Big Ten: DeAnthony Thomas

If you’re a Big Ten fan, then you’ve been looking forward to a certain Week 2 matchup all offseason: No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 8 Michigan State.

It’s offense vs. defense, Marcus Mariota vs. Shilique Calhoun, unstoppable force vs. immovable object. There’s a lot to be excited about, even on a national scale. Since 2005, only nine games have featured two top-10 teams duking it out this early. There’s a reason "College GameDay" has decided to descend upon Eugene, Oregon, after all.

Can the underdog Spartans pull it off? Will Oregon’s offense run rampant? Those answers won’t come for another few days, so we decided to take a closer look at those other nine games. Historically, how have games of this magnitude gone down, how often does the underdog win -- and how often do these teams move on to success?

Take a look:

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson -- Aug. 31, 2013

The favorite: Georgia by 2.5 points

The outcome: Clemson 38-35. This lived up to its hype of being a closely fought shootout. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd proved to be the difference-maker. He threw for three TDs, rushed for two more and totaled 312 yards.

End of season ranking (Clemson): No. 8 (11-2, 7-1 ACC). Beat Ohio State in Orange Bowl, 40-35.

End of season ranking (Georgia): unranked (8-5, 5-3 SEC). Lost to Nebraska in Gator Bowl, 24-19.




No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 8 Michigan (Arlington, Texas) -- Sept. 1, 2012

The favorite: Alabama by 11

The outcome: Alabama 41-14. The Crimson Tide opened the game on a 31-0 run, and Michigan never really stood a chance. The Wolverines’ first six possessions ended with four punts and two interceptions. They moved the ball 24 yards on those drives.

End of season ranking (Alabama): No. 1 (13-1, 7-1 SEC). Won the SEC championship and beat Notre Dame for the national championship, 42-14.

End of season ranking (Michigan): No. 24 (8-5, 6-2 Big Ten). Lost to South Carolina in Outback Bowl, 33-28.




No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 LSU (Arlington, Texas) -- Sept. 3, 2011

The favorite: Oregon by 3.5

The outcome: LSU 40-27. This was billed as a top defense (LSU was No. 12 in total D the year before) vs. a top offense. But the game came apart for the Ducks when De'Anthony Thomas fumbled on consecutive drives deep in his own territory. LSU scored touchdowns on both possessions.

End of season ranking (LSU): No. 2 (13-1, 8-0 SEC). Won the SEC championship but lost to Alabama in the national championship, 21-0.

End of season ranking (Oregon): No. 4 (12-2, 8-1 Pac-12). Won the Pac-12 championship and beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, 45-38.




No. 3 Boise State vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech (Landover, Maryland) -- Sept. 3, 2010

The favorite: Boise State by 1.5

The outcome: Boise State 33-30. This one could’ve gone either way. With 1:47 left, Boise State QB Kellen Moore engineered a five-play, 56-yard touchdown drive to give the Broncos the advantage. Virginia Tech turned the ball over on downs on its next possession.

End of season ranking (Boise State): No. 9 (12-1, 7-1 WAC). Lone blemish was a 34-31 overtime loss to Nevada. Beat Utah in Maaco Bowl, 26-3.

End of season ranking (Virginia Tech): No. 16 (11-3, 8-0 ACC). Won ACC championship but lost to Stanford in Orange Bowl, 40-12.




No. 5 Alabama vs. No. 7 Virginia Tech (Atlanta) -- Sept. 5, 2009

The favorite: Alabama by 6.5

The outcome: Alabama 34-24. The Hokies led 17-16 after three quarters, but the fourth quarter was all Alabama. The Tide outscored Virginia Tech 18-7 in the final 15 minutes. A fumble on a kick return didn’t help matters for Tech.

End of season ranking (Alabama): No. 1 (14-0, 8-0 SEC). Won the SEC championship and beat Texas in the national championship, 37-21.

End of season ranking (Virginia Tech): No. 10 (10-3, 6-2 ACC). Beat Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, 37-14.




No. 3 USC at No. 8 Ohio State -- Sept. 12, 2009

The favorite: USC by 6.5

The outcome: USC 18-15. With 7:29 left in the game, Matt Barkley drove the Trojans downfield for a touchdown and two-point conversion. They ate up 6:10 on the drive, and Ohio State responded with a turnover on downs.

End of season ranking (USC): No. 22 (9-4, 5-4 Pac-10). Beat Boston College in the Emerald Bowl, 24-13.

End of season ranking (Ohio State): No. 5 (11-2, 7-1 Big Ten). Won the Big Ten and defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl, 26-17.




No. 9 Virginia Tech at No. 2 LSU -- Sept. 8, 2007

The favorite: LSU by 11

The outcome: LSU 48-7. LSU racked up 598 yards of offense, and this was a snoozer from the beginning. LSU found itself up 14-0 just 10 minutes into the game, and the Hokies converted just two third downs the entire game.

End of season ranking (LSU): No. 1 (12-2, 6-2 SEC). Won SEC championship and beat Ohio State in national championship, 38-24.

End of season ranking (Virginia Tech): No. 9 (11-3, 7-1 ACC). Won ACC championship but lost to Kansas in Orange Bowl, 24-21.




No. 1 Ohio State at No. 2 Texas -- Sept. 9, 2006

The favorite: Texas by 3

The outcome: Ohio State 24-7. It was the first regular-season No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup in a decade, and the Buckeyes never trailed in this game. Troy Smith threw for 269 yards and two TDs, while the defense held Texas to less than 20 points for the first time in 21 games.

End of season ranking (Ohio State): No. 2 (12-1, 8-0 Big Ten). Won the Big Ten championship but lost to Florida in the national championship, 41-14.

End of season ranking (Texas): No. 13 (10-3, 6-2 Big 12). Beat Iowa in Alamo Bowl, 26-24.




No. 2 Texas at No. 4 Ohio State -- Sept. 10, 2005

The favorite: Texas by 1.5

The outcome: Texas 25-22. With 2:37 left in the game, Longhorns QB Vince Young found Limas Sweed for the go-ahead 24-yard TD. It was a back-and-forth affair; Texas jumped out to a 10-0 lead but the Buckeyes led at halftime 16-13.

End of season ranking (Texas): No. 1 (13-0, 8-0 Big 12). Won the Big 12 championship and beat USC in the national championship, 41-38.

End of season ranking (Ohio State): No. 4 (10-2, 7-1 Big Ten). Won part of the Big Ten championship and beat Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, 34-20.

Video: Desmond Howard's top playmakers

August, 2, 2013
8/02/13
6:46
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Desmond Howard looks at his top five playmakers in college football.

PASADENA, Calif. -- Instant analysis from Rose Bowl Stadium where No. 5 Oregon defeated No. 10 Wisconsin 45-38:

How the game was won: Both teams traded scores and major momentum swings. But Oregon had just a little too much speed at its skill positions for Wisconsin's defense to match. As the Badgers slowed down with just 10 points in the second half, the Ducks were able to eke out a close victory thanks to a couple of key turnovers. Everyone thought this could be a shootout, and we weren't disappointed by one of the most entertaining Rose Bowls ever. Oregon just had a little bit more explosiveness.

Turning point: Wisconsin had the ball with a chance to tie the score, and Russell Wilson completed a 29-yard pass to Jared Abbrederis inside the Oregon 30. But Terrance Mitchell knocked the ball free near the sideline, and the Ducks recovered with 4:04 left. Even though Oregon's quick-strike offense isn't built to bleed the clock, the Ducks picked up a couple of first downs to leave Wisconsin with less than a minute to drive the field. The Badgers had two big second-half turnovers, including Wilson's interception near the end of the third quarter, just his fourth of the season. That was enough in a game where stops were at a premium.

Stat of the game: The two teams combined for 1,130 total yards. Oregon averaged 9.7 yards per play.

Player of the game: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas. He didn't get a lot of touches but made the most of them. He had a 91-yard and a 64-yard touchdown run to finish with 155 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Honorable mention to quarterback Darron Thomas (17-of-23 for 269 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception) and running back LaMichael James (25 carries for 159 yards and a score). James moved into second place on the Pac-12's career rushing list.

Unsung hero of the game: Oregon receiver Lavasier Tuinei did not have a great season but came up huge in the Rose Bowl. He finished with eight catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns, with several drive-extending grabs.

Second guessing: Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema burned two timeouts early in the third quarter, one to try and challenge a kick return that De'Anthony Thomas almost downed outside of his own end zone. That left the Badgers unable to stop the clock late when they had a chance to tie the score. Wilson spiked the ball at the 25-yard-line after a long completion with two seconds left, but the officials ruled that there was no time left for another play. Bielema was also questioned after taking timeouts before the Hail Mary that Michigan State completed in an earlier loss this season.

What it means: Oregon won its first Rose Bowl since 1917 and proved it could win a BCS game after losing close ones the previous two years. Head coach Chip Kelly will no longer be questioned about winning big games. Bielema could continue to hear that criticism after his team suffered its second straight heartbreaking Rose Bowl loss. Without Wilson and most likely Montee Ball next season, Wisconsin might have missed a window to do something special this season. Oregon should be a top 5 team to start next season even if James goes pro, as both Thomases and Kenjon Barner return to form a strong nucleus

Record performance: The 83 combined points were the most in Rose Bowl history, eclipsing the 80 points combined between Washington and Iowa in 1991. Oregon and Wisconsin also set records for the most points scored in the first quarter (28) and in any half (56) in Rose Bowl history.
PASADENA, Calif. -- If the fourth quarter is anything like the first three here at Rose Bowl Stadium, we could be headed for a finish for the ages.

Wisconsin and Oregon traded punches and turnovers in the third quarter, and it remains anyone's game.

Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas opened the half by burning Wisconsin for another big play, going 64 yards for a touchdown just three plays and 33 seconds after halftime. When Thomas turns the corner, it's lights out for the defense.

That looked like it might be dispiriting for the Badgers, but Russell Wilson led the team on two scoring drives, throwing a touchdown pass to Nick Toon after picking up two key third downs on the drive. An earlier Wisconsin field goal felt like a win for the Ducks defense with the way this game has gone.

The Badgers defense forced a rare three-and-out and came up with their second turnover of the game when Aaron Henry intercepted Darron Thomas on an overthrown third-and-long pass. But Wisconsin gave it right back on a Russell Wilson interception, just his fourth of the season. Oregon's Kiko Alonso came up with the pick.

Wilson was having a tremendous game in his first opportunity to play in a big bowl. That interception could cost him his quest to finish ahead of Baylor's Robert Griffin III for the NCAA single-season passing-efficiency record, though I'm sure all he wants is the win.

Surprisingly, it hasn't really been Oregon's pace that has bothered Wisconsin. It has been Oregon's speed and skill. And Wisconsin's passing game has been better than most people probably expected, though, that interception really hurt.

All the stars have show up -- Wilson, Montee Ball, Thomas, LaMichael James. If the fourth quarter is anything like the first three, this could go down as one of the best Rose Bowls ever. And that's saying something.

Halftime: Oregon 28, Wisconsin 28

January, 2, 2012
1/02/12
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LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Quick halftime analysis from Rose Bowl Stadium, where we're tied at 28 after a fast and furious first 30 minutes:

Turning point: With the score tied at 21, Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor came free on a blitz and buckled the arm of Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas. Teammate Louis Nzegwu was in the right place to scoop it up, and he rumbled 33 yards for the defensive score. In a game in which the offenses are dominating, any defensive reversal like that looms large.

Stat of the half: Oregon has 28 points on 29 plays, averaging 11.8 yards per play. Wisconsin is averaging an even 7 yards per play. The two teams have combined for 636 total yards.

What Wisconsin needs to do: Keep hanging around. The Badgers are moving the ball nearly at will, but it's going to be tough to keep up with Oregon if the Ducks keep scoring at this pace. If Wisconsin can keep it close in the second half, they can put pressure on the Ducks' offense and hope for another mistake like the Thomas fumble. The Badgers have been very good in the third quarter all season, and also have made excellent second-half adjustments.

What Oregon needs to do: Take away something defensively. Montee Ball has more than 100 yards, and Russell Wilson is carving up the defense on play-action rollouts. That balance is what makes the Badgers so difficult to stop, but Oregon needs to make at least one of those facets more difficult, as it did with a fourth-down sack of Wilson in the second quarter.

Record performances: Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas ran 91 yards for a touchdown on the final play of the first quarter. That was the longest touchdown run in Rose Bowl history. Montee Ball tied Barry Sanders' FBS scoring record with his 39th touchdown on the season with a 3-yard plunge into the end zone in the second quarter. The two teams combined for a Rose Bowl record 56 points in the first half, 11 more than the previous high.
PASADENA, Calif. — Strap yourself in. We are having a wild and wildly entertaining 2012 Rose Bowl.

Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas capped an exciting first quarter with a 91-yard run on the final play to tie the score at 14. The Ducks' speed advantage was on full display with that burst, as safety Aaron Henry couldn't catch up with Thomas down the sideline.

We had scores on the first three possessions, as Wisconsin pounded the Ducks on the ground with Montee Ball, then opened up play-action for a Russell Wilson touchdown throw and a Wilson bootleg scoring run. The Badgers got an important three-and-out and then pinned Oregon deep in their own territory, but it didn't matter because of Thomas's run.

The Rose Bowl combined scoring record is 80 points. Long way to go, but that could be threatened.

So far, it's about what we expected. Wisconsin's power game is causing Oregon lots of problems, and the Badgers need to keep Ball in the game. There's just not the same respect for play-action when James White comes in. The Ducks have ripped off some big gains in the running game, too, and when their skill players get outside the tackles, it's a dangerous situation for the Badgers' defense.

There should be lots more fireworks coming our way.

Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio

December, 4, 2011
12/04/11
11:34
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Wisconsin Badgers (11-2) vs. Oregon Ducks (11-2)

Jan. 2, 5 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Wisconsin take from Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett: The memory of last year's 21-19 loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl helped motivate Wisconsin this offseason.

The Badgers made it their mission to get back to the BCS and change the outcome this year, a plan that was nearly derailed by two straight dispiriting October losses. But they battled back to clinch consecutive trips to Pasadena for the first time since the 1998-99 seasons. And the players say they're not satisfied just to get there.

"We didn't finish it right last year," safety Aaron Henry said. "To have a chance to go out there and finish off something is a truly amazing, special feeling."

It won't be easy. Oregon is one of only three teams in the country that scored more points than Wisconsin this season, and the Ducks' speed could cause major problems for a defense that struggled against swiftness in space at times this year.

The Badgers' best defense, though, could be its offense. Their imposing offensive line could wear on the smaller Ducks, and the ground game led by Montee Ball -- who needs just two more touchdowns to set the single-season FBS record -- will help keep Oregon's offense off the field. Quarterback Russell Wilson should thrive against a less physical defense than he faced in the Big Ten, and he embraces the big stage.

An NC State transfer, Wilson will be making his first BCS appearance. The rest of his teammates know the Rose Bowl well. They hope to find out what a Rose Bowl victory feels like.


Oregon take from Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller: Oregon is headed to its third consecutive BCS bowl game and second Rose Bowl in three years. That's great, but the Ducks are 0-2 in those games, so the program is no longer just happy to be there. They need to win to climb another rung in the national pecking order.

The Ducks are not unlike previous varieties. They are again an offensive juggernaut, ranking third in the nation in scoring, fifth in rushing and sixth in total offense. Their relentless, up-tempo offense wears opposing defenses down and causes them to lose concentration and gap integrity. The perceived Achilles’ heel that will be tested, however, is this: Coach Chip Kelly has lost six times. In five of those losses, high-quality teams had extra time to prepare their defenses. Your turn, Wisconsin.

That's one take of the Ducks' opener against LSU in Cowboys Stadium. They lost 40-27 in large part because their rebuilt offensive line struggled with the Tigers’ front seven. Of course, Oregon fans will point to losing the turnover battle 4-1. And it's worth noting no other team scored as many points against the Tigers this year. Only West Virginia had more total yards against LSU.

After the LSU loss, Oregon mostly cruised. The marquee showdown at Stanford was underwhelming, as the Ducks' defense controlled Cardinal QB Andrew Luck and the offense just looked too fast for Stanford.

The win at Stanford put the Ducks back into the national title discussion. A week later, however, they were out with a 38-35 loss to USC, missing a late field goal for the tie as time expired. They bounced back with easy wins over Oregon State and UCLA in the Pac-12 championship game.

The Ducks' chief star is running back LaMichael James, the 2010 Doak Walker Award winner and the first back in conference history to rush for more than 1,500 yards three consecutive seasons. But there are plenty of weapons on offense, including multipurpose true freshman De'Anthony Thomas, backup running back Kenjon Barner and tight end David Paulson. The defense produced three first-team All-Pac-12 players and a second-teamer, so it's not a nameless bunch in conference circles. It's solid in most areas and ranks third in the nation with 3.3 sacks per game.

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