Rally, petition target Michigan AD

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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Students and alumni upset with the Michigan athletic department's mishandling of a football player's head injury are planning an on-campus rally Tuesday night to call for athletic director Dave Brandon's resignation.

The rally, coordinated by mgoblog.com, is scheduled to begin on campus at 6 p.m. In addition, more than 6,400 students, staff members and alumni had signed an online petition -- created by a graduate student -- calling for Brandon's resignation as of 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The upheaval among Michigan faithful comes in the wake of what Brandon called a "serious lack of communication" that allowed quarterback Shane Morris to return to the field with a "probable mild concussion" during Saturday's 30-14 loss to Minnesota.

University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said president Mark Schlissel and the eight-member board of regents have no current plans to meet to discuss the problems within the athletic department. An earlier report that said they would meet Tuesday morning was made in error, he said.

"There was no meeting with the president or board of regents today," Fitzgerald said. "I don't have any information on what the regents may or may not be doing."

The board isn't scheduled to meet again until Oct. 16. Fitzgerald said the board does not typically call special, unscheduled meetings, but it has happened in the past.

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) asked the Big Ten Conference and commissioner Jim Delany to investigate the circumstances that led to Morris' returning to the field. Pascrell is the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.


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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
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Nebraska and Ohio State had outstanding weekends both on the field and with their recruiting efforts. The Big Ten saw a few commitments, offers and some turmoil over the weekend, so here is the conference recap to get you caught up.

Big Ten morning links

September, 30, 2014
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It's Week 6 already, so we have some catching up to do. Here are some notes and observations before we get to the links:

1. Michigan recruiting backlash. With all the Brady Hoke talk and the loss to Minnesota, you knew it was only a matter of time before something like this happened. Michigan commit and ESPN 300 tight end Chris Clark tweeted Sunday -- since deleted -- that if Hoke is fired then “that changes everything.” He likely just said what other recruits are thinking, and it'd be na´ve to think opposing coaches aren't going to exacerbate the situation by trying to use Hoke's lack of job security against Michigan. Recruiting could wind up being an uphill battle the rest of the season, despite the Wolverines' No. 19 ranking. They currently have 11 commits, and Clark is the highest-rated one.

2. Offensive line woes. Penn State offensive line coach Herb Hand has taken up the practice this season of tweeting out highlights of his Nittany Lions on Sundays. He doesn't do it every week, but he does it most of the time. Needless to say, he skipped the exercise this weekend -- but it's difficult to blame him. There were few highlights Saturday against Northwestern, and the clip of his linemen that most stuck out involved one of his offensive guards inadvertently blocking a teammate. Hand is a good coach, but he doesn't have depth or experience to work with here. He took the blame for Saturday's disastrous performance, but it's clearly not his fault. This is a young offensive line and, quite frankly, it just doesn't have much talent right now.

3. David Cobb's importance cannot be understated. The Minnesota running back has accounted for slightly more than 47 percent of the Gophers' offense. Not just rushing offense, mind you -- entire offense. That means he's a bigger part of the offense than Ameer Abdullah at Nebraska, Melvin Gordon at Wisconsin and Tevin Coleman at Indiana. Cobb has 722 rushing yards (5.8 ypc) and four TDs so far this season. He's worth watching.

Now, on to the links:

East Division
West Division

Wolverines AD: 'We have to learn'

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
1:36
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The Michigan Wolverines football staff made mistakes because of a "serious lack of communication" while dealing with quarterback Shane Morris' head injury, athletic director Dave Brandon said.

Brandon released a statement shortly before 1 a.m. ET Tuesday outlining a two-day investigation he conducted into how Michigan's football medical personnel and its coaching staff handled a "probable mild concussion" for its sophomore quarterback.

"Unfortunately, this confusion created a circumstance that was not in the best interest of one of our student-athletes," Brandon said. "I sincerely apologize for the mistakes that were made. We have to learn from this situation, and moving forward, we will make important changes so we can fully live up to our shared goal of putting student-athlete safety first."

Morris remained on the field for one play of Saturday's 30-14 loss to Minnesota after displaying concussion symptoms in the fourth quarter. The sophomore stumbled and needed the help of his teammates to stay on his feet after a helmet-to-helmet hit knocked him to the ground.

Coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier both said they were looking elsewhere on the field at the time of the hit and saw only its aftermath. Hoke said Morris told him his stumble was the result of an earlier injury to his ankle, not the blow to his head.


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Auburn hasn’t been given too much of a chance to land coveted receiver Christian Kirk, but the Tigers’ chances are better than most think. Plus, Michigan lost a key defensive recruit, and don’t be surprised if more are to follow.


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At his core, Brady Hoke is a defensive line coach. Looks like one. Talks like one. Acts like one.

Ask him about defensive line play, or watch him work with the defensive tackles at Michigan, as I have, and you can feel the enthusiasm he has for the job. He's in his happy place, his comfort zone.

At times during Hoke's Michigan tenure, particularly in recent weeks, he has looked a lot less comfortable being the CEO of a big-deal program. We knew Monday's news conference would be a difficult one for Hoke, as the Shane Morris incident in Saturday's loss to Minnesota had gained national traction, not just in the sports media but on "Good Morning America" and "Today."

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Matthew O'Haren/USA TODAY SportsThe pressure is mounting on Michigan coach Brady Hoke after getting routed at home by Minnesota.
So the D-line coach played defense, responding to criticism that the sophomore QB should have been removed from the game immediately after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit from Minnesota's Theiren Cockran. Hoke did not see the hit, but after reviewing it, he believes it to be targeting and submitted the play to the Big Ten for review.

Hoke said he would never compromise a player's health, especially when the player had potential head trauma. He said Michigan's medical staff is the only group that determines whether a player can re-enter a game, as Morris did. He said that Morris was not concussed, and the only health issue that hampered the quarterback was a high ankle sprain.

"There should be some criticism when we talk about the performance, and that's me and coaching and I understand that," Hoke said. "But when your integrity and character is attacked, I think that is really unwarranted."

Hoke's character shouldn't be attacked here. Anyone who knows the coach -- inside or outside Schembechler Hall -- will vouch for him. He loves his players. He loves Michigan. None of that should be in doubt.

But his performance, not only with wins and losses but with an ability to oversee a high-profile program and all that comes with it, including handling a crisis, should be scrutinized. Several folks around the college football world I corresponded with Monday said the same thing about Hoke: good coach, great guy, tough guy, but the Michigan job might be too big for him.

Every FBS head coach must project an image of complete control, but it's even more important to do so at programs like Michigan that are constantly under the microscope. It takes a certain personality, usually a flashy one and an unflappable one, to handle the toughest of situations. Hoke doesn't exactly fit the profile.

It's fine that Hoke was watching the ball during the play in question, but someone on Michigan's sideline should have seen the hit and Morris' subsequent stumble. Even if it was just the ankle giving out, someone needed to intervene and ensure Morris didn't take the next snap.

Hoke said those people are there and would step in if they saw a problem.

"I would assume yes," he said, "because they do every other time."

Well, this time they didn't. That's a problem.

That brings us to the headset question. You knew it was coming on Monday.

Unlike most head coaches, Hoke doesn't wear a headset for the majority of games. He's often mocked for it, as some say he's not fully plugged in. Hoke thinks it's just the opposite; he can teach more and be more engaged without a headset.

But he was asked Monday if he would wear a headset in the future to be more clued-in about potential injuries.

"No, thank you," he said, clearly annoyed.

Whether the headset matters or not, the image does. So does the image of Morris stumbling into offensive lineman Ben Braden after taking a blow to the head. And so does the image of Hoke going on the defensive with the media.

All these images form a bigger picture and a question: Should Hoke be the face of Michigan football?

If things don't improve quickly, it's hard to see him moving forward as CEO.

This happens in college football. Some coaches are better-suited to different roles. Charlie Weis, twice fired as a head coach at major programs, surely will have opportunities as an offensive playcaller. If Will Muschamp doesn't make it at Florida, he'll likely have his pick of defensive coordinator jobs.

It could be the same thing with Hoke.

There were a million things he'd rather be doing Monday than responding to reporters' questions under the glare of the national spotlight.

Like coaching defensive linemen.

John Harbaugh believes in Hoke

September, 29, 2014
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John Harbaugh, whose connection to Michigan is well documented, threw his support behind embattled Michigan Wolverines coach Brady Hoke when asked Monday if he would be interested in the job if it were to become open.

"I'm interested in Brady Hoke being the head coach at Michigan for a long time to come," the Baltimore Ravens head coach said.

Harbaugh has been Ravens coach since 2008 and is under contract through the 2017 season. He has led Baltimore to a 74-39 record in seven seasons and a Super Bowl victory two seasons ago.

Harbaugh's ties to Michigan date to his childhood, when his father was an assistant under Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh also graduated from high school in Ann Arbor.

Hoke has come under increasing fire this season. The Wolverines are 2-3 after a 30-14 home loss to Minnesota on Saturday, marking the first time in the program's 135-year history that it has lost three games in September. The crowd at the Big House booed him frequently.

Hoke said after the game that he didn't hear the jeering while on the sideline and that even if he had, it wouldn't have affected him.

"I didn't hear it. When you're in the moment, you really don't," he said. "This is a big-boy business."

Meanwhile, Harbaugh said he does not know why his name is brought up repeatedly in connection with the Michigan job.

"Brady Hoke is a guy we believe in," said Harbaugh, speaking from the Ravens' facility. "The Harbaughs believe in Brady Hoke. He's a great coach. He believes in Michigan. I believe in what they're doing there. I think they're going to turn it around. The team should be galvanized right now. I expect them to come out as wounded lions and go to work because they love Brady."


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B1G early look: Setting up Week 6

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
2:00
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Is it almost Saturday yet?

Five Big Ten games are on tap this weekend, in addition to Indiana taking on North Texas. Plenty of entertainment and intrigue await, so let's get to it.

Five things to watch in Week 6

1. Top-two B1G teams square off. Michigan State is still widely regarded as the best team in the conference, but Nebraska is the last remaining undefeated team. So, regardless of the winner, this game should determine a lot. If Michigan State wins, there's no more question about the best Big Ten team. If Nebraska comes away with the victory, it should launch itself into the College Football Playoff discussion. This game also has the potential to provide a preview of the Big Ten title game; a lot is on the line here.

2. "Hot-Seat Watch: Brady Hoke" continues. Will he be fired by midseason? Can the Wolverines finally bounce back? Can a U-M quarterback actually turn in a good performance? Plenty of questions are swirling around this program, and there aren't a lot of answers right now. Michigan is even a four-point underdog to Rutgers -- which really shows just how far the Wolverines have fallen. Hoke is still clinging on to hope, as he said Saturday this team is still capable of winning the Big Ten title. But that optimism won't stick if it loses another B1G game. Another loss, and the "Fire Hoke" chatter will only magnify. It looks as if he's already gone -- but another loss could move up that timetable.

3. Maryland and Rutgers' surprising starts. Both teams are just one play away from perfect 5-0 records. Instead, they've had to settle for surprising 4-1 starts. After a bad game against Penn State, Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova has appeared to put it behind him. And a close loss to West Virginia hasn't slowed down the Terrapins' offense. Big Ten fans weren't quite sure what to make of these additions before the season, but both teams have proved their mettle so far. If Maryland can somehow knock off Ohio State, it instantly throws its hat into the Big Ten title race. If Rutgers can beat a reeling Michigan, it's all but assured of a bowl game.

4. Heisman hype. If Nebraska tailback Ameer Abdullah isn't trending upward on your Heisman list then you're doing it wrong. His least-impressive game (McNeese State) still led to his most-impressive play, and he's on pace for more than 2,100 rushing yards. He looked good again this past week, when he rushed for 196 yards by halftime. Wisconsin tailback Melvin Gordon is also back on track after running for 434 yards and seven touchdowns in just the last two weeks. Oh, and let's not forget about Indiana's Tevin Coleman. He won't be invited to the ceremony, and his team isn't on the same level as Nebraska or Wisconsin. But he's showing he deserves to be in the same conversation as those two other running backs. He actually leads the conference -- yes, even over Abdullah and Gordon -- in rushing yards per game (172.75).

5. Is Northwestern finally back? The Wildcats' 29-6 win over Penn State was their largest margin of victory since 2012, and it was their best win in at least a full calendar year. Players said they lacked focus those first two weeks but that everything's changed now. One game doesn't signify a trend, but another win should certainly have the Wildcats feeling better about themselves. A victory won't come easy against Wisconsin, but it'd be a huge statement if it actually happened. In a weak Big Ten, the Wildcats could still end up as a bowl-eligible team.

Hoke: Shane Morris has ankle injury

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
1:30
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Michigan coach Brady Hoke said, to his knowledge, quarterback Shane Morris did not sustain a head injury during Saturday's game and denied seeing the play in question as it happened.

Morris left during the fourth quarter of a 30-14 loss to Minnesota because of a high ankle sprain. Hoke said the sophomore would have practiced Sunday with the team if not for his ankle injury.

Morris needed help from teammates to stay on his feet after a helmet-to-helmet hit delivered by a Gophers linebacker two plays before he left the game. He wobbled, but waved off trainers on the sideline when asked if he needed medical attention.

Hoke said Monday that he did not see the hit when it happened, but said Morris told him it was the ankle injury -- not the blow to the head -- that caused him to stumble.

"We would never, ever put a guy on the field when there is a possibility of head trauma," Hoke said. "We won't do that."

The coach said after the game Saturday that it was ultimately his decision to leave Morris in the game. However, on Sunday, he backtracked from that stance with a written statement released by the university which said only medical personnel have the authority to allow an injured player back in a game.

Hoke said a statement about how Morris' injury was handled will be coming in the near future from the medical staff. He declined to go into detail about the process of clearing a player to return to the field.


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Welcome to the Big Ten time machine. Watch your step and hop aboard. Sorry, Mr. Slive, no standby today. Every seat is taken.

Passenger Delany in seat 1A, please stop ringing your call button. I told you we can't go back to Nov. 18, 2006. Yes, yes, I realize that is when the Big Ten sat atop the college football world with its two most recognizable programs ranked 1 and 2. I know you would give it all up -- the money, BTN's success, the expansion moves -- to relive that magical day in Columbus. Not happening, pal. Here is another bag of peanuts.

Our destination is the more recent past, although for some it feels like a long time ago. We are rewinding exactly one year to Sept. 29, 2013. Here we go!

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke, Mark Dantonio
AP Photo/Paul SancyaMichigan coach Brady Hoke, left, and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio have seen their programs head in different directions since last September.
Meet the Michigan State Spartans. They are 3-1 and unranked after a 17-13 loss to Notre Dame. The defeat reaffirmed that the offense, which sputtered throughout 2012, isn't getting better. Quarterback Connor Cook, replaced late in the Notre Dame game, tells reporters, "I would have wished that the coaches had faith in me to keep me in there." The Spartans are preparing for their Big Ten opener at Iowa, and few expect much to change with the quarterback situation or the passing game.

Now meet the Michigan Wolverines. They are 4-0 and ranked No. 19. They have just had two shaky wins against inferior opponents (Akron and Connecticut), but they previously beat Notre Dame 41-30 behind quarterback Devin Gardner, who put up the ninth-best single-game yards total (376) in team history. They are a rising program under third-year coach Brady Hoke with tremendous momentum on the recruiting trail. The growing feeling is that the Big Ten soon will revert to the Big Two (Ohio State and Michigan) and everyone else.

Speaking of those Buckeyes, they have yet to lose a game under second-year coach Urban Meyer. Yesterday, quarterback Braxton Miller returned from injury to spark Ohio State to a 31-24 win against Wisconsin. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes are loaded at quarterback with Miller and beloved backup Kenny Guiton. Their first Big Ten title since 2009 seems likely, and they could be headed for the BCS title game.

And here we have Maryland and Rutgers. They are still nine months away from becoming official Big Ten members, but most Big Ten fans wish their arrival date could be pushed to, you know, never. Maryland is 4-0 and ranked No. 25 and Rutgers is 3-1 after a win against Bret Bielema's Arkansas Razorbacks, but few expect either team to truly boost the Big Ten. Legends and Leaders had a stronger approval rating than these two.

OK, now we're heading back to the present. Aaaand ... we're back.

It's only been a year, but the Big Ten landscape has dramatically shifted, particularly in the state of Michigan.

Since Sept. 29, 2013, Michigan State is 13-1 with a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl championship. The Spartans have outscored their opponents 497-223. Cook has thrown 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions. MSU's lone loss came in a place (Oregon's Autzen Stadium) where most suffer the same fate. Mark Dantonio is considered one of the nation's premier coaches, and his team remains alive for the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Fifty miles away, the Michigan program is in utter disarray. The Wolverines are 2-3. They ended the Notre Dame series by suffering their first shutout since 1984. They failed to score an offensive touchdown against Utah. They suffered their largest home loss to Minnesota (30-14) since 1962. Hoke has lost eight of his past 11 games but said after the Minnesota game that he still thinks Michigan can win the Big Ten. Um ...

(Just a reminder: there's no smoking of anything in the Big Ten time machine.)

If losing isn't bad enough, Hoke faces more heat for leaving quarterback Shane Morris in the game despite Morris wobbling after absorbing a helmet-to-helmet hit. Perhaps the only Michigan employee less popular than Hoke right now is his boss, athletic director Dave Brandon, whose department was mocked following last week's Coca-Cola/free tickets fiasco.

Things aren't nearly as bleak in Columbus, but Ohio State isn't the juggernaut it was a year ago. The Buckeyes haven't beaten a Power 5 team since Michigan in The Game last November. Miller is out for the season with a shoulder injury. The secondary remains vulnerable. Young quarterback J.T. Barrett is improving, but struggled against the only top-90 defense he has faced so far (Virginia Tech).

Maryland and Rutgers, meanwhile, are a combined 8-2, each with a 3-point loss as the lone setback. The Terrapins lead the East Division, and Rutgers looks much improved on both sides of the ball. The Big Ten hasn't had many bright spots this season, but Maryland and Rutgers are two of them.

"College football," Dantonio said, "is such a changing landscape."

Expect the unexpected, especially in the Big Ten. The past year in this league shows that the only guarantee is that the future won't resemble the present.

Perhaps there is hope for Michigan. Michigan State, meanwhile, can't get complacent. No one knows what the coming weeks will bring.

"We still have things to prove," Dantonio said. "Our reputation right now is built off of last year's success. It starts here.

"We have to play in the present."
video

Heather Dinich explains that replacing a coach midseason can work, but only under unique circumstances.
video

ESPN Michigan and Big Ten reporter Dan Murphy explains the latest with the reeling Michigan Wolverines, and the program's reaction to Shane Morris being reinserted into the game following a helmet-to-helmet hit.

Weekend Rewind: Big Ten

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
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Time for some clarity in the Big Ten.

Pretenders and contenders will be more easily defined at the open of October than during the mayhem of the early weeks, when next to nothing went right for the Big Ten. Even just last week, confusion reigned after the league went 12-1 with four wins over Power 5 foes.

Well, Saturday was more down to Earth. Week 5 offered a better look at the Big Ten’s true colors than we’ve seen at any time this season.

The verdict: The talent on display in offensive outbursts on Saturday can take Michigan State and Ohio State far in this league. Wisconsin and Iowa might have to win ugly all year. Penn State is not as good as it looked through four games; Northwestern is better than it appeared through three.

Indiana still isn’t consistent enough to pencil into a bowl game. Minnesota and Maryland should not be overlooked.

And Nebraska, the league’s lone unbeaten, gets its chance this week to prove it belongs in the national conversation with MSU and OSU. The Huskers visit Spartan Stadium on Saturday.

We’ll get to that soon enough. First, let’s rewind.

[+] EnlargeLittle Brown Jug
Leon Halip/Getty ImaesMinnesota throttled Michigan in the Big House to claim the Little Brown Jug for just the second time since 1987.
Team of the week: How can it be any group other than Minnesota? As I was reminded in the wake of the Gophers’ 30-14 throttling of Michigan at the Big House, even my preseason best-case scenario for Minnesota did not include a win over the Wolverines. Clearly, I forgot to account for the possibility of a full-blown Michigan meltdown. But that’s not what led to the Gophers’ second win in the past 24 years of this series; Minnesota earned this. David Cobb rushed for 183 yards against a defense that entered the game ninth nationally against the run. Minnesota held Michigan to 171 yards. Fans greeted the Gophers upon their return to the Twin Cities. Apparently, they all wanted a look at the Little Brown Jug. Enjoy it, Minnesota.

Biggest play: Down 20-10 to Wisconsin, South Florida QB Mike White hit Kennard Swanson for a 52-yard gain that looked set to get the Bulls in position for a touchdown that could cut the Badgers’ lead to three points. But a lunging hit by Wisconsin freshman Lubern Figaro jarred the football loose from Swanson. Linebacker Vince Biegel recovered at the 10-yard line, and Wisconsin drove 90 yards in 18 plays for the backbreaking score. Without that turnover, it might have ended differently.

Big Man on Campus (offense): Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova fired four touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights’ 31-6 win over Tulane. Nova was notably efficient in the first half, hitting 9 of 9 throws for 195 yards and three scores. In the process, he moved his career total to 61 touchdown passes, passing Mike Teel for the school record.

Big Man on Campus (defense): Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory is officially back. The intimidating junior, who missed the Huskers’ first two games with a knee injury, recorded 2.5 sacks among his seven tackles and three quarterback hurries in a 45-14 Nebraska thumping of Illinois. Gregory looks more dangerous than ever, often lining up at the second level as a linebacker hybrid. He even delivered a devastating block on Nate Gerry’s 53-yard interception return.

Big Man on Campus (special teams): Maryland place-kicker Brad Craddock connected on three field goals, including two from 48 yards in the Terrapins’ 37-15 win over Indiana, to stay perfect for the season on 10 attempts.

Biggest faceplant: Aside from Michigan -- no repeat winners -- it’s Indiana. What happened to the Hoosiers? They followed the groundbreaking win at Mizzou by failing to show at home as Maryland looked solid in its inaugural league game. So much for the Hoosiers' triple threat on offense. The Terps’ quarterback duo of C.J. Brown and Caleb Rowe teamed with receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long to steal the show.

Facts and numbers to know: Michigan ranks last nationally in turnover margin at minus-12 and 90th in offensive efficiency, according to ESPN Stats and Info. ... Nebraska I-back Ameer Abdullah rushed for 208 yards, moving his nation-leading season total to 833 yards. The Huskers, as a team, rushed for 458 yards against Illinois, totaling 190 on the ground, with no passing yards, in the first quarter. ... Rutgers has recorded 21 sacks in five games. ... Wisconsin remains the only team nationally not to surrender a red-zone touchdown. ... Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz earned his 65th conference victory to tie former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez for 10th all time. ... Ohio State’s 710 yards of offense against Cincinnati came within 8 yards of the school record and marked its highest output since totaling 715 against Utah in 1986. ... Michigan State has scored 174 points in three home games and 50 in back-to-back games for the first time since 1978. ... Northwestern held Penn State to 18 rushing yards in the first three quarters of its 29-6 win.

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Communication Breakdown At Michigan
Brad Edwards and Joey Galloway react to Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon's comments that the Wolverines' football program made mistakes because of a serious lack of communication while dealing with QB Shane Morris' head injury.
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