Chicago Colleges: Jadeveon Clowney


The Big Ten's bowl lineup is now official. Both participants from the league championship game are headed to BCS bowls, while five others will play postseason games in Florida, Arizona and Texas. The overall lineup doesn't seem quite as daunting as last season's, when the Big Ten had zero top-10 teams and played three top-10 opponents in the postseason.

We'll be breaking down these games for the next few weeks, but we wanted to share our first impressions of the lineup:

Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO, Jan. 1: Michigan State vs. Stanford
Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3: Ohio State vs. Clemson
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin vs. South Carolina
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Iowa vs. LSU
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 28: Michigan vs. Kansas State
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska vs. Georgia
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27: Minnesota vs. Syracuse

Let's begin ...

Adam Rittenberg's first impressions

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Allen Kee/ESPN ImagesMark Dantonio's Spartans enter the Rose Bowl on a nine-game win streak.
Best game: Rose. The most tradition-rich bowl will celebrate its 100th edition with a matchup of teams with traditional offenses based around the power-run and aggressive, hard-hitting defenses. Michigan State recorded the signature win of the Mark Dantonio-era against Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game and enters the Rose Bowl on a nine-game win streak, winning each contest by at least 10 points. Both teams have standout defenders (MSU's Darqueze Dennard, Max Bullough, Shilique Calhoun and Denicos Allen; Stanford's Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Jordan Richards), underrated quarterbacks in Connor Cook and Kevin Hogan and impressive running backs in Jeremy Langford and Tyler Gaffney. Good times.

Worst game: Gator. I'm probably not as upset about this one as Brian (or most Nebraska fans), but a rematch of last season's Capital One Bowl featuring two teams playing without their starting quarterbacks doesn't move the needle. At least running backs Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) and Todd Gurley (Georgia) are fun to watch.

Sneaky good game: Capital One Bowl. Not sure how sneaky this one is, but both teams are talented on both sides of the ball and easily could have better records. The game features the nation's most talented defender in South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney against one of the nation's most accomplished defenders in Wisconsin's Chris Borland. The Badgers' seniors want to go out on a good note after a stunning home loss to Penn State, not to mention three consecutive losses in the Rose Bowl.

The bowl season will be a success if: The Big Ten records a winning record with at least one BCS bowl win. This season's lineup is slightly more favorable, and four wins certainly isn't out of the question. Ohio State and Minnesota both should win their games, and Michigan State, while less experienced than Stanford in BCS games, is playing its best football. Wisconsin needs to rebound, Iowa has a tough draw and both Michigan and Nebraska have been enigmatic, but the Big Ten should expect a little more in its final season of its self-created meat-grinder bowl lineup.

Brian Bennett's first impressions

Best game: The Rose Bowl is tremendous and looks to be the second-best game outside of the BCS title game. But let me also put in a plug for a possible underrated Orange matchup between Ohio State and Clemson. I saw Clemson earlier this season, and while the Tigers stumbled badly against Florida State and South Carolina, they are loaded with athletes. Put Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins, Braxton Miller and Carlos Hyde all on the same field, and you're guaranteed some fireworks. Both teams score more than 40 points per game so we could have an entertaining shootout with some intriguing back stories (the Woody Hayes punch, Urban Meyer's return to the state of Florida).

Worst game: Minnesota had a great season and has a legitimately good defense and solid running game led by David Cobb. So I was hoping to see the Gophers get a chance to prove themselves against a decent opponent. Unfortunately, they drew a 6-6 Syracuse squad that beat absolutely no one and has an even lower-scoring offense than Minnesota. A bowl win is probably all that matters to Jerry Kill and his players, but I think they deserved a better showcase opportunity.

Sneaky good game: Outback. Iowa will have to make up for a talent gap with LSU -- as most teams do when they play the Tigers. But the Hawkeyes really hit their stride in the season finale at Nebraska, and they have only lost to teams ranked in the top 20. LSU, meanwhile, will be without starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who tore his ACL in the season finale, and this was not a vintage Tigers' defense. Both teams like to run the ball a lot, and Iowa linebackers James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey must continue to lead the way for Phil Parker's defense. Maybe if we're lucky, we'll get an ending half as good as the 2005 Capital One Bowl.

The bowl season will be a success if: At least one BCS win is a necessity, especially with opponents who are similar in style in both games. Winning at least one of the games against the SEC on New Year's Day is also important; that holiday has been unkind to the Big Ten of late, and Georgia and LSU look more vulnerable than usual. An overall winning record is possible and could start to change the conference's image. Another sign of success will be if Wisconsin can avoid adding to Clowney's postseason highlight reel.

Golson entering spring more confident

March, 25, 2013
3/25/13
9:09
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The video has been making the rounds for much of the offseason, garnering more than 12,000 views since it was first uploaded in January.

If hype and preseason projections hold to form, it may feature a future Heisman Trophy winner. If Everett Golson develops into the kind of quarterback he hopes to become, it may eventually feature two Heisman winners.

The first play of the South Carolina High School League AAA title game, as CSNChicago's JJ Stankevitz notes, offered a familiar sight: Jadeveon Clowney obliterating everything in its path en route to the quarterback.

The quarterback remembered getting tossed on the sack -- "like it was yesterday," Golson joked -- but he also remembered the night for something else. His Myrtle Beach team beat Clowney's South Pointe squad, 27-23.

Clowney, a rising junior at South Carolina, is among the early spring favorites to lift college football's most coveted individual hardware in 2013, especially after he capped his 2012 campaign with a hit like this one on Michigan's Vincent Smith.

Golson is quietly rooting for the fellow South Carolina native to become the first pure defensive player to win the Heisman. Golson's former teammate, linebacker Manti Te'o, came as close as any pure defender ever in 2012. But there is a caveat.

"I hope he does, but at the same time, I think I'm pushing for the same thing," Golson said. "I know it's maybe a goal some may say is a little bit far-fetched, but I want to be the best competitor I can be. So I want to see him do great, but I also want to be there at the same time."

Starting at the glamor position of quarterback -- at Notre Dame, no less -- one year after taking his team to the final game of the college football season gives Golson a built-in advantage. A year of ups and downs at the highest level, plus the ever-so-slight comfort of knowing the No. 1 job is his to lose, also gives Golson more confidence heading into his redshirt sophomore season. He is better prepared for this year after admitting to being a bit overwhelmed by the media attention.

"I think I came in and it was probably like six [reporters]," he said of last year's spring game, which served as his first breakout public performance. "I was like, 'All right, it's cool.' And next thing I know, I look up and it's like 20, 30 people. I'm like, 'Whoa.' So I'm trying to watch my words more carefully and stuff like that."

He is hoping his plan heading into the 2013 season goes a little bit better than his team's did entering that 2010 title game in South Carolina, end result notwithstanding.

"Oh man," he said laughing. "Let's just say what we planned to happen didn't happen at all. It was the complete opposite. I guess we had a great plan, scheme-wise. We thought it was a good plan. We were basically cracking back on Jadaveon so we would block him with our tackle and our tight end was actually detached and he would crack back as soon as the ball was snapped.

"But I remember we snapped the ball and he just gets off the line and I don't think my tight end gets to him. So I'm like, 'Awww man.' I know he's coming, so like I'm trying to get out but he's a great athlete and it wasn't really combat from me, I guess. I couldn't do anything. I was at a loss so I just kind of took that one."

Who to watch for Notre Dame in 2013

January, 15, 2013
1/15/13
6:46
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Notre Dame came as close as it possibly could have to boasting its first Heisman Trophy winner in 25 years, as Manti Te'o's historic campaign came up just short. Here are the Irish players with the best chance to follow the linebacker's run, however unlikely holding up that stiff-arm trophy may be.

[+] EnlargeStephon Tuitt
Matt Cashore/USA TODAY SportsStephon Tuitt had 12 sacks for Notre Dame during his sophomore season.
Stephon Tuitt, DE. As stated earlier, Tuitt is poised for a monster year. The 6-foot-6, 303-pound Georgia native has been consistently deemed by teammates as a "freak," an appropriate adjective for a player relatively new to football despite a 12-sack season for one of the best defenses in Notre Dame history. Expect him to take the next step and put up even bigger numbers in 2013, though South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney will likely dominate the national Heisman conversation from day one and give defensive players an even better chance at taking home the hardware a year after Te'o came as close as any of them in history (among one-way defensive players).

Everett Golson, QB. Despite first-year growing pains as a redshirt freshman, Golson made plenty of progress and became seasoned in a way few others have at his age. If he is to take the next step, fend off his quarterback challengers and become a consistent dual-threat QB who leads Notre Dame to another promising campaign, he will be in the spotlight more than anyone else on the Irish roster. Some already see him as a dark horse candidate.

Louis Nix, NG. Nix may be the best player returning to the Irish. And after passing up early entry to the draft, one more year of similar production to his 2012 output will make pro scouts fall in love with him even more. The only problem is his position, which is not conducive to the kind of big numbers that voters and everyone else have become accustomed to using in measuring one's impact. Still, look no further than the Nov. 3 Pitt game -- when Ray Graham rushed for 172 yards, the most against the Irish all season -- to see Nix's impact, as the redshirt sophomore was clearly not himself after being hampered by a virus that had kept him in the infirmary for two nights earlier in the week.

Big Ten power rankings: Week 15

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
9:15
AM CT
Only one Big Ten game took place since the last edition of the power rankings, but the surprising result left quite a conundrum.

How should we rank teams 2 through 6 after Wisconsin smashed Nebraska by 39 points in the Big Ten championship game? Wisconsin had a truly great night in Indy and looked like a different team than we've seen all season, but the Badgers still have more losses than Nebraska, Northwestern, Michigan and Penn State.

Oh, the decisions. In the end, this version of the power rankings takes into account the totality of the season. It's a little different from the weekly ones in that sense. Plus, we want to remain consistent with how we voted in the ESPN.com power rankings. As a result, Wisconsin stays at 6 (commence hate mail).

Let's get to it ...

1. Ohio State (12-0, last week: 1): Get used to the Buckeyes occupying the top spot under coach Urban Meyer, who guided Ohio State to its sixth unbeaten and untied season in team history. The big keys entering the offseason are addressing depth issues on the defensive side, finding more consistent playmakers to surround quarterback Braxton Miller and maintaining the standard set this season on the offensive line.

2. Michigan (8-4, last week: 3): Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina Gamecocks await Michigan at the Outback Bowl, giving the Wolverines one final chance at a signature victory. Clowney and Wolverines tackle Taylor Lewan face off in a battle of future NFLers. Michigan should benefit from bowl practices as it continues to adjust to having both Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson in the backfield.

3. Penn State (8-4, last week: 4): Penn State won't soon forget the 2012 season or the 2012 senior class, but it's now time to look ahead to an uncertain future. Bill O'Brien and his assistants must be extremely selective with the 2013 recruiting class and future classes, as they can ill afford to miss on more than a few prospects. Penn State loses a lot of star power on defense but has a nice piece to build around at defensive end in Big Ten Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes.

4. Nebraska (10-3, last week: 2): On the cusp of its first league title since 1999, Nebraska tumbled down the mountain yet again. Saturday's loss was an all-time stinker, the worst in team history, according to veteran columnist Tom Shatel. The defense allowed more rushing yards (539) than it ever has, and the offense turned over the ball and didn't find a rhythm until it was far too late. Nebraska will try to rebound against Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.

5. Northwestern (9-3, last week: 5): Will Northwestern finally get the bowl monkey off of its back this year? Pat Fitzgerald's crew has a potentially favorable matchup against slumping Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. A young Wildcats squad should benefit from bowl practices, as players such as cornerback Nick VanHoose can fully heal. Northwestern's formidable rushing attack faces a Bulldogs defense ranked 70th nationally against the run.

6. Wisconsin (8-5, last week: 6): Yes, we saw what you saw Saturday night. The Badgers were brilliant. And if they follow it up against Stanford in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio, they'll make a serious move up the power rankings. Still, this has been an inconsistent team that now must deal with the stunning departure of coach Bret Bielema to Arkansas. After dealing with so much adversity this season, can the Badgers rally again?

7. Michigan State (6-6, last week: 7): The good news for both the Spartans and their Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl opponent, TCU, is that their upcoming matchup is at a neutral site. Both squads failed to win a conference home game this season. Both squads are also very good on defense and inconsistent on offense. It'll be interesting to see Mark Dantonio and Gary Patterson match wits, and how Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell performs against a stout Frogs defense.

8. Purdue (6-6, last week: 8): The Boilers have a new head coach in Darrell Hazell, but his impact won't be felt until 2013. An extremely tough matchup against Oklahoma State awaits Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Cornerbacks Josh Johnson and Ricardo Allen will be tested early and often, and quarterback Robert Marve and the offense will need to put up big numbers for the Boilers to have a chance against the heavily favored Pokes.

9. Minnesota (6-6, last week: 9): Like Purdue, Minnesota heads to Texas for a bowl matchup in which it is a sizable underdog. And like the Boilers, Minnesota needs its cornerbacks (Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire) to step up against a very good passing offense in Texas Tech (second nationally). The Red Raiders allowed 111 points in their final two games, but Minnesota's offense has been banged up and struggling and must get healthy this month.

10. Indiana (4-8, last week: 10): It's all about improving the defense in Bloomington, and Indiana has upgraded its recruiting, most recently adding a commitment Insider from defensive tackle Darius Latham, an ESPN 300 prospect who had originally pledged to Wisconsin. The Hoosiers need more depth and more talent on defense to complement what will be a very explosive offense in 2013.

11. Iowa (4-8, last week: 11): Offensive coordinator Greg Davis is staying, and he'll be tasked to upgrade an offense that took a significant step back in his first season. Jake Rudock is expected to step in at quarterback, and Iowa should have good depth at running back (famous last words, I know). The defense returns most of its key pieces and showed the ability to take the ball away this season (23).

12. Illinois (2-10, last week: 12): As expected, coach Tim Beckman will get at least another season to get things right after a miserable first go-round. Staff changes probably are coming as Illinois tries to get back on its feet before spring practice. The Illini lose several NFL-caliber defensive players, but the bigger concerns are with an offense that finished 119th nationally this season.

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