Big Ten: Eddie Lacy

Big Ten Wednesday mailbag

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
Big Ten football kicks off in 26 hours. Let's get you ready with a mailbag:

Josh Moyer: Hmmm ... it's a bit tricky this week since only three of 14 games don't feature huge double-digit favorites (Rutgers-Washington State, UCF-Penn State, Wisconsin-LSU). Out of those three, though, I like Wisconsin the most as an upset pick. LSU has a new quarterback and running back and its run defense shows a few cracks. The Tigers ranked 94th in the nation last season in stopping ball carriers behind the line and were No. 35 in run defense. And you know what happens when Melvin Gordon finds room on the outside (hint: touchdown). Wisconsin has fared well against better run defenses, so they should be able to keep the ball moving Saturday. We'll see if that's enough.

Josh Moyer: After a sub-par freshman campaign, it sure looks as if Derrick Green is on pace to be Michigan's feature back. Brady Hoke named him the starter, although he added that De'Veon Smith will be "1A." But if you look at how Doug Nussmeier and Brady Hoke have approached running backs since 2010, the top guy has always received at least twice as many carries as the backup. (One exception: Alabama's Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon split carries in 2012 but combined for 66.5 percent of team carries.) Green had 27 percent body fat last year and naturally looked sluggish; he's at 9 percent right now. He'll be better. As for Jabrill Peppers, count me among the believers. Devin Gardner said recently that Peppers and Devin Funchess are the best athletes on the team. That's big praise. So sure, Peppers has generated a lot of hype -- but I think he'll live up to it.

Josh Moyer: In our season predictions this morning, I was the only Big Ten reporter to pick Minnesota to win fewer than six games. Everyone else said six or seven. I'll admit I waffled slightly between choosing five and six wins, but the Minnesota passing game -- or lack thereof -- really concerns me. The Gophers ranked No. 105 in the nation last season in total offense and, without a playmaker like Ra'Shede Hageman on defense, I'm not yet sold on the defense being as good as last year. In some ways, last season's 8-5 record was a best-case scenario -- especially with surprising wins against Penn State and Nebraska, and close wins against Norhtwestern and Indiana. When I look at this season's schedule, I see seven losses: at TCU, at Michigan, Northwestern, Iowa, Ohio State, at Nebraska, and at Wisconsin. Northwestern was the toss-up for me but, as it stands, I see the Wildcats winning a close one.

Josh Moyer: It's the biggest question mark on the team, and I think it's going to be the determining factor in whether Penn State finds success. I picked the Nittany Lions to win seven games and, honestly, I think that's even slightly optimistic with this line. (Two players who were defensive tackles in February are now starting inside as offensive guards, and absent is basically any quality depth.) This offense has for which to be excited: Christian Hackenberg, two terrific running backs, my pick for B1G tight end of the year and a plethora of talented young wideouts. The only thing that's missing is a solid O-line -- and all the talent in the world doesn't mean anything if Hackenberg and Co. can't find time. If last season's O-line returned, I might even pick Penn State to win 10 games. The potential is there, but the offensive line is going to act as the cap. 

Big Ten Friday mailblog

April, 5, 2013
Some questions and answers before the weekend ...

Antonio from Omaha writes: As I read Brian's article "Huskers take aim at turnover problem" earlier, it hit me how much an impact a team's offensive success or failure has on it's defense, and vice versa, but in a different light. Although the defensive letdowns at Ohio State and in the BIG 10 Championship game last year absolutely cannot be traced back to the offense being "too successful", is there any reason not to think that Nebraska offense SHOULDN'T go at a faster pace this year because it'll put the young and inexperienced defense on the field more? Call me biased and optimistic, but I just see this offense having the experience to be one of the best in the nation, esp if they improve their turnover issues, and could be a threat to put points on the board every time they have possession. Although I don't worry about putting up 35+ points by halftime in some of the nonconference games on the schedule, teams like Michigan and UCLA, who could turn around and score all over a young defense, make me think whether a slower offensive pace would be a beneficial team strategy ...

Adam Rittenberg: Antonio, this is a very interesting issue in college football right now as so many teams are trying to go faster on offense, in large part because of Oregon's success. I remember talking with Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges about this, and he did a study on how offensive tempo impacted a team's defense. Not surprisingly, he found that the faster teams go, the worse their defenses perform because those units are always on the field. So you want to be cognizant of that and careful. On the flip side, you don't want to hurt yourself by slowing down to save your shaky defense. As Nebraska offensive coordinator Tim Beck once told me, "We want to play in that high tempo as much as we can. Our players seem to play well that way, our quarterback in particular. Taylor [Martinez], the game comes easier to him for some reason when we're playing fast." I think there's a balance and Nebraska can slow things down at times, but the Huskers don't want to go away from what makes their offense so dangerous.

Tom from Berkeley, Calif., writes: What would your thoughts be on an agreement with the P12 and involved bowls where the B1G sent their #3 team to the Holiday in even years and their 6 or 7 to the Kraft Fight Hunger in odd years? By getting teams at different 'levels' less likely for repeats or rematches, and when it does happen they'd be in different locations. B1G gets a second California bowl each year (three might be too many). Travelling fans could consider catching two.

Adam Rittenberg: Always great to hear from my hometown, Tom. I completely agree with the idea of having a second Big Ten bowl team in California each year. Your plan makes sense, although I wonder if the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl appeals enough to the Big Ten or its fans. It's a long trip for a fairly low-tier bowl, although the Bay Area is an attractive destination. The Holiday Bowl, meanwhile, carries a little more prestige, and there's mutual interest between the two groups. I would be in favor of adding both games on a rotational basis, and your point about eliminating repeats is a good one. But it ultimately comes down to how the Big Ten views the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Jim from Racine, Wis., writes: So with the mess at Rutgers...what is the take of the Big Ten Commish? Did they make a mistake? Sounds like Rutgers is really messed up educationally and leadership wise.......Should Big Ten Reconsider ? Also how in the heck did Smith dodge a bullet at Ohio States mess.

Adam Rittenberg: Check out the previous post for the Big Ten's take on Rutgers. No real surprises, as Jim Delany acknowledges Mike Rice's conduct was unacceptable and Rutgers made some mistakes, but the school's future membership hasn't been questioned. As Delany points out, Rutgers isn't the first Big Ten school to deal with personnel issues involving a coach's conduct (see: Knight, Bobby). The difference between Tim Pernetti and Gene Smith is that Pernetti had knowledge of Rice's conduct problems, while Smith wasn't aware that Jim Tressel knew about the Tat-5.

Chris from New Haven, Conn., writes: Adam - I have heard a lot about how Michigan finally looks fast after having been in the same system now for the third year. After having seen Michigan practice do they appear faster, especially on defense? What one player on each side of the ball has stood out as impact players?

Adam Rittenberg: Chris, there definitely seems to be more team speed at Michigan, not only in the back seven but with linemen like Mario Ojemudia, a lean body who has good burst off of the edge. Linebacker James Ross is another defender generating buzz. He has good closing speed. The coaching staff sounds very excited about young cornerback Dymonte Thomas, one of the team's fastest players. Offensively, the Wolverines have good speed at receiver with Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo, and I'm interested to see if Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh can make an impact this season. I think they'll have a real chance.

Matt from Wausau, Wis., writes: Adam, this Rb draft class seems to be a real head-scratcher to me. I've been tearing through inside draft profiles both here and on other sites and it seems Eddie Lacy is the consensus top pick for RB's. I'll concede he may have better top-end speed then Montee Ball, but in every other facet of a RB profile, Ball is heads and tails above Lacy and everyone else. The other thing that bugs me is Lacy had a better OL this year, and worse numbers than Ball. Would someone stop this insanity and actually declare Ball the top back in the draft?

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, you know Brian and I are huge fans of Montee Ball, but how is he better than Lacy in "every other facet of a RB profile?" Does he have more power? I don't think so. Does he break more tackles? I saw Lacy break plenty during his Alabama career. Sure, Lacy played behind a better offensive line than Ball did last season, but he also did plenty of damage in the open field, particularly in big games. Lacy also wasn't featured as much as Ball. He had no game with more than 20 carries and just eight games with 15 or more carries. In those eight contests, Lacy averaged 123.5 yards per game. Ball certainly helped himself at Wisconsin's pro day and will be a very good NFL back in my view. But I think you're selling Lacy short.

MrVandy from Bethlehem, Pa., writes: Adam, I totally understand why Michigan State is not an option for the west division even though they would make the most sense competitivewise. With an odd number in each division, if we are to end the season with Big Ten teams playing each other, there will have to be one crossover game on that date. If we want to be consistent from year to year and als end with rivalries, of MSU is in the west the only constant crossover would be Michigan, and we all know they already have a partner for that Saturday. Otherwise, MSU would be stuck rotating with Penn St., Rutgers, and Maryland (and those teams would also rotate each other). That's why Purdue or Indiana must go west. Lastly, since the divisions will be aligned geographically, can we send you over to cover the west division, while Brian covers the east division?

Adam Rittenberg: So you're just trying to get rid of me, Vandy? I see how it is. We won't be splitting up the division coverage, so you're stuck with both of us covering the whole league. But you bring up a good point about the odd number of teams in the divisions and how it impacts the schedule for the final regular-season Saturday. You couldn't have Michigan-MSU on that date, so Purdue-Indiana is a good option. I also think the Big Ten loses less by having a weaker schedule rotation for Purdue or Indiana than it does with bigger brands like Michigan and Michigan State.

KMan from Baltimore writes: Adam,A couple questions/comments - as you did yesterday w/ Michigan State, will either you or Brian be doing a live blog from PSU this spring? Second, my pick for PSU's breakout player in 2013 is wideout Eugene Lewis. With measurables comparable to star receiver Allen Robinson, I've heard nothing but good things. He should complement Robinson nicely along with Moseby-Felder this season. In terms of the slot, I feel this is perfect spot for Bill Belton given his shiftiness and athleticism, much like his role in late 2011. I don't see him succeeding at tailback. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Neither Brian nor I will be going to Penn State this spring, but our colleague Ivan Maisel will be there early next week. Look out for a possible live blog from Ivan. Lewis is a good call for potential breakout player, as the Lions need at least another receiver to emerge, even though they have Robinson and tremendous depth at the tight end position. I know Bill O'Brien is excited about the younger receivers like Lewis, Trevor Williams and Alex Kenney. As for Belton, I wouldn't give up on him at running back just yet, although slot receiver could be an option down the line. A lot depends on how he competes with the other backs like Zach Zwinak and Akeel Lynch.

Big Ten picks rewind: Week 1

September, 4, 2012
It's time to look back at our Week 1 predictions for the Big Ten and see how our forecasts fared. Like the Big Ten itself, Bennett and I both went 10-2. And like the league, we both could have done a lot better with our scores.

Here we go ...


Brian Bennett: 10-2
Adam Rittenberg: 10-2

Minnesota at UNLV
  • Bennett's pick: Minnesota 21, UNLV 17
  • Rittenberg's pick: Minnesota 31, UNLV 23
  • Actual score: Minnesota 30, UNLV 27 (3 OT)
  • 20-20 hindsight: I correctly pegged Minnesota reaching the 30-point mark for the first time in the Jerry Kill era, while Bennett forecast two touchdown passes for Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray and came close on the victory margin. We both expected a cleaner performance from Minnesota in Vegas.
Boise State at Michigan State
  • Bennett's pick: Michigan State 17, Boise State 14
  • Rittenberg's pick: Michigan State 20, Boise State 16
  • Actual score: Michigan State 17, Boise State 13
  • 20-20 hindsight: Bennett nearly fired the first bull's-eye pick of the year, and both of us had this game pegged pretty well. I expected a bit more from Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell, but the Michigan State defense lived up to the hype in its season debut.
Northwestern at Syracuse
  • Bennett's pick: Northwestern 33, Syracuse 30 (OT)
  • Rittenberg's pick: Syracuse 35, Northwestern 31
  • Actual score: Northwestern 42, Syracuse 41
  • 20-20 hindsight: As expected, this one turned into a shootout, one that both of us underestimated a bit with our score picks. Although I correctly pegged struggles for Northwestern's young secondary and a big day for Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib (470 pass yards), the Wildcats rallied for a win. Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter came up one touchdown pass shy of Bennett's prediction (3).
Ohio at Penn State
  • Bennett's pick: Penn State 20, Ohio 10
  • Rittenberg's pick: Penn State 20, Ohio 13
  • Actual score: Ohio 24, Penn State 14
  • 20-20 hindsight: My pick looked pretty good at halftime as Penn State stormed out to a 14-3 lead. I also correctly forecast a big second half for Ohio's Tyler Tettleton, although he made the game-winning touchdown strike, not Penn State's Matt McGloin. Bennett's predictions of a Penn State defensive shutout after halftime and a late Bill Belton touchdown run didn't come to fruition.
Western Michigan at Illinois
  • Bennett's pick: Western Michigan 34, Illinois 31
  • Rittenberg's pick: Illinois 27, Western Michigan 24
  • Actual score: Illinois 24, Western Michigan 7
  • 20-20 hindsight: Another swing and a miss for Mr. Bennett, and while I nearly nailed Illinois' score, we both thought Alex Carder and the Western Michigan offense would perform a lot better in Champaign. Illinois' injuries in the secondary didn't hurt the squad as the defense shut down the Broncos. Illini running back Josh Ferguson had only 38 rush yards, falling short of my forecast.
Miami (Ohio) at Ohio State
  • Bennett's pick: Ohio State 28, Miami (Ohio) 7
  • Rittenberg's pick: Ohio State 34, Miami (Ohio) 10
  • Actual score: Ohio State 56, Miami (Ohio) 10
  • 20-20 hindsight: We both underestimated the prowess of Urban Meyer's offense, which, after a slow start, destroyed Miami in the final three quarters. It was hardly a "so-so offensive showing," as Bennett predicted. Braxton Miller only found two different receivers for touchdowns, not three as I had predicted, but he also added a 65-yard scoring scamper of his own.
Iowa vs. Northern Illinois (at Chicago)
  • Bennett's pick: Iowa 23, Northern Illinois 20
  • Rittenberg's pick: Iowa 31, Northern Illinois 27
  • Actual score: Iowa 18, Northern Illinois 17
  • 20-20 hindsight: Bennett came closer on the score prediction, but both of us whiffed on pegging Iowa's offensive stars. Quarterback James Vandenberg passed for only 129 yards, 171 fewer than I thought he would, while it was Damon Bullock, not Greg Garmon, who keyed the Hawkeyes' rushing attack with 150 yards and the game-winning touchdown.
Eastern Kentucky at Purdue
  • Bennett's pick: Purdue 35, Eastern Kentucky 13
  • Rittenberg's pick: Purdue 31, Eastern Kentucky 9
  • Actual score: Purdue 48, Eastern Kentucky 6
  • 20-20 hindsight: We both came fairly close on the Colonels' score, but Purdue's offensive firepower exceeded our forecast. Neither Akeem Shavers nor Raheem Mostert had the big performances we thought they would, but a good collective effort from the Boilers helped them to a very easy win.
Southern Miss at Nebraska
  • Bennett's pick: Nebraska 31, Southern Miss 14
  • Rittenberg's pick: Nebraska 35, Southern Miss 17
  • Actual score: Nebraska 49, Southern Miss 20
  • 20-20 hindsight: Again, we ended up closer on the score prediction for the losing squad than the victorious one, although neither of us pegged this game to be particularly close. As we both predicted, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez looked a lot more comfortable and eclipsed Bennett's prediction of 65 percent completions with 76.5 percent. Rex Burkhead could have made Bennett's prediction of 150 rush yards come true if he didn't suffer a sprained knee in the first quarter.
Northern Iowa at Wisconsin
  • Bennett's pick: Wisconsin 42, Northern Iowa 10
  • Rittenberg's pick: Wisconsin 38, Northern Iowa 17
  • Actual score: Wisconsin 26, Northern Iowa 21
  • 20-20 hindsight: About the only prediction either of us pegged was Bennett forecasting only three incomplete passes for new Wisconsin quarterback Danny O'Brien, who had just four misfires. The Badgers had only one rushing touchdown -- four fewer than I predicted -- and had a much more difficult Saturday than anyone expected on their home field.
Indiana State at Indiana
  • Bennett's pick: Indiana 27, Indiana State 17 Rittenberg's pick: Indiana 34, Indiana State 20
  • Actual score: Indiana 24, Indiana State 17
  • 20-20 hindsight: Bennett came close on the score prediction, and my call for three Tre Roberson touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) fell one pass touchdown short. As we thought, the Hoosiers passed the ball better as Roberson completed 26 of 36 attempts with no interceptions as IU recorded its first win since last September.
Michigan vs. Alabama (at Arlington, Texas)
  • Bennett's pick: Alabama 27, Michigan 14
  • Rittenberg's pick: Alabama 30, Michigan 17
  • Actual score: Alabama 41, Michigan 14
  • 20-20 hindsight: Well, at least we had Michigan's points total and Alabama's line-of-scrimmage edge pegged, but both of us underestimated the Tide offense and Alabama's overall dominance in this game. I expected Eddie Lacy to be Alabama's dominant back, but it was T.J. Yeldon who had the best day on the ground (11 rushes, 111 yards, 1 touchdown).

The bright lights and the big stage certainly didn't affect the focus of the defending champs, as No. 2 Alabama routed No. 8 Michigan 41-14 on Saturday inside Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Alabama's defense might be younger, but it didn't flinch against Michigan's flashy spread offense. The Tide's defense smothered the Wolverines, holding them to 268 total yards, forcing Michigan to go 3-of-12 on third downs and creating three turnovers.

Alabama's offense was equally impressive. The Tide showed tremendous balance, as quarterback AJ McCarron passed for 199 yards and two touchdowns, while true freshman running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 111 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.

It was over when: This one got away from Michigan early, but you could really feel this one was officially out of hand after Alabama running back Eddie Lacy bullied his way into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 with 1:24 left in the first quarter.

Game ball goes to: Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart called a near-perfect game against an offense many thought would give the Tide issues. Smart and his players were more than prepared against Denard Robinson and that spread. Robinson was all over the place with some of his early passes, and was pressured and contained by Alabama's front seven for most of the night, basically taking him out of the game.

Stat of the game: Michigan didn't give up more than 40 points in any game last season. The Wolverines surrendered 41 points Saturday night and gave up 31 by halftime.

Unsung hero: There was a lot of talk about what Alabama's defense would do, especially the secondary. That put a lot on the shoulders of senior cornerback Dee Milliner. But he made quite the statement Saturday. He showed lockdown ability, knocked passes away and came away with his own interception. He's certainly the leader of this group.

What it means for Alabama: People wondered what the defending champs had in the tank with the pieces they lost on defense, and Alabama delivered a monstrous punch. It was only one game and SEC play hasn't started, but Alabama yet again looks very strong on both sides of the ball. That's a scary thought for the rest of the country ... and the SEC.

What it means for Michigan: This wasn't Robinson's best game, and there were a few plays in the first half that should have been made. But the Wolverines likely won't play a defense as dominating as Alabama's from here on out. The other good news is that suspended Fitzgerald Toussaint and defensive end Frank Clark will return. This team can still make a run in the Big Ten.

Video: Alabama's O vs. Michigan's D

August, 31, 2012

Michael Rothstein from WolverineNation and Alex Scarborough from TideNation break down what Michigan’s defense will try to do to stop AJ McCarron, Eddie Lacy, and the Alabama offense.
It's prediction time!

The 2012 season kicks off Thursday night -- in Big Ten country, it means Minnesota-UNLV in Vegas -- and your fearless forecasters are ready for another season of brilliance (or buffoonery). Brian Bennett looked nothing like a Big Ten neophyte in 2011, claiming the regular-season and postseason titles. But a new season brings a new opportunity and a chance for Adam Rittenberg to rebound.

We're raising the stakes this season. The loser buys the winner dinner at St. Elmo in Indianapolis during Big Ten championship weekend. The loser also will post a poem on the blog encapsulating the winner's awesomeness.

All 12 Big Ten squads are in action this weekend, so let's get to the picks ...



Brian Bennett: The Gophers win on 21 in Vegas. MarQueis Gray throws for two scores and runs for another to get Year 2 of the Jerry Kill era off to a lively start. ... Minnesota 21, UNLV 17

Adam Rittenberg: Minnesota flexes its muscles on offense and eclipses 30 points for the first time in the Kill era. Gray and the Gophers hope what happens in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas. ... Minnesota 31, UNLV 23



Adam Rittenberg: Both defenses show up to play, and the team that makes the fewest mistakes prevails on a big stage. Andrew Maxwell delivers a strong second-half performance, and Johnny Adams records an interception in the closing minutes to seal a big win for the Spartans. ... Michigan State 20, Boise State 16

Brian Bennett: It's an old-fashioned slugfest as two stout defenses battle it out against offenses led by rookie starters at quarterback. The Spartans' D is just a little better, and a late Dan Conroy field goal makes the difference. ... Michigan State 17, Boise State 14



Brian Bennett: In one of the most exciting games of the weekend, the Wildcats survive in overtime when Syracuse misses a field goal. Kain Colter throws three touchdown passes. ... Northwestern 33, Syracuse 30 (OT)

Adam Rittenberg: Tough one to predict as Northwestern hasn't lost an opener under Pat Fitzgerald and typically plays well away from home. But it'll take the Wildcats' young secondary some time to get settled, and Ryan Nassib and his receivers will make enough plays to win a shootout. ... Syracuse 35, Northwestern 31


Adam Rittenberg: Penn State rides the emotion of a historic opener to an early lead and then relies on its defense, led by Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti, to stay in front. Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton makes some plays in the second half, but the Lions prevail thanks to a fourth-quarter touchdown pass by Matthew McGloin to Allen Robinson. ... Penn State 20, Ohio 13

Brian Bennett: The Nittany Lions trail at halftime, but the defense gets its emotions in check and pitches a shutout in the second half. A late Bill Belton touchdown run seals Bill O'Brien's first victory. ... Penn State 20, Ohio 10


Adam Rittenberg: Illinois' banged-up secondary really concerns me, especially against a good quarterback such as Western Michigan's Alex Carder. But the Illini defensive front seven will do enough to fluster Carder, and running back Josh Ferguson keys a good second-half effort from the offense as Illinois survives. ... Illinois 27, Western Michigan 24

Brian Bennett: Upset special. The Broncos have a star quarterback in Carder and plenty of familiarity with both the Illini -- whom they played tough in Champaign last year -- and former MAC coach Tim Beckman. They spoil Beckman's debut in a shootout. ... Western Michigan 34, Illinois 31


Brian Bennett: A dominating defensive performance highlights the first game of the Urban Meyer era. The Buckeyes get a pick-six and a blocked punt to make up for a so-so offensive showing. ... Ohio State 28, Miami (Ohio) 7

Adam Rittenberg: Braxton Miller connects with three receivers for a touchdown, and Johnathan Hankins keys a strong defensive effort as the Buckeyes roll in Meyer's debut. ... Ohio State 34, Miami (Ohio) 10


Adam Rittenberg: I'm tempted to pick the Huskies, but James Vandenberg will do enough to get Iowa over the hump in an exciting game along the shores of Lake Michigan. Vandenberg eclipses 300 passing yards as the Hawkeyes rally for a win against the defending MAC champs. ... Iowa 31, Northern Illinois 27

Brian Bennett: The Hawkeyes survive a scare at Soldier Field from a game Northern Illinois team. Rookie Greg Garmon has a breakout performance with 80 yards rushing and a long TD, and Iowa needs every bit of it. ... Iowa 23, Northern Illinois 20


Brian Bennett: Danny Hope's alma mater is no match for his current team as the Boilers cruise past their Football Championship Subdivision foe. Raheem Mostert returns a kickoff for a touchdown to break the game open. ... Purdue 35, Eastern Kentucky 13

Adam Rittenberg: The Boilers' defense comes out strong as Ryan Russell sparks a big day from the defensive line. Akeem Shavers rushes for 150 yards as Purdue cruises in its opener. ... Purdue 31, Eastern Kentucky 9


Adam Rittenberg: A more composed Taylor Martinez delivers an efficient passing performance and breaks off a 60-yard touchdown run to spark the Huskers in the second half. Ciante Evans records an interception as Nebraska starts slowly but finishes well. ... Nebraska 35, Southern Miss 17

Brian Bennett: The Huskers avoid a repeat of 2004 with encouraging outings by both the defense and an improved Martinez. The latter completes 65 percent of his passes, and Rex Burkhead runs for 150 yards to usher in the revamped Memorial Stadium in style. ... Nebraska 31, Southern Miss 14


Brian Bennett: The Badgers don't lose at Camp Randall and won't need to sweat much against the FCS Panthers. Montee Ball scores three touchdowns before sitting most of the second half, and Danny O'Brien throws only three incompletions in his Wisconsin debut. ... Wisconsin 42, Northern Iowa 10

Adam Rittenberg: The FCS Panthers are no pushover, and they take an early lead at Camp Randall before Wisconsin takes control. O'Brien has a few early hiccups but settles down, and running backs Ball, James White and Melvin Gordon combine for five rushing touchdowns. ... Wisconsin 38, Northern Iowa 17


Adam Rittenberg: The Hoosiers display a more balanced offense as Tre Roberson throws for two touchdowns and rushes for another. The defense has a few breakdowns but finds itself in the second half as IU pulls away from the Sycamores. ... Indiana 34, Indiana State 20

Brian Bennett: The Hoosiers' passing game shows improvement as Roberson connects with Ted Bolser on a pair of scores. Indiana wins its first game since last September. ... Indiana 27, Indiana State 17

No. 8 MICHIGAN vs. No. 2 ALABAMA (at Arlington, Texas)

Brian Bennett: The Wolverines score first on a Denard Robinson big play, but it's pretty much all Tide after that as Alabama's superiority in the trenches takes over. ... Alabama 27, Michigan 14

Adam Rittenberg: Michigan can't match Alabama at the line of scrimmage as Tide running back Eddie Lacy has a big day on the ground. Robinson briefly rallies the Wolverines in the second half before an interception turns the momentum and Alabama pulls away. ... Alabama 30, Michigan 17