Big Ten: Stephen Schilling

Big Ten lunch links

May, 2, 2011
5/02/11
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What a Sunday night in America, and Big Ten students were part of the celebration here and here.

Big Ten NFL draft wrap-up

May, 2, 2011
5/02/11
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The 2011 NFL draft is in the books, and it's time to take a look back at how the Big Ten fared in the selections. In case you missed it, check out my breakdown of the six Big Ten players who heard their names called in the first round.

All in all, 29 Big Ten players were drafted this year. New Big Ten member Nebraska had seven selections.

Let's start off with a rundown of the picks. I'll have some quick thoughts after each round.

[+] EnlargeJ.J. Watt
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireWisconsin defensive lineman J.J. Watt was the first Big Ten player selected in the NFL draft this year.
First round

Quick thoughts: The Big Ten had its largest first-round output since 2007, and several players look like good fits for their teams. Chicago had to be thrilled Carimi was still available, and San Diego felt the same about Liuget, projected by many as a top-15 pick. Kerrigan likely needs to contribute immediately for the Redskins, while Clayborn and Heyward enter situations where they can ease into the transition.

Second round

Quick thoughts: Mouton's selection was a surprise for many folks, but it's a testament to a good player who impressed the scouts despite playing for a lousy defense in 2010. Wisniewski enters a good fit in Oakland, where his uncle, Steve, is an assistant offensive line coach. I really like Leshoure in Detroit, where he'll enter a competitive situation at running back.

Third round

Quick thoughts: Wilson, who entered the draft after his junior season, might have been a bit disappointed to fall to the third round. But he enters a good situation in New Orleans and should have some time to develop.

Fourth round
Quick thoughts: Ballard reportedly tested positive for marijuana use and likely paid a price as he dropped down at least a round. Still, the Iowa standout should help the Vikings early in his career. I really like the Doss fit in Baltimore, which can use more playmakers at receiver. It'll be interesting to see how quickly Chekwa sees the field in Oakland.

Fifth round
Quick thoughts: What a round for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Although Stanzi waited a little longer than expected, he joins a team in Kansas City that has a lot of connections to the New England Patriots, the squad many thought would draft the Iowa quarterback. Klug is a solid player who can play either line position. I'll be interested to see how he fares with the Titans.

Sixth round

  • Penn State RB Evan Royster, Washington, No. 177 overall
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones, New York Giants, No. 185 overall
  • Michigan State CB Chris L. Rucker, Indianapolis, No. 188 overall
  • Ohio State LB Brian Rolle, Philadelphia, No. 193 overall
  • Iowa S Tyler Sash, New York Giants, No. 198 overall
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan, Minnesota, No. 200 overall
  • Michigan G Stephen Schilling, San Diego, No. 201 overall
Quick thoughts: This marked the Big Ten's biggest round as seven players heard their names called. Jones, the former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, went a little later than expected, and Sash also dropped down a bit after entering the draft after his junior season. Homan, who missed some time last season with a foot injury, could end up being an excellent addition for the Vikings. Really like that pick.

Seventh round

  • Illinois LB Nate Bussey, New Orleans, No. 243 overall
  • Wisconsin G/C Bill Nagy, Dallas, No. 252 overall
Quick thoughts: While I was surprised several other Big Ten players didn't get drafted, both Bussey and Nagy are deserving. Both players played integral roles in their teams' success last fall, and both were overshadowed by other draftees (Liuget and Wilson for Bussey, Carimi and Moffitt for Nagy).

NEBRASKA'S DRAFTEES

Husker fans, I didn't forget you or your team. Nebraska actually had more draft picks (7) than any Big Ten team, and here they are.

  • CB Prince Amukamara, New York Giants, No. 19 overall (first round)
  • RB Roy Helu Jr., Washington, No. 104 overall (fourth round)
  • K Alex Henery, Philadelphia, No. 120 overall (fourth round)
  • DB Dejon Gomes, Washington, No. 146 overall (fifth round)
  • WR Niles Paul, Washington, No. 155 overall (fifth round)
  • OT Keith Williams, Pittsburgh, No. 196 overall (sixth round)
  • DB Eric Hagg, Cleveland, No. 248 overall (seventh round)
Quick thoughts: Think there might be a few "Husker Power!" chants at Redskins games this season? The Mike Shanahan-Bo Pelini connection likely played a role in the three Nebraska players heading to the nation's capital. Henery soon will succeed David Akers in Philadelphia, and the Giants had to thrilled that Amukamara still was on the board at No. 19.

Big Ten picks by team

  • Nebraska: 7 (players competed in the Big 12)
  • Iowa: 6
  • Ohio State: 5
  • Wisconsin: 5 (four picks in first three rounds)
  • Illinois: 4
  • Michigan State: 2
  • Indiana: 2
  • Michigan: 2
  • Penn State: 2
  • Purdue: 1
  • Northwestern: 0
  • Minnesota: 0
By position (excluding Nebraska)

  • DL: 7
  • OL: 7
  • LB: 6
  • DB: 4
  • RB: 2
  • WR: 1
  • TE: 1
  • QB: 1

Nebraska had three defensive backs, a running back, an offensive lineman, a wide receiver and a kicker drafted.

Draft snubs

Quite a few Big Ten players didn't hear their names called during the weekend, and they'll enter the shaky world of free agency. I was absolutely stunned no one drafted Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher. He was the Big Ten's top receiver last fall and brings a combination of football IQ and toughness that should appeal to football people not overly obsessed with measurables.

Wisconsin running back John Clay was the Big Ten's only non-senior who entered the draft but didn't get selected. Clay struggles with weight and his ankle problems might have contributed to him slipping through the draft.

Other Big Ten draft snubs include: Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien, Ohio State guard Justin Boren, Iowa tight end Allen Reisner and Purdue receiver Keith Smith. Nebraska's Pierre Allen and Ricky Henry also will go the free-agent route.

Big Ten draft bargains

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
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During my Big Ten chat Wednesday, Dan from B1G Country asked about any NFL draft bargains from the conference this year.

With the draft set to begin Thursday night, I thought this would be a good time to look at some Big Ten players who might benefit teams in the middle or later rounds, or even as free-agent pickups.

Here's one potential bargain from each Big Ten squad (heights and weights according to ESPN's Scouts Inc.).

ILLINOIS
Randall Hunt, G, 6-6, 318
The skinny: Hunt anchored a formidable Illinois offensive line that helped Mikel Leshoure and others run wild in 2010. He shut down Baylor's Phil Taylor in the Texas Bowl and brings a sturdy frame to the interior line. Hunt wouldn't be a bad choice in the later rounds.

INDIANA
James Brewer, T, 6-6, 323
The skinny: I'm hesitant to call Brewer a bargain because he could be off the board early in the draft. Indiana had another tackle, Rodger Saffold, taken with the first pick of the second round in 2010. Brewer has the size to be good at the next level, and if he's still available on the third day, he'd be a nice pick.

IOWA
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR, 5-11, 202
The skinny: The character questions are there, but DJK was an extremely productive player at Iowa and could be a nice late-round addition for a team. He's a strong route runner with good speed and good hands, and he can stretch defenses. If a team is willing to take a bit of a risk, it could be rewarded.

MICHIGAN
Stephen Schilling, G, 6-4, 308
The skinny: Schilling played a ton of football at Michigan and helped the Wolverines to a record-setting offensive performance in 2010. His measurables might not blow teams away, but he's a smart, solid lineman who could be a nice addition in the middle to later rounds.

MICHIGAN STATE
Eric Gordon, LB/S, 5-11, 224
The skinny: Overshadowed by fellow linebacker Greg Jones for much of his career, Gordon quietly produced at an extremely high rate for Michigan State. You could argue he was the Spartans' best linebacker during the second half of the 2010 season. Gordon turned in an impressive performance on pro day and would be a nice pickup late in the draft or as a free agent.

MINNESOTA
Adam Weber, QB, 6-3, 221
The skinny: Some Gophers fans might scoff at this, but I always felt Weber got a raw deal during his college career. He played for three different offensive coordinators, never complained about it and still set a bunch of team records. While his junior season was a disappointment, Weber did some good things last fall and drew respect around the Big Ten. Not a bad pick in the later rounds.

NEBRASKA
Eric Hagg, S, 6-1, 209
The skinny: Hagg is a playmaker, as he showed with a team-high five interceptions plus a school-record 95-yard punt return for a touchdown against Texas. He also brings versatility to the table, having played a safety-linebacker hybrid role last fall for the Blackshirts. Hagg has played on an elite college defense and would be a good get in the middle to late rounds.

NORTHWESTERN
Quentin Davie, LB, 6-4, 238
The skinny: Davie entered the 2010 season as a solid NFL prospect and started off strong but disappeared at times down the stretch. He made big plays throughout his career and boasts good size as an outside linebacker. Davie could help a team as a late-round or free-agent addition if he gets back to his 2009 form.

OHIO STATE
Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, 5-11, 182
The skinny: If I were an NFL general manager, I wouldn't hesitate to draft Sanzenbacher. He lacks ideal measurables but makes up for it with football intelligence and a fearless approach to the game. Sanzenbacher has great hands and became Ohio State's top threat in the red zone this season. He stood out at the Senior Bowl and would be an excellent pick in the middle rounds.

PENN STATE
Evan Royster, RB, 5-11, 212
The skinny: Royster is a patient runner with good vision who could thrive in the right situation at the pro level. His slow start to the 2010 season is a concern, but he picked things up down the stretch and boasts a productive college résumé. If a team needs a running back in the late rounds, Royster would be a nice choice.

PURDUE
Keith Smith, WR, 6-2, 224
The skinny: There's risk here as Smith comes off of tears in two knee ligaments, but a team could get a major steal if the Boilers receiver can stay healthy. He has the size to excel at the pro level and might have been the Big Ten's top receiver had he stayed on the field last season. Smith is a class act who has a chance to be a solid NFL receiver.

WISCONSIN
Scott Tolzien, QB, 6-2, 209
The skinny: He might never be a full-time starter in the NFL, but teams certainly can benefit from having Tolzien on the roster. He's an extremely smart player who makes up for mediocre measurables with superb intangibles. Tolzien is accurate and efficient, and he'll prepare harder than anyone. If a team needs a quarterback in the later rounds, Tolzien would be a great pick.
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 15: David Molk, C, Michigan, Jr., 6-2, 288

2010 numbers: Started all 13 games at center after being slowed by knee and foot injuries in 2009; finalist for Rimington Trophy (nation's top center); earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and second-team honors from the media; shared Rader Memorial Award as Michigan's top offensive lineman with teammate Stephen Schilling.

Preseason rank: Unranked in the preseason Top 25 players

[+] EnlargeDavid Molk
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesDavid Molk showed in the 2010 why he's one of conference's elite offensive linemen.
Why he's here: Molk showed in 2010 that when healthy, he's one of the Big Ten's premier offensive linemen. The junior anchored a Michigan offensive line that helped Denard Robinson and the unit set record-setting numbers. Michigan ranked eighth nationally in total offense, 13th in rushing offense, 25th in scoring offense and 10th in sacks allowed. Although Ohio State's Mike Brewster, Wisconsin's John Moffitt, Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski and other Big Ten interior linemen seemed to generate more national buzz, Molk's first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches is significant. I also named him to my All-Big Ten squad. Anyone who watched Michigan saw the difference he made in the middle of the offensive line. Molk is a weight-room standout whose strength translates to the field. He'll enter 2011 as one of the leading candidates for the Rimington Trophy and possibly the Rotary Lombardi Award.

Big Ten weekend combine recap

February, 28, 2011
2/28/11
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All eyes were on Indianapolis this weekend as dozens of NFL prospects, including a large contingent from the Big Ten, went through the scouting combine.

My ESPN colleagues are all over the happenings in Naptown, so check out the combine blog and the latest Scouts Inc. combine notebook.

There's more testing and timing Monday with the defensive linemen and linebackers, but some results are in, so let's take a look. I'm breaking these down into top performers by position. I'll put together an overall top performers post once the combine is finished.

Wide receivers

  • Nebraska's Niles Paul finished second in bench-press reps (225 pounds) with 24
  • Paul tied for 14th in the 40-yard dash at 4.51 seconds
  • Indiana's Terrance Turner tied for second in vertical jump at 41 inches
  • Turner finished seventh in broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches
  • Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher finished second in 3-cone drill at 6.46 seconds; Turner tied for 14th at 6.77 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished third in the 20-yard shuttle at 3.97 seconds; Paul finished 12th at 4.14 seconds; Turner finished tied for 13th at 4.15 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished second in the 60-yard shuttle at 10.94 seconds; Turner tied for ninth at 11.21 seconds
Quarterbacks
  • Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien tied for 13th in the 40-yard dash at 4.93 seconds
  • Stanzi finished ninth in the vertical jump at 32.5 inches; Tolzien tied for 12th at 29.5 inches
  • Tolzien tied for seventh in the broad jump at 9 feet, 8 inches; Stanzi finished 12th at 9 feet, 2 inches
  • Tolzien tied for third in the 3-cone drill at 6.84 seconds; Stanzi finished 12th at 6.95 seconds
Running backs
  • Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. finished sixth in the 40-yard dash at 4.42 seconds; Ohio State's Brandon Saine finished seventh at 4.43 seconds;
  • Illinois' Mikel Leshoure tied for third in the vertical jump at 38 inches; Helu tied for eighth at 36.5 inches
  • Leshoure tied for fourth in the broad jump at 10 feet, 2 inches; Helu finished 10th at 9 feet, 11 inches
  • Helu finished second in the 3-cone drill at 6.67 seconds; Leshoure finished sixth at 6.82 seconds
  • Helu finished first in the 20-yard shuttle at 4.01 seconds; Penn State's Evan Royster tied for eighth at 4.18 seconds
  • Helu finished first in the 60-yard shuttle at 11.07 seconds
Tight ends
  • Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks finished eighth in the 40-yard dash at 4.75 seconds; Michigan State's Charlie Gantt finished 11th at 4.93 seconds; Iowa's Allen Reisner finished 12th at 4.95 seconds
  • Gantt tied for first in bench-press reps with 27; Kendricks tied for third with 25
  • Kendricks finished sixth in vertical jump at 34.5 inches; Gantt finished 13th at 30.5 inches
  • Kendricks finished second in broad jump at 10 feet, 2 inches; Gantt finished ninth at 9 feet, 4 inches; Reisner tied for 12th at 9 feet
  • Kendricks finished sixth in the 3-cone drill at 6.94 seconds; Gantt finished 11th at 7.15 seconds
  • Kendricks tied for second in 20-yard shuttle at 4.15 seconds; Gantt tied for eighth at 4.4 seconds
  • Kendricks tied for sixth in 60-yard shuttle at 11.9 seconds; Gantt and Reisner tied for 11th at 12.12 seconds
Defensive linemen
  • Wisconsin's J.J. Watt tied for fourth in bench-press reps with 34; Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan tied for sixth with 31
Linebackers
  • Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan finished first in bench-press reps with 32; Ohio State's Brian Rolle finished fourth with 28; Illinois' Martez Wilson tied for ninth with 23
Offensive linemen
  • Iowa's Julian Vandervelde tied for 10th in the 40-yard dash at 5.21 seconds; Indiana's James Brewer and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi tied for 14th at 5.27 seconds
  • Michigan's Stephen Schilling and Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski tied for sixth in bench-press reps with 30; Carimi tied for ninth with 29; Ohio State's Justin Boren tied for 14th with 28
  • Carimi finished fifth in vertical jump at 31.5 inches; Vandervelde tied for sixth at 31 inches; Wisconsin's John Moffitt tied for eighth at 30.5 inches
  • Carimi finished fifth in broad jump at 9 feet, 1 inch; Vandervelde finished tied for 13th at 8 feet, 8 inches
  • Vandervelde finished seventh in 3-cone drill at 7.46 seconds; Wisniewski finished eighth at 7.51 seconds; Boren finished 11th at 7.57 seconds
  • Moffitt finished sixth in 20-yard shuttle at 4.53 seconds; Vandervelde tied for seventh at 4.59 seconds; Schilling tied for ninth at 4.62 seconds;

Big Ten lunch links

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
12:00
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When I first started working here, an 8-year-old Shirley Temple taught me how to roll a cigarette.

Big Ten lunch links

February, 23, 2011
2/23/11
12:00
PM ET
The links aren't going anywhere, but my Big Ten chat is going on right now.

Join in!

Big Ten Senior Bowl wrap-up

January, 31, 2011
1/31/11
10:28
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The Big Ten all-stars at the Senior Bowl didn't come away with a win Saturday -- the South squad beat the North 24-10 -- but several players helped their stock for the 2011 NFL draft.

Let's take a quick look back at the game.

STATISTICS
  • Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi completed 7 of 12 passes 87 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions
  • Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher, a late addition to the North roster, led the squad with five receptions for 62 yards
  • Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks added three receptions for 39 yards
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones recorded seven tackles (4 solo)
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan had a big day with three tackles for loss, a sack and five total tackles
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan recorded three tackles
  • Iowa DE Christian Ballard had two tackles
  • The North squad featured three Big Ten offensive linemen in starting lineup: Michigan G Stephen Schilling, Wisconsin C John Moffitt and Indiana T James Brewer. Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi missed the game after sustaining an ankle injury in Thursday's practice.

Here's what the Scouts Inc. crew had to say about the Big Ten players:

Ricky Stanzi: "He has made three great throws on a fourth-quarter drive. The first throw, to WR Vincent Brown, had great timing and accuracy. His second throw was drilled into a tight window to TE Lance Kendricks. And his third throw had excellent timing and was a very catchable ball on a seam route by Brown. He completed six of his first nine throws."

Ryan Kerrigan: "An instinctive and tough player. He shows a quick first step and a wide variety of pass rushing moves. He may not be an explosive or gifted athlete, but he sets up blockers well and brings it play in and play out. He's had a good week and is making an impact in this game."

Greg Jones: "Jones' missed tackle on Tulsa RB Charles Clay showed his limitations and the concerns we have about him in the open field. He needs to do a better job of breaking down and taking better angles. He has not had a great week."

Carimi and Kerrigan both made the list of top five players at the Senior Bowl, while both Jones and Kendricks were mentioned among those who didn't improve their draft stock during the week.

Big Ten to send 12 to Senior Bowl

January, 18, 2011
1/18/11
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The Big Ten will once again be decently represented in the nation's premier all-star game for NFL hopefuls.

Twelve players from Big Ten teams will participate in the Under Armour Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 in Mobile, Ala. Wisconsin and Iowa both are sending three players to the game, while five other Big Ten teams will be represented.

The participants are:
  • Iowa defensive tackle Christian Ballard
  • Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn
  • Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi
  • Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi
  • Wisconsin guard John Moffitt
  • Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks
  • Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones
  • Michigan State cornerback Chris L. Rucker
  • Indiana offensive tackle James Brewer
  • Michigan guard Stephen Schilling
  • Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan
  • Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan

It's interesting to see some players included who might have flown under the radar during the season but project well to the NFL. Ballard and Brewer certainly fit into this category.

Ohio State and Michigan both have only one representative, although Buckeyes cornerback Chimdi Chekwa would have made the roster if he didn't suffer a broken wrist in the Sugar Bowl.

The group includes three potential first-round picks in Kerrigan, Carimi and Clayborn.

Should be fun to see how they all perform.
Ohio State players understand the big-picture implications at stake this week.

  • A record-tying sixth consecutive Big Ten championship (35th overall)
  • A fourth 11-win season in the past five years and a sixth under coach Jim Tressel
  • A possible trip to the Rose Bowl or, at the very least, another BCS game

But the Buckeyes are always more cognizant of the small picture, which, during Tressel's tenure, is the big picture.

Michigan.

[+] EnlargeOhio State coach Jim Tressel
AP Photo/Paul SancyaJim Tressel is 8-1 against Michigan and is trying to win his seventh in a row in the series.
Tressel has been absolutely masterful in his handling of The Game. The Vest boasts an 8-1 record against the Wolverines and has led Ohio State to six consecutive victories in the series. But his hallmark is the way he plays up the game to his players.

"The Michigan thing, it's always on our mind, even since camp, when we have our Maize and Blue period," Ohio State center Mike Brewster said. "That's always very important to us."

Growing up in Florida, Brewster had a "little bit of an idea" about the significance behind The Game, but he didn't gain a full appreciation for all it meant until he arrived in Columbus.

"After you get that first win, you really realize how much it means to the coaches, to the fans," he said. "The biggest thing for me is getting those gold pants and giving them to my mom. It's always a special thing I get to do for her.

"It's definitely one of the coolest things about playing here."

Michigan players would agree with the last part, although from their perspective, the recent results haven't been cool at all.

No current Wolverines player knows what it's like to beat the hated Buckeyes. According to Las Vegas and most prognosticators, they'll have to wait for at least another year.

The Wolverines are once again heavy underdogs as they head to Columbus, a place they haven't won in a decade.

"It's not really a rivalry when one team wins every year," Michigan senior guard Stephen Schilling said Monday.

But it's still a rivalry, no doubt.

"They hate us, we hate them," Michigan star nose tackle Mike Martin said. "That's how it is and what it is. That's what makes it so special."

Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez is winless against the Wolverines' top two rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State, and his job status once again has come up entering Ohio State week. First-year athletic director Dave Brandon has been supportive of Rodriguez to this point but hasn't truly showed his hand regarding 2011 and beyond.

Although Michigan is assured of a winning season and a bowl appearance for the first time in three years, Rodriguez still needs to show his teams can compete with the Big Ten's elite. Under Rodriguez, Michigan has yet to beat a team that finished the season with a winning record in Big Ten play.

"I didn't get this job in Michigan by getting a lottery ticket that said, 'Congratulations you're the coach of Michigan,'" Rodriguez said Monday. "We didn't get stupid overnight and all that when we lost a few games."

Tressel has won quite a few games at Ohio State, but he makes no secret about which ones mean the most to him.

"You're defined by your Ohio State-Michigan games," he said Monday.

Brewster and his teammates want to continue to be defined as winners.

"It's an accomplishment to say you played four or five years at Ohio State and never lost to Michigan," he said. "That'll always be a big one."
To date, the principal image of the 2010 college football season has been a dreadlocked quarterback wearing unlaced cleats and a No. 16 jersey outrunning defenders to the end zone.

If you haven't seen Denard Robinson do his thing, you're not paying attention.

[+] EnlargeRobinson
Don McPeak/US Presswire Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has put up special numbers this season.
Robinson can't be caught on the field, and he can't be missed on the highlight reel. The Michigan sophomore has 27 runs of 10 yards or more and 11 of 20 yards or more this season, including touchdown dashes of 87 yards against Notre Dame and 72 yards against Indiana.

Robinson has put on a show for the nation to see, but 10 of his teammates have the best seats in the (big) house.

"My view is HD," Michigan receiver Roy Roundtree said with a laugh.

"Most of the time," Wolverines guard Stephen Schilling said, "I'm looking at his back when he's running down the field."

Roundtree and Schilling had seen Robinson break off big runs in practice, but they've gained new appreciation for what he has done in games.

Robinson's instructions for Schilling and Michigan's other offensive linemen are simple: be decisive when blocking. The quarterback doesn't care which direction the linemen direct defenders, as long as he gets a good read and enough room for cutbacks.

He takes care of the rest.

"They’re making some big holes," Robinson said of his linemen. "Any back could run through them."

Schilling typically follows orders, but he slipped up on Michigan's second play from scrimmage against Indiana.

"I was blocking the 3-technique and I thought maybe I missed my block a little bit," he said. "By the time I turned around, hoping that [Robinson] wasn't getting tackled by the guy, he was already 15, 20 yards down the field.

"And then I saw him break away and I knew he was gone."

Roundtree was lined up in the slot when Robinson shot through the line and raced 72 yards.

"I saw him running past the other defenders and I was like 'Man, he is rolling,'" Roundtree said. "I'm like, 'OK, I'll beat him to the end zone because I know nobody's catching him.' Every time he breaks a run, all the offensive guys, we know where to head."

Schilling has been surprised by how quick Robinson shoots through creases. Although Michigan's offensive linemen never want to take a lazy attitude toward holding their blocks, Robinson doesn't make them wait long.

It has been a new experience for Schilling, who began his career blocking for former Michigan star running back Mike Hart.

"He was such a different back," Schilling said, "didn't really have the top-end speed but was quick and shifty and could make guys miss and always gained six or eight yards. Denard is kind of the opposite. He's faster and gets in the open space and then just can't be caught."

Schilling enjoys watching game film of Robinson's runs, especially the end-zone camera angles that show Robinson humbling defenders with his moves.

But Schilling isn't about to trade his view on Saturdays.

"It's nice on the field, especially at home, when the crowd starts going wild when he breaks away," Schilling said. "You can tell when he's gone."
There's little doubt Michigan-Michigan State is a bona fide rivalry, but it typically has been an unbalanced rivalry.

Start with the fundamental difference in significance: Michigan State considers Michigan its top rival, while the Wolverines always reserve that label for Ohio State.

Michigan holds a sizable edge in the all-time series (67-30-5), and the rivalry has been defined by pockets of dominance: Michigan went 16-0-2 between 1916-33; Michigan State went 9-1-2 between 1956-67; Michigan went 13-1 between 1970-83. Even after a rare competitive stretch between 1990-95 where the teams split six meetings, Michigan reclaimed control with an 11-2 spurt.

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez
AP Photo/Darron CummingsSince taking over at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez has yet to record a win against Michigan State.
Michigan State has claimed each of the past two games, taking home the Paul Bunyan Trophy and, in the minds of many, control in the state.

It's often easy to identify the gap between the two teams heading into their annual matchup. And that gap might show up Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.

But heading into the game, Michigan and Michigan State have achieved balance, which only enhances the rivalry.

The teams bring identical 5-0 records into the Big House. Michigan State is just one spot ahead of Michigan in both polls (No. 17 in AP, No. 16 in the coaches'). Both teams recorded dramatic victories against Notre Dame. Michigan State has a signature win against Wisconsin, while Michigan opened the season with a convincing win against Connecticut, a team many had pegged to win the Big East. The Spartans boast the Big Ten's most accomplished defender in senior linebacker Greg Jones, while the Wolverines are led by the nation's most dynamic offensive player this season in quarterback Denard Robinson.

"Two teams 5-0, bragging rights, playing in front of your hometown," Spartans running back Edwin Baker said. "It hasn't been a big game like this in a long time. We're going to bring that tradition back. Hopefully, we'll bring Paul Bunyan back."

Jones took it a step further moments after the Wisconsin win.

"That's like the biggest game of the year," he said. "Bottom line. It just is. There's nothing more to say. It's the biggest game of the year."

Michigan's biggest game always comes against Ohio State, but the significance of beating Michigan State has been ratcheted up this year. The Wolverines haven't dropped three straight to Michigan State since 1965-67. Third-year coach Rich Rodriguez is 2-1 against Notre Dame but a combined 0-4 against Michigan State and Ohio State.

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
Andrew Weber/US PresswireKirk Cousins and the Spartans hope to maintain their winning ways against Michigan.
While the Wolverines' drought against Ohio State is always thrown in their faces -- 2,509 days and counting -- players also hear about the 1,068 days that have passed since their last win against the Spartans.

"It’s there," Michigan guard Stephen Schilling said. "Obviously, the Ohio State one has been going on a little bit longer, but you don't want to lose to Michigan State at all, let alone two or three times in a row. That's a streak we’re looking to stop before it gets too big."

Schilling, a fifth-year senior, remembers what it's like to beat Michigan State. But his teammates like junior receiver Roy Roundtree have never experienced the feeling.

"We hear it a lot, definitely from the students," Roundtree said. "They're like, 'Aw, you got Michigan State this week. I hope it's not like the last two years.' I just laugh and I'm like, 'New year, new team.'

"There's a lot at stake. Both teams are undefeated, in-state rivals, Paul Bunyan on the line. We miss Paul Bunyan."

The Spartans, who see the trophy displayed daily in the Skandalaris Football Center, have no intention of giving it back. Michigan State also eyes another goal in Ann Arbor: national respect.

The R-word was thrown around the media trailer after the Wisconsin win. Some Spartans felt they'd gained respect by beating the Badgers, while Baker said they'll need to do more.

Despite Michigan State's 5-0 record, Michigan and Robinson continue to dominate the headlines.

"Always," Baker said of the attention Michigan receives. "U of M is supposed to be the team of the state, but we’re going to come out, play hard and we’ll see who comes out on top."

Big Ten mailblog

October, 5, 2010
10/05/10
9:00
AM ET
As always, you can contact me here and follow me on Twitter.

You have the right to sound off on anything, but just a friendly reminder: I'll never address questions about ESPN programming, and while it's flattering that you think I have the power to shape those decisions, they take place at much higher levels. Thanks for reading!

John from West Chester, Pa., writes: Given the struggles of the Penn State offense do you think it might be time to see what we have in Kevin Newsome? Seems like his running ability could really help spark an offense looking for plays? At this point any Jan 1st bowl seems like a long shot so it can't hurt.

Adam Rittenberg: John, I think offensive coordinator Galen Hall and his staff have to be open to all possibilities at this point, including using Newsome in more meaningful situations. A lot of fans and some media have talked about Newsome playing more in the red zone. His size and athleticism certainly could help near the goal line. But ultimately, Penn State coaches need to evaluate the gap between Newsome and Robert Bolden. Is it still wide, or is it narrowing? You can't blame Bolden for Penn State's offensive woes, as there have been struggles elsewhere (spotty line play, dropped passes). I still think Bolden will be a very good Big Ten quarterback some day. If there's still a sizable gap between Bolden and Newsome in practice, I don't think it's worth hurting Bolden's confidence just to shake things up. But if the coaches think Newsome has shown them enough to make a difference, it's time to pull the trigger.


Michael from Charlotte, N.C., writes: With as many yards as Oregon's defense has given up in it's two PAC-10 games(1100), how can people seriously be considering them as the #2 team ahead of tOSU? I know they're offense is lighting it up, but defense still wins championships, and OSU only struggled Saturday because Tressel limted Pryor's touches due to his quad injury. Help me understand why anyone would say this...

Adam Rittenberg: Sure, I can help. Oregon's defense certainly hasn't been lights out, but the Ducks looked like a very dangerous team on offense against a very good Stanford squad on Saturday. Given what the Ducks have done offensively so far, they certainly deserve to be in the discussion for No. 2. The bigger issue is I'm not sure Ohio State "only struggled" because of Terrelle Pryor's injury. Illinois' defense did a nice job against the Buckeyes and deserves a little bit of credit, too. And Ohio State's running backs still leave something to be desired. You can make strong cases for both Ohio State and Oregon to be No. 2, but I don't believe there's a sizable gap one way or the other when it comes to both teams' body of work this season.


James from East Lansing, Mich., writes: When my Spartans were winning 27-24 I must admit I was nervous you're 31-30 last minute Wisco victory would be true. Anyways, when does Treadwell's phone start ringing with head coach offers for next year? The way he's been coaching I feel like we should be worried about losing a great coordinator.

Adam Rittenberg: Ha! James, I was thinking the exact same thing when Wisconsin stopped Michigan State on third-and-goal. I thought the Spartans would take the three points and set up my predicted score. But Don Treadwell played it bold and Kirk Cousins executed the play perfectly. Good question about Treadwell, who is definitely helping his cause to be a future head coach by handling things so well these past two weeks. He really distinguished himself as a play-caller on MSU's final touchdown drive, outmaneuvering Wisconsin's staff on three third-down conversions and then the fourth-and-goal. Treadwell definitely should get some attention after the season, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see him running the show somewhere else in 2011.


Mark from Washington writes: Adam,Typically your writing about the Big 10 and its players is thoughtful, nuanced and accurate, but I was disappointed to see you take up the theme of your colleagues in referring to Denard Robinson as a "one-man show" in your blog this week. What Robinson is doing so far this season is special and awe-inspiring, but to say that he's doing this by himself is disingenuous. Michigan's experienced and deep offensive line and blocking tailbacks have opened up gaping holes for Robinson, and allowed him plenty of time to find open receivers. And speaking of receivers, Darryl Stonum, Roy Roundtree and -- especially against Indiana -- Junior Hemingway have had a lot to do with Robinson's big numbers through the air. I think Denard has been outstanding, but when I keep reading that he's a "one-man show," I feel for all the guys on the field that are making that show possible (not to mention Rich Rodriguez's offensive scheme and play calling).

Adam Rittenberg: Mark, these are fair criticisms delivered in a respectful manner. Michigan's offensive line deserves a lot of credit for Robinson's success, although as guard Stephen Schilling told me Monday, the linemen don't need to hold their blocks too long for No. 16 to zip through and into the second level. I think I've given enough props to Stonum, Roundtree and now Junior Hemingway, but to restate: those guys have done a nice job. Still, there are a lot of teams with solid offensive lines and groups of receivers, but the number of huge plays Michigan has executed this season are mainly because Robinson is on the field.


Bucky from Secret Hideout writes: Our football coach is 1-8 against ranked opponents on the road. We have the 8th largest football budget in the country. As a tax paying Wisconsin badger and fan, do you think I'm getting my moneys worth from the program? Regards,Bucky

Adam Rittenberg: Bucky, you have a point here. Wisconsin never hesitates to tout its impressive home record under Bret Bielema, but the road has been a very different story. I wouldn't blame the Badgers for never setting foot in the state of Michigan again. Oh, wait, they have to go back there Nov. 20 to face Michigan. Beating Ohio State at home on Oct. 16 is huge, but it's almost as big for Bielema to notch a road win against a ranked team this year. He'll get his chance Oct. 23 against Iowa, which will be ranked even if it stumbles against Michigan. Winning big road games is an important step on the path from very good to great, and Wisconsin has yet to take the step.


David from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam,Just saw your poll where you voted Oregon #2 and Ohio State #3. I just wanted to remind you that we beat them decisively at the end of last year in the Rose Bowl and we both brought back the exact same people - except our defense might actually be better this year!I don't discount we didn't look great this weekend, but you have to remember it was our first road game and the weather didn't set up for a 70-point day like it did against other teams. Please remember the Pac-10 does not believe in defense and when everyone talks about LaMichael James and how many 100+ rushing yards he has - they don't mention we were the last team to keep him under the century mark.Finally, when we won it all in 2002 against one the best teams around back then we won many games this exact same way. The vest will not put us in harm's way and if we have the lead we'll be happy to punt and play defense!

Adam Rittenberg: David, first of all, the Rose Bowl argument doesn't hold water. New season. It doesn't matter that the Buckeyes beat Oregon nine months ago. You're right that a team's first road game typically brings some ups and downs, but this is a veteran Ohio State team, as you point out, that has actually had more success on the road in Big Ten play than at home. Oregon started slowly in its first road game, too, before blitzing Tennessee 48-13. And while the Vols are down right now, they should have knocked off Lucky Les and No. 12 LSU on Saturday. The weather argument is a fair one, but Ohio State still wanted to get its run game going and, aside from Pryor's long run, didn't do so until late. I'm sure Buckeyes fans would love to have James or Kenjon Barner this year. As for your point about 2002, I never questioned the way Tressel's teams won games. The formula is proven over time. All I'm saying is that Ohio State might need some lopsided wins along the way to distinguish itself this year.
ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has updated his latest Big Board, as well as his top-5 positions lists for both seniors and non-seniors.

You need to be an ESPN Insider member to view the complete files, but here's where Big Ten players stack up:

Kiper's Big Board
  • Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, the first Big Ten player on the board, dropped to No. 8 from No. 5 last week
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan held steady at No. 13
  • Ohio State DL Cameron Heyward held steady at No. 15
Position Rankings: Seniors
  • Ohio State's Brandon Saine is No. 5 among running backs
  • Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks is No. 1 among tight ends
  • Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi is No. 5 among offensive tackles
  • Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski is No. 2 among centers (Wisniewski has moved back to guard this year)
  • Iowa's Clayborn is No. 1 among defensive ends
  • Purdue's Kerrigan is No. 3 among defensive ends
  • Ohio State's Heyward is No. 4 among defensive ends
  • Michigan State's Greg Jones is No. 1 among inside linebackers
  • Ohio State's Ross Homan is No. 4 among outside linebackers
  • Iowa's Ryan Donahue is No. 1 among punters
Position Rankings: Non-Seniors
  • Penn State's Joe Suhey is No. 4 among fullbacks
  • Northwestern's Al Netter is No. 4 among offensive tackles
  • Purdue's Ken Plue is No. 5 among guards
  • Ohio State's Mike Brewster is No. 1 among centers
  • Michigan's David Molk is No. 5 among guards
  • Wisconsin's J.J. Watt is No. 4 among defensive ends
  • Wisconsin's Philip Welch is No. 3 among kickers
  • Purdue's Carson Wiggs is No. 5 among kickers

Interesting selections here from Kiper. I was a bit surprised not to see Carimi higher on his lists, and the Big Ten's senior guards -- Ohio State's Justin Boren, Wisconsin's John Moffitt and Michigan's Stephen Schilling -- were shut out. Penn State fans might be interested to know that former Nittany Lion Pat Devlin ranks as the No. 3 senior quarterback.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan's speed on offense has been the story so far, but don't forget about the guys up front.

The Wolverines' size advantage is one area I really thought they could exploit heading into the game. So far, they have.

When Michael Shaw scored from three yards out to put the Wolverines up 20-3, he barely got touched before the goal line. Center David Molk, guard Stephen Schilling and others are generating excellent push against a smaller Huskies defensive front.

Michigan's offensive line was supposed to be a strength entering the year, as the Wolverines boasted both experience and depth with young players like Taylor Lewan. Denard Robinson and co. clearly don't need much space to make things happen, and so far, they're getting plenty of it.

The Wolverines lead 21-3 with 2:08 left in the half.

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