Big Ten: Michael Phelps

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A bye week clearly didn't teach Michigan how to respect the football.

After giving away the Notre Dame game with six turnovers, the Wolverines have officially fumbled four times in the first half today, losing three. Redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet topped off the turnover spree by tossing two interceptions within the final two minutes. That's absolutely pathetic, especially after a two-week break in which I'm sure Rich Rodriguez and his staff stressed the importance of limiting turnovers. And it's not just young players. Senior Morgan Trent fumbled a kickoff return.

How bad has it gotten for the Maize-and-Blue faithful? They sarcastically cheered kickoff returner Martavious Odoms for simply hanging onto the ball on a short runback with five minutes left in the half. I just walked by several "Old Blues" in the press box who are saying this is the worst they've ever seen Michigan play at the Big House, and it's the 500th game.

Can Michael Phelps start taking snaps for Michigan?

And it's not like the Wolverines are doing anything when they keep the ball. Michigan finished the half with 21 total yards and minus-7 passing yards. Can you say Notre Dame of 2007?

Barring a dramatic turnaround after halftime, Michigan will find itself at the bottom of the Big Ten power rankings on Monday.

Wisconsin is doing what Wisconsin does best: dominating the line of scrimmage and capitalizing on an opponent's mistakes. The Badgers don't get much respect nationally because they aren't flashy, they don't run a spread offense and their quarterbacks are fairly anonymous. But this defense should start generating some buzz. They're laying the wood to Michigan right now on almost every play. Linebackers Jonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy have been fabulous. Sam McGuffie has no room to run, and Threet is constantly under duress.

John Clay is healthy, by the way. The Badgers' third-string running back sat out several practices with back spasms but looked just fine on a 46-yard scamper that set up a P.J. Hill touchdown. Clay could be Wisconsin's most talented back, but Hill is the established starter and has another year of eligibility left. It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin uses the two backs as Clay gains more experience. Nice problem to have.

Credit the Michigan defense for hanging in there. Linebacker Jonas Mouton is having a solid game, and the veteran-laden line had done its best. But when the offense gives the defense no chance, there's only so much you can expect.

All-American tight end Travis Beckum remains on the sideline, his helmet now no longer on his head. The Badgers don't need Beckum the way they're dominating this game. Save him for Ohio State next week. This one looks like it's over.

A quick recap of the early games

September, 27, 2008
9/27/08
3:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michael Phelps just made his way across the field in a No. 8 jersey (gold medals, people). We just got under way here in the Big House.

  

MICHIGAN STATE-INDIANA

Pencil in Javon Ringer for 40 carries a game from here on out. But the best part about this win for the Spartans was the play of senior quarterback Brian Hoyer (262 pass yards). He had been a question mark through the first four games and capitalized on a patchwork Indiana secondary with a couple of touchdown passes. Indiana played two quarterbacks (Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell) and racked up a lot of yards, but this team's success or failure always rested on the defense. And right now, that defense isn't very good.


  

NORTHWESTERN-IOWA

Yeah, about that post praising the Iowa offense at halftime, try to forget about it. Sophomore Ricky Stanzi still should be Iowa's clear-cut starting quarterback, but the Hawkeyes stalled in the second half, thanks to an extremely aggressive Northwestern defense. The Wildcats not only shut out the Hawkeyes; they brought the pain. Safety Brad Phillips briefly knocked Shonn Greene out of the game with a vicious hit. I don't know what has happened to Northwestern's defense, but a ton of credit goes to new coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Teams that commit five turnovers never deserve to win, and Iowa certainly did not. This is a huge win for Northwestern, which will be 5-0 when Michigan State visits Ryan Field on Oct. 11. The Wildcats overcame a lot of obstacles, including several dumb penalties and a questionable call or two by the officials. This could be the start of a rough stretch for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who needs better results on the field to justify all the team's problems off of it.


  

MINNESOTA-OHIO STATE

The Chris "Beanie" Wells effect transformed a struggling Buckeyes offense, which racked up 414 yards in a win over the Gophers. In many ways, this was the perfect situation for Wells' return from a toe injury. He only had 14 carries and still showed his top-shelf skills with 106 rushing yards. The junior will be fresh for next week's road trip to No. 9 Wisconsin. He also made everyone else around him better, namely freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor (97 rush yards, 2 TDs). I thought Adam Weber and the Minnesota offense would make this a bit more interesting, but Ohio State's defense came to play. Buckeyes senior Todd Boeckman also played more than many had expected and threw a touchdown.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's not a misprint. College football will be played today in America. Not in the Big Ten -- gotta wait till Saturday -- but the season is here, and that's a good thing. I'll be chatting at 4 p.m. ET, and Week 1 predictions are coming in a little bit.

First, the links.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

What had long been anticipated came true Wednesday as Wisconsin tabbed fifth-year senior Allan Evridge as its starting quarterback to open the season. Evridge was the clear choice, even though most of his experience comes from 2005, when he started seven games for Kansas State. Wisconsin needs a game manager, a guy who limits mistakes and lets the running backs do what they do. Of the three candidates, Evridge best fits the bill, though it's hard to say if anyone really dazzled during the preseason.

Other notes from the Badgers depth chart:

  • With sophomore cornerback Aaron Henry sidelined again, freshman Mario Goins clinched a starting job for the season opener. Goins will start opposite Allen Langford, who has come back successfully from a torn ACL.
  • Kyle Jefferson is the team's leading returning wide receiver, but he might lose his starting job to sophomore Maurice Moore. The depth chart lists that either player could start along with David Gilreath against Akron.
  • No major surprises on defense, as junior Jaevery McFadden officially becomes the starter at middle linebacker after practicing with the first team for weeks. Freshman Brendan Kelly is making a push for time at defensive end, and sophomore Jay Valai will start at strong safety.
  • Kickers Matt Fischer and Philip Welch continue to compete for the starting job.

A few Big Ten items:

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Start your clocks. We're two weeks away. Before the scrimmages get going around the league, check out these links:

  • Bad news for Illinois as wide receiver Jeff Cumberland, a projected starter, will miss two to four weeks with a foot injury. The Illini could have used Cumberland's size against Missouri in the season opener. The (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen has a revised preseason depth chart with Chris Duvalt moving into Cumberland's spot with the first-team offense.
  • Indiana tight end Max Dedmond models himself after Dallas Clark and even gets called "Dallas" in practice, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star. Also, no word yet on whether Florida transfer Jerimy Finch will be allowed to play this season. 
  • Iowa's offensive linemen hate the number 46 -- last season's sacks allowed total -- and vow to change things this fall, Susan Harman writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. There's also a nice personnel breakdown of the line. The sexual assault trial involving two former Iowa players appears headed for a delay.
  • Missed this from a few days ago, but The Ann Arbor News' Jim Carty answers some Michigan questions. He thinks four players, including running back Carlos Brown, will take snaps this fall.
  • Free safety has become a position of concern at Michigan State. Roderick Jenrette, a projected starter alongside Otis Wiley, has been asked to take an indefinite absence from the team to address a personal matter. Also, Spartans sophomore Enrique Shaw has left the program voluntarily. Junior Dan Fortener could step in for Jenrette. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio is borrowing some baseball sayings to address his team's current position, John Lemon writes in the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald.
  • Minnesota has gone live (full tackling) more than most teams this preseason -- after last season, it needed to. Today's scrimmage will mark the end for a while, Kent Youngblood writes in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune.
  • Don't know how Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis would do in the 200-meter butterfly, but he bears a resemblance to that Phelps guy, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises writes in his blog. If you're going to Ohio State's open practice Monday, leave your cameras at home.
  • Penn State wideout Derrick Williams wants to end his career like he started it, with a trip to a BCS bowl.
  • Jaycen Taylor holds a slight edge over Kory Sheets right now, but if history is a guide, both Purdue running backs will play plenty, Tom Kubat writes in The (Lafayette, Ind.) Journal and Courier. Sheets first has to fix his fumbling problems.
  • Wisconsin might go with two kickers this season, but the Badgers definitely will use three running backs this season, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy returned to practice Friday after heading home following the death of his older brother.

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