Big Ten: Knowshon Moreno

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Several of you have asked about Iowa's pro day, so accept my apology as this is coming a little late.

The good news for Hawkeyes fans is running back Shonn Greene performed well, according to The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Scott Dochterman. Greene ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash before scouts from at least 29 NFL teams. His 40 time was six one-hundredths of a second better than what he ran at the NFL combine last month in Indianapolis, and he also had four more 225-pound bench press repetitions (23).

Despite winning the Doak Walker Award and setting Iowa's single-season rushing record with 1,850 yards last fall, Greene has received mixed reviews as a pro prospect. Some have questioned his age (too old at 23), his academic issues at Iowa and his running style. Pro Football Weekly had a particularly negative evaluation.

From the Gazette:

"My take on that is I think [Ohio State's] Beanie Wells and [Georgia's] Knoshown Moreno ... I think [they] are great backs, they just had another year whereas I had only had one year to show what I could do," Green said. "Ohio State gets a lot of publicity but I don't make that as an excuse. I just do what I can do.

"If you look at the stats and all that, it will tell you that I'm the top back. You look at some of those guys that I went head-to-head with and some of them I faced the same defense, and I did much better. I'm not worried about that. Whoever takes me is going to get a good running back. That's how it goes."

Having been thoroughly impressed with Greene last fall, I tend to agree with him. Then again, I'm no pro scout, and they look for different things. Most backs benefit from multiple seasons as a the starter, but Greene had to go pro because of his age.

I haven't found too much else on Iowa's pro day but will update the blog when I do.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Three Big Ten teams held their annual pro scouting days last week, including the major talent showcase at Ohio State. In case you missed what went down, here's a look at the key developments at each school. 

OHIO STATE

  • Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells had the biggest day of any Buckeye, improving on his so-so 40-yard dash time from the NFL combine (4.59 seconds) by running around a 4.4 or below before scouts from 29 pro teams. Wells solidified himself as one of the top two running backs and could be taken ahead of Georgia's Knowshon Moreno in April.
  • Linebacker Marcus Freeman continued his pre-draft push with another strong performance. Freeman improved his 40 time and likely boosted his stock after turning heads at the NFL combine. 
  • Linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins made slight improvements in their 40 times from the NFL combine. Wideout Brian Robiskie put up similar numbers to the combine, which bodes well for him. The big issue for Jenkins is whether he'll be asked to play cornerback or safety at the next level.
  • After being spurned by the NFL combine, defensive tackle Nader Abdallah stepped up on pro day. His numbers in four of the six drills would have been among the top defensive tackles at the combine. Abdallah also has dropped about 20 pounds, which should help him on draft day.

NORTHWESTERN

"Get to a mini-camp," said Sutton, predicted to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick. "Getting drafted means nothing. A lot of guys in the league have gone undrafted and proven a lot." 
  • It was somewhat surprising that John Gill didn't get a combine invite, but the defensive tackle seems to be building his case. Gill, considered a legit pro prospect before the 2008 season, put up better numbers in the short shuttle and 3-cone drill than any defensive tackle at the combine. He also has met with the Chicago Bears, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Brad Biggs.  
  • Wide receiver Eric Peterman was interviewing for a job at American Airlines in December, but he might have a shot at an NFL roster after a strong pro day performance. According to the Sun-Times, Peterman ran 40 times of 4.45 and 4.47.

PURDUE

"I may have done these drills before over the course of my training but when you're out here doing the real thing and everybody is watching you, it's different," Heygood said. "Usually, I'm really good under pressure but I didn't have the day I wanted."
  • Defensive tackle Alex Magee boosted his stock in front of representatives from 23 NFL teams, according to profootballtalk.com.
  • Quarterback Curtis Painter also seemed pleased with his performance after a solid effort at the combine last month.
"This was probably one of my best workouts through this offseason and my training," Painter said. "I feel good about what I've done both here and at the Combine and hopefully I'll get some opportunities for some individual workouts between now and the draft."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State had the lead at halftime, but the Spartans didn't have the momentum they needed in the Capital One Bowl against No. 15 Georgia.

 
 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 The Georgia defense never allowed Javon Ringer to get on track.

A more talented but seemingly disinterested Georgia team gave No. 18 Michigan State numerous opportunities to take control of the game. The Spartans ran 26 plays in Bulldogs territory in the opening half but produced only six points. That's nowhere near good enough. Michigan State easily could have been ahead by double digits.

The missed opportunities wound up costing the Spartans in a 24-12 loss.

Credit Georgia's much-maligned defense for shutting down Spartans star Javon Ringer (47 yards) and putting quarterback Brian Hoyer under constant duress. The game was won at the line of scrimmage, and Georgia's speed in the defensive front proved to be the difference. Michigan State (9-4) needed a strong performance from its offensive line to spring Ringer, and it didn't get one.

In many ways, the Capital One Bowl mirrored another near miss by a Big Ten team. Like Michigan State, Northwestern dominated the first half against Missouri in the Alamo Bowl but found itself tied at the break because of a few miscues. The Wildcats went on to lose.

Put bluntly, this year's bowl matchups were terrible for the Big Ten, but both Michigan State and Northwestern had opportunities for upsets and neither team could convert.

Credit Michigan State coordinator Pat Narduzzi and a defense that came to play today. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford looked bewildered during the first half, and the Spartans frustrated Bulldogs star Knowshon Moreno.

Georgia Vs. Big Ten in Bowls
BowlOpponentResult
2009 Capital One Michigan St. W, 24-12
2004 Outback Wisconsin W, 24-21
2003 Capital One Purdue W, 34-27
1999 Outback Purdue W, 28-25
1997 Outback Wisconsin W, 33-6
1992 Citrus Ohio St. W, 21-14
1988 Gator Michigan St. W, 34-27
Note: Georgia is 1-2 vs. Big Ten teams in regular-season games.

With a bigger lead entering the third quarter, Michigan State's defense might have continued to surge. But Stafford got things together and made several brilliant throws to rally his team. By the time Michigan State got in the end zone, Georgia's talent-stocked offense was rolling along.

Despite the loss, Michigan State made major strides this season and head coach Mark Dantonio got everything out of his players. The program is on the upswing.

The Spartans must make upgrades throughout their offense -- quarterback, wide receiver, line -- and find a way to replace Ringer's production. They really could have used a game-changer like Devin Thomas today. The defense loses only three starters and should be much stronger in 2009 behind Greg Jones and Trevor Anderson.

The Big Ten falls to 1-4 in bowl games and remains on pace for the worst postseason in its history. Iowa looked dominant and both Michigan State and Northwestern had bright spots in defeat, but the Big Ten desperately needs a BCS win from Penn State or Ohio State.

Iowa's Greene to turn pro

January, 1, 2009
1/01/09
3:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

What was obvious midway through the season became official today, as Iowa running back Shonn Greene told ESPN's Joe Schad he will forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.

The Doak Walker Award winner eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 13 games this season and set a single-season Iowa rushing record with 1,850 yards. Greene is projected to be the third or fourth running back selected in April's draft, provided two other junior stars, Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno, also come out early.

At 23 years old, Greene clearly made the right decision here. Though Iowa will be strong next season, he doesn't have much left to prove and needs to start making money while he's still relatively young (in athlete years).

Freshman Jewel Hampton, who had 55 rushing yards in the Outback Bowl, will enter next season as the front-runner for the starting running back spot.

Capital One Bowl preview

January, 1, 2009
1/01/09
9:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Lost amid the Big Ten bowl bashing is the league's four-game win streak against the SEC in the Capital One Bowl, considered by many to be the most prestigious non-BCS postseason contest. It's up to No. 18 Michigan State to continue the trend today against No. 15 Georgia (ABC, 1 p.m. ET).

Here's a look at the matchup.

WHO TO WATCH: Arguably no player in the country meant more to his team this season than Michigan State senior running back Javon Ringer, the nation's third-leading rusher. Without Ringer's steady production, particularly in the first half of the season, Michigan State wouldn't be playing on New Year's Day. Georgia has struggled to stop the run all season but will load up against Ringer, daring Spartans quarterback Brian Hoyer to win the game.

WHAT TO WATCH: Michigan State's defense has contained comparable opponents but collapsed against elite offenses this season. It's time for the Spartans to step up. Georgia boasts future NFL players at all the skill positions and could overwhelm Michigan State. But Pat Narduzzi's unit is as healthy as it has been all season, and if the front four put pressure on Matthew Stafford, an upset is possible.

WHY TO WATCH: No bowl game features a better matchup of running backs, as Ringer squares off against Georgia's Knowshon Moreno. The Doak Walker Award finalists have combined for 2,928 rushing yards and 37 touchdowns this season. Ringer's strength and incredible durability (nation-high 370 carries) has sparked Michigan State, while Moreno is the most exciting back in the country.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi didn't help his conference in the never-ending Big Ten-SEC debate when he provided his scouting report of Georgia's offense to head coach Mark Dantonio.

  

"Their skill guys, their receivers, their running back, their quarterback, it's like the Big Ten All-Star team that we get to play against," Narduzzi told Dantonio.

Georgia wide receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Massaquoi matched or surpassed any pass-catching combo Narduzzi saw in Big Ten play this year. Bulldogs quarterback Matthew Stafford trumped first-team All-Big Ten quarterback Daryll Clark of Penn State.

And while Narduzzi, like everyone associated with the Spartans football program, thinks the world of Javon Ringer, Georgia's Knowshon Moreno isn't too shabby. If Georgia has a weakness on offense, it's the offensive line, and that's largely because of youth.

"It's obviously going to be a challenge for our defense," Narduzzi said. "Everybody's got to step up. Certainly, if you're looking at something that might be their weakness, you look at their O-line. I don't know what they see as our weakness, but obviously pressure on the quarterback and pressure at the line of scrimmage by our linebackers and defensive line is going to be a key in the game."

Narduzzi's unit lacks the headliners of Georgia, but it has helped Michigan State to nine wins and a Capital One Bowl appearance Thursday against the preseason No. 1 team (ABC, 1 p.m. ET).

This fall, the Spartans held eight teams to 24 points or fewer, including two bowl champions (Notre Dame and Florida Atlantic). What happened in the other four games, though is a cause for concern.

Michigan State struggled against elite offensive competition, allowing a combined 94 points in losses to Ohio State and Penn State.

(Read full post)

The Big Ten and the national awards

December, 12, 2008
12/12/08
9:26
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

For a league with a sagging national reputation, the Big Ten continued to hold its own in the national awards.

Three Big Ten players took home national honors Thursday night at the Home Depot/ESPNU College Football Awards Show. It wasn't quite the haul that the Big 12 had (seven awards), but the Big Ten had to be pleased.

Here were the winners:

  • Iowa running back Shonn Greene, Doak Walker Award (nation's top running back)
  • Penn State center A.Q. Shipley, Rimington Trophy (nation's top center)
  • Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back)

Greene was the clear choice for the Doak Walker, beating out fellow Big Ten player Javon Ringer from Michigan State and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno. The Iowa junior rushed for a single-season school record 1,729 yards and eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 12 games.

"I'm not biased, but it's a no-brainer," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "All you have to do is look at the production game-in and game-out. There are a lot of great backs out there, but if you look at game-to-game and if you look at the bottom line, it's probably pretty academic. With Shonn, you don't have to watch film, just look at the numbers. But if you watch film, then it's a no-brainer."

Agreed 100 percent.

Shipley also was a likely choice for the Rimington even though Cal center Alex Mack entered the season with more hype. The Penn State senior co-captain was named the Big Ten's Offensive Lineman of the Year by the league's coaches. Shipley is the first Penn State player to win the Rimington Trophy.

Jenkins was a bit of a surprise, only because Tennessee safety Eric Berry had received so much hype after a stellar season. But being on a bad team might be taken into account. Having covered the Big Ten closer than most, Jenkins was the best all-around player I saw, so he's deserving of any honor.

"When they announced the award winner, first I was surprised and then a sigh of relief," Jenkins said. "It's really nerve-wracking to sit there through the whole show because our award was one of the last ones announced. And those were not just two fantastic players who were the other finalists, but really nice guys as well.

"It's just an incredible honor, because of guys like Antoine Winfield who have won this award in the past, and also because of Jim Thorpe, who was one of a kind and a pioneer in history. I work every day to improve as a player and when I came back for my senior season, the chance to be a part of an award like this was one of the dreams I had."

Jenkins' teammate James Laurinaitis and Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin both were up for the Bednarik Award, which went to USC linebacker Rey Maualuga. I thought Maybin had a shot here, but his age (only a sophomore) could have hurt his chances.

The Big Ten also placed six players on the Walter Camp All America team: Greene, Ringer, Shipley, Maybin, Laurinaitis and Jenkins. Only the Big 12 had more All-Americans (8).

Iowa's Greene wins Doak Walker Award

December, 11, 2008
12/11/08
8:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In the end, there was really only one choice for the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back.

Iowa junior running back Shonn Greene took home the hardware tonight after turning in a dominant season this fall. After a year away from the program to clean up some academic issues, Greene eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 12 games and broke Tavian Banks' single-season team record with 1,729 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.

Greene beat out Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Shonn Greene is used to seeing the wide eyes and the dropped jaws as he recounts his amazing evolution from college football exile to national award candidate.

The story never gets old, even for the man telling it.

"I'm just as surprised as they are," Greene said. "You would think I wouldn't be. Everybody knows about it, so everybody's kind of surprised. It's a great journey."

 
 Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
 Shonn Greene is a finalist for the Doak Walker Award.

Greene's journey, which in a sense began inside a warehouse at McGregors Furniture last year, ends tonight in Orlando, Fla., at the College Football Awards Show (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). Though the Iowa junior running back didn't get an invitation to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony, he's the favorite to win the Doak Walker Award tonight. Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno are the other Doak Walker finalists.

As he waited at Chicago's O'Hare Airport for his flight to Orlando on Wednesday morning, Greene was asked if he ever envisioned himself in this situation a year ago.

"Absolutely not," he said. "It's a good feeling."

After academic issues forced him out of football last season, Greene returned this fall and produced one of the greatest seasons in Iowa football history. He eclipsed 100 rushing yards in all 12 regular-season games, finished second nationally in rushing average (144.1 ypg) and broke Tavian Banks' single-season team rushing record with 1,729 yards.

Numbers like those merit a Heisman invite most seasons, but Iowa's slow start and a national spotlight consumed with quarterbacks kept Greene somewhat under the radar. He should get his due tonight as the nation's best running back.

"It would mean a lot," Greene said of the Doak Walker Award. "There are a lot of running backs this year doing well. Just to be up there with those guys will be an honor."

Greene admits the speed of the game initially caught him off guard after returning to the field this fall after a year away. He had trained hard in the summer with strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle but got fatigued following the Hawkeyes' first two games.

What came next shocked Greene. He continued to get stronger as the season progressed and elevated his production despite increased awareness from opposing defenses. Greene had his two top rushing games -- 217 yards, 4 touchdowns against Wisconsin and 211 yards, 2 touchdowns against Purdue -- in the second half of the year.

(Read full post)

Ranking the Big Ten bowls

December, 8, 2008
12/08/08
3:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten wants more respect after being skewered nationally for much of the season. An exciting bowl lineup gives the conference a chance to get its wish.

In addition to having two BCS entries for the fourth straight year, the Big Ten faces the preseason No. 1 (Georgia), a preseason national title contender (Missouri) and two of the more successful head coaches in the southeast (Bobby Bowden and Steve Spurrier).

To piggyback off Mark Schlabach's national list, it's time to rank the Big Ten bowls.

1. Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi
No. 8 Penn State vs. No. 5 USC, 4:30 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ABC): Two powerhouse programs, a legendary head coach (Joe Paterno) and another well on his way there (Pete Carroll), and one of college football's greatest settings make the Rose Bowl a must-see. Both of these teams easily could have been in Miami on Jan. 8, and a win will only strengthen their arguments. It will be fun to watch the Spread HD offense match up with a ferocious USC defense.
2. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
No. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Texas, 8 p.m. ET, Jan. 5 (Fox): The teams clashed in 2005 and 2006 but have never met in the postseason. It will be fascinating to see how Texas responds from its BCS title game snub. Heisman Trophy candidate Colt McCoy will go against the best defense he's faced this season in Ohio State, which ranks seventh nationally in points allowed (13.1 ppg). The Buckeyes need a win to restore their national reputation and will need strong performances from quarterback Terrelle Pryor and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells.
3. Capital One Bowl
No. 15 Georgia vs. No. 18 Michigan State, 1 p.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ABC): Forget about those Big 12 quarterbacks and that Tebow fellow. This game is all about the running backs, as Doak Walker Award finalists Javon Ringer and Knowshon Moreno match up. Ringer has carried Michigan State to this point and could capitalize on a suspect Georgia defense, while Moreno is one of the nation's most exciting running backs and takes on a Michigan State defense that struggles to stop elite players.
4. Valero Alamo Bowl
No. 21 Missouri vs. No. 23 Northwestern, 8 p.m. ET, Dec. 29 (ESPN): An insane number of sports journalists will be tuning in for this one, and you should, too. Missouri boasts one of the nation's most dynamic passing combinations in quarterback Chase Daniel and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Northwestern counters with a sack-happy defense led by end Corey Wootton. If Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher discovers his 2007 form against a woeful Mizzou secondary, this could become a shootout.
5. Champs Sports Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Florida State, 4:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 27 (ESPN): Both of these teams underachieved to a certain degree this fall, but the bowl game will provide an interesting match-up of power (Wisconsin) vs. speed (Florida State). The Wisconsin rushing attack came together late in the season, but P.J. Hill and John Clay face a tough task in a Florida State defense led by superstar end Everette Brown and linebacker Derek Nicholson.
6. Outback Bowl
South Carolina vs. Iowa, 11 a.m. ET, Jan. 1 (ESPN): I can't get enough of Shonn Greene, but aside from the powerful Iowa running back, this game doesn't provide many reasons to shake-off the New Year's Eve hangover. Iowa played excellent football down the stretch, and it will be interesting to see how the Hawkeyes match-up with an SEC team. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier returns to Florida amid increasing criticism. He needs to win this game.
7. Insight Bowl
Kansas vs. Minnesota, 5:30 p.m. ET, Dec. 31 (NFL Network): If Minnesota can get back to the disciplined and opportunistic play that spurred its 7-1 start, this game will be worth watching. But the Gophers didn't look like the same team down the stretch, and they'll need to make some major upgrades in the next few weeks to keep pace with a more experienced Kansas team led by quarterback Todd Reesing.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Back on Oct. 4, a New Year's Day bowl appearance seemed impossible for Iowa.

The Hawkeyes were 3-3, hopeless in close games and still transitioning at the quarterback position. Head coach Kirk Ferentz was on the hot seat, and his coordinators were under fire.

But Iowa started to figure it out at Indiana on Oct. 11, and the Hawkeyes won five of their final six games, including a potentially program-changing upset of Penn State. They've been rewarded with an Outback Bowl appearance against a very beatable South Carolina team.

Hawkeyes junior running back Shonn Greene has been unstoppable so far, and he aims for his 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing game against the nation's No. 11 defense. South Carolina did a decent job against Georgia's Knowshon Moreno on Sept. 13 but struggled down the stretch. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi will be challenged by a talented Gamecocks secondary, so the burden once again will be on Greene.

Iowa ranks a spot below South Carolina in total defense, and the Hawkeyes held eight teams to 17 points or fewer. South Carolina doesn't run the ball well at all, and Iowa will need to put pressure on quarterback Chris Smelley. The Gamecocks rank 114th nationally in sacks allowed.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State will play in a January bowl game for the first time in nine seasons, and the Spartans can take an important step in their evolution by knocking off preseason No. 1 Georgia.

The Spartans had to be encouraged after watching Georgia's last performance, in which the Bulldogs surrendered 409 rushing yards in a loss to Georgia Tech. Running the ball is what Michigan State does best, and the Spartans boast one of the nation's top backs in senior Javon Ringer, who leads FBS in carries (370) and ranks third in rushing average (132.5 ypg).

Georgia undoubtedly will load up to try and stop Ringer, so Spartans senior quarterback Brian Hoyer needs to step up. Hoyer struggled the last time he stepped on the field at Citrus Bowl Stadium, throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble in the 2007 Champs Sports Bowl.

Michigan State does a good job of controlling the clock, and it will need to do whatever possible to keep Georgia's offense off the field.

The Spartans defense has performed well for most of the season, but it really struggled against elite offensive skill players from Cal, Ohio State and Penn State. Georgia's dynamic backfield of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno will test Michigan State, which was mediocre statistically.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Capital One Bowl took a little longer than expected to finalize its selections, but as expected, Michigan State will head to Orlando to face Georgia on Jan. 1 at Citrus Bowl Stadium.

The Spartans (9-3) finished in third place in the Big Ten and will make their first January bowl appearance since the 2000 Citrus Bowl. The bowl matchup will feature two of the nation's top running backs in Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno.

Here are some quotes about Michigan State's bowl announcement.

Florida Citrus Sports executive director Steve Hogan -- "This will be a showcase for two of the best running backs in the country, in Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno. Both Michigan State and Georgia have something to prove at 9-3, and conference bragging rights are on the line with the Big Ten winning the bowl's last four games to bring the head-to-head record to 8-8 over the last 16 years."

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio -- "We're building a foundation here and last year, we took the first step with a bowl appearance in the Champs Sports Bowl. We said the next step in the building process was earning a bid to a New Year's Day bowl. Some may have scoffed at that notion, but our players worked extremely hard and made that goal a reality. This team found a way to win close ballgames and put itself in a position to compete for a share of the Big Ten championship in the final week. We're looking forward to going down to Orlando to represent the Big Ten with the intent to earn back some respect. We'll be motivated to play an extremely talented and explosive Georgia football team."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Unlike many teams around the country, the Michigan State Spartans finished the regular season knowing exactly who they are.

They're a team that no longer stumbles in close games or are prone to midseason collapses. They're a team that takes care of business against comparable or inferior opponents, including in-state rival Michigan.

But they're also a team that cannot be called elite.

Given two chances for signature wins against Ohio State and Penn State, the Spartans got stomped, losing by a combined score of 94-25.

"We want to be one of the elite college football teams," Spartans star running back Javon Ringer said following a weightlifting session this afternoon. "We've already proven that we're pretty good, we're a really tough team, you can't really overlook us. But we haven't proven yet to be one of those elite teams. That's our next goal."

Michigan State should get a chance to achieve it in its bowl game. The 21st-ranked Spartans are widely projected to end up in the Capital One Bowl, their first January bowl appearance since the 2000 Citrus Bowl.

Ringer wants to face the "best-possible team" in his final collegiate game. In other words, he has Georgia on his mind.

The 16th-ranked Bulldogs are the favorite to earn an invitation to the Capital One. Though Georgia didn't meet expectations this fall, the Bulldogs were the preseason No. 1 team and boast a roster loaded with talent. A bowl victory against Georgia would give Michigan State's national profile a boost following a strong season.

"That would be amazing for us to be able to compete against all the athletes Georgia has," Ringer said. "That would be a big game for us."

The bowl game also would feature two of the three finalists for the Doak Walker Award, Ringer and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno.

"To go against a running back of that caliber, it would be exciting for me," Ringer said. "I've seen a couple of his games. He has great speed, great strength and agility and balance. He also runs behind a great offensive line."

Michigan State spent the week running, lifting and going through some spirited practices with the coaches not on the road recruiting. Though younger players usually get more reps in practices this time of year, Ringer continues to get extensive work despite carrying the ball a nation-high 370 times this season. .

Ringer and his teammates are looking forward to Sunday's bowl announcement, and they're also excited to return to the field after finishing poorly at Penn State.

"We put it behind us because we don't want to dwell on the loss and the mistakes that we made," Ringer said, "but we haven't forgot it, because it's something that we have to correct in order to be successful in the bowl game."

Big Ten Friday mailbag

December, 5, 2008
12/05/08
2:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The wait for bowl invitations is almost over, and not a moment too soon. I'll have updates on the blog throughout the weekend as Big Ten teams finally find out where they'll be spending the holidays.

Right now, it's mail time.

Matt from Scotch Plains, N.J., writes: Help us, Adam Rittenberg, you are are only hope! Please, oh please, could you please inject into the national media dialogue some commentary about how all the Big 10 bashing is getting completely out of hand. You represent us, the silent masses, if not majority, and we just can't take it anymore. Specifically, address: how come Penn State is NEVER mentioned among title contenders, whereas USC, Florida and other one-loss teams are? Just what is the difference that I'm missing? Didn't PSU CLOBBER the team that beat USC? Doesn't PSU only have a close loss against a conf. team on the road, like Florida? Isn't Alabama's non-con. schedule worse than Penn State's? And just who has any of these Big 12 "powers" played beside each other? No one! Now, I don't honestly think we (PSU) should jump ahead of everyone and play for the title, but I think it is absurd that we are NEVER even in the conversation. If you're going to crack on our non-conf. schedule, the same must be said of 'Bama's and all the Big 12 top teams. Plus, unlike [Jim] Tressel, who has done much damage to our conf.'s rep., JoePa - when he does make a big game - never gets blown out. He either wins or loses a close one. But in general, the SEC/Big 12 national bias is a joke ... so again, Master Adam, I beg of you - please make amends!

Adam Rittenberg: I'll do my best, Matt, but I believe it's a losing battle this year. The Big Ten is paying the price this fall for the last two seasons. Even the league's bright spots (Penn State, Shonn Greene) are largely overlooked nationally. That's what happens when you struggle in BCS games. You get penalized. Now, I don't believe the Big Ten is a great conference this season. After Penn State and Ohio State, the league doesn't stack up well with the Big 12. The Big Ten will never get national respect when Michigan is down. But the lack of respect for Penn State is really surprising and, to be honest, upsetting. Those who lump Penn State with other Big Ten teams that have disappointed them really haven't watched the Nittany Lions play this season. Penn State beat the snot out of 10 teams and showcased a progressive offensive system. I'll write more about Penn State at a later date, but part of the problem is Penn State's identity. Are the Lions really viewed as a Big Ten program? It seems like they are this year, only because it's convenient and fuels the argument that all things Big Ten stink. It's up to Penn State to show in the Rose Bowl that it is different, that it isn't just another slow, overmatched Big Ten team, that Joe Paterno makes a difference in bowl games. Otherwise, the Lions will continue to be guilty by association.

Willie from Evanston, Ill., writes: Adam, If the Capital One/Champs Sports Bowl folks have already eliminated Ohio State from consideration (because, as you point out, they are almost certain to make a BCS game), then what is taking so long? Couldn't the Capital One announce MSU (or Iowa, or Northwestern, since they're all eligible), and then the Outback pick, and then the Alamo, and then the Champs? I know with travel costs being what they are and money being tight, it'd be REALLY great to start planning now...so why aren't the bowls helping us do it?

Adam Rittenberg: I hate the holdup, and so do fans losing money each day the bowl selections aren't announced. They are still waiting because if USC somehow loses to UCLA, the BCS will have a choice between USC and Ohio State for the final at-large berth. The possibility of the Buckeyes missing a BCS bowl, however slim, forces all the other tie-in bowls to wait before announcing their selections. Believe me, the Capital One doesn't want to announce Michigan State when Ohio State still might be available. It's a bad situation, but one that is almost over.


(Read full post)

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