Big Ten: Jared Goff

Guiton makes most of debut as a starter

September, 15, 2013
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Kenny Guiton had waited -- and prepared -- for the opportunity to start at quarterback for Ohio State for more than four years.

Boarding the plane to California, he sensed that opportunity was upon him -- he had practiced with the first team all week -- but it wasn't until coach Urban Meyer made it official on game day that he knew for sure.

"When I got the nod and everything, I was ready to go," Guiton said.

[+] EnlargeKenny Guiton
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesKenny Guiton had a career-best passing day in Ohio State's win over Cal.
Was he ever.

Stepping in for Braxton Miller (who remained sidelined with a sprained medial collateral ligament he suffered last week against San Diego State), Guiton turned in a brilliant performance, leading No. 4 Ohio State (3-0) to a 52-34 win over California (1-2).

Buckeyes fans did their part in making it a welcoming atmosphere for Guiton, as nearly half the sold-out crowd of 62,467 at Cal's Memorial Stadium came decked in scarlet and gray.

"That was tremendous," Guiton said. "That's one thing Coach Meyer just told us about. We're blessed. We're all the way on the West Coast, and we have half the stadium filled with scarlet and gray."

It didn't take long for the crowd to sound decidedly pro-Buckeyes.

After Cal opened with a three-and-out, Ohio State needed just two plays to take a 7-0 lead, as Guiton found Devin Smith for a 90-yard touchdown -- the longest play from scrimmage in Ohio State history.

Less than a minute of game clock had ticked away before Ohio State got it back, and again, the Buckeyes needed just a pair of snaps to find the end zone, this one capped by a 47-yard pass from Guiton to Smith.

Four offensive plays, 167 yards of offense and a 14-0 lead less than four minutes in.

By the time it was over, Guiton had completed 21 of 32 passes for 276 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Not bad for a fifth-year senior who had just 317 career passing yards coming in. He also added 92 yards rushing on 14 carries as Ohio State piled up 608 yards of total offense.

Braxton who?

OK, maybe that's a stretch, but Saturday's result couldn't have been much more lopsided for the Buckeyes if their Heisman hopeful had been on the field.

At minimum, Guiton's play Saturday -- and in long relief in the Buckeyes' 42-7 win against San Diego State -- gives Meyer more to consider when putting together his game plans.

"I think [Guiton] will be in the game a little bit [when Miller returns]," Meyer said. "[Guiton] has been throwing the ball better than he has and throwing the ball downfield, so that's something I'll need to think about."

Despite the loss, Cal true freshman quarterback Jared Goff continued a torrid pace to the start of his career. The nation's leading passer coming in finished 31-of-53 for 371 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He became the first Cal quarterback since Aaron Rodgers in 2003 to throw for more than 300 yards in three consecutive games.

Afterward, Meyer made a point to find Goff and convey to the 18-year-old just how impressed he was.

"I'm glad we're not playing them for a while," Meyer said. "That quarterback is a good player, and that tempo and style of offense -- you can see why they led the nation at Louisiana Tech and why they lead the nation right now in throwing."

Three games into the Sonny Dykes era at Cal, and the Golden Bears already have adopted the reputation of Dykes' teams at Louisiana Tech: all offense, no defense.

And that doesn't bode well for Cal's first road game of the season in two weeks at Oregon.

Cal has been torched for 556.3 yards and 42 points a game through three games, and those numbers don't figure to improve after a trip to Autzen Stadium, where Cal plays a Ducks team averaging 672 yards and 61.3 points through its first three games.

"It will be a challenge, but our guys will be excited to play, and when you are playing against a good offense, defense or team, you get excited to play," Dykes said. "Your guys are fired up, and we know we are going to be challenged and get better."

Big Ten Week 3 primer

September, 14, 2013
Are you ready for Week 3 in the Big Ten? You had better be, as it's easily the best slate of nonconference games this season.

To get you ready for the big day -- and long night -- let's go through the vitals ...

Noon ET

Bowling Green at Indiana (ESPNU): After a disappointing loss to Navy, Indiana's challenge only gets tougher against Bowling Green, which has dominated its first two opponents. The Hoosiers' defense must tighten up against a more conventional offense led by running back Travis Greene. It will be interesting to see if Indiana coach Kevin Wilson actually uses Tre Roberson more at quarterback or sticks mainly with Nate Sudfeld.

Akron at No. 11 Michigan (Big Ten Network): Quarterback Devin Gardner tries to build on his five-touchdown performance against Notre Dame as the Wolverines face an Akron team that hasn't beaten an FBS opponent since 2010. Coach Brady Hoke wants to see a cleaner performance from his defense against the seemingly overmatched Zips.

Western Illinois at Minnesota (BTN): Yawn. The Gophers continue their march of cupcakes and should have little trouble improving to 3-0. Their main objective is sparking a passing attack that has produced just 226 yards in two games. Minnesota wide receiver Jamel Harbison returns from suspension.

No. 16 UCLA at No. 23 Nebraska (ABC): It's the biggest matchup on the Big Ten slate and one of the better quarterback pairings in the nation as UCLA's Brett Hundley leads his team against Taylor Martinez and the Huskers. Hundley torched Nebraska last year as UCLA piled up 653 yards in a 36-30 win. He doesn't have running back Johnathan Franklin by his side, however, and Huskers defensive end Randy Gregory looks to apply pressure. Martinez needs more signature wins to go along with his record-setting numbers, and this would be a big one. Both teams will wear helmet decals honoring Nick Pasquale, the UCLA wide receiver killed in an accident last weekend.

2 p.m. ET

Youngstown State at Michigan State (BTN): The Spartans' quarterback quandary continues, and it could be freshman Damion Terry's turn to try and get a troubled offense on track. Connor Cook will start under center, but fan favorite Terry might make his collegiate debut. Shilique Calhoun and Michigan State's lockdown defense faces a Youngstown State team averaging 47.5 points and 579 yards per game.

6 p.m. ET

Iowa at Iowa State (FOX Sports 1): It's only Sept. 14, but Iowa faces a virtual must-win against Iowa State, which has won the teams' past two meetings and owns a 5-2 record against Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium. If the Hawkeyes fall Saturday, it's hard to see them reaching a bowl with a tough Big Ten schedule ahead. Iowa's best bet is to get Mark Weisman and the run game going against a Cyclones defense that allowed 228 yards on the ground in its season-opening loss to FCS Northern Iowa.

UCF at Penn State (BTN): Lions second-year coach Bill O'Brien faces off against his former boss and mentor George O'Leary in a sneaky good matchup in Happy Valley. Penn State's defense will be tested by UCF quarterback Blake Bortles, whom O'Brien expects to play in the NFL. Penn State freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg must limit mistakes against a dangerous Knights defense.

Washington vs. Illinois (BTN): A surprising start for Illinois could turn into much more if it knocks off an experienced and talented Washington squad in its "Chicago Homecoming" game. Washington star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins returns from suspension and will be a load for Mason Monheim and the Illini defense. Illinois hopes to crank up its big-play offense early and often after recording 17 plays of 20 yards or more in the first two games, fifth most in the country.

7 p.m. ET

No. 4 Ohio State at California (FOX): Junior quarterback Braxton Miller (sprained knee) traveled to Berkeley but will be a game-time decision. If Miller can't go, backup Kenny Guiton will lead the offense against a leaky Cal defense that has surrendered 1,061 yards in its first two games. Golden Bears freshman quarterback Jared Goff, the nation's passing leader at 467.5 yards per game, will challenge cornerback Bradley Roby and the Ohio State secondary.

8 p.m. ET

No. 21 Notre Dame at Purdue (ABC): The Fighting Irish try to rebound from a frustrating loss to Michigan, while Purdue hopes to jump start the Darrell Hazell era after a poor start. A mismatch on paper, Purdue's spotty offensive line must contain Notre Dame star front men Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt. The Irish have captured the teams' past five meetings.

9 p.m. ET

Western Michigan at No. 17 Northwestern (BTN): Despite the continued absence of star running back Venric Mark, Northwestern's offense marches on after an impressive showing last week against Syracuse. Quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian combined to complete 22 of 24 passes in the first half of last week's game and face a Western Michigan team that fell last week to Nicholls State. Northwestern needs to tighten up defensively before Ohio State comes to town Oct. 5. Tonight would be a good time to start.

10:30 p.m. ET

No. 20 Wisconsin at Arizona State (ESPN): The last game of the day could be among the best, as two teams that have looked dominant against poor competition square off. Wisconsin's defense hasn't allowed a point but should be pushed by Arizona State's potent offense led by quarterback Taylor Kelly, who has 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last four games. Wisconsin running backs James White, Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement all have at least 250 rush yards and will try to control the clock and the tempo against a Sun Devils team that is 8-0 against the Big Ten at home.

  • Bloomington, Ind: Sunny, 64-70 degrees, winds at 4-5 mph
  • Ann Arbor, Mich.: Mostly sunny, 61-66 degrees, winds at 4-6 mph
  • Minneapolis: Mostly cloudy, showers possible late in game, 64-70 degrees, winds at 10-12 mph
  • Lincoln, Neb.: Partly cloudy with a 30 percent chance of rain, 67-75 degrees, winds at 16-19 mph
  • East Lansing, Mich.: Mostly sunny, 62-66 degrees, winds at 6-7 mph
  • Ames, Iowa: Partly to mostly cloudy, 66-72 degrees, winds at 13-16 mph
  • Chicago: Mostly sunny, 61-69 degrees, winds at 8-9 mph
  • Berkeley, Calif.: Mostly sunny, 61-68 degrees, winds at 12-15 mph
  • West Lafayette, Ind.: Mostly clear, 52-63 degrees, winds at 3-4 mph
  • Evanston, Ill.: Partly cloudy, 61-68 degrees, winds at 8 mph
  • Tempe, Ariz.: Clear skies, 91-97 degrees, winds at 4 mph

And, finally, check out some of our top posts from this week ...

Northwestern lost quarterback Kain Colter minutes into Saturday's game and never had full use of star running back Venric Mark.

One of the nation's most dynamic offensive backfields wouldn't be a factor in a tricky road opener against Cal and its potent "Bear Raid" offense.

So what did Northwestern do? It found another way to win. Linebacker Collin Ellis recorded two interceptions for touchdowns, tight end Dan Vitale sparked the passing game and third-string running back Treyvon Green stepped up for Mark on the ground.

Aaaand ... there might have been a few injury flops involved.

It added up to an exhausting 44-30 Northwestern victory against a plucky Cal team that gave the 22nd-ranked Wildcats all they could handle. Bears true freshman quarterback Jared Goff passed for 445 yards and two touchdowns, but he showed his age with three second-half interceptions, including the game-changer, which Ellis returned 56 yards to the end zone late in the third quarter.

Ellis, who beat out Drew Smith for Northwestern's third starting linebacker spot, was all over the field in an effort that at least will earn him Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Northwestern also generated a decent pass rush, and safety Ibraheim Campbell picked off Goff in the closing minutes.

Cal made plenty of plays, attacking through the air with talented receivers Chris Harper (11 catches, 151 yards, 2 TDs) and Bryce Treggs (13 receptions, 145 yards). Despite a limited playbook, the Bears showed how dangerous they could be.

Northwestern was limited, too, but not by design. Colter left the game early after taking a shot to his head and his left shoulder. He was re-evaluated at halftime but ruled out, left to stew on the sideline, unable to run the nearly unstoppable zone-read with Mark.

As for Mark, the All-America returner wasn't used on returns and only played for stretches. He wasn't listed on the team's injury report and practiced throughout the preseason. It'll be interesting to see what Coach Pat Fitzgerald says about Mark's status going forward.

Northwestern surged on special teams in 2012, but Cal held a decided edge in the kicking game, scoring its first touchdown on a fake field goal and recovering a Wildcats fumble on a kickoff return. At least All-Big Ten kicker Jeff Budzien came through three field goals.

The little-used Green also stepped up late with a 55-yard burst to take Northwestern out of its own territory. He finished off the drive with a 6-yard plunge. Backup quarterback Trevor Siemian had a big first half in relief of Colter but struggled a bit down the stretch.

Injuries were a big story for Northwestern throughout the game, both real and (possibly) imagined. Wildcats players were down after many plays in the second half. Cal coach Sonny Dykes clearly thought something was up (the Bears, ironically, were the team accused of faking injuries against Oregon). Northwestern also caught a break when Cal standout linebacker Chris McCain was ejected for targeting.

A wild game for the Wildcats, but it usually is just that. They survived and advanced in a Pac-12 stadium, not an easy place for Big Ten teams to win.

It's a good bet Northwestern enters its Oct. 5 home showdown against Ohio State at 4-0. The Wildcats still have never lost an opener under Fitzgerald.

Take 2: B1G vs. Pac-12

July, 12, 2013
Your B1G and Pac-12 bloggers have been grinding away on their respective leagues' nonconference primer series. Here's the Big Ten series, and here's the Pac-12 series. Part of the fun is learning about other teams in other conferences and what they bring to the table. The Pac-12 and Big Ten face each other five times during the regular season. The Pac-12 got the better of the matchups last year. Will this year be different? Brian Bennett and Kevin Gemmell decided to talk it over.

Brian Bennett: The first thing I look at for Big Ten-Pac-12 matchups in any given season is where the games are staged. Big Ten teams don’t seem to think the West Coast is the Best Coast; they are just 5-20 in true road games against the Pac-12 since 2000, and that includes an 0-3 mark on the road versus the Pac-12 last year. (The league also has just one win in its past 10 Rose Bowls, but not all of those games came against the Pac-12.)

[+] EnlargeGary Andersen
AP Photo/David StlukaNew coach Gary Andersen and the Badgers will have their hands full at ASU this season.
So it’s not good news for the league that I cover that three of these five matchups are located far left of the Midwest. If there’s any reason for optimism, it’s that the Big Ten teams should be substantial favorites in two of the road games -- Northwestern at Cal in the opener and Ohio State against those same Bears in Week 3. Cal is intriguing because of new coach Sonny Dykes, but Northwestern and Ohio State are both legitimate Top 20 teams with conference-title aspirations; if they can shake off the jet lag and contain the Bears’ passing attack, they should take care of business.

The two most interesting games -- and what look like virtual toss-ups -- are Wisconsin at Arizona State, and UCLA at Nebraska. The Badgers have a lot of returning talent, but a new head coach and different schemes on both sides of the ball. It’s also going to be a clash of styles, with the Badgers’ power running game going up against Arizona State’s spread offense. Will Gary Andersen’s team have its new systems figured out by then, and is Wisconsin’s defense -- particularly its inexperienced secondary -- fast enough to handle the Sun Devils?

UCLA-Nebraska is probably not getting enough attention as a must-watch game this year. Last year’s shootout in Pasadena, Calif., featured nonstop pingpong action, and both teams figure to have topflight offenses again. The Cornhuskers have a perilously young defense, but Bo Pelini’s teams usually defend much better at home than on the road. Quarterback Taylor Martinez -- who grew up a Bruins fan but was recruited by them as a defensive back -- will be highly motivated to beat UCLA his senior year. This is Nebraska’s only major test in the first seven games, and it’s one I think the Huskers have to find a way to win.

Finally, there’s Washington at Illinois. The Illini get the benefit of home turf, sort of, as the game will be played at Soldier Field in Chicago. We’ll see if Tim Beckman’s crew will inspire enough fans to show up by Week 3. While Washington has been mediocre for what seems like forever, I can’t confidently pick Illinois to beat any half-decent power conference opponent at this point.

In the end, I say the Big Ten manages a winning record this time around against the Pac-12, taking the two games in Berkeley, Calif., and the one in Lincoln, Neb. A 3-2 mark sounds about right, though if Wisconsin can pull off the win in the desert, that could be a good sign for both the Badgers and the league as a whole.

Kevin Gemmell: I'm going 3-2 also, but in favor of the Pac-12. After all, if we were in total agreement, it would make for a pretty boring Take 2. So I'll play the contrarian when it comes to UCLA-Nebraska.

[+] EnlargeJim Mora
William Mancebo/Getty ImagesCoach Jim Mora and UCLA allowed just six points in the second half of last year's win against Nebraska.
We agree on the Cal games versus Northwestern and Ohio State -- though I think Cal is going to give both of those teams a better run than they are banking on. I like what Andy Buh is doing with a defense that could be sneaky good. And the Bears have some explosive depth at wide receiver. But ultimately it's a rookie quarterback -- whomever Dykes chooses among Zach Kline, Jared Goff and Austin Hinder -- and a team that will still have some growing pains as new systems are installed on both sides of the ball. Like you with Illinois, I'm not ready to give the Bears the green light yet. However, last year's game in Columbus, a 35-28 win for Ohio State, should serve as a reminder not to take Cal lightly. No doubt, the Buckeyes will remember Brendan Bigelow and his four carries, 160 yards and two touchdowns.

Both halves of the Pac-12 blog have been saying we believe Washington is going to get over that seven-win hump this year after three straight seasons of mediocrity. The Huskies have a lot of pieces in place with a returning quarterback, a 1,400-yard rusher, good receivers, a good line and the top tight end in the country. Their defense made huge strides last season in the first year under Justin Wilcox, and we're expecting another leap forward in 2013. What scares me is Washington's inconsistent play on the road the past few seasons. During the Huskies' trio of 7-6 seasons, they are 14-5 in Seattle (last year they played at CenturyLink Field) and 6-11 on the road. The past two years they are 11-2 at home and 3-8 on the road (0-2 in their bowl games at neutral sites). If the Huskies want to have a breakout year, they are going to have to win away from home. Steve Sarkisian actually talked about this in a Q&A we did back in April. But they certainly have the talent to win this game.

The ASU-Wisconsin game is really a critical one for the Sun Devils. It kicks off a four-game stretch (with no bye weeks) that also includes Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. ASU is another team looking for some national credibility, and this is its first opportunity to get some. You're right to talk about the ASU offense, but that defense -- which ranked first nationally in tackles for a loss and second in sacks last season -- is going to be crazy good with Will Sutton and Carl Bradford leading the attack. I'm banking on a good game, but ultimately one ASU wins at home.

That brings us to UCLA-Nebraska, a game I'm also surprised more people aren't geeked up about outside of the respective fan bases. This should be a fantastic showcase for both leagues. Brett Hundley impressed in his freshman campaign, and I think this game is going to be a spotlight for two of the country's most athletic quarterbacks. I was in Pasadena for the game last season, and what actually stood out to me was UCLA's defense -- particularly in the second half. The Bruins allowed only six points, and kept Martinez to 11 yards rushing and the Huskers to 106 total yards in the final 30 minutes. They should be improved in Year 2 under Jim Mora and Lou Spanos. If the Bruins pull this one off, it's going to be because of what they can do defensively.