Big Ten: Derrick Green

National links: Michigan steals spotlight 

December, 2, 2014
12/02/14
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Since late October, Tuesday has been reserved for speculation and anticipation over the release of the College Football Playoff rankings. But not this week.

Michigan reluctantly takes center stage hours before the committee releases its sixth set of rankings.

Next week, the four-team playoff will be set. If things fall right Friday and Saturday in each of the Power 5 leagues, Sunday could be epic.

TCU or Baylor? Will Ohio State remain a factor? The debate alone over the order of the top four, which determine the semifinal matchups, will make it a day like no other in college football history.

Sadly, though, we’ve seen plenty of days like this Tuesday.

Big Ten morning links

November, 13, 2014
11/13/14
8:00
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Another week, another huge game in the Big Ten. Maybe it would have been better not to save all the excitement up for November, but it's hard to complain right now.

1. B1G and not bad: Those early-season debacles outside of the league were supposed to be the death knell for the Big Ten, and they certainly generated a lot of punchlines. But in case anybody hasn’t noticed, the conference is actually a lot more highly thought of by the selection committee than it might be getting credit for, with only the SEC boasting more teams in the current Top 25 than the Big Ten’s five. There are some caveats that must be mentioned, starting with the number of teams still blocking the path of No. 8 Ohio State to the four-team field. And Minnesota might not be long for its spot at No. 25 if it can’t beat the Buckeyes on Saturday. But it’s worth noting that the Big Ten schedule might not actually be a drag on a potential one-loss league champ, because as it stands right now the résumés of Ohio State and Nebraska would both be boosted down the stretch by multiple matchups with ranked opponents in a league that seems to have overcome its rough start.

2. Under-the-radar matchup: The schedule this weekend is well stocked with intrigue, which should probably be enjoyed because Nov. 22 is looking pretty barren. But before worrying about that, Saturday presents a clear heavyweight battle in the West between Nebraska and Wisconsin, with a solid undercard between Ohio State and Minnesota. But while those games are stealing the spotlight, Michigan State’s visit to Maryland should be worth monitoring as well and could be meaningful in sorting out the final pecking order in the East and when bowl bids are handed out. The Terrapins have had some ups and downs in their first season in the Big Ten, but if they can overcome the fired-up, frustrated Spartans on Saturday, they could actually pull ahead into second place in the division with a head-to-head tiebreaker. Maybe that doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things, but it could be a useful recruiting tool for Randy Edsall down the line.

3. Michigan meltdown: If nothing else, the Wolverines can claim the national lead in public apologies this season. And the mess at Michigan this season isn’t just limited to on-field issues or even the athletic department, with president Mark Schlissel the latest to stick his foot in his mouth and seek forgiveness. Given everything that has gone wrong with the Wolverines this season, it’s getting to the point where nothing can really come as a surprise anymore and missteps barely even cause people to bat an eye. But that’s still pretty remarkable considering the history, tradition and reputation of that university on the field and in the classroom, and it’s fair to wonder if perhaps that might have an impact on the likely coaching search the program will be starting after the season. The problems don’t seem to be limited to just the football team, and maybe that will give a high-profile candidate a reason to pause if the Wolverines come calling.

East Division
  • Michigan has not ruled out a possible return this season for running back Derrick Green.
  • Michigan State was "handled" up front and not consistent enough on its defensive line last weekend, and it's aiming to get that cleaned up against Maryland.
  • Rutgers right tackle Taj Alexander has seen the value of being part of a rotation as a younger player, so he can't complain about being in one again as a veteran.
  • The "blackout" at Maryland will extend to the uniforms for the prime-time matchup with Michigan State.
  • Ohio State H-back Dontre Wilson could be back in time for a bowl game.
  • The future of Penn State's depth chart at quarterback.
  • The conversations about Indiana all revolve around quarterbacks.
West Division

B1G roundtable: Week 9 bold predictions

October, 23, 2014
10/23/14
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OK, so we didn't exactly go out on the limb with our Week 9 scoring predictions this week. For once, we actually all agreed.

So we thought we'd take it a step further this week. Instead of just predicting the winner, which seems like a relatively easy exercise this week, we each took a crack at making a bold prediction for Week 9.

Here are those bold predictions:

Adam Rittenberg: Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Gary Nova combine for 550 pass yards

I expect a big day for both quarterbacks in Lincoln. Rutgers is very vulnerable to long passes -- 52.5 percent of opponents' completions against the Scarlet Knights go for 10 yards or longer -- and Nebraska features a big-play passing attack. I'm also not sold on the Huskers secondary, which will be tested by Rutgers deep threat Leonte Carroo. Maybe Randy Gregory inhales Nova and it's another rough day on the road for Rutgers, but I see a lot of pass yards in this one.

Brian Bennett: Penn State breaks out something new

The Nittany Lions know they can't simply line up and run the ball in conventional ways (or protect Christian Hackenberg) because of their porous offensive line, and the talent level isn't going to change this season. But the team had a bye week in which James Franklin said it spent working on those issues. Expect the coaching staff to throw some new wrinkles at Ohio State, a la the 2011 game when Penn State broke out the Wildcat. It probably still won't be enough to beat the surging Buckeyes, but Ohio State had better be ready to adjust for something different.

Austin Ward: The Badgers will look competent throwing the football

The two-quarterback system barely made an appearance the last time Wisconsin stepped on the field, though it hardly made any difference against Illinois and its pillow-soft defense. Melvin Gordon might still be enough on his own against another unit that doesn’t usually put up much of a fight on the ground, but Maryland does have better athletes on that side of the ball and the Badgers will likely need to show more balance to get the win they need to remain a factor in the West. Coming off a bye week to tinker with the rotation and fine-tune some packages for both Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy, expect to see more production from those passers -- maybe even the first 200-yard passing performance since Week 2 against Western Illinois.

Josh Moyer: The Illini will look incompetent with a two-QB system

Tim Beckman was adamant he wants to play both dual-threat Aaron Bailey and pocket-passer Reilly O'Toole. Bad move, Tim -- and even your offensive coordinator doesn't seem sold on the idea. Bill Cubit just shrugged earlier this week when asked if Beckman's two-QB idea was the best plan: "I don't know. I'll be honest with you, the playbook gets really expanded for one guy." The two-quarterback system worked against Wisconsin because the Badgers didn't expect Bailey to run. That element of surprise is gone now; Minnesota knows what's coming. And we think we know, too: Another Illinois loss.

Dan Murphy: Three players will reach 200 rushing yards

Despite Tevin Coleman -- the country's second most productive running back -- taking the week off for a bye, the Big Ten will see three 200-yard rushing performances this Saturday. Illinois allows 271 yards per game on the ground (125th nationally). Minnesota workhorse David Cobb will fill the majority of that quota this week. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon, the only player with more rushing yards than Coleman, faces a Maryland defense with its own issues stopping the run. The regular cast of characters finishes with Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska, who is likely headed for a high-scoring affair with Rutgers in Lincoln.

Mitch Sherman: Michigan will rush for positive net yardage

Believe it. Michigan State mauled the Wolverines last year, sacking QB Devin Gardner seven times as the Wolverines finished with minus-48 rushing yards -- the lowest figure in program history. It’ll go better for Michigan on Saturday, though well not enough to beat the Spartans. Or come close. Michigan ranks 64th nationally in rushing offense, a significant improvement over last year, and the Spartans have slipped to eighth against the run, allowing 100.3 yards per game. The Wolverines won’t get to triple digits, especially without injured back Derrick Green. But Brady Hoke has said he wants to get Gardner more involved in the ground game. They had a bye week to prepare. Let’s see it.

Michigan's offense needs more big plays

October, 21, 2014
10/21/14
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The 43-yard touchdown connection between Devin Gardner and Devin Funchess in an 18-13 win over Penn State was a rare site for this year’s Michigan team.

The standout individual effort by Funchess gave the Wolverines their longest completion of the year and the longest play of any kind since a season-opening drubbing of Appalachian State. As much trouble as Michigan’s offense has had with turnovers and finding a steady run game this season, it’s had an equally difficult time coming up with the type of big plays that can mask those inconsistencies.

[+] EnlargeDevin Funchess
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsMichigan hopes to get more big plays from Devin Funchess and the offense.
 “There is no question we have to create more explosive plays,” head coach Brady Hoke said after an open week to mull over his team’s most glaring issues.

Michigan’s bye week after seven straight games provided Hoke and his 3-4 team with an overdue opportunity to get healthy and evaluate themselves. Beating Penn State the previous Saturday allowed him to go through that process with less pressure and fewer questions about his future.

With in-state rival Michigan State next on the schedule and Ohio State looming a month later, the recalibrations Hoke and his staff make this week have the potential to save their jobs in Ann Arbor or provide the final nail in the coffin of their Michigan coaching careers. This week Hoke is attempting to land on the right side of the fine line that separates making improvements and overwhelming your team by tinkering too much.

“At times you say, ‘We need to add this,’ and then you add too much. Then you have a real problem,” Hoke said. “For us, it’s going back to what we want to be identity-wise, and we want to run the football.”

The run, Michigan hopes, will set up its dynamic offensive players with more chances to produce game-changing plays. Through seven games, the Wolverines have picked up 30 or more yards on a single play six times, fewer than all but four teams in the bowl subdivision this season. The only offensive category where they’ve struggled more is in turnover margin, where they rank dead last.

Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier said big chunk gains usually come from exploiting an opponent’s weakest points or putting your best playmakers in a position to excel. Three of those long plays came from sophomore running back Derrick Green, who is sidelined for the rest of the season with a broken collarbone. The onus in Green’s absence falls even more squarely on the shoulders of Funchess and Gardner, the senior quarterback who has looked like more of an offensive threat in his two most recent games.

“I get the ball every play so it’s pretty much all my responsibility,” Gardner said. “Even if it’s a big run play for our running backs, I’ve got to hand it to them. I feel like I’m a big part of that.”

Gardner has the potential to create a few of those plays with his feet, but his best bet is to connect with his favorite target, the 6-foot-5 Funchess. He leads the team with 36 receptions and four touchdowns, but three of those came against Appalachian State.

 Funchess battled a leg injury during most of September, making his highlight-reel return to the end zone against Penn State a beacon of hope that more spectacular efforts might be coming now that he’s healthy. Nussmeier knows Michigan has to find ways to get the ball in his hands.

“We’re always looking for ways to [create good match-ups],” he said. “Without giving away too much scheme stuff, we evaluated that very hard during the bye week and looked at ways to do that better.”

The Spartans, for all of their prowess on defense, have been burned by the long ball several times this season. They’ve surrendered at least 30 yards on 19 different plays this season, which ranks them 103rd in the nation in that category. The miscues have come against competition that ranges from Oregon to Eastern Michigan.

Michigan enters Saturday’s rivalry game as a double-digit underdog. The line against the Buckeyes later this season should be equally lopsided. The Wolverines likely need to win at least one of those games if Hoke is going to return in 2015. One tried-and-true way to pull off an upset -- especially with a defense that has held its own this season -- is with a few big plays.

Tracking our B1G fantasy teams: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
10/10/14
3:00
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As unlikely as it seemed earlier in the season, we have a new leader atop the league.

Austin Ward's Massive Attack took advantage of a low-scoring week by Adam Rittenberg's Trombone Shorties. It's the first time all season that Rittenberg didn't end the week at No. 1. As a result, our league is almost as clustered as the West Division.

Your results this week:

Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 145
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 121
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 84
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 77
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 58

And the overall standings:

Massive Attack: 756
The Trombone Shorties: 754
Coal Crackers: 709
Legendary Leaders: 612
Sherman Tanks: 528

Oh, it's getting so much harder right now. Only 10 Big Ten teams play this week, which makes for an interesting waiver wire when each fantasy team has to start two quarterbacks and the starting signal-callers at Iowa and Wisconsin won't be getting all the snaps. Much frustration was had this week. Check it out:

Sherman adds Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton and drops Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp

Bennett adds Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole and drops Maryland QB C.J. Brown

Moyer adds Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner and drops Illinois QB Wes Lunt

Rittenberg adds Purdue QB Austin Appleby and drops Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong

Ward adds Michigan State WR Macgarrett Kings and drops Ohio State WR Devin Smith

Sherman adds Penn State kickers and drops Ohio State kickers

Bennett adds Penn State WR Geno Lewis and drops Nebraska WR Kenny Bell

Moyer adds Illinois WR Mike Dudek and drops Purdue RB Akeem Hunt

Rittenberg adds Northwestern WR Dan Vitale and drops Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo

Ward adds Illinois WR Martize Barr and drops Maryland WR Deon Long

Sherman adds Michigan RB De'Veon Smith and drops Michigan RB Derrick Green

Bennett adds Wisconsin QB Joel Stave and drops Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy

Moyer adds Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong and drops Maryland WR Stefon Diggs

Rittenberg adds Northwestern RB Justin Jackson and drops Maryland RB Brandon Ross

Ward adds Iowa QB Jake Rudock and drops Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson

Bennett adds Minnesota defense and drops Michigan defense

Rittenberg adds Indiana RB D'Angelo Roberts and drops Penn State TE Jesse James

Ward adds Indiana kickers and drops Nebraska kickers

Bennett adds Minnesota kickers and drops Maryland kickers

Rittenberg adds Penn State defense and drops Rutgers defense

Ward adds Michigan defense and drops Ohio State defense

Waiver-wire analysis: This is the biggest week of moves we've had all season, and most all were made due to byes or injuries. There were two exceptions. For one, Bennett decided to go with Stave at quarterback instead of McEvoy. That makes sense, considering Stave is expected to get the start. Neither player is a good option, but beggars can't be choosers in this league. Also, my team decided to look ahead to the future and took Tommy Armstrong -- who's on bye -- and dropped Stefon Diggs, who's also on bye. Wideouts are a lot easier to come by than quarterbacks, so hopefully the move pays off.

Massive Attack (Ward)

Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Illinois WR Martize Barr
Michigan State WR Macgarrett Kings
Indiana kickers
Michigan defense
Bench: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett (on bye)

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Purdue QB Austin Appleby
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Indiana RB D'Angelo Roberts
Northwestern RB Justin Jackson
Northwestern WR Dan Vitale
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Wisconsin kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah (on bye)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Illinois WR Mike Dudek
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Michigan State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong (on bye)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Wisconsin QB Joel Stave
Illinois QB Reilly O'Toole
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Illinois WR Geronimo Allison
Penn State WR Geno Lewis
Minnesota kickers
Minnesota defense
Bench: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott (on bye)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Michigan RB De'Veon Smith
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Penn State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Rutgers QB Gary Nova (on bye)

Big Ten morning links

October, 9, 2014
10/09/14
8:00
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Chaos or calmness this weekend?

Fortunately we only have to wait two more days to find out. Until then, let's pass the time with some hot topics and the best links around for the Big Ten.

1. Undercover contender?: Maybe it's among the longest of long shots. Maybe the passing game is too weak, the schedule too hard and the rebuilding project too incomplete at this point. But if a one-loss Big Ten champion is likely to make it into the College Football Playoff field as I believe it is, why not Minnesota? Don't laugh. The Gophers will be favored in the next three games before taking the first Saturday in November off with a bye, and winning all those matchups would not only put them in the driver's seat in the West Division, it would potentially put them in position for an unlikely bid into the four-team field at the end of the season. Obviously the hard part will come next month when the Gophers host Ohio State and follow that up with an extremely difficult two-game road trip against Nebraska and Wisconsin. But if Minnesota can somehow find a way to run the table in the Big Ten, its only loss would be on the road against a TCU -- a defeat that looks better every week. Are the Gophers likely to pull it off? Of course not. But in a few weeks, the spotlight might be shining brightly on Jerry Kill's program.

2. Monitoring Michigan: The heat of Brady Hoke's seat hasn't cooled any, but at least for a week it seems like the attention has been more about on-field issues than what's going on in the Michigan athletic department or how the coach feels about his job security. Perhaps it's because there's really nothing Hoke can add to the conversation at this point or because it seems like his exit is inevitable at this point. Having a prime-time game with another storied opponent helps steer the conversation away from Hoke and embattled athletic director Dave Brandon as well, but expect that to just be a momentary reprieve if the Wolverines can't right the ship under the lights against Penn State. If Michigan falls to 2-5 heading into an off date with Michigan State looming, the scrutiny will return -- and probably reach record-setting levels.

3. Double-bye blues: Urban Meyer has made it pretty well known that he's not enjoying the extra weekend off this season, particularly with Ohio State building momentum with its young offense and eager to keep the ball rolling after blowing out Maryland on the road. It surely doesn't help that the Buckeyes just had an off date two weeks ago, which in some ways has disrupted the normal in-season practice routine and forced Meyer to get a bit more creative with how he handles reps and when to return to the field before next week's game against Rutgers. The double-bye season also contributes to a relatively light schedule in the league for Week 7, with Rutgers, Maryland and Nebraska all resting on Saturday as well. In fact, the next three weekends all feature four teams kicking up their feet. With two fewer Big Ten football games to watch, count me with Meyer as no fan of the scheduling model this season either.

East Division
  • Michigan is still comfortable with the depth it has on hand at running back despite losing Derrick Green to injury.
  • Michigan State has another weapon emerging at wide receiver.
  • Penn State has attacked practice with a greater sense of urgency after losing handily to Northwestern.
  • Rutgers wrapped up its 2016 schedule by inking a deal with New Mexico.
  • Even after losing its first Big Ten home game, Maryland can still see the benefits of joining the league.
  • Urban Meyer wasn't quite sure who he voted No. 1 after a wild weekend in college football, but he thinks it was Florida State.
  • A look at what makes at the Indiana job so difficult.
West Division
  • Some Nebraska legends like what they see from De'Mornay Pierson-El.
  • Another scheduling tweak for 2016: Iowa's visit to Rutgers was moved up. The Hawkeyes will open Big Ten play on the road five years in a row.
  • Can Northwestern continue to improve on offense?
  • Minnesota will likely be without starting cornerback Derrick Wells on Saturday.
  • Statistics don't paint a pretty picture for the Illinois defense.
  • Is there more that Melvin Gordon could possibly do to help Wisconsin? Evidently he thinks there is.
  • The Purdue secondary is preparing for a big test against Michigan State.

One of Michigan’s few bright spots on offense dimmed Saturday when sophomore running back Derrick Green suffered a season-ending injury.

Green accounted for 43 percent of the Wolverines’ run game (471 yards) through the first six games of the season. He had 74 yards on 12 carries against Rutgers Saturday before landing hard on his shoulder in the fourth quarter and breaking his collarbone. Steady improvement during September allowed Green to break away from a trio of backs competing for playing time in training camp. The rest of that group now must circle the wagons and keep the rushing attack moving forward.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Green
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesWith Derrick Green shelved for the season, Michigan will likely turn to a running back-by-committee approach.
"I’m very confident in the three guys that will be doing most of the work at running back," head coach Brady Hoke said after announcing Green’s injury Monday. "I’m highly confident in what they bring and what they can do."

Fellow sophomore De'Veon Smith is most similar to Green in his ability to run between the tackles. He is averaging six yards per carry and leads the team with four touchdowns but hasn’t yet shouldered a heavy workload on the college level. He had a career-high 10 carries against Rutgers. Smith will be joined by speed-centric backs Justice Hayes and Drake Johnson in the new rotation.

Without Green, a former five-star prospect who was starting to rise toward his potential, Michigan will have to adjust its play calling in the run game. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier didn’t want to give away the game plan for Saturday’s meeting with Penn State but said the offense would likely look different against the Nittany Lions.

“We want to put our players in the best possible position to make plays and do the things that they do best,” Nussmeier said. “Those guys all have a unique style. Some of them like different runs better than others.”

Smith has gashed defenses in short spurts already this fall by finding holes in the middle of the line of scrimmage. Hayes carved out a niche for himself as a third-down all-purpose back during the first half of the season. He caught five passes for 47 yards in the team’s first six games and added another capable blocker to the backfield on other passing routes.

“Justice has been great for us, especially in pass protection and those types of things,” center Jack Miller said.

Michigan can also turn to quarterback Devin Gardner to provide another boost in the ground game. Gardner has showcased his mobility while scrambling at certain points this season, but Michigan’s offense rarely has taken advantage of his speed with designed runs. That might change without Green on the field.

Gardner ran the ball seven times for 58 yards in a losing effort to the Scarlet Knights last weekend. Michigan has tried to avoid putting him in situations where he’ll take unnecessary hits. When searching for a balance between keeping Gardner out of harm’s way and taking full advantage of his athletic ability, Michigan has erred on the side of caution.

“We tried to, from an offensive standpoint, let the system work for him and then when things aren’t there make plays with his feet,” Nussmeier said. “Any time you can use the quarterback as an effective running weapon it increases what the defense has to defend.”

Green’s injury is another big blow to a team that has absorbed many of them through half the season. The running game has been one area to show marked improvement after reaching historic lows a season ago. It will take a group effort to make sure it keeps moving in the right direction.

Big Ten morning links

October, 8, 2014
10/08/14
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It's hump day. Here's a handful of Big Ten thoughts to push you downhill toward the weekend.

1. The seedlings of a rivalry are sprouting between Nebraska and Michigan State. Bo Pelini got the ball rolling after last year's game by claiming his Cornhuskers wouldn't have issues running the ball against Michigan State in the future. The Spartan defense was happy to prove him wrong Saturday night. Pelini upped his level of needling Tuesday when he complained that MSU defenders simulated Nebraska's snap count Saturday by clapping, which caused the Cornhuskers center to start the play before quarterback Tommy Armstrong was ready on a few occasions. Michigan State's coaches and defenders laughed off any implications that it was intentional Tuesday evening. This particular story isn't worth any hand-wringing (or hand-clapping), but the not-so-subtle jabs between the two programs could enhance a fun mutual distaste between two of the Big Ten's best teams.

2. Two of the Big Ten's worst teams -- Michigan and Illinois -- added injury to insult this week. The Wolverines announced leading rusher Derrick Green was out for the year with a broken clavicle. The Illini lost starting quarterback Wes Lunt to a broken left leg for 4-6 weeks. Green accounted for 43 percent of Michigan's running game during the first half of the season. Lunt accounted for 61 percent of his team's total offense. With head coaches on the ropes both programs were looking for a break this week, but these weren't they kind they needed.

3. Is the alternative uniform trend losing its luster? One-off outfits have become so commonplace in college football that the buzz they once generated has slowed to a dull drone for most programs. Three teams from the tradition laden Big Ten are switching up their uniforms this weekend with decreasing levels of hullabaloo. Michigan will wear all blue with stunner-shade style numbering against Penn State. Northwestern is going with gothic font for its game at Minnesota. And Purdue is coloring its helmets with highlighter yellow to draw attention to its worthwhile "hammer down cancer" message. Alternative game day apparel isn't going away, we just might hear less about it in the future.

Your morning links, on the other hand, will never go out of fashion:

East Division
West Division

Tracking our B1G fantasy teams: Week 6

October, 3, 2014
10/03/14
3:00
PM ET
Cue Jimmy Eat World, because there is a change in the middle this week -- and it's not time to write anyone off just yet.

Brian Bennett's Legendary Leaders suffered a down week, and that left the door open for your very own Coal Crackers to overtake him in the standings. That is your big change this week, but plenty of season remains.

Your results this week:

The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 133
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 118
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 117
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 101
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 98

And the overall standings:

The Trombone Shorties: 679
Massive Attack: 637
Coal Crackers: 564
Legendary Leaders: 554
Sherman Tanks: 444

Three Big Ten teams have a bye this week, so rosters were forced to re-shuffle. Quarterbacks and running backs were at a premium, and you will notice an interesting addition within the first two selections:

Sherman adds Michigan QB Devin Gardner and drops Iowa QB C.J. Beathard

Bennett adds Illinois WR Geronimo Allison and drops Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp

Moyer adds Purdue RB Akeem Hunt and drops Iowa QB Jake Rudock

Ward adds Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson and drops Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy

Rittenberg adds Maryland RB Brandon Ross and drops Indiana RB D'Angelo Roberts

Sherman adds Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp and drops Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton

Bennett adds Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy and drops Purdue QB Danny Etling

Ward adds Maryland WR Deon Long and drops Penn State WR Geno Lewis

Rittenberg adds Rutgers defense and drops Minnesota defense

Sherman adds Ohio State kickers and drops Penn State kickers

Bennett adds Michigan defense and drops Penn State defense

Waiver-wire analysis: Did you notice Bennett's big addition? After five weeks in which Allison failed to show up in ESPN's player pool, the Illinois receiver was finally added. Sherman wasn't too happy with the move, as he had no idea Allison was available. Score one for Bennett's scouting efforts. As far as other moves, Rittenberg was none too happy with the running back selection when his turn came around. He tried to take Hunt -- who was already selected -- and was even more displeased when he had to settle for Ross. Overall, outside of Bennett, there were few teams satisfied with the waiver wire this week.

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr.
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Maryland RB Brandon Ross
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Wisconsin kickers
Rutgers defense
Bench: Penn State TE Jesse James (on bye)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Ohio State RB Dontre Wilson
Maryland WR Deon Long
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Nebraska kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Minnesota RB David Cobb (on bye)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Purdue RB Akeem Hunt
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Michigan State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Iowa Iowa RB Mark Weisman (on bye)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy
Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Illinois WR Geronimo Allison
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Maryland kickers
Michigan defense
Bench: Wisconsin RB Corey Clement (at Northwestern)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Rutgers QB Gary Nova
Michigan RB Derrick Green
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Ohio State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg (on bye)

Tracking our B1G fantasy teams: Week 5

September, 26, 2014
9/26/14
3:00
PM ET
That lead is slipping away from The Trombone Shorties -- and everyone still appears to be in the race. Well, except for the Sherman Tanks.

Sorry, Sherman Tanks.

Your results this week:

Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 153
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 133
The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 131
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 111
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 85

And the overall standings:

The Trombone Shorties: 546
Massive Attack: 520
Legendary Leaders: 456
Coal Crackers: 446
Sherman Tanks: 343

All the Big Ten teams play Saturday, so there wasn't too much action on the waiver wire this week. To be honest, the lack of shuffling was kind of a relief:

Sherman adds Iowa QB C.J. Beathard and drops Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner

Moyer adds Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian and drops Penn State RB Bill Belton

Bennett adds Purdue QB Danny Etling and drops Michigan QB Devin Gardner

Ward adds Ohio State defense and drops Northwestern defense

Rittenberg adds Indiana RB D'Angelo Roberts and drops Rutgers RB Paul James

Sherman adds Wisconsin defense and drops Nebraska defense

Ward adds Ohio State WR Devin Smith and drops Illinois WR Martize Barr

Waiver-wire overview: Quarterbacks are most definitely at a premium now. With injuries and controversies, there are few guys who are safe to start Saturday -- which is one reason why Bennett was forced to drop his first-round pick in Gardner for Etling. Bet nobody saw that coming in the preseason. Rittenberg was forced to drop James since he's out for the season, and he skipped over Belton to pick up Indiana's Roberts. Rittenberg has had the Midas touch this season, so it's difficult to question his move. Ward was also fortunate to pick Smith back up, after he dropped him during the bye last week.

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Indiana RB D'Angelo Roberts
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Wisconsin kickers
Minnesota defense
Bench: Penn State TE Jesse James (vs. Northwestern)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Penn State WR Geno Lewis
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Nebraska kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld (vs. Maryland)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Purdue QB Danny Etling
Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Maryland kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Wisconsin RB Corey Clement (vs. South Florida)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Michigan State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Iowa QB Jake Rudock (at Purdue)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Rutgers QB Gary Nova
Michigan RB Derrick Green
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Penn State kickers
Wisconsin defense
Bench: Iowa QB C.J. Beathard (at Purdue)

Big Ten morning links

September, 25, 2014
9/25/14
8:00
AM ET
With every team in action for just the second weekend this season, there's plenty to get to in the links this morning. Before diving into that, three thoughts on hot topics in the Big Ten as an important Saturday draws closer.

1. What's the secret?: Chalk it up as gamesmanship or protecting the offensive plan, but there's really no reason for Brady Hoke to be trying to hide his starting quarterback at this point. For one thing, Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has already made it clear that he won't waste time preparing for a "ghost," which means he's already gearing his team up for Devin Gardner. Considering Gardner's multipurpose abilities, it would seem far easier for the Gophers to adjust to Shane Morris if the Wolverines elect to start him, so there doesn't seem to be much gained there. And from a Michigan standpoint, if Hoke is sticking by Gardner, wouldn't he be better served with a public vote of confidence from his coach instead of leaving open the debate about which option is really best to lead the attack? Hoke surely has enough to worry about at this point elsewhere, and he's never seemed all that concerned about public perception when it comes to his news conferences. But it's hard to think guarding a secret about his starting quarterback is worth the effort, and there's a chance it might actually be doing damage.

2. Sneaky-good game of the weekend: Before the season started, it was easy to overlook the matchup. Even now with both teams bringing a loss into the weekend, it might still not stand out as worth watching. But Maryland visiting Indiana for the Big Ten opener for both promises to be entertaining, and it may also have the benefit of being a worthwhile win for the victor down the road. The Hoosiers put themselves back on track for a possible bowl bid with their win at Missouri last weekend, and the Terrapins have emerged as something of a dark horse threat in the East Division with their only loss coming in a shootout against a tough West Virginia squad. There's much more on the line than might have been guessed before the season when it just looked like the conference debut for Maryland, and it certainly will be worth watching on Saturday afternoon.

3. Buckeyes scrambling to replace Spence: Ohio State already had to rely on Steve Miller to fill the void at defensive end left by Noah Spence's suspension before his second failed drug test, so it hasn't had to come up with a new solution since a second failed drug test made it unlikely they would ever get the All-Big Ten pass-rusher back on the field. But what would happen now if Miller goes down or the Buckeyes need to expand the rotation back to eight or nine guys up front as they originally planned? It's possible Adolphus Washington might again be forced to move back outside after seemingly finding a spot to settle once and for all on the interior, and Urban Meyer admitted there have been discussions about making that adjustment. But he indicated it won't happen this week, which could put freshmen Tyquan Lewis and Jalyn Holmes in line for action against Cincinnati. That definitely wasn't what Ohio State had in mind before the season when the line was touted as perhaps the nation's best unit, but that's now the reality of its situation.

East Division
West Division
  • From trash talk to cheap shots, Nebraska's Randy Gregory is getting plenty of attention this season.
  • Purdue has already doubled its win total from last season and Darrell Hazell believes things are pointing in the right direction.
  • Minnesota isn't planning to win any Big Ten games with just 7 passing yards. In the past, the Gophers have actually won with less.
  • A look at everything that goes into handling a weather delay like Illinois had last weekend.
  • Fullbacks may be falling by the wayside nationally, but the position is still alive and well at Iowa.
  • Northwestern has the speakers blaring at practice and is ready to hit the road to take on Penn State.
  • Blitzing is all about effort, and that's no problem for Wisconsin's Derek Landisch.

Tracking our B1G fantasy teams: Week 4

September, 18, 2014
9/18/14
4:30
PM ET
Could The Trombone Shorties’ fantasy league dominance be going the way of the Big Ten?

Well, not quite yet. Adam Rittenberg still has a big lead, but he nose-dived this past week as he was just one point from having the worst showing out of all of us. That felt so good to type. Let me reiterate: We’re coming for you, Shorties.

Your results this week:

Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 140
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 139
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 118
Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 82
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 81

And the overall standings:

Trombone Shorties: 415
Massive Attack: 367
Legendary Leaders: 345
Coal Crackers: 313
Sherman Tanks: 258

Again, our waiver wire is of the utmost importance since we all only have one bench spot. That makes for some interesting weekly moves. Here’s a look at this week’s:

Sherman adds Michigan State WR Tony Lippett and drops Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo

Moyer adds Michigan State defense and drops Penn State defense

Bennett adds Wisconsin RB Corey Clement and drops Illinois WR Martize Barr

Ward adds Illinois WR Martize Barr and drops Ohio State WR Devin Smith

Rittenberg adds Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo and drops Purdue QB Danny Etling

Sherman adds Purdue QB Danny Etling and drops Penn State RB Zach Zwinak

Moyer adds Michigan State kickers and drops Michigan kickers

Bennett adds Penn State defense and drops Michigan defense

Ward adds Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy and drops Rutgers QB Gary Nova

Rittenberg adds Minnesota defense and drops Iowa defense

Sherman adds Rutgers QB Gary Nova and drops Purdue QB Danny Etling

Ward adds Northwestern defense and drops Ohio State defense

Rittenberg adds Wisconsin kickers and drops Ohio State kickers

Waiver-wire overview: Boy, that was a confusing – and entertaining – wavier-wire for us. A lot of different players changed hands. Sherman dropped Carroo, and Rittenberg scooped him up. I dropped Penn State’s defense, and Bennett picked it up. And Bennett dropped Martize Barr, and Ward couldn’t resist a potential upgrade. On top of all that, Etling might’ve played the most interesting role this week: Rittenberg dropped him, then Sherman picked him up and then Sherman dropped him again when Nova became available. Ward gambled a bit by picking up McEvoy (over keeping Nova), but he liked the matchup against Bowling Green’s defense. We’ll have to see if anyone regrets their moves this week because there were quite a few of them.

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)

Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Michigan State QB Connor Cook
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Rutgers RB Paul James
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Penn State TE Jesse James
Wisconsin kickers
Minnesota defense
Bench: Michigan WR Devin Funchess (questionable vs. EMU)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Wisconsin QB Tanner McEvoy
Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Penn State WR Geno Lewis
Illinois WR Martize Barr
Nebraska kickers
Northwestern defense
Bench: Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett (on bye)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Wisconsin RB Corey Clement
Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
Maryland kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott (on bye)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Iowa WB Jake Rudock
Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon
Penn State RB Bill Belton
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Michigan State kickers
Michigan State defense
Bench: Iowa RB Mark Weisman (at Pitt)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Rutgers QB Gary Nova
Michigan RB Derrick Green
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Michigan State WR Tony Lippett
Penn State kickers
Nebraska defense
Bench: Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner (vs. San Jose State)

Big Ten awards race tracker: Week 3

September, 17, 2014
9/17/14
2:00
PM ET
Three weeks' worth of games are in the book. That's not enough to decide the individual award races in the Big Ten, but it won't stop us from figuring out where those races stand.

Our Big Ten reporters are voting weekly on the races, with players receiving five points for a first-place vote, four for a second-place nod, etc. Also, we try hard to base these standings on 2014 season results only, not any preconceived notions or a player's previous track records.

Here's how things shake out:

Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year

1. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah (Five first-place votes): Abdullah gets the unanimous nod on offense as he continues to power up the Huskers attack.

2. Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg: He has become the master of the two-minute drive, and he leads the Big Ten in passing.

3. Indiana RB Tevin Coleman: He leads the Big Ten in rushing yards (437) and rushing touchdowns (five) despite having played just two games. He's averaging 9.3 yards per carry.

4. Michigan State QB Connor Cook: His completion rate is over 68 percent, and Cook can build on his stats against Eastern Michigan and Wyoming the next two weeks.

5. Illinois QB Wes Lunt: He wasn't able to summon late-game magic at Washington in Week 3 but still is among the league's top passers.

Also receiving votes: Michigan RB Derrick Green; Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon; Minnesota RB David Cobb; Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong Jr.

Nagurski Woodson Defensive Player of the Year

1. Penn State DT Anthony Zettel (5): Another unanimous pick, Zettel has been a monster in the early going for the Lions. He leads the Big Ten in tackles for loss, with seven, to go along with three sacks.

2. Ohio State DE Joey Bosa: He's tied for the league lead with two forced fumbles, in addition to 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.

3. Iowa DT Louis Trinca-Pasat: His strong start to the season continues, as he has four tackles for loss along Iowa's strong defensive front.

4. Wisconsin S Michael Caputo: He and the Badgers were off last week but should get a test from Bowling Green's fast-paced offense.

Also receiving votes: Penn State LB Mike Hull; Rutgers DE Kemoko Turay; Minnesota LB Damien Wilson; Michigan State DE Marcus Rush; Ohio State LB Joshua Perry.

Big Ten helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
9/14/14
9:00
AM ET
Recognizing the best and brightest from Week 3 in the Big Ten:
  • Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: A week after Barrett's tough night against Virginia Tech, the redshirt freshman bounced back in a big way. He completed 23 of 30 passes for 312 yards and a school-record tying six touchdowns (with one interception, off a tipped ball) in the Buckeyes' 66-0 laugher over Kent State.
  • Michigan RB Derrick Green: The Wolverines struggled with Miami (Ohio) for more than two quarters, but Green's hard running helped salt the game away. The sophomore finished with 22 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns in Michigan's 34-10 victory.
  • Penn State DT Anthony Zettel: Perhaps the early frontrunner for Big Ten defensive player of the year, Zettel was terrific yet again in the Nittany Lions' 13-10 win over Rutgers. He led the defensive charge with three tackles for loss and a sack while helping control the line of scrimmage. "We couldn't handle him in the second half," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said.
  • Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg: It wasn't easy most of the night for the Nittany Lions' sophomore signal caller. He was harassed under a heavy pass rush, and Penn State didn't score a touchdown for the first 58:47. But Hackenberg proved he's the king of clutch among current Big Ten quarterbacks by leading a two-minute drill that led to Bill Belton's game-winning touchdown. Hackenberg finished 25-of-44 for 309 yards and an interception.
  • Nebraska WR De'Mornay Pierson-El: The true freshman accumulated 136 yards on a pair of punt returns in the first half of the Huskers' 55-19 road win over Fresno State. Included was an 86-yarder for a touchdown, the longest ever by a Nebraska freshman. Pierson-El fills a key area of need for Nebraska, which amassed 70 yards all of last season on punt returns, averaging 3.04 yards on 23 returns to rank 121st nationally.

Tracking our B1G fantasy teams: Week 3

September, 11, 2014
9/11/14
4:30
PM ET
I demand a redraft.

We’re hosting our league on the ESPN College Football Challenge, and The Trombone Shorties currently rank No. 3 overall – nationally – in points scored. It hasn’t been close yet, but hopefully that’s about to change. Your Week 2 results:

The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 160
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 119
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 91
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 81
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 70

And your overall standings so far:

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg): 333
Massive Attack (Ward): 227
Legendary Leaders (Bennett): 206
Coal Crackers (Moyer): 195
Sherman Tanks (Sherman): 177

The Shorties have a big lead, but a lot can change in this league. We only have one bench spot, so bye weeks can be killer. The waiver wire is especially important, so here’s a look at our moves this week:

Sherman adds Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner and drops Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian

Moyer adds Penn State RB Bill Belton and drops Michigan State kickers

Bennett adds Illinois WR Martize Barr and drops Michigan RB Derrick Green

Rittenberg adds Purdue QB Danny Etling and drops Wisconsin RB Corey Clements

Sherman adds Michigan RB Derrick Green and drops Maryland WR Deon Long

Moyer adds Michigan kickers and drops Michigan State WR Tony Lippett

Bennett adds Michigan defense and drops Rutgers defense

Rittenberg adds Iowa defense and drops Minnesota defense

Moyer takes Penn State defense and drops Michigan State defense

Waiver-wire overview: Most of the moves this week were simply made because our players were on bye, but there were a few exceptions. The big switched happened on Bennett's team, where he tried to upgrade at wideout by picking up Barr and sliding Kenny Bell over to his bench. Bell has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, while Barr is sure to rack up some numbers with Wes Lunt under center. Both Bennett and Rittenberg also both substituted their defenses for more favorable matchups.

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)
Purdue QB Danny Etling
Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Rutgers RB Paul James
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Penn State WR Jesse James
Ohio State kickers
Iowa defense
Bench: Michigan State QB Connor Cook (on bye)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Penn State WR Geno Lewis
Nebraska kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Rutgers QB Gary Nova (vs. Penn State)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Illinois WR Martize Barr
Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Maryland kickers
Michigan defense
Bench: Nebraska WR Kenny Bell (at Fresno State)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Penn State RB Bill Belton
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Michigan kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (on bye)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Michigan RB Derrick Green
Penn State RB Zach Zwinak
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Penn State kickers
Nebraska defense
Bench: Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford (on bye)

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