Big Ten: Bradie Ewing

Big Ten NFL draft roundup

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
9:00
AM ET
After a historically slow start to the 2012 NFL draft, the Big Ten ended up having 41 players selected during the three-day event. It's a strong overall total, one behind the SEC, the league with the most picks (42). Michigan State, Iowa and Wisconsin led the way with six picks each, followed by four teams -- Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State -- with four selections. Michigan had three players selected, and both Purdue and Northwestern had two. Neither Minnesota nor Indiana had a player drafted this year.

Here's the full rundown:

ROUND 1 (four selections)


No. 23 overall: Iowa T Riley Reiff, Detroit
No. 26: Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus, Houston
No. 27: Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati Bengals
No. 30: Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, San Francisco

ROUND 2 (seven selections)


No. 44: Illinois G Jeff Allen, Kansas City
No. 48: Illinois S Tavon Wilson, New England
No. 51: Michigan State DT Jerel Worthy, Green Bay
No. 53: Penn State DT Devon Still, Cincinnati
No. 55: Wisconsin C Peter Konz, Atlanta
No. 56: Ohio State OT Mike Adams, Pittsburgh
No. 58: Nebraska LB Lavonte David, Tampa Bay

ROUND 3 (three selections)


No. 68: Ohio State WR DeVier Posey, Houston
No. 75: Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson, Seattle
No. 82: Michigan DT Mike Martin, Tennessee

ROUND 4 (five selections)


No. 102: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins, Washington
No. 121: Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin, Houston
No. 122: Wisconsin WR Nick Toon, New Orleans
No. 126: Nebraska DT Jared Crick, Houston
No. 132: Iowa DE Mike Daniels, Green Bay

ROUND 5 (six selections)


No. 141: Iowa G Adam Gettis, Washington
No. 149: Penn State G Johnnie Troutman, San Diego
No. 153: Purdue T Dennis Kelly, Philadelphia
No. 156: Iowa CB Shaun Prater, Cincinnati
No. 157: Wisconsin FB Bradie Ewing, Atlanta
No. 158: Penn State DE Jack Crawford, Oakland

ROUND 6 (seven selections)


No. 180: Michigan State S Trenton Robinson, San Francisco 49ers
No. 183: Michigan State WR B.J. Cunningham, Miami Dolphins
No. 191: Ohio State RB Dan Herron, Cincinnati Bengals
No. 194: Iowa WR Marvin McNutt, Philadelphia Eagles
No. 195: Purdue T Nick Mondek, Houston Texans
No. 197: Ohio State S Nate Ebner, New England Patriots
No. 207: Wisconsin P Brad Nortman, Carolina Panthers

ROUND 7 (nine selections)


No. 217: Iowa CB Jordan Bernstine, Washington
No. 224: Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard, New England
No. 227: Michigan C David Molk, San Diego
No. 230: Penn State LB Nate Stupar, Oakland
No. 233: Northwestern TE Drake Dunsmore, Tampa Bay
No. 234: Nebraska T Marcel Jones, New Orleans
No. 235: Northwestern WR Jeremy Ebert, New England
No. 238: Michigan WR Junior Hemingway, Kansas City
No. 250: Michigan State RB Edwin Baker, San Diego

POSITION BREAKDOWN

Wide receiver: 8
Offensive tackle: 5
Defensive tackle: 4
Guard: 4
Cornerback: 3
Defensive end: 3
Safety: 3
Center: 2
Quarterback: 2
Running back: 2
Linebacker: 2
Fullback: 1
Tight end: 1
Punter: 1

We'll post some of the free-agent signings later today, but first some thoughts and themes on the draft.
    [+] EnlargeMichigan State's Kirk Cousins
    AP Photo/Chris O'MearaWith Robert Griffin III on the roster, one has to wonder about Kirk Cousins' future in Washington.

  • Many had projected Cousins to be the first Big Ten quarterback off of the board, but Russell Wilson went ahead of him to Seattle. Cousins was one of the more intriguing third-day picks as he went to Washington, which selected Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall selection. Griffin is the future of the Redskins franchise, and it leaves Cousins in a potentially tough spot on the depth chart. The selection surprised Cousins, who didn't know the Redskins were interested and told the Detroit Free Press, "I think Robert is in their immediate plans and the long-term hope for their fan base, but they wouldn't have selected me unless they believed in me."
  • The verdict on Ron Zook always seemed to be great recruiter, average coach, and this draft validated it. Illinois was the only Big Ten team with two first-round picks and had four of the first 48 overall selections, yet the team went 7-6 last season after a 6-0 start. Talent clearly wasn't the problem during Zook's tenure in Champaign. Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore is on a roll with back-to-back first-round picks (Corey Liuget and Mercilus). He has two more potentially big-time prospects (Akeem Spence and Michael Buchanan) this year.
  • The Houston Texans clearly like what they see from Big Ten country. After drafting Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt with the No. 11 overall pick last year, the Texans added Mercilus, Posey, Keshawn Martin, Crick and Mondek. Watt welcomed the group on Twitter, tweeting, "Big Ten takeover. Welcome to the Texans." The Cincinnati Bengals also had a nice Big Ten haul with Zeitler, Still, Prater and Herron.
  • Posey, who last week told me he had no idea where he'd be drafted, had to be pleased with a third-round selection after appearing in only three games last fall because of suspension. Teams didn't shy away from the Ohio State star too much because of his off-field issues. Posey's Buckeyes teammate, Mike Adams, meanwhile, appeared to pay a bit of a price for his off-field issues, falling to the late second round.
  • On the flip side, Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, the Big Ten's defensive back of the year in 2011, slipped all the way to the seventh round. Keep in mind some draft gurus, including ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., once projected Dennard in the first round. But after being ejected from the Capital One Bowl, failing to impress in predraft events and getting arrested the weekend before the draft for allegedly punching a cop, Dennard plummeted to No. 224. At least he'll have no trouble getting motivated to prove himself.
  • Dennard wasn't the only Big Ten player selected later than expected. Michigan's David Molk, who called himself the best center in the draft, also fell to the seventh round. And Ohio State center Mike Brewster, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010, didn't hear his name called at all. While Brewster's play slipped during his senior season, he seemed like a mid-round candidate.
  • Other players I expected to be picked earlier: Mercilus, David, Adams, Mike Martin, Cousins, Daniels, McNutt, Hemingway and Baker.
  • Some players I expected to be picked later: Jenkins, Allen, Russell Wilson, Tavon Wilson and Posey.
  • Although the Big Ten had more wide receivers drafted than any other position, only one (Jenkins) went in the first two rounds and only two, Jenkins and Posey, went in the first three rounds. With only two quarterbacks and two running backs drafted, none in the first two rounds, it's fair to question whether the Big Ten is producing enough elite-level offensive skill players. It will be interesting to see which Big Ten running backs can rise up the draft boards in 2013. Running back might be the league's strongest position group this coming season.
  • I'll be very interested to watch how Worthy and Still fare at the next level. Both men have first-round talent, but both seemed to slip to the second round because of questions about their motor. If they don't take plays off in the NFL, they both could be extremely disruptive for the Packers and Bengals, respectively.
  • Wisconsin had players selected in each of the first six rounds and had the Big Ten's lone fullback (Ewing) and punter (Nortman) selected in the draft.
  • Ohio State's Ebner was one of the more interesting third-day picks. He didn't play football at all in high school -- he starred in rugby -- and spent most of his Buckeyes career on special teams. His selection shows the premium some teams place on the third phase.
The NFL draft is a little more than 24 hours away, and our analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have come out with their final mock drafts.

(Let's pause here for a moment of silence for the 2012 mock draft process. May it rest in peace. But never fear, the 2013 mocks are just around the corner!).

There's not a ton of change in Kiper's final first-round mock Insider. Iowa's Riley Reiff is still the top Big Ten player off the board, now at No. 18 to San Diego. Kiper has Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus one spot behind Reiff, to the Bears. The only other Big Ten player he has going in the first round is Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, at No. 30 to San Francisco.

McShay, along with Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl from Scouts Inc. have undertaken the massive enterprise of mocking the entire seven rounds of the draft Insider. Whew. Here's where they have Big Ten products heading:

Round 1

No. 13: Reiff
No. 25: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
No. 28: Mercilus
No. 30: Zeitler

Round 2

No. 34: Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois
No. 35: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
No. 43: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
No. 44: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
No. 47: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
No. 51: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
No. 63: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois

Round 3

No. 89: Mike Martin, DT, Michigan

Round 4

No. 96: Mike Daniels DT, Iowa
No. 97: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
No. 99: Adam Gettis, G, Iowa
No. 106: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
No. 118: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa
No. 120: Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State
No. 121: Markus Zusevics, OT, Iowa
No. 123: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
No. 126: Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State
No. 132: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska

Round 5

No. 137: David Molk, C, Michigan
No. 150: Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
No. 161: Trent Robinson, S, Michigan State
No. 163: Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State
No. 165: DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State

Round 6

No. 207: Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State

Round 7

No. 211: B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
No. 216: Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin
No. 219: Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State
No. 221: Derek Dimke, K, Illinois
No. 223: Tyler Nielsen, LB, Iowa
No. 231: Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
No. 244: Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan
No. 247: Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin
No. 248: Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan

A few notables not listed on this seven-round mock: Northwestern WR Jeremy Ebert, TE Drake Dunsmore, and QB Dan Persa; Penn State WR Derek Moye; Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight, Michigan DE Ryan Van Bergen, Wisconsin OT Josh Oglesby.

How accurate are these mock drafts? It is almost time to find out. Let's do this for real.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has produced another set of top 5 lists , which examine the top prospects at each position as April gets closer. The scouting combine is all wrapped up, and pro day fever is upon us as players rise and fall on the draft boards.

Let's see where Big Ten players rank in Kiper’s rundowns.

No. 1 fullback: Bradie Ewing, Wisconsin
No. 5 tight end: Brian Linthicum, Michigan State
No. 2 offensive tackle: Riley Reiff, Iowa
No. 5 offensive tackle: Mike Adams, Ohio State
No. 4 guard: Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
No. 1 center: Peter Konz, Wisconsin
No. 3 center: David Molk, Michigan
No. 5 center: Mike Brewster, Ohio State
No. 3 defensive end: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
No. 5 defensive tackle: Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
No. 2 outside linebacker: Lavonte David, Nebraska
No. 2 kicker: Philip Welch, Wisconsin
No. 4 kicker: Derek Dimke, Illinois
No. 5 punter: Eric Guthrie, Iowa

Thoughts: Center was undoubtedly the Big Ten’s strongest position in 2011, so it's not surprising to see three players in the top 5. Brewster’s stock seemed to drop a bit during the season and in the pre-draft events, while Molk improved his position and Konz appears to have made the right choice in bypassing his senior season. Linthicum and Adams are two players who helped their cause in pre-draft events, and David also has put himself in a good position. David's Nebraska teammate, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, has seen his stock drop after being pegged as a likely first-round pick several months ago.

I'm surprised not to see Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still on the list (although Still is pictured in the story). Cousins appeared to show well at the combine and should find himself in that next mix of quarterbacks behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. It wouldn't surprise me to see Cousins drafted ahead of Brock Osweiler and potentially Brandon Weeden. Still, the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, hasn't received as much hype as I thought as a potential first-round pick.

I might favor Dimke over Welch after the way Dimke ended his career, but Kiper has been high on Welch for some time.

It'll be interesting to see how these lists change after all the pro days are complete.
We've had 2012 mock NFL drafts seemingly since this draft class was in elementary school. But all the projections and prognosticating lacked one essential ingredient: the testing process.

That happened this past week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, so now evaluators have a better sense of who are the legitimate prospects and who might be questionable.

ESPN's own draft expert, Mel Kiper Jr., offered his risers and fallers after the combine dust settled, and they included a few notable Big Ten names. Among those Kiper said helped themselves in Indy were:
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins: "Not great in any one area, but solid across all of them, and Cousins has intangibles that evaluators love. I can see him safely into the second round now, where before a third-round grade was a better bet. A good week for him."

Nebraska LB Lavonte David: "Really encouraging for David's stock that he got his weight to 233 and still showed off plenty of athleticism, including a 4.56. He could be a solid second-rounder now and is a tackling machine."

Not everyone had the best showings in the combine. Here are the Big Ten products Kiper says he has questions about after the combine:
Ohio State RB Dan Herron: "I like Herron, but thought he needed to make a splash here given the missed time in 2011. That didn't happen, confirming a late-round grade."

Penn State DT Devon Still: "He derives a lot of value from being able to jump into a 3-4 or 4-3, but still has been sliding on my board. He needs to show more explosiveness, because he's not a great penetrator."

Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard: "Solid everywhere, but not great in any one area, Dennard is a good prospect who didn't test great, limiting the chances he goes in Round 1."

Kiper adjusted his new Big Board based on the combine performances, and now only two Big Ten players appear in his list of top 25 prospects, and they're both offensive linemen: Iowa's Riley Reiff (No. 8) and Wisconsin's Peter Konz (25).

Kiper also has his new list of top 5s by position , and there has been some serious movement in his tiers. Still, the Penn State All-American and Big Ten defensive player of the year, now does not even rank in Kiper's list of the top 5 defensive tackles. Michigan State's Jerel Worthy is No. 5.

Offensive line appears to be the strength for the Big Ten in this draft. Kiper lists Reiff as the No. 2 offensive tackle, with Ohio State's Mike Adams No. 4. The Big Ten owns the center list, with Konz, Michigan's David Molk and Ohio State's Mike Brewster ranking 1-2-3, respectively. (Molk moved ahead of Brewster with his combine showing, which comes as no surprise to Molk.) Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler is rated as the No. 3 guard.

Elsewhere, Kiper has Wisconsin's Bradie Ewing as the No. 1 fullback, Michigan State's Brian Linthicum as the No. 5 tight end and Nebraska's David as the No. 2 outside linebacker. Dennard did not crack the list at corner, and Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is nowhere to be found on the defensive ends chart. Kiper says Michigan State's Cousins is the No. 6 quarterback in this draft.

Colleague Todd McShay has five Big Ten players in his new top 32 list : Reiff (10th), Adams (23rd), Worthy (25th), Konz (27th) and Still (28th).

Don't worry, though. We still have pro days, private workouts and nearly two full months of evaluations before the draft begins.

B1G post-weekend combine update

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
9:00
AM ET
Spring practice is just around the corner, but there was plenty of action on the field at the NFL combine this weekend in Indianapolis.

While the evaluations continue today and Tuesday, several position groups have completed their testing. Let's take a look at the top performances from Big Ten players. Some standouts in the workouts: Michigan WR Junior Hemingway, Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin, Iowa G Adam Gettis and Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson.

Before looking at position groups, we'll examine the top overall performers to date.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE (through Sunday)

40-yard dash
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for fourth (4.39 seconds)
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for 13th (4.45 seconds)
Bench press
  • Michigan C David Molk ranked second with 41 repetitions of 225 pounds
  • Michigan DT Mike Martin tied for third with 36 repetitions
Vertical jump
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for fifth at 39.5 inches
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for ninth at 38.5 inches
Broad jump
  • Michigan WR Junior Hemingway tied for 10th at 10 feet, 4 inches
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for 10th at 10 feet, 4 inches
3-cone drill
  • Michigan's Hemingway ranked second at 6.59 seconds
  • Northwestern TE Drake Dunsmore tied for fourth at 6.73 seconds
20-yard shuttle
  • Michigan's Hemingway ranked second at 3.98 seconds
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore tied for fourth at 4.03 seconds
  • Ohio State RB Dan Herron ranked sixth at 4.04 seconds
  • Iowa WR Marvin McNutt ranked ninth at 4.07 seconds
  • Wisconsin's Wilson ranked 10th at 4.09 seconds
60-yard shuttle
  • Michigan's Hemingway tied for third at 11.16 seconds
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for third at 11.16 seconds
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore tied for 14th at 11.47 seconds

Now onto the position groups ...

Quarterback
  • Wisconsin's Wilson ranked second in 40-yard dash (4.55 seconds); sixth in vertical jump (34 inches); fourth in broad jump (9 feet, 10 inches); fifth in 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds) and second in 20-yard shuttle (4.09 seconds)
  • Michigan State's Kirk Cousins ranked 12th in 40-yard dash (4.93 seconds); 14th in vertical jump (28.5 inches); tied for ninth in broad jump (9 feet, 1 inch); seventh in 3-cone drill (7.05 seconds); 12th in 20-yard shuttle (4.5 seconds)
Running back
  • Michigan State's Edwin Baker tied for 10th in 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds); tied for 12th in bench press (20 reps of 225 pounds); tied for 12th in vertical jump (35 inches); and tied for 14th in 20-yard shuttle (4.31 seconds).
  • Ohio State's Dan Herron ranked seventh in bench press (22 reps of 225 pounds); tied for 12th in vertical jump (35 inches); tied for 12th in broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches); sixth in 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds); second in 20-yard shuttle (4.04 seconds); and fifth in 60-yard shuttle (11.6 seconds).
  • Wisconsin FB Bradie Ewing tied for fifth in vertical jump (36.5 inches); tied for fifth in broad jump (10 feet); tied for 14th in 3-cone drill (7.14 seconds); tied for fifth in 20-yard shuttle (4.16 seconds); and seventh in 60-yard shuttle (11.81 seconds).
Wide receiver
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for fourth in 40-yard dash (4.39 seconds); tied for seventh in vertical jump (38.5 inches); and tied for eighth in broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches).
  • Michigan State's Martin ranked 11th in 40-yard dash (4.45 seconds); tied for fourth in vertical jump (39.5 inches); tied for 14th in broad jump (10 feet, 2 inches); tied for eighth in 3-cone drill (6.85 seconds); tied for 10th in 20-yard shuttle (4.13 seconds); and tied for second in 60-yard shuttle (11.16 seconds).
  • Michigan's Hemingway tied for third in bench press (21 reps at 225 pounds); tied for eighth in broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches); ranked first in 3-cone drill (6.59 seconds); tied for first in 20-yard shuttle (3.98 seconds); and tied for second in 60-yard shuttle (11.16 seconds).
  • Wisconsin's Nick Toon ranked 12th in bench press (18 reps at 225 pounds) and ranked 12th in vertical jump (37.5 inches).
  • Iowa's Marvin McNutt tied for 13th in vertical jump (37 inches); ranked fifth in 20-yard shuttle (4.07 seconds); and ranked 12th in 60-yard shuttle (11.62 seconds).
  • Ohio State's DeVier Posey tied for 10th in broad jump (10 feet, 3 inches) and tied for 12th in 20-yard shuttle (4.15 seconds).
Tight end
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore ranked fifth in 40-yard dash (4.64 seconds); tied for fifth in bench press (21 reps at 225 pounds); fifth in vertical jump (35.5 seconds); seventh in broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches); first in 3-cone drill (6.73 seconds); first in 20-yard shuttle (4.03 seconds); and third in 60-yard shuttle (11.47 seconds).
Defensive line (workouts take place Monday)
  • Michigan's Martin tied for second in bench press (36 reps of 225 pounds)
Offensive line
  • Iowa G Adam Gettis ranked third in 40-yard dash (5 seconds); tied for third in vertical jump (31.5 inches); second in broad jump (9 feet, 4 inches); tied for ninth in 20-yard shuttle (4.65 seconds)
  • Iowa T Riley Reiff tied for eighth in 40-yard dash (5.23 seconds);
  • Illinois T Jeff Allen ranked 15th in 40-yard dash (5.28 seconds); tied for 14th in broad jump (8 feet, 6 inches)
  • Michigan's Molk ranked first in bench press (41 reps at 225 pounds);
  • Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler tied for third in bench press (32 reps at 225 pounds); tied for 14th in vertical jump (29 inches); eighth in 20-yard shuttle (4.61 seconds)
  • Penn State G Johnnie Troutman tied for eighth in bench press (31 reps at 225 pounds)
  • Ohio State C Mike Brewster tied for 13th in bench press (29 reps at 225 pounds); ranked 15th in 3-cone drill (7.73 seconds); tied for sixth in 20-yard shuttle (4.6 seconds)

Big Ten Thursday mailbag

February, 9, 2012
2/09/12
2:30
PM ET
E. Gordon Gee says if you're not sending questions into this mailbag, you need to get a life.

Let's answer some emails:

Ben from Connecticut writes: If the Big Ten's playoff proposal is adopted, do you see activist voters determining homefield advantage in the 2 v 3 matchup? Given what happened between Alabama/Ok. State, Florida/Michigan, and Texas/Cal, I'd be a lot more comfortable if a body more accountable than the BCS were in charge of seeding. I don't want a bunch of voters bumping Florida up a notch so they don't have to travel to Madison in December.

Brian Bennett: Ben, I think the poll jockeying would likely involve who's No. 4 vs. No. 5 instead of the home sites. For example, had that system been in place this year, I believe voters would have moved Oregon, which finished No. 5, ahead of Stanford for the No. 4 spot since the Ducks beat Stanford and won the Pac-12 title. But I totally agree that a better system than the current BCS model is needed to determine the matchups, because using the coaches' poll is just inviting massive conflicts of interest into the process.


Chuck D. from Mt Morris, Mich., writes: I thought it was interesting that after the Big Ten announced that they were looking into a playoff, Mike Silve seems to be backing off now. Everyone always comments that the SEC and Big 12 were interested in the playoff four years ago, but is the SEC having a change of heart with their run of BCS championships, especially this past championship game? And (possibly) giving up their home field advantage, at least in the semi-final games?

Brian Bennett: Who could blame Mike Slive? The current system has allowed his league to win six straight national titles, including this year's when two SEC teams were in the championship game. Slive should be the only guy fighting a change to the BCS system.


Topher from Denver writes: It seems that everyone has gotten so caught up with the reshuffling at Iowa that everyone has forgotten to ask a very important question. Who will be the QB coach? Ken O'Keefe has done a great job, and we have been blessed to have some great QBs. But if any of the internal candidates get the OC position it would make more sense for them to stay with their current position coaching duties rather than trying to take over QBs. So who would be the top candidate to take over QBs?

Brian Bennett: That's a good question. Kirk Ferentz addressed this a little bit on Wednesday but didn't say a whole lot. If current receivers coach Erik Campbell is promoted, then it makes sense for him to keep working with receivers as well. Then I think you could see Iowa bring in somebody from the outside to coach the quarterbacks. Or Ferentz could hire an outside person for the coordinator spot who has experience with the quarterbacks, though promoting from within seems to be his preferred method right now. Those who criticized O'Keefe should recognize what a good job he did developing quarterbacks.


Tim from Niamey, Niger, writes: I usually write Adam, but since he doesn't answer me, I thought I would give you a shot:) I have been reading alot of different articles on the fact that the Buckeyes and Wolverines are back in a big way. After a 6-7 season, even with the hiring of Meyer, isn't that putting the cart before the horse? I mean, don't the Bucks have to go win some big games before they can be declared back? After a mediocre season at best, I am waiting for all this hype to be turned into some wins.

Brian Bennett: Adam ignores all emails from Niger. It's shameful, really. Anyway, this may shock you, but we in the media have a tendency to jump the gun a little bit on stories (no, really). So I see where you're coming from. At the same time, though, Urban Meyer is a proven winner, and it's hard to deny the talent he's bringing in. Ohio State had a rough 2011 but wasn't that far away from winning most of its games, and that was with a rookie head coach, a freshman quarterback, several suspensions and all kinds of off-the-field distractions. Yes, the Buckeyes still have to prove it on the field, but there's every reason to believe that will happen, and quickly.


John from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Adam keeps saying that Nebraska needs to get more recruits from B1G country. The way I see it is that Pelini and Co. need to go after the best recruits out there, not dependent on their location. If there is a good player somewhere in B1G country and there was a slightly better player from Texas/Cali/Florida why not go after the better player? It's not like we can't get the player from outside of the B1G (Neb has recruiting ties all over). The only way I really see MORE benefit from getting players in B1G conference territory would be keeping that player away from a conference rival and having to play against him.

Brian Bennett: Well, sure, Nebraska should get the possible player, but I don't think it's that simple. The Huskers used to be able to recruit Texas so well in part because they played games in Texas and had a presence there. Leaving the Big 12 will likely hurt that. Fact is, a lot of recruits want to play either close to home or at a school that will play games in their home areas. That means a more Midwestern focus in recruiting efforts for Nebraska, which isn't blessed with a natural talent base in its own backyard.


Greyson F. from Lansing, Mich., writes: How often do you sing "I am evil Homer" when you see the statue on your desk?

Brian Bennett: About the same number of times I sing the "Itchy & Scratchy" theme song. "They fight, they bite ..."


Diamond G. from Detroit writes: What match up would you like to see in the first year of the B1G Ten vs Pac 12? for me I would like to see Stanford at Wisconsin, Ohio at Oregon, USC at MSU, Arizona at Michigan, Nebraska at Arizona State, and Cali at Iowa are my top choices, what you thing would be a out come if that played?

Brian Bennett: I had some fun with potential matchups back in December, Diamond. You can see those here. The series won't start until 2017, so predicting outcomes is impossible.


Kevin from Mt. Prospect, Ill. writes: No Kain Colter in the top 25? Huge part of the wildcats success this year especially against Nebraska and his multiple uses at QB, running back and WR.

Brian Bennett: Devising a 25-player list in a 12-team league is really hard and means that many great players will be left off. Colter did some really nice work in filling in for Dan Persa, and he might have been the most versatile player in the league. But he also had several games late in the season where he wasn't a big factor once Persa came back. Ultimately, he just missed the cut.

Patrick from Chicago writes: Brian, I enjoyed the NFL combine list. To me it's the perfect bookend to recruiting rankings. That, or graduation rates...but college football isn't about educating students. Wisconsin has 8 going, 7 from various recruiting classes + Russell Wilson. How many of those were 4-star recruits?

Brian Bennett: Using ESPN.com's recruiting rankings, only offensive tackle Josh Oglesby was a four-star prospect out of Wisconsin's eight combine invitees. He was an ESPNU150 prospect rated No. 28 overall in his class. Center Peter Konz was a three-star prospect. The rest -- fullback Bradie Ewing, cornerback Antonio Fenelus, punter Brad Nortman, receiver Nick Toon and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, did not get ranked by ESPN.com as recruits. Toon was a four-star prospect according to Rivals, which also rated Zeitler and Nortman as three-star prospects. Ewing, Fenelus and even Wilson to some extent would all have to be considered surprises to the recruiting folks.


Tim from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Random thought while watching the Super Bowl: Jason Pierre-Paul was committed to Nebraska before he switched to South Florida...I'm drooling a little thinking about him and Ndamukong Suh destroying quarterbacks.

Brian Bennett: That would have been almost unfair. I covered JPP in his one year at South Florida and knew he had beast written all over him. He developed late because he didn't play the game early on, but what a force he is now.


Keenan from Maine writes: Because I'm bored and I don't care what my hair looks like as long as it's short enough to not pay attention to, I got a haircut to emulate Bielema. It didn't turn out perfect, I over exaggerated the peak so I look more like Tintin. I'm now curious what Bielema tells his barber how to cut his hair. A friend mentioned he was getting a haircut I suggested getting it cut like Hoke, his favorite teams coach, he said only crazy people get their hair cut like coaches or cartoon characters. Now i'm curious how each B1G coach gets their hair cut and maybe what the most common hairstyles are across the board in college.I know....I need a better hobby.

Brian Bennett: E. Gordon Gee agrees, Kevin.
ESPN's NFL draft expert Mel Kiper has revised his list of top 5 players at each position for the 2012 draft and compiled the top 5s among returning seniors for the 2012 college football season.

Big Ten players are on both lists, so let's take a look.

2012 NFL DRAFT
Thoughts: Center and defensive tackle clearly were the Big Ten's strongest positions in 2011. Worthy appears a bit lower than I thought and needs to help his stock in the predraft events. Dennard also has fallen off a bit. It will be interesting to see the order in which Konz, Brewster and Molk are drafted. Welch's placement above Dimke comes as a bit of a surprise, while I expected to see Wisconsin's Brad Nortman on the top 5 punters list.

TOP RETURNING SENIORS BY POSITION
  • Wisconsin's Montee Ball, No. 1 running back
  • Ohio State's Zach Boren, No. 2 fullback
  • Penn State's Mike Zordich, No. 4 fullback
  • Michigan's Denard Robinson, No. 2 wide receiver
  • Ohio State's Jake Stoneburner, No. 4 tight end
  • Nebraska's Kyler Reed, No. 5 tight end
  • Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner, No. 1 offensive tackle
  • Illinois' Graham Pocic, No. 2 center
  • Ohio State's John Simon, No. 2 defensive end
  • Purdue's Kawann Short, No. 1 defensive tackle
  • Penn State's Jordan Hill, No. 5 defensive tackle
  • Penn State's Gerald Hodges, No. 3 outside linebacker
  • Iowa's Micah Hyde, No. 3 cornerback
  • Michigan State's Dan Conroy, No. 5 kicker
  • Nebraska's Brett Maher, No. 3 punter
Thoughts: Robinson's name jumps out as Kiper has the Michigan quarterback listed as a wide receiver, adding that NFL general managers won't draft him unless he's willing to change positions. It will be interesting to see if Ball can hold onto the top spot among running backs on Kiper's board as Wisconsin's offense will have some new faces in 2012. Defensive tackle once again should be a strength for the Big Ten, and tight end and fullback could be positions to watch. Stoneburner could have a huge senior season at Ohio State, and Reed comes off an injury-plagued 2011 campaign.
Pre-draft season is right around the corner, and the nation's premier all-star game, the Senior Bowl, takes place Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala.

The Senior Bowl on Wednesday announced the 24 Big Ten players who will be participating in this year's game. Eight Big Ten squads are sending players to Mobile.

Here's the full list (part of which had been revealed earlier):

IOWA
MICHIGAN
MICHIGAN STATE
NEBRASKA
OHIO STATE

PENN STATE
PURDUE
WISCONSIN


*injured and will not participate in game

It's a strong contingent that features the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (Still) and 21 all-conference selections.

Badgers find uncommon route to title

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
3:01
AM ET


INDIANAPOLIS -- Russell Wilson had barely arrived in Madison this past summer when he shared his vision for the season.

"I want to be part of something special," the NC State transfer announced upon meeting his new Wisconsin teammates. "I don't want to be common. I want to be uncommon."

Very little was common about the first Big Ten championship game. A league known for grinding it out in cold weather put on a thrilling, offensive pingpong contest at Lucas Oil Field. Michigan State and Wisconsin figured to have a hard time matching their Oct. 22 classic, but they came pretty close to repeating it note for note. And the Badgers won 42-39 despite getting outgained and outplayed most of the night before somehow finding a way to secure their second consecutive trip to the Rose Bowl.

"The adversity we faced this season helped us tonight, I believe," Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing said. "To be able to battle back like that is special. You remember a season like that more than you would a lot of other seasons."

A season that began with enormous expectations nearly came crashing down on consecutive October weekends, when Michigan State and Ohio State delivered last-minute, intestine-twisting, game-winning touchdowns. The Badgers had zero room for error after those two conference losses and needed help from other teams just to get to Indianapolis.

When they got here, they had to face a Spartans team that beat them in three of the previous four meetings. And the rematch began to play out in eerily similar fashion to Michigan State's 37-31 victory on Oct. 22 in East Lansing.

Just as in that game, the Badgers raced out to a two-touchdown lead in the first quarter, only to see the wheels come off. The Spartans outscored Wisconsin 23-0 in the second quarter of the first game; on Saturday, they ripped off 22 consecutive points to take a 29-21 halftime lead.

"For whatever reason, we don't play well in the second quarter against Michigan State," head coach Bret Bielema said. "So we survived it."

Russell Wilson
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesTo be able to battle back like that is special," Russell Wilson said. "You remember a season like that more than you would a lot of other seasons."
Wisconsin inched back into the game but still trailed 39-34 late in the fourth quarter and had little choice but to go for a fourth-and-6 from the 43-yard line. As he had been many times in the game, Wilson got flushed from the pocket by Michigan State's pressure. He flung a pass toward Jeff Duckworth, who had two Spartans covering him.

"I had to give him a shot," Wilson said. "It was pretty much the only thing I could do. I knew I had to throw it up and give it a chance."

Duckworth had broken his corner pattern to the inside -- "It was kind of a bad route, actually," he would say later. But the receiver who caught only 12 passes in the regular season went up and grabbed the ball for a first down at the 7. Montee Ball then did what he does best, scoring his 38th touchdown of the season, and Wilson scrambled until he could find Jacob Pedersen for the 2-point conversion.

The Duckworth pass brought back instant memories of Michigan State's Hail Mary pass to win in East Lansing on Oct. 22. That play started from 1 yard farther back on the field and also went toward the right corner of the end zone, although the degree of difficulty was higher. Karmic payback, perhaps?

"A common saying that we've been using quite a bit over the last three or four weeks is 'Those who are humbled will be exalted, and those who are exalted will be humbled,'" Bielema said. "And I thought that play right there gave justice to everything."

More weird turnarounds were at work. Special-teams breakdowns played a key role in both Badgers losses this season, as Michigan State and Ohio State each blocked a punt that was taken in for a score or directly led to a touchdown. Surely the Spartans considered that weak spot when they decided to go after a Wisconsin punt with less than two minutes left.

That proved disastrous when Isaiah Lewis was flagged for running into punter Brad Nortman, resulting in a first down and Wisconsin bringing on the victory formation. (It only adds to the irony that Lewis made headlines before the first game when he said Michigan State's defense was going to hurt Wilson.) Nortman had an excellent game, averaging 45 yards on five punts, and Wisconsin actually forced a turnover in the kicking game to score a touchdown.

"I preached special teams all week," Bielema said.

This was an uncommon way to win a championship. The Badgers were outgained 471 to 345 by the Spartans and had only 126 rushing yards to Michigan State's 190. Ball alone ran for 105 yards in the first quarter before the normally powerful ground game stalled. Michigan State took advantage of Wisconsin's lack of speed on the edge of its defense most of the night. Look at the stat sheet, and it's hard to figure out how the Badgers won. But their entire season was about not staying down.

"With the team we had, we were thinking national championship," safety Aaron Henry said. "For us to lose the way we did in those two games, it was definitely devastating. [But] our guys rallied, and it pretty much unfolded in front of your eyes."

In Wilson's case, an ear told the story. He tucked a rose over his right ear and kept it there long after the game was over, savoring his first chance to play in a BCS bowl. His vision from the summer had been fulfilled.

"We are definitely uncommon," he said.
INDIANAPOLIS -- The first call came from Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio.

He decided to come after the punt. Again. Wisconsin had changed its protection after Dantonio's Spartans blocked a punt in a Oct. 22 contest in East Lansing. But the alignment left a man free, and Michigan State's Tony Lippett nearly had blocked a punt earlier in Saturday night's Big Ten championship game.

"With 1:57 to go, it's my call," Dantonio said. "I told them, 'Let's go for the block.'"

As Wisconsin cornerback Antonio Fenelus lined up as a gunner, he saw his teammates in disarray. The Badgers tried to gauge whether Michigan State would go for the block or the return, and the coaches wanted long snapper Kyle Wojta to hold off on snapping the ball.

"I was right next to where the coaches were," Fenelus said. "They were telling him not to snap the ball and he did."

Fullback Bradie Ewing sensed a potential problem from his spot at left guard.

[+] EnlargeKeshawn Martin
Richard Mackson/US PresswireLucas Oil Stadium hosted a thrilling Big Ten title game in December. Will the Indianapolis facility host a college football playoff game in the future?
"There was a little bit of miscommunication," Ewing said. "I didn't know if we were just going to hold the snap and not snap it. But as far as I knew, we were running the protection, [Wojta] hiked it, I released out and I heard the crowd scream and yell like they do when it's a blocked punt."

The reaction came not from a block this time, but from the penalty flags strewn on the field.

Officials flagged Michigan State's Isaiah Lewis for running into punter Brad Nortman. The 5-yard penalty resulted in a first down and allowed Wisconsin to run out the clock to seal a 42-39 victory.

"He hit him," Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. "He got the 5-yard penalty, gave us the first down. It is what it is."

Not surprisingly, Dantonio had a different take.

"I don't know if he hit him," Dantonio said. "You guys probably have a better view of that and have seen all the replays. But [the officials] threw the flag. Thought [Nortman] flopped a little bit. If [Lewis] hit him, he just nicked 'em."

Nortman's assessment isn't too far off from Dantonio's.

"There was certainly some contact," Nortman said, smiling. "It doesn't hurt to put a little bit extra on it, however. I wasn't thinking before the play, 'I'm going to take a flop here,' but when you're in the air and a little vulnerable, a little bit extra didn't hurt."

It brought out the flag, which is all that matters. Fenelus, meanwhile, began chasing Michigan State returner Keshawn Martin, who returned a punt for a touchdown in last year's win against Wisconsin and had tortured the Badgers yet again Saturday night (115 receiving yards, 26 rush yards).

Martin broke free and sprinted down the sideline until Nortman knocked him out of bounds just shy of the goal line.

"It was a great relief," Fenelus said. "Knowing that they could end up winning the game off of that if there wasn't a penalty on the play."

Nortman wasn't surprised Michigan State came after the punt, calling the Spartans "an aggressive team." Lining up deep in Wisconsin territory, he knew he couldn't afford another disaster after having punts blocked in both of Wisconsin's losses.

"Special teams might have been part of the issue in the losses," Nortman said. "It was great to be part of a win today."

Dantonio and his players repeatedly referred to a "game of inches" after the loss. While the punt play will be discussed for some time, Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins tried to deflect the spotlight.

"There was no one play that lost this football game," Cousins said. "We don't think Isaiah needs to be singled out. He did nothing wrong. [Dantonio] calls for the block, you got to do that in that situation. He gave us 110 percent effort and the call doesn't go our way."

Meanwhile, on the other side of the field ...

"Best call of the game," Nortman said.

Badgers-Spartans retro diary: Vol. II

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
1:00
PM ET
To get you ready for Saturday's Big Ten championship game between Wisconsin and Michigan State, I've gone back and watched the classic Oct. 22 game, won by the Spartans 37-31. This is my retro diary of that experience. If you missed Vol. I, which covers the first half of the game, click here. We'll pick up things now with the second half. (You can follow along through the magic of ESPN3.com here; however, after repeated attempts I can tell you the replay does not match up in any way with Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon.")

Third quarter

  • 14:45: Wisconsin defensive back Dezmen Southward leaves the game with an injury, pushing freshman Peniel Jean into the game for the second half. Not like the Badgers will need extra defensive backs at any point later on ...
  • 11:58: Michigan State is forced to punt after pressure from Mike Taylor pressures Kirk Cousins into an incompletion. Good start for the Badgers' defense.
  • 10:28: Russell Wilson completes his third straight pass, the last one to Montee Ball for 22 yards to the Michigan State 19. It's Ball's first touch since he went out in the second quarter with concussion signs. Wilson hit two straight big passes on play-action. There's not a more dangerous play-action team in the country than the Badgers, which sometimes makes you wonder why they don't use that on every passing down.
  • 9:56: Oh, here's why. The Spartans stuff the play-action for a 1-yard loss as Johnny Adams comes on a corner blitz. Does any team in America use the corner blitz more than Michigan State does with Adams?
  • [+] EnlargeRussell Wilson and Marcus Rush
    Andrew Weber/US PresswireMarcus Rush forces Russell Wilson out of the pocket, leading to a rare misfire by Wilson.

  • 8:40: Big miss here for the Badgers, as Wilson -- after being flushed out to his left by Marcus Rush -- misses a wide-open Jacob Pedersen for what would have been an easy touchdown. Wilson floated his pass over Pedersen in one of his rare bad throws. But pressure will make even the best quarterbacks to fall out of sync.
  • 8:31: Wisconsin settles for a 33-yard field goal to make it 23-17, Michigan State. Wisconsin scored touchdowns on 56 of 65 red-zone trips this year but had to try field goals on its past two forays inside the Spartans' 20.
  • 6:13: Wisconsin forces a Michigan State three-and-out, thanks in large part to a Chris Borland sack.
  • 4:58: Wilson hits Jared Abbrederis for a 20-yard gain off, of course, play-action. Michigan State's Jerel Worthy cramps up and has to leave for the rest of the series. Other than a first-half tackle for loss, Worthy has been quieted by Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler and Peter Konz. But Konz is not expected to play this week.
  • 4:42: Another missed touchdown opportunity from the Spartans' 39. On yet another play-action, Wilson runs to his right, pivots and throws back across the field to Ball, who was well covered. He missed Pedersen, who was running wide open about 10 yards to Ball's right. How'd Pedersen get so open? He actually falls down near the line of scrimmage after sliding off his block, and everybody forgets about him -- maybe even Wilson. Credit Max Bullough for getting in Wilson's face and making him throw it more quickly than he wanted.
  • 3:54 On third-and-7, Wilson scrambles to his left, with Johnathan Strayhorn in hot pursuit. Wilson might have an angle to get to the first-down marker, but he drops the football and has to jump on it for a 1-yard loss. In one of my football pet peeves, Wisconsin punts from the 37 and it results in a touchback, a net gain of only 17 yards.
  • 0:55: Le'Veon Bell runs through hard-hitting linebacker Mike Taylor to pick up a first down. Bell really asserts himself in the second half of this game, and the sophomore would become the Spartans' main back for the rest of the season.
  • :00: Third quarter ends. Wisconsin has outplayed Michigan State most of the quarter but only has three points to show for it. And the Spartans are driving.
Fourth quarter

  • 11:05: Huge play here, as Michigan State faces third-and-11 from the Wisconsin 15. Cousins hits Keshawn Martin well in front of the sticks, but Martin uses his speed to race right past Borland. No other Badgers defender can cut him off, and Martin takes it to the end zone. Mark Dantonio wisely goes for two, and Cousins throws a fade to B.J. Cunningham, who makes a great adjustment and catch to beat Marcus Cromartie. It's now 31-17 Michigan State. After falling behind 14-0, the Spartans have outscored Wisconsin 31-3. This touchdown drive took 7:34 off the clock, and Cousins has been razor sharp on the night to this point, completing 16-of-19 passes for 202 yards.
  • 10:03: Another blown opportunity for the Badgers. They line up in the I-formation and get single coverage on the outside. Abbrederis shakes Darqueze Dennard at the line of scrimmage and has him beat deep. Wilson delivers the strike down the field -- but the normally sure-handed Abbrederis just plain drops it. How many touchdowns can Wisconsin give away?
  • 9:54: Wisconsin punts after Denicos Allen pressures Wilson into an incompletion.
  • 8:56: Michigan State goes three-and-out again, curiously choosing to pass twice instead of bleeding clock with the run game. The Spartans use only a minute on the clock, even though the best defense against Wisconsin's offense is to keep it off the field.
  • 8:40: Abbrederis, making up for his drop, returns the punt 33 yards to the Michigan State 43. Abbrederis leads the nation this season in punt return average, at 16.4 yards per attempt.
  • 8:10: Moments after Ball's first big run of the second half, Wilson scrambles for a 22-yard touchdown to make it 31-24 Michigan State. Isaiah Lewis had a bead on Wilson, but Wilson pump faked a pass and Lewis -- who made comments about hurting Wilson the week before -- jumped in the air. Ball missed two big blocks in the first half, but this time he picks up Allen on the blitz to spring the play. The Badgers could have easily scored touchdowns on each of their first four second-half drives; instead, they have managed 10 points.
  • 7:09: Michigan State goes three and out for the third time in four drives and again throws two incompletions, using up barely a minute on the clock. Momentum has shifted back toward Bucky Badger.
  • [+] EnlargeKeith Nichol
    Andrew Weber/US PresswirePerhaps the play of the year in college football: Keith Nichol scores the game-winning TD on a Hail Mary pass.

  • 6:54: The worst moment arrives for Russellmania. Wilson is pressured again, rolls to his right and then heaves a pass all the way back to the left sideline for Pedersen. But Bullough has decent coverage on Pedersen, and the ball sails. Lewis finally makes an impact, racing over to catch the ball and tiptoe the sideline for a big interception.
  • 5:13: But Michigan State can't capitalize as it goes three and out once again. On third down, the Spartans appear to call the same play that led to the first-half touchdown pass to Cunningham on a fourth down. Only this time, the Wisconsin linebackers spot Cunningham, and Ethan Hemer gets penetration to sack Cousins.
  • 3:57: After taking over at their own 13, the Badgers get back-to-back first-down runs from Ball. Most teams would panic and throw the ball down seven with under four minutes left, but Paul Chryst has enough confidence in his running game to call four straight runs to start this drive.
  • 2:39: On third-and-9, Wilson dances in the pocket to avoid the rush, keeps his eyes downfield and hits fullback Bradie Ewing for 15 yards to extend the drive.
  • 1:39: More brilliance from Wilson. Michigan State gets pressure again, but Wilson spins around and runs backward to create some room. Downfield, Nick Toon breaks off his route and sprints to the sideline, and Wilson finds him for a 42-yard gain. Toon, coming back from an injury, has only two catches in this game. I expect him to be a bigger factor in Round 2.
  • 1:26: Wilson, flushed out again, starts to run but then dumps it to Ball for a 2-yard touchdown to make it 31-31. Wilson was 4-for-4 on the drive, and if Wisconsin were to win in overtime, he just had his Heisman moment.
  • 1:06: On third-and-7 from the Michigan State 25, Cousins hits Bell across the middle for the first down. Large.
  • 0:42: Unsung hero alert! Cousins scrambles and fumbles on a hit by Brendan Kelly. Offensive lineman Joel Foreman falls on the ball, but the pigskin squirts away. In a huge heads-up play, tackle Dan France pounces on it. Both Borland and Taylor had a chance but can't come up with the ball. Had Wisconsin recovered, it would have taken over at the 24-yard line with all three timeouts. The Badgers almost surely win the game then. Still, it's second-and-21 now, and Bret Bielema calls timeout as he starts to think about getting the ball back. Worthy screams at the offense on the sidelines. I'd like to tell you what he said, but this is a family-friendly blog.
  • 0:30: Cunningham makes an 8-yard grab, and Bielema calls his second timeout. Michigan State was jogging back to the line of scrimmage, and it seemed clear that the Spartans were going to let the clock run down. I understand the first timeout, but I think this one was a bad idea, especially with the momentum Wisconsin would have taken into overtime. During the break, Brent Musberger says, "this could be the first of two" between these teams. Good call.
  • 0:24: The Spartans pick up the first down on an inside shovel pass to Martin. Wisconsin has to know where Martin is on that situation. Also, it sure looked like France jumped offside before the snap, but perhaps karma rewarded him for the fumble recovery. Michigan State did not get called for a single penalty in the game.
  • 0:09: Cousins finds Bell over the middle again to the Badgers' 44. The Spartans need about 10 more yards to get in field-goal range.
  • 0:04: Cousins rolls out and throws to tight end Brian Linthicum, but the pass is a little high and bounces off Linthicum's hands. Aaron Henry had good coverage. A completion there would have set up a field-goal try, but now Michigan State has no choice but to throw it to the end zone. Bielema calls his third timeout to set up the defense, and Dantonio changes the play he had called
  • 0:00: "Rocket" time. Here's an excellent breakdown of all that went wrong and yet right for Michigan State on the play of the year in college football. Keith Nichol is ruled down inside the 1 on the field. But after a replay takes 2:12 of real time, the officials overturn the call. Touchdown, 37-31 Spartans. What a game. Can't wait for the rematch.

Big Ten lunchtime links

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
12:00
PM ET
I really enjoyed watching Zooey Deschanel for a half hour last night. (What's that, you say? She has a TV show?)
You couldn't have scripted a much better Wisconsin debut for quarterback Russell Wilson.

The NC State transfer led eight Wisconsin possessions, all of which led to scores and seven of which ended in the UNLV end zone. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that would have been even better had he hit two open tight ends in the first half. And while Wilson showed mobility in the pocket and the ability to extend plays, he also took off twice, recording a 46-yard touchdown and a 16-yard scramble. With this offensive line, Wilson shouldn't hesitate to run the ball when he sees fit.

Although UNLV's defense is bad, Wilson's accuracy bodes well for Wisconsin, which figured to see a drop-off after losing Scott Tolzien (72.9 percent completions in 2010). The Badgers also had more explosion plays than I expected, especially with passes and long runs after catches by Montee Ball, James White and Bradie Ewing. Wilson definitely can check down the ball and expect big gains.

Wilson certainly earned the right to wear a headset before the end of the third quarter as Wisconsin cruised to a 51-17 win. Just a terrific debut for a guy who looks like an excellent fit for a Big Ten title contender.

The concerns for Wisconsin coming out of tonight's game rest with the defense. The Badgers struggled against the run in the first half and allowed two sustained touchdown drives after halftime. There didn't seem to be enough sustained aggressiveness.

The Badgers didn't have a shut-down defense in 2010, but they made big plays. Top playmaker J.J. Watt is gone, so who fills the void? Chris Borland would seem like the top choice, but he might not be as effective at middle linebacker than he was on the outside as a freshman in 2009. Wisconsin could really benefit from a lineman taking a big step like Watt and O'Brien Schofield did the past two seasons.

There's a lot of time to work things out on defense, and coordinator Chris Ash will demand a better effort when Oregon State comes to Madison on Sept. 10.

Less than two months after setting foot on Wisconsin's campus, Russell Wilson can call himself a team captain.

Wilson was one of four Badgers seniors elected co-captains Sunday night. The others are fullback Bradie Ewing, defensive tackle Patrick Butrym and safety Aaron Henry.

One of the big unknowns when Wilson showed up at Wisconsin this summer was how his new team, unaccustomed to high-profile transfers, would receive him. Wilson didn't come to Madison to pay his dues. He came to lead the offense in another push for a Big Ten championship.

He has drawn rave reviews for his performances in practice this month, but the strongest endorsement came Sunday. Few quarterbacks succeed if they don't have the locker room on their side, and Wilson clearly has taken the right steps to connect with his teammates.

"He has so much confidence," running back Montee Ball said. "He's so urgent with everything because this is his last year, so he's going to make sure he gets the job done. It's his one shot."

There are no surprises with the other co-captain choices. Butrym and Henry emerged as leaders on defense immediately after the Rose Bowl, while several folks told me this spring that Ewing had emerged as a more active leader.

Big Ten lunchtime links

August, 10, 2011
8/10/11
12:00
PM ET
Wait a minute ... Statue of Liberty? That was our planet! Nooooo!

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