Big Ten: Mississippi State Bulldogs

Big Ten Monday mailbag

November, 17, 2014
11/17/14
8:09
PM ET
It's time for a belated Monday mailbag. Before dinner gets cold, let's get straight to the questions.

Jim Lemaster from Columbus writes... As we approach the end of the season, we should have a good idea as to who the favorites are for B1G Coach of the Year. Considering the youth and the improvement we've seen during the season for the Buckeyes, I think Urban Meyer has to be in the running if not the favorite. Who else in the B1G do you think is deserving of consideration?

Dan Murphy: Urban Meyer is the frontrunner at this point, and for that he probably has J.T. Barrett to thank. Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman did a great job steering their rookie quarterback through his first season while slowly opening up the playbook. If anyone is going to take the Coach of the Year award from Meyer it will be Minnesota's Jerry Kill. The Gophers still have a chance to represent the West division in the conference championship game if they win their last two games of the season. If Kill gets his team to Indianapolis, he's got my vote.


Dan Murphy: The list for offensive player of the year is as short as coach of the year with two weeks left in the season. It's hard to imagine anyone but Barrett or Melvin Gordon entering the conversation at this point. Gordon's 408-yard performance against Nebraska has shifted momentum to his corner at the moment, but he'll have to be impressive against Iowa and Minnesota to close out the season. Barrett will have a chance to pad his stats against Indiana this Saturday and then against Michigan at home. It should be a fun battle to watch. Speaking of going head-to-head with Gordon...


Dan Murphy: That's a tough call, Timmer. Would you pay to see the nation's top runner against the fifth-best rushing defense? The Badgers get to see that matchup every week at practice. Wisconsin's defense held fellow star runner Ameer Abdullah to 3.8 yards per carry and 68 rushing yards Saturday. Their group of former walk-ons at linebacker is leading arguably the hottest defense in the country right now. If I had to pick a side though, I'm going with Gordon and his offensive line. I mean, 408 yards in three quarters! 408 yards!


Jordan from Katy, Texas writes ... About Indiana, this team is not making a bowl game this year and AD Fred Glass is keeping Coach Kevin Wilson for the foreseeable future. Getting those facts out of the way, what can fans expect next year or two-three years from now? Fans are wondering if this will ever be a winning program.

Dan Murphy: It's always been a little bit of a mystery to me why Indiana and Illinois are consistently behind the rest of the state schools in the Big Ten. To be fair, Indiana was at least showing signs of promise until the quarterback plague visited Bloomington. Getting a healthy, experienced quarterback in place could be enough to get the Hoosiers to seven or eight wins. It's hard to overstate how important that position is in today's offense-dominated world. To be a consistent winner, though, Indiana needs to change the culture. It's a basketball-first school, and it's hard to build a winner while playing second fiddle on your own campus.


Dan Murphy: There's no doubt that Indiana, Akron, Temple and UMass have boosted Penn State's numbers this season, but I don't think it's much of a stretch to consider them a top-10 defense for two reasons. First is the Lions' effort against Ohio State. No one has stifled Barrett as well as Bob Shoop's group since his early falter against Virginia Tech. The second reason is Penn State's offense. The Nittany Lions have put a ton of pressure on their defense. In one sense, a bad offense keeps games close and prevent opponents from picking up garbage yards late in the game, but on the other hand, some of the other elite groups (See: Wisconsin) don't have to deal with the game heaped on their shoulders every week.


Dan Murphy: Almost snuck out of here without a playoff question. Mississippi State's nonconference schedule didn't do it any favors this season. The Bulldogs still have Ole Miss and the possibility of an SEC title game to impress the committee, but Ohio State's resume definitely has the potential to surpass them. If Michigan State finishes the season 10-2, the Spartans could eek back into the Top 10 and give the Buckeyes a high quality win. If Wisconsin makes it to the Big Ten title game without another loss, that's another very good looking victory late in the season (provided Ohio State makes it to the title game and wins, of course). The bigger threat to the Big Ten's playoff chances lies with Florida State and the Big 12. Oregon, Alabama and the Seminoles deserve spots if they win out. I wouldn't want to have to choose between TCU, Baylor and Ohio State if all three finish with one loss.


CFP committee evaluates the victories 

November, 11, 2014
11/11/14
8:18
PM ET


Entering the reveal of this week’s College Football Playoff Rankings, I was most interested to see how far Arizona State, Baylor and Ohio State would rise after big wins Saturday. So, naturally, the committee had to sidetrack this article by dropping undefeated Florida State behind once-beaten Oregon and forcing me to address that issue first.

For starters, it’s refreshing to see that the committee isn’t so married to the loss column that it would never put a one ahead of a zero. Whether it would do so at the end of the season is another matter, but at least for now, it would only mean that Florida State would wear white instead of garnet in a semifinal against Oregon. And since that would give the Ducks more uniform options, who’s really going to complain too much about this?

The bigger takeaway, though, is that the committee is really evaluating the wins. Even though FSU hasn’t lost a game, it has only two wins over the committee’s current top 25 -- No. 18 Notre Dame and No. 19 Clemson, both narrow escapes and both in Tallahassee. Oregon, on the other hand, has beaten No. 11 UCLA, No. 12 Michigan State and No. 23 Utah, all by double digits with two of those games on the road. The Ducks have the better wins, and they’ve looked better than the Seminoles over the last month.

I have Florida State at No. 2 and Oregon at No. 3 on my ballot but have no complaints about the committee flipping that order.

Other takeaways:

• TCU apparently passes the eye test against Alabama this week.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Most college football fans have some knowledge of Missouri, Cal, Utah, Syracuse, Northern Illinois and maybe even Akron (hey, Jason Taylor played there). But seriously, does anyone know what a Chanticleer is? Put your hands down, liars.

It's time to take a closer look at some of Big Ten's lesser-known opponents for Week 1. Learning about these far-flung teams is one of the fun parts about the nonconference schedule. It's a bit like the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament, except these games are never played on neutral sites. But as Michigan found out last year against Appalachian State, not all these teams are showing up just for a hefty check.

Here's the skinny on the squads visiting State College, Iowa City, Bloomington and Columbus on Saturday.

COASTAL CAROLINA CHANTICLEERS (at Penn State)

  • Location: Conway, S.C. (15 miles northwest of Myrtle Beach)
  • Enrollment: 7,872 as of fall 2007
  • Football coach: David Bennett (39-17, sixth year at CC; 102-34, 13th year overall)
  • Conference: Big South (Football Championship Subdivision)
  • 2007 record : 5-6
  • Fun fact: According to the Coastal Carolina football media guide, the nickname Chanticleer comes from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (I wonder if it's required reading for football players). "A Chanticleer is a rooster who rules the barnyard with cunning and wit. His competitiveness never wanes as he battles to the end, using his brains to come out on top every time." Somehow I don't think their brains will help them against Penn State. Coastal Carolina athletic director Moose Koegel was a co-captain for Penn State's football team under Paterno in 1970.

MAINE BLACK BEARS (at Iowa)

  • Location: Orono, Maine (125 miles northeast of Portland)
  • Enrollment: 8,777 as of fall 2007
  • Football coach: Jack Cosgrove (80-90, 16th season at Maine)
  • Conference: Colonial (Football Championship Subdivision)
  • 2007 record : 4-7
  • Fun fact(s): Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz served in the same role at Maine from 1990-92, finishing with a record of 12-21 (Cosgrove was his offensive coordinator). The Black Bears beat Mississippi State in 2004 and face a Division I-A opponent for the fifth straight year. Author Stephen King is among Maine's famous alumni. The Black Bears had seven players on NFL rosters last season, the most among FCS schools.

WESTERN KENTUCKY HILLTOPPERS (at Indiana)

  • Location: Bowling Green, Ky. (110 miles south of Louisville)
  • Enrollment: 19,215
  • Football coach: David Elson (37-22, sixth year at WKU and overall)
  • Conference: Independent
  • 2007 record : 7-5
  • Fun fact(s): The Hilltoppers are in their final year as a Division I-A independent before joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2009. They won the 2002 FCS national championship under coach Jack Harbaugh, the father of Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, and have 12 straight winning seasons. Famous alums include Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel and former Minnesota basketball coach Clem Haskins. The 2008 schedule includes 10 Division I-A opponents this fall. And Elson can wield a sledgehammer. Both Elson and Indiana coach Bill Lynch attended Butler.

YOUNGSTOWN STATE PENGUINS (at Ohio State)

  • Location: Youngstown, Ohio (70 miles southeast of Cleveland)
  • Enrollment: 13,497 as of fall 2007
  • Football coach: Jon Heacock (50-31, eighth year at YSU at overall)
  • Conference: Missouri Valley (Football Championship Subdivision)
  • 2007 record : 7-4
  • Fun fact(s): Youngstown is a tradition-rich program with four FCS national championships, 25 FCS playoff victories and six appearances in the title game. Heacock succeeded Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and is the younger brother of Buckeyes defensive coordinator Jim Heacock. The Penguins have sent 21 players to the NFL, including quarterback Ron Jaworski and kickers Paul McFadden and Jeff Wilkins. Other notable alumni include Kansas coach Mark Mangino, actor Ed O'Neill and ABCD All-America basketball camp founder Sonny Vaccaro.

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