Chicago Colleges: MAC

Big Ten viewer’s guide: Week 7

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
Week 7 is here, and let’s not sugarcoat it: Big Ten football has looked more interesting on other weekends. This first Saturday of the season without nonconference action lacks marquee matchups. Still, the division races will continue to take shape.

Here’s a look at the five games (all times Eastern):


Illinois (3-3) and Wisconsin (3-2), ESPN2: Will Melvin Gordon run for 300 yards? If the Badgers wanted it to happen, Illinois’ 119th-ranked rushing defense would likely comply. More of the intrigue in Madison involves the quarterbacks. For Wisconsin, Joel Stave, who returned last week against Northwestern, will see time, in addition to Tanner McEvoy, who might also take a shot at receiver. And with Illinois’ Wes Lunt out with a fractured leg, senior Reilly O’Toole and sophomore Aaron Bailey, who was set to redshirt, have competed in practice this week.

Indiana (3-2) and Iowa (4-1), ESPNU: Indiana has shown it can win on the road in tough spots, handing Missouri its lone loss on Sept. 20. The Hoosiers are more explosive on offense than any foe Iowa has faced. But Indiana still can’t defend well, in particular against proficient quarterbacks. The Hawkeyes are going back to Jake Rudock at the start, but C.J. Beathard will play. How well can Greg Davis manage this? If it’s a disaster, Indiana might just find itself in the right place at the right time for an upset bid.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cobb
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDavid Cobb and Minnesota can take a big step in their quest for a Western Division crown by beating Northwestern on Saturday.
Northwestern (3-2) at Minnesota (4-1), BTN: Who would have guessed a month ago, as the Golden Gophers fell flat at TCU and the Wildcats sat winless, that this game would have legitimate implications for the West Division title race? It does, with NU in quest of a third straight unexpected win to open league play. Its defense led the charge against Penn State and Wisconsin. Minnesota is simply solid, led by David Cobb, statistically the league’s most valuable offensive player. Minnesota has defended the pass especially well in recent games and will test Northwestern’s Trevor Siemian, 13th in the Big Ten in QBR.

3:30 p.m.

No. 8 Michigan State (4-1) at Purdue (3-3), ESPN2: At least it’s not the best team in the Big Ten against the worst. Purdue escaped the low spot last week with a win over Illinois. And sophomore quarterback Austin Appleby looked good in the victory. Very good, in fact. Back at home, he figures to find a much more difficult situation against the Spartans, who might come in a bit angry after nearly blowing a 24-point, fourth-quarter lead against Nebraska.

7 p.m.

Penn State (4-1) at Michigan (2-4), ESPN2: The visitors from Happy Valley, after an off week, get an opportunity to show that their anemic performance against Northwestern was just a fluke. With an upcoming stretch of three challenging games, no better time exists for PSU to get healthy than at Michigan, trying to avoid its first 0-3 start in the Big Ten since 1965. Against a good Penn State front, the Wolverines must protect Devin Gardner and throw the football, neither of which they’ve done well in recent weeks.

Required reading

Big Ten Tuesday mailblog

April, 1, 2014
Apr 1
Coming at ya from Happy Valley. Dropping in on James Franklin and the Nittany Lions on Wednesday.

To the inbox ...

Ken from Kansas City, Mo., writes: Hey Adam! I loved the "dictator for the day" thread. I just have one suggestion ... since everyone was worried about some teams getting five home games and other teams getting four in a nine-game schedule, and with two bye weeks now due to extending games beyond Thanksgiving, how about every team has one of their conference games played internationally each year, following a bye week? This would: increase international exposure for the B1G, be a cool perk when it came to recruiting -- "your son will get to visit four or five foreign countries during their years at our university" -- and leave everyone with an even 4-4-1 split on conference game locations and make for some cool travel options for the fans.

Adam Rittenberg: Ken, a couple things here. The double-bye thankfully won't be an annual occurrence in college football. It takes place only when Aug. 30 or Aug. 31 falls on a Saturday, as was the case last year and again this fall. Also, Big Ten schools don't want to part with home games, especially for an international site that, while appealing to some, prevents many others from attending. It also disrupts the players' schedule. I like the way you're thinking because exposure is the name of the game, and occasional international events like Penn State's opener this fall make sense. But not every year.

Brian from Baltimore writes: So far PSU and James Franklin are "walking the walk"' as far as dominating recruiting. How surprising is this? After this torrid pace of commitments slows down, how do you see Penn State faring overall for 2015 recruits?

Rittenberg: Brian, while the sheer number of early commits is noteworthy, Franklin's recruiting success certainly is not. He has been regarded as a nationally elite recruiter since his time as a Maryland assistant, and the enthusiasm he brings to Penn State -- and a region where he and several of his assistants already have familiarity -- translates on the trail. Franklin did really well with early commitments in Vanderbilt's 2013 class, as 16 players pledged before the season. If Penn State hangs onto all these recruits and continues to add solid pieces, Franklin will bring in a nationally elite class next February.

Brian from West Michigan writes: If the Northwestern unionizing efforts succeed, are they aware of the unintended consequences that are coming from their actions? For instance, now that they are considered "employees," their scholarship value (upwards of 50K/year depending on the school) is considered compensation and eligible to be taxed. You hear stories of kids being able to use athletics to get them a degree that otherwise they couldn't have afforded. How does a college kid who is now "making" $50K/year scrape up the cash to pay Uncle Sam?

Rittenberg: Brian, the tax question looms large in the debate, and there are different opinions on what the players would be required to pay. Kevin Trahan addresses it well here, quoting several tax experts who say the players will have to pay taxes on their scholarships. College Athletes Players Association president Ramogi Huma, meanwhile, cites a provision in the tax code that states scholarships for "degree candidates" are not taxable. It doesn't sound like tax status will factor into the NLRB's final ruling on whether players are employees, but it's certainly a significant factor for the players as they pursue this route.

Jim from Virginia writes: A lot is made of "skill" positions (top three backfield, etc). Yet, when looking at the offensive and defensive lines, Nebraska seems to be able to make a case for turning a four-loss year last year -- when the offensive line got experience through injuries and the defensive line matured -- into maybe Bo Pelini's best campaign.

Rittenberg: Jim, I agree that Nebraska's ceiling this season largely depends on line play. Randy Gregory provides a major edge-rushing threat for the defensive line, and if Nebraska can stay healthy and generate more from the inside tackles, it should be pretty stout up front. There are more questions along the offensive line, which loses key players such as Spencer Long, Cole Pensick and Jeremiah Sirles. Alex Lewis is a key addition because he brings experience from Colorado. Lewis and Jake Cotton should anchor the left side of the Husker line. Nebraska must build depth and chemistry with the group the rest of the spring and through fall camp. It likely needs younger players such as Givens Price to blossom.

Keith from Kunming, China, writes: Hey Adam,You didn't like the Premier League model for B1G and MAC, but I do. You said it's not realistic to move between leagues, but it is if the B1G and the MAC have a contractual relationship, and the MAC is essentially absorbed into the B1G as a sort of junior league. B1G doesn't "own" MAC programs but it effectively subsidizes them. Michigan will continue to fill its stadium when relegated (oh! the joy in East Lansing!), which will be financially great for the MAC opponents. My only change to the model proposed is that relegation should happen every years, as in England. Why wouldn't this work?

Rittenberg: Keith, first off, thanks for reading from so far away. Although the Big Ten and the MAC have a strong relationship when it comes to scheduling, officiating and other areas, your proposal requires the Big Ten to shoulder a major financial and structural burden, while embarrassing its members in the process. I'm not saying it wouldn't be fun for fans, but does the Big Ten want to be so closely tied with the MAC, which has schools with profiles that differ markedly from those in the Big Ten? Scheduling would be a huge headache because you wouldn't know where certain teams would be. Money would be a problem on several levels, from television audience to stadium size.
Jordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies points as he looks to pass against the Florida State Seminoles during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesJordan Lynch #6 of the Northern Illinois Huskies points as he looks to pass against the Florida State Seminoles during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 1, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Northern Illinois's offense played the pumpkin in the Orange Bowl last season. Can Lynch & Co. retrace their run as BCS Cinderellas?

Read the story here.

Signing Day: NIU's Carey signs first class

February, 6, 2013
Northern Illinois may not see its Orange Bowl appearance pay large dividends in its 2013 recruiting class.

With only 13 players expected to sign on Wednesday, Huskies first-year coach Rod Carey may have to wait until 2014 to see more recruits headed his way. They will also have an indoor practice facility to show off to recruits beginning in the fall.

“I think they set themselves up nicely,” ESPN Midwest recruiting coordinator Jared Shanker said. “They’re in the news with the Orange Bowl appearance. They’ve had their best two-year run in school history. If you’re going to see improvements in Northern Illinois' recruiting, I think you’ll see that in the 2014 class.”

Top recruit: Milton (Ga.) wide receiver Malik Mitchell is the most highly-rated recruit for the Huskies. He has a three-star rating and a scout grade of 70. He chose Northern Illinois over MAC foes Toledo and Western Michigan.

“He’s a nice get for Northern Illinois,” Shanker said.

Aurora Christian trio: Northern Illinois has three Aurora Christian (Ill.) teammates in its 2013 class. Wide receiver Chad Beebe, running back Joel Bouagnon and safety Brandon Mayes led Aurora Christian to its second consecutive Class 3A state title in November. Beebe is the son of former NFL wide receiver Don Beebe.

Illinois state champs: The Huskies recruited a number of players from Illinois state championship programs. Aside from the Aurora Christian trio, Mount Carmel athlete Draco Smith won a Class 8A state title as a senior, and Prairie Ridge outside linebacker Sean Folliard won a Class 6A title as a junior.

Instant analysis: FSU 31, NIU 10

January, 2, 2013

It wasn't exactly the easy win so many predicted, but Florida State's size and speed advantage helped the Seminoles outlast upstart Northern Illinois 31-10 to win their first Orange Bowl since 1996.

Record-setting NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch found no room to work, and Florida State's dominant defense showed few flaws in its first game without departed coordinator Mark Stoops, while EJ Manuel accounted for 321 yards of offense and two touchdowns to lead the Seminoles.

It was over when: Xavier Rhodes forced a fumble from Da'Ron Brown on a second-down run with 11:15 left to play in the game. Northern Illinois had just converted a fourth-and-1 and was driving in hopes of cutting FSU's lead to seven, but the fumble was the dagger that ended any hopes of an upset. The play was reviewed, but officials ruled the ball was coming out of Brown's grip before his knee hit the ground, and the Seminoles quickly capitalized on the turnover with a Lonnie Pryor touchdown.

Game ball goes to: Pryor. The senior fullback has toiled in the shadows for four years at Florida State, earning immense respect within the locker room but relatively little fanfare outside it. Tuesday's game was different. While the rest of the FSU running game struggled, Pryor was brilliant. He opened the scoring with a 60-yard touchdown run -- the longest of his career -- and put the icing on the cake with his 37-yard touchdown after NIU's fourth-quarter fumble.

Turning point: There were plenty, but NIU's two turnovers were killer. The fumble by Brown was the last straw, but a third-quarter interception by Terrence Brooks squelched another promising Huskies drive. Brooks picked off Lynch at the FSU 13-yard line to protect a slim seven-point lead.

Stat of the game: Lynch entered the game as one of the most dynamic offensive players in college football, but he found out yards are far tougher to come by against Florida State. Coming into the game, Lynch had racked up 1,771 rushing yards -- fourth most in the nation -- and was averaging 6.5 yards per carry. But Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and the FSU linebacking corps was exceptional, hitting him repeatedly and giving him nowhere to run. Lynch had bragged earlier in the week that NIU planned to wear FSU down late, but the opposite was true, and the junior quarterback finished with just 44 yards rushing on 23 carries, while completing just 36 percent of his throws.

Unsung hero: It's tough to call Manuel an unsung hero, but in a season in which he's earned just as much criticism as praise -- and maybe more -- he wrapped up a five-year career at Florida State with a solid performance. Manuel completed 27 of 39 passes for 296 yards through the air and added another 26 rushing with a touchdown. He missed a few passes -- something his critics will be happy to note -- but he connected on far more. When the FSU offense needed him, he made the throws he had to make. Manuel never lived up to his immense promise at FSU, but he was surely a very good quarterback, and he ends his career as an Orange Bowl champion and winner of four straight bowl games.

What it means: Northern Illinois shrugged off the legions of doubters and proved an unexpectedly competitive opponent, but in the end, Lynch and the Huskies simply didn't have enough to make a late charge. For Florida State, it was yet another inconsistent performance in a season that has been filled with them. But it was also the school's first BCS win in 12 years, and it marked just the second time in program history that FSU has won 12 games in a season.

N. Illinois, MAC see big recruiting boost 

December, 30, 2012
What’s one sign of a program on the rise? How about when it goes through a coaching change and its top commitment -- who has a BCS offer -- doesn't even bat an eye.

That is the transformation Northern Illinois has undergone the last two seasons, culminating with a berth in a BCS bowl against a former national champion.

“It’s made my commitment very exciting,” said Corey Winfield, a three-star prospect out of St. Louis Riverview Gardens and the Huskies’ top commit. “I’m ready to move on and be a part of the team.”

Read the entire story.

Video: Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch

December, 30, 2012

Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch sets the record straight regarding his comments about Florida State's defense, and talks about the Discover Orange Bowl.

Video: Northern Illinois' Akeem Daniels

December, 30, 2012

Northern Illinois running back Akeem Daniels talks about being back in his home state of Florida and preparing for the Discover Orange Bowl.

Video: Northern Illinois' Bob Cole

December, 30, 2012

Northern Illinois quarterbacks coach Bob Cole talks about Jordan Lynch's development, and the challenges Florida State presents on defense.

Video: Northern Illinois' Sean Progar

December, 28, 2012

Northern Illinois defensive end Sean Progar talks about stopping Florida State's run game and what an Orange Bowl win would mean.

MAC may subsidize NIU trip to Miami

December, 3, 2012
The Mid-American Conference will consider guaranteeing that Northern Illinois will not lose when the Huskies play Florida State in the Discover Orange Bowl.

Not on the field, but in the wallet.

MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher told ESPN on Monday that he will present to the presidents of the conference a proposal to subsidize NIU's trip to Miami for the Jan. 1 bowl game.

"Northern Illinois will not be left on the hook like other programs have been," Steinbrecher said. "We've always discussed what we would do when we came to this point and it was clear that the opinion was we'd subsidize the school going so that this could be a conference celebration."

Read the entire story.

Try telling these Huskies they don't belong

December, 3, 2012
Anthony WellsAndrew Weber/US Presswire

Northern Illinois, the beneficiary of a BCS rule designed to allow access for schools from non-automatic qualifying conferences, caused much consternation by its selection to the Discover Orange Bowl. But try telling the Huskies they don't belong.

Read the story here.

Video: Northern Illinois 44, Kent State 37

November, 30, 2012

No. 21 Northern Illinois wins its second consecutive Mid-American Conference title by beating 17th-ranked Kent State 44-37 in double overtime.

NIU QB Lynch proves he's a dual threat

November, 15, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. -- Toledo Rockets linebacker Dan Molls admitted his team never expected Northern Illinois Huskies junior quarterback Jordan Lynch would be a threat in the air on Wednesday night.

Sure, Molls thought Lynch could beat Toledo on the ground. Leading into Wednesday’s game, Lynch had recorded an NCAA record of eight consecutive games of recording 100 yards rushing as a quarterback and was ranked fifth in the country in rushing yards at any position.

But when it came to passing, Toledo was willing to take its chances against Lynch and concentrate its attention on him running.

“I thing we prepared more for him running,” Molls sad. “Obviously, he’s a great runner. I think the fact he can still hurt you throwing the ball ... caught us off guard a little bit.”

Lynch certainly made the Rockets pay for that on Wednesday.

He was 25-of-36 passing with a career-high 407 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. In the third quarter alone, he was 13-of-15 for 295 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and led the Huskies to outscore Toledo 21-0.

“If we don’t have two turnovers, it might have been the best game for any quarterback we’ve ever had around here,” Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren said.

Lynch was especially proud of his play, because he did prove he is a QB capable of beating opponents in the air and on the ground. He rushed for a team-high 131 yards on 29 carries.

“I’m a quarterback first,” Lynch said. “I go out there and throw the ball out there. It’s hard to defend a dual-threat quarterback.”

Toledo coach Matt Campbell already knew Lynch was a unique quarterback, but his admiration only grew when Lynch defeated the Rockets and helped Northern Illinois clinch another MAC West division title.

“He’s a great player,” Campbell said. “I think the thing you know in this conference is the best quarterback in this conference has a chance to win a MAC championship. I think right now he’s playing at an extremely high level, and he’s a young man who plays very consistently.

“His ability to sustain his success over the last 10, now 11 football games, a lot of credit has to go to him. He’s certainly a special football player. He’s a got a lot of great football ahead of him.”

Rapid Reaction: N. Illinois 31, Toledo 24

November, 15, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. -- The Northern Illinois Huskies weren’t going to allow their worst offensive first half of the season deter them from their third consecutive Mid-American Conference West Division title on Wednesday.

After scoring just once against the Toledo Rockets in the opening half, the Huskies emerged in the third quarter with three unanswered touchdowns and pulled out a 31-24 victory at Huskie Stadium to clinch the MAC West title and win their 21st consecutive home game.

It was over when: After taking over possession at their own 1-yard line in the third quarter, the Huskies drove 99 yards on nine plays, culminating with an 11-yard pass from Jordan Lynch to Perez Ashford for a touchdown. Northern Illinois went ahead 21-14 with the touchdown and extra point, and Toledo never challenged the Huskies again. Northern Illinois outscored the Rockets 21-0 in the quarter and accumulated 347 yards to Toledo’s 69 yards.

Player of the game: Lynch continued to make a case for himself as an outside Heisman Trophy candidate. And on Wednesday, he showed off his arm more than his legs.

Lynch was 25-of-36 passing with a career-high 407 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for a team-high 162 yards on 30 carries. It was Lynch’s ninth consecutive game of rushing for a 100-plus yards, which extended his NCAA record for quarterbacks.

Stat of the game: In the third quarter alone, Lynch completed 13 of 15 passes for 295 yards, with two touchdowns.

Unsung hero of the game: Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward was all over the field. He led the Huskies with 11 tackles, forced a fumble and had an interception.

Play of the game: On the opening play of the third quarter, Lynch threw a short pass to Martel Moore on the right side. Moore caught the ball and turned up field. One defender hit him and Moore stumbled, but he put his right hand on the ground to keep his balance and continued moving forward. He quickly took another hit and again was close to falling to the ground. He put both of his hands -- including his left, which was underneath the ball -- onto the ground to keep himself up, regained his balance and sprinted past Toledo’s defense for a 73-yard score.

What it means: Northern Illinois remained the kings of the MAC. The Huskies have now won 15 consecutive conference games, which included last year’s MAC championship game. The East has some quality teams, but Northern Illinois has to be favored again in this year’s title game, which is Nov. 30.



Thursday, 10/23
Friday, 10/24
Saturday, 10/25