE at No. 18 NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: This will be a good one, as a Penn State team that has been very good on the road faces its toughest test against a Nebraska squad eying Indianapolis (and maybe Pasadena). The Lions will jump ahead early, as they typically do, when Zach Zwinak completes a long scoring drive with a touchdown run. Nebraska will respond and the teams will trade leads during the second half, but the Huskers' spread will prove to be too much for Penn State. Kenny Bell will bounce back from last week with two scoring receptions, and Matthew McGloin will throw a costly interception in the fourth quarter. ... Nebraska 30, Penn State 28

Brian Bennett: It's a matchup of the top two passers in the Big Ten in Nebraska's Taylor Martinez and McGloin. I have to keep repeating that sentence to believe it. Nebraska is the smart pick here, especially at home, but I am down in the picks contest and need to come up with a Hail Mary. So I'll go with the Penn State upset, thinking the Cornhuskers could be due for a letdown after three straight emotional games. The Lions will get up early on a couple of McGloin touchdown passes, and Nebraska will be unable to complete one of its patented comebacks as Penn State grinds out the clock with the power running game and some safe throws to its tight ends. ... Penn State 27, Nebraska 24

MINNESOTA at ILLINOIS

Brian Bennett: My picks have been pretty bad this year, but going against Illinois has served us both well all season. Even at home against a banged-up Minnesota offense, I just don't see how the Illini can get over the hump. Philip Nelson will hit John Rabe for a pair of scores, and the Gophers will get the road win to clinch bowl eligibility. ... Minnesota 24, Illinois 14

Adam Rittenberg: I'm tempted to pick Illinois, as Minnesota hasn't scored well in Big Ten play at all. But the Illini have too many problems right now, and I don't think they can put it together against a Gophers team that needs to secure bowl eligibility before a tough closing stretch. After stubbing their toe in the red zone on their first drive, the Gophers finally will get it together behind running back Rodrick Williams. Illinois will respond and take a fourth-quarter lead, but a roughing-the-passer penalty will set up Minnesota's game-winning drive as Nelson finds Isaac Fruechte in the end zone. ... Minnesota 23, Illinois 20

Michigan State and Ohio State are both off.

Season Records

Adam Rittenberg: 61-18 (.772)

Brian Bennett: 57-22 (.722)

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