Big Ten: Howard Schnellenberger
It’s the final week of the Big Ten’s regular season, and there are still quite a few questions left to be answered: Will Tevin Coleman surpass 2,000 yards on the season? Who will face Ohio State in the Big Ten championship? Will Northwestern or Illinois find its way to bowl eligibility?
There are no night games or byes this week. So shake off that tryptophan, make another turkey sandwich – possibly to go with that bowl of turkey soup – and get that remote ready. Here’s a glance at what you should look forward to (all times ET):
Nebraska (8-3, 4-3 Big Ten) at Iowa (7-4, 4-3), ABC: Ameer Abdullah admitted he’s been frustrated the past two weeks – because of his injury and back-to-back losses – and even said matter-of-factly, “It sucks. It definitely does suck.” Bo Pelini is on the hot seat again and can’t afford a third straight loss; Kirk Ferentz wants to secure another eight-win season and have some kind of trademark Big Ten victory. (Iowa hasn’t beaten a Big Ten team with a winning record.) Something has to give.
Illinois (5-6, 2-5) at Northwestern (5-6, 3-4), ESPNU: Let the (unlikely) battle for bowl eligibility begin. Northwestern bounced back from a 3-6 record with victories over Notre Dame and Purdue, while Illinois played its best special-teams game of the year last week to beat Penn State. The Wildcats are without senior QB Trevor Siemian, who suffered a torn ACL, so their postseason hopes are pinned to backup Zack Oliver.
Purdue (3-8, 1-6) at Indiana (3-8, 0-7), BTN: Don’t let the records fool you. Sure, these are two of the worst teams – recordwise – in the Big Ten. But this one might be worth watching for no other reason than Tevin Coleman, who could be playing in the final college game of his career. Coleman needs just 94 yards to reach 2,000 on the season and he’s also a finalist for the Doak Walker Award. He might be the best running back in the nation not named Melvin Gordon.
Michigan (5-6, 3-4) at No. 6 Ohio State (10-1, 7-0), ABC: The Ga_e will always _ean so_ething special. Especially as long as Ohio State continues with its tradition of crossing off every “M” on campus. The Buckeyes are the big favorite, while the Wolverines have been a big disappointment. But nothing would make Wolverines fans happier than knocking Ohio State out of the playoff picture. Of course, Ohio State is also currently scoring an average of 24 points more per game than Michigan -- so that’s not going to be easy.
3:30 p.m. Saturday
No. 10 Michigan State (9-2, 6-1) at Penn State (6-5, 2-5), ABC: The Nittany Lions are hoping to experience some déjà vu this season. Last year, they entered their home finale as 24-point underdogs to Wisconsin and some way, somehow, came out on top in an upset. This season, they’re only 13-point underdogs. And while the Penn State defense is historically good this season, the offense is historically bad. Michigan State, on the other hand, is a well-rounded team that’s fighting for a trip to one of the New Year’s Six bowl games.
No. 18 Minnesota (8-3, 5-2) at No. 14 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1), BTN: It all comes down to this in the West. The winner will advance to the Big Ten title game to face Ohio State; the loser will have to lament watching it from the dorms. Gordon needs just 1 yard to break the Big Ten single-season rushing record, and Minnesota’s David Cobb is “very questionable” for the contest. Jerry Kill is arguably the front-runner for Big Ten Coach of the Year and, if he pulls this out, we can probably take “arguably” away from that sentence. This is a must-watch.
Rutgers (6-5, 2-5) at Maryland (7-4, 4-3), ESPNU: Both teams have met or exceeded expectations this season, but it’s been a difficult second half for Rutgers. After starting 5-1, the Scarlet Knights have won just one of their past five and have looked really overmatched against the B1G’s best. Maryland has looked like the better team – and beat both Iowa and Penn State – but Rutgers would like to change the conversation here. A victory for either team would go a long way; Rutgers could grab some second-half respect or Maryland could climb its way to a better bowl.
- Week 14 predictions | Bold calls | Awards tracker
- B1G sweeps Doak, has other finalists
- Big Ten backs deliver historic season
- Heisman debate: Mariota vs. Gordon
- Last hurrah with Hoosiers for Tevin Coleman?
- Tale of the tape: Minnesota vs. Wisconsin
- It's Michigan week in Columbus
- Michigan, Hoke hope to end on a high note
- Ohio State in great position for stretch run
- Planning for success: Michigan State
- Kenny Bell's Nebraska career full of fun, heartbreak
Schad reports that Pelini is expected to be introduced at Florida Atlantic on Monday. Pelini will replace Howard Schnellenberger, who announced before the season that he planned to retire and will coach his final game Saturday when the 1-10 Owls host Louisiana-Monroe. Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne was among those who recommended Pelini for the job.
It will be interesting to see where Nebraska coach Bo Pelini looks to replace his older brother on staff. The Pelini brothers helped bring Nebraska's defense to prominence in 2009 and 2010, and the unit had its good moments this year but also dealt with some puzzling inconsistency.
Former Arizona coach Mike Stoops was among the candidates Carl Pelini beat out for the FAU job, Schad reports. Stoops confirmed he has had discussions with new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer about a position on the Buckeyes staff. It will be interesting if Bo Pelini makes a push for Stoops, his close friend, for the Huskers' vacancy.
Nebraska's offense should be very strong in 2012, and it will be the defense, Bo Pelini's specialty, which must makes strides after losing standouts Lavonte David and Alfonzo Dennard. This will be a very important hire for Bo.
The slate features some tricky games, a potential upset special or two, and a handful of gimmes.
Let's get picky.
IOWA at IOWA STATE
Brian Bennett: The Cyclones have barely scratched the scoreboard recently against Iowa, and I liked the way the Hawkeyes defensive line played in the opener. Feel free to sigh, Hawks ... Iowa 24, Iowa State 9
Adam Rittenberg: He's the resident comedian, folks. Be sure and tip your waitress. Speaking of tips, here's one: Go with Marcus Coker on your fantasy team. Oh, wait, I already have him. Coker rebounds with 3 touchdowns as the Hawkeyes roll. ... Iowa 27, Iowa State 13
FLORIDA ATLANTIC at NO. 17 MICHIGAN STATE
Adam Rittenberg: The Spartans have a cleaner start, limit silly penalties and rack up a bunch of rushing yards against Howard Schnellenberger's crew. B.J. Cunningham gets the receptions record in the first quarter. ... Michigan State 33, Florida Atlantic 10
Brian Bennett: Pipe down. Michigan State's offensive line shows some improvement, and the Spartans will roll into South Bend next week at 2-0. ... Michigan State 35, Florida Atlantic 7
TOLEDO at NO. 15 OHIO STATE
Brian Bennett: The Rockets pose far more of a threat than Akron, and they might catch Ohio State peeking ahead to Miami. Still, the Buckeyes defense is too much despite some offensive struggles ... Ohio State 28, Toledo 10
Adam Rittenberg: I agree, the Buckeyes can't space out against the Rockets (I know, lame), who have a good coach (Tim Beckman) and provide a much better test for Ohio State's defense. Still, I see another big game for Carlos Hyde and the Ohio State running backs ... Ohio State 31, Toledo 13
OREGON STATE at NO. 8 WISCONSIN
Adam Rittenberg: The Beavers rarely fare well in early season big games, and you have to wonder about their confidence level after the Sac State debacle. Wisconsin's defense is hungry and makes a statement. ... Wisconsin 35, Oregon State 13
Brian Bennett: I could see the Badgers taking this one too lightly with that Sacramento State score fresh in their minds. But Montee Ball and James White still run wild. ... Wisconsin 42, Oregon State 20
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE at ILLINOIS
Brian Bennett: I like South Dakota State's nickname: Jackrabbits. That's about all I like about them. Illini roll behind another big passing day from Nathan Scheelhaase ... Illinois 44, SDSU 7
Adam Rittenberg: Fear the bunnies. They nearly knocked off Minnesota in 2009. But Illinois avoids the same fate as Scheelhaase steps up more in the run game and gets help from Jason Ford. ... Illinois 40, SDSU 12
EASTERN ILLINOIS at NORTHWESTERN
Adam Rittenberg: Northwestern's offensive line builds off of a strong opening performance and gets the run game going against overmatched Eastern Illinois, while Dan Persa sits again. ... Northwestern 38, EIU 10
Brian Bennett: No Persa, no problem -- at least for another week. ... Northwestern 31, EIU 13
NEW MEXICO STATE at MINNESOTA
Brian Bennett: The Aggies are bad. Real bad. Perfect opponent for Jerry Kill's debut, as Troy Stoudermire sets Big Ten return record ... Minnesota 35, NMSU 14
Adam Rittenberg: You worry a bit about a letdown as Minnesota has been hearing how impressive they looked in the opener at USC. The Gophers start off a little slowly before MarQueis Gray and the offense surge against the Aggies. ... Minnesota 31, NMSU 13
NO. 3 ALABAMA at NO. 23 PENN STATE
Adam Rittenberg: OK, time to get serious. Penn State's defense keeps the Lions in this one, but I don't have enough faith in either Nittany Lions quarterback to predict an upset. Trent Richardson has a big fourth quarter as Alabama squeaks out a win. ... Alabama 19, Penn State 13
Brian Bennett: It sure would be great for the Big Ten if Penn State could pull this one off. Alabama's quarterback situation is a little shaky, too. But the Tide's defense is just too good against a Penn State offensive line that wasn't overly impressive against Indiana State. ... Alabama 24, Penn State 12
PURDUE at RICE
Brian Bennett: I'm putting Purdue on upset alert for the second straight week against a team that battled Texas pretty well for three quarters. For the second straight week, the Boilers eke one out, this time on a late Ralph Bolden touchdown. ... Purdue 19, Rice 16
Adam Rittenberg: Purdue has a lot to fix on both sides of the ball, but Rice doesn't seem like a team that can capitalize, even at home. Caleb TerBush builds on his late-game heroics and the defense makes enough plays to improve to 2-0. ... Purdue 26, Rice 18
VIRGINIA at INDIANA
Adam Rittenberg: Thing is, Indiana didn't look that shaky on offense in the opener. But getting pushed around by Ball State at the line of scrimmage is inexcusable. IU gets a better effort, but it's still not enough. ... Virginia 27, Indiana 17
Brian Bennett: Agree with you on all counts but think there will be more points scored, especially after the Hoosiers gave up 27 to Ball State. ... Virginia 34, Indiana 23
FRESNO STATE at NO. 10 NEBRASKA
Brian Bennett: Bo Pelini didn't sound too excited about the Cornhuskers' 40-7 opening win over Chattanooga (not that he ever sounds that excited). Nebraska has a few more hiccups on offense but shuts down the Bulldogs on defense. ... Nebraska 31, Fresno State 10
Adam Rittenberg: I agree it'll take some more time for Tim Beck's offense to click. But Fresno disappointed me in Week 1, and Pat Hill's crew isn't nearly the giant killer it once was. Rex Burkhead has a big night. ... Nebraska 33, Fresno State 14
NOTRE DAME at MICHIGAN
Adam Rittenberg: Either Notre Dame implodes or the Irish come together behind Tommy Rees and a defense that actually looks better. Call me crazy, but I think the Irish bounce back. ... Notre Dame 24, Michigan 21
Brian Bennett: Notre Dame is better than it showed against South Florida and would have won if not for a slew of turnovers. Crazy things happen in this game. But Michigan just seems to have the Irish's number, and that atmosphere will help immensely as Denard Robinson pulls off more heroics. ... Michigan 31, Notre Dame 30
Bennett: 10-2 (.833)
Rittenberg: 9-3 (.750)
- SI.com breaks down the Big Ten in 2010, posts its preseason All-Big Ten team, and Stewart Mandel looks at Michigan's seniors and their desire to go out as winners.
- CBSSports.com also has its 2010 Big Ten preview, and Dennis Dodd checks in with Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who doesn't want to be labeled just an athlete.
- As the Big Ten prepares for a nine-game league slate, Penn State has no room to put longtime rival Pitt back on the schedule, Jerry DiPaola writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Drew Astorino is the latest Penn State defensive back dealing with an injury, Bob Flounders writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.
- Bad news on the injury front for Michigan State, as offensive lineman Henry Conway reinjures his neck, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal. Spartans tight end Charlie Gantt does some serious damage in the weight room, as Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger found out, Carlos Monnarez writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez talks Tate Forcier, winged helmets and the depleted secondary, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News.
- Illinois' Mikel Leshoure accepts the running back by committee plan, but he still wants the ball, Herb Gould writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. The Illini's young players are stepping up in camp, Pete Hayes writes in The (Alton) Telegraph.
- Freshman Donnell Kirkwood is pushing Minnesota's top two running backs for the starting job, Marcus Fuller writes in the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press (subscription required).
- Indiana has designed its preseason like an NFL training camp, which means few full-pads practices, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
- The Associated Press' Rusty Miller looks at 10 questions for Ohio State this fall.
- Former Purdue quarterback Justin Siller is getting comfortable as a receiver, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Northwestern's All-Big Ten kicker, Stefan Demos, can focus on what he does best this year, Tina Akouris writes in the Chicag0 Sun-Times.
- Wisconsin offensive lineman Bill Nagy is ready to roll after a scooter accident cost him the 2009 season, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Kirk Ferentz's son James is right in the mix for Iowa's starting center spot, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Tuesday blog was a little Buckeye heavy -- apparently they have a big game this week -- so it's time to see what else happened around the league. Let's see ... bad news at Minnesota, no news at Penn State.
- Like it or not, Ohio State is carrying the Big Ten flag this weekend, though other teams also need to step up, Dave Curtis writes in The Sporting News.
- Defensive lineman Will Davis is pulling double duty for Illinois, and freshman Cory Liuget will have a big role soon up front, Stu Durando writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Illinois' opponent this week, Louisiana-Lafayette, has more important things than football on its mind, Herb Gould writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- After a strong performance against Murray State, Indiana's Marcus Thigpen wants the Hoosiers' running backs to have a greater role, Brian Hedger writes in the Gary Post-Tribune.
- Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is just 3-6 against rival Iowa State, and he's well aware of the missed opportunities, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Iowa is getting healthy for Saturday, especially in the passing game, Pat Harty writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
- Michigan's defense has the experience -- and now the speed -- to carry the load while the offense transitions, Brian Hamilton writes in the Chicago Tribune. Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis dropped in on Rich Rodriguez last year to learn about the spread offense, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Weis also said his "To hell with Michigan" comment was an homage to Bo. Whatever you say, coach.
- A lot of tough talk from Florida Atlantic this season. After coach Howard Schnellenberger dissed Texas, kick returner Jeff Blanchard, reportedly, had this to say about Michigan State: "We will score a lot against them, trust me." I didn't realize winning the Sun Belt was license to pop off. At least Spartans coach Mark Dantonio is taking a rational approach to the game, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- A season-ending injury to running back Duane Bennett and injuries to two starting offensive linemen will test undefeated Minnesota, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune. Here's a good look at the three men trying to replace Bennett, courtesy of Marcus Fuller in the Star Tribune.
- Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher is focused on limiting turnovers, even if his completion percentage suffers, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. The Wildcats need fewer dropped passes and more from defensive tackle John Gill, but the secondary finally looks solid, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald.
- A heavily criticized Ohio State team has an opportunity to change things Saturday, Pete Thamel writes in The New York Times. Many give the loser of Saturday's game an outside chance to still reach the BCS title game, but after back-to-back failures, Ohio State knows it needs to be perfect, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune. Jim Tressel in a Tommy Bahama? Pete Carroll in a sweater vest? Here's a great piece on the differences between the two coaches from The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises.
- Penn State's defensive line continues to be in flux, Frank Bodani writes in The York Daily Record. ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel and others weigh in on the impact of Penn State's most recent disciplinary lapse, John Ross writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Some funny lines from Purdue coach Joe Tiller about the Oregon matchup, though linebacker Jason Werner's latest back injury is no laughing matter, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier.
- All-America tight end Travis Beckum can't wait to make his season debut for Wisconsin at Fresno State, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Badgers linebacker Jaevery McFadden clouds mistakes with top-end speed, Mike Lucas writes in The Capital Times.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET Illinois Northwestern 12:00 PM ET Purdue Indiana 12:00 PM ET Michigan 6 Ohio State 3:30 PM ET 10 Michigan State Penn State 3:30 PM ET 18 Minnesota 14 Wisconsin 3:30 PM ET Rutgers Maryland