Big Ten bowl projections: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
The major development in this week's bowl projections isn't that the Big Ten suddenly looks poised for a breakthrough postseason. If anything, things went from bad to worse for the league in Week 3 with a 3-6 record in nonconference games.

So what changed? Penn State is back. For good.

Not only did the Lions improve to 3-0 under new coach James Franklin, but they learned Monday that they once again are eligible for bowl games after two seasons of sanctions. So for the first time since the 2011 season, Penn State appears in the bowl projections. While the Lions have a lot to fix, especially on offense, they're a young, talented team that should improve throughout the season. They've posted two of the better wins (UCF and Rutgers) of any Big Ten team so far, and we like their potential to keep racking up W's.

Penn State is slotted for the Capital One Bowl, which knocks several teams down a peg. There's some shuffling at the bottom of the projections as Minnesota tumbles following its blowout loss at TCU, and Indiana falls out of the rankings entirely after an all-too-familiar-looking defeat at Bowling Green.

We continue to keep two teams in the major bowls as Ohio State rebounded nicely from the Virginia Tech loss to crush Kent State.

To the projections ...

Chick-fil-A Peach/Cotton/Fiesta/Orange: Michigan State
Chick-fil-A Peach/Cotton/Fiesta/Orange: Ohio State
Capital One: Penn State
Outback: Nebraska
National University Holiday: Wisconsin
TaxSlayer/Franklin American Mortgage Music City: Iowa
San Francisco: Michigan
New Era Pinstripe: Maryland
Quick Lane: Minnesota
Heart of Dallas: Rutgers

Big Ten Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

Best of the visits: Big Ten

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
Rutgers and Penn State played in what turned out to be an exciting game, right down to the wire. There were a few other big home games for Big Ten teams, which means there were important recruits on campus as well.

Here is a look through social media as to how those visits went.

Rutgers vs. Penn State:

It was a packed house and an exciting atmosphere for Rutgers first Big Ten game. There were a ton of local prospects including No. 5 ranked 2016 target Kareem Walker.

He and the other visiting prospects had good seats to take in the contest, and fellow ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Naseir Upshur gave the fans a look at their view.

This was a big game for both teams, as Penn State heavily recruits the East Coast and New Jersey. The targets for both teams said they are watching closely as to how the programs compete with a new coach at Penn State and a new conference for the Scarlet Knights.

Going into the visit a lot of the recruits said they were hoping to see an exciting game and they got just that.
Maryland vs. West Virginia:

Rutgers wasn’t the only Big Ten team hosting important prospects. Maryland had a handful of big time recruits for the game against the Mountaineers.

While the outcome on the field wasn’t what Maryland was hoping for, getting ESPN 300 athlete Ryan Davis and No. 2 ranked Byron Cowart is a huge win for the program.
Michigan vs Miami (Ohio):

The Wolverines came away with a win on Saturday, and while it wasn’t a huge visit weekend, Michigan did still have visitors on campus.

A few of the commits, including Tyree Kinnel, Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Alex Malzone were able to reconnect on the visit and spend some time at their future home.

Malzone took some video of the trip and gave the fans a look at what it’s like to walk out of Michigan’s tunnel as a recruit on game day.

Big Ten helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
Recognizing the best and brightest from Week 3 in the Big Ten:
  • Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: A week after Barrett's tough night against Virginia Tech, the redshirt freshman bounced back in a big way. He completed 23 of 30 passes for 312 yards and a school-record tying six touchdowns (with one interception, off a tipped ball) in the Buckeyes' 66-0 laugher over Kent State.
  • Michigan RB Derrick Green: The Wolverines struggled with Miami (Ohio) for more than two quarters, but Green's hard running helped salt the game away. The sophomore finished with 22 carries for 137 yards and two touchdowns in Michigan's 34-10 victory.
  • Penn State DT Anthony Zettel: Perhaps the early frontrunner for Big Ten defensive player of the year, Zettel was terrific yet again in the Nittany Lions' 13-10 win over Rutgers. He led the defensive charge with three tackles for loss and a sack while helping control the line of scrimmage. "We couldn't handle him in the second half," Rutgers coach Kyle Flood said.
  • Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg: It wasn't easy most of the night for the Nittany Lions' sophomore signal caller. He was harassed under a heavy pass rush, and Penn State didn't score a touchdown for the first 58:47. But Hackenberg proved he's the king of clutch among current Big Ten quarterbacks by leading a two-minute drill that led to Bill Belton's game-winning touchdown. Hackenberg finished 25-of-44 for 309 yards and an interception.
  • Nebraska WR De'Mornay Pierson-El: The true freshman accumulated 136 yards on a pair of punt returns in the first half of the Huskers' 55-19 road win over Fresno State. Included was an 86-yarder for a touchdown, the longest ever by a Nebraska freshman. Pierson-El fills a key area of need for Nebraska, which amassed 70 yards all of last season on punt returns, averaging 3.04 yards on 23 returns to rank 121st nationally.

Michigan 34, Miami (Ohio) 10

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
Devin Gardner threw for two touchdowns and Derrick Green rushed for two more to help Michigan beat Miami (OH) 34-10.

Green leads Michigan past Miami (OH) 34-10

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Derrick Green ran for 137 yards and two touchdowns, and Michigan overcame three first-half turnovers to beat Miami (Ohio) 34-10 on Saturday.

The Wolverines (2-1) held the RedHawks (0-3) to eight first downs, but it wasn't a particularly impressive win against a Miami team that has lost 19 straight. Michigan was coming off a 31-0 loss to Notre Dame, and the Wolverines struggled to put this game away.

Standout wide receiver Devin Funchess, who appeared to hurt his leg against Notre Dame, did not suit up for Michigan. Devin Gardner went 13 of 20 for 184 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

It was tied at 10 in the second quarter when Michigan went on a six-play, 66-yard drive capped by Green's 1-yard scoring run. Gardner's 29-yard touchdown pass to Jake Butt made it 24-10 with 3:44 left in the third.

There were some empty seats in the northwest corner of Michigan Stadium, where students generally sit, but the announced crowd of 102,824 was enough to extend the team's streak to 253 home games of at least 100,000. Those fans weren't too pleased at the end of the first half, though.

Up 17-10, the Wolverines were facing fourth-and-1 from the Miami 32 with 1:00 remaining in the second quarter. After Miami took a timeout, Michigan was called for delay of game. After another Miami timeout, Michigan took another delay of game -- the second one appeared intentional, to give the punter more room to pin the RedHawks back.

(Read full post)

Devin Funchess not dressed for Michigan

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
Michigan wide receiver Devin Funchess is watching Saturday's game against Miami (Ohio) in street clothes on the Wolverines' sideline. The team's leading receiver is one of three regular starters not suited up for Michigan.

Head coach Brady Hoke declined to discuss any specifics about injuries during the week. Funchess appeared to injure his leg during the second half of last week's loss to Notre Dame. Funchess ran onto the field with the team without any visible problems. He caught 16 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns during the first two weeks of the season.

Senior cornerback Raymon Taylor appeared to injure his knee during the Notre Dame game and is on the sidelines this weekend. He did not play during the second half of the 31-0 loss to the Irish. Junior safety Jarrod Wilson is also missing from the defensive starting lineup.

The Wolverines' secondary should get a boost from the return of freshman standout Jabrill Peppers. The cornerback and punt returner went through team warm-ups without any issues after missing all of last week's game in South Bend. He injured his ankle during the team's season opener against Appalachian State.

Big Ten viewer's guide: Week 3

September, 13, 2014
Sep 13
Week 3 arrives with fresh reasons for optimism. There aren't any heavyweight tilts quite like the Week 2 night games, but there aren't many snoozers on this docket, either. And we get the start of Big Ten conference action. Huzzah!

Here's your rundown for the day (all times ET):

Noon games

[+] EnlargeClint Trickett
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsWVU QB Clint Trickett ranks No. 7 in the country in passing yards with 713.
West Virginia (1-1) at Maryland (2-0), Big Ten Network: This game is getting overlooked a bit nationally but could be a pretty good one between Eastern neighbors. West Virginia gave Alabama a solid run in the opener and should be better than it was in last year's 37-0 loss to the Terps.

Indiana (1-0) at Bowling Green (1-1), ESPNU: The Hoosiers come off their odd Week 2 bye to play their first FBS team of the year. This is the first of two straight Big Ten opponents for the Falcons, who take on Wisconsin next.

Kent State (0-2) at No. 22 Ohio State (1-1), ABC/ESPN2 mirror: The Buckeyes need to work out some kinks and let off some steam after last week's Virginia Tech loss, and this game provides that chance. Kent State has lost to Ohio (the other one, Brady Hoke) and South Alabama at home already this season.

Mid-afternoon games

Miami (Ohio) (0-2) at Michigan (1-1), 3:30 p.m., BTN: You think the Wolverines have struggled of late? The RedHawks have lost 18 straight games. If this one is even competitive, things are worse than we thought in Ann Arbor.

Iowa State (0-2) at Iowa (2-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPN: The Hawkeyes have won four of the past six in the Cy-Hawk series and face a scuffling Cyclones squad at home, although Iowa State did play Kansas State close last week. Iowa left tackle Brandon Scherff (knee) is not expected to play. (Oh, and I made it all week without mentioning this trophy. Whoops, I guess I just did. So close!)

Minnesota (2-0) at TCU (1-0), 4 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Good friends Jerry Kill and Gary Patterson square off in what should be a defensive battle. Gophers quarterback Mitch Leidner is expected to play despite injuring his knee last week against Middle Tennessee.

Illinois (2-0) at Washington (2-0), 4 p.m., Fox: A rematch of the 1964 Rose Bowl or, more recently, last year's Huskies win in Soldier Field. Washington has a new coach in Chris Petersen and has had close calls with Hawaii and Eastern Washington the first two weeks. But the Illinois defense will need to make big-time improvements to give the team a shot.

Night games

Purdue (1-1) at Notre Dame (2-0), 7:30 p.m., NBC: The last scheduled meeting between these old rivals until 2020. You'd need something more than 20/20 vision to foresee a Boilers victory here.

Penn State (2-0) at Rutgers (2-0), 8 p.m., BTN: The Big Ten opener. Rutgers' first league game as a Big Ten member. Penn State's first game since learning it can make a bowl this year. Yeah, it's a big one.

Nebraska (2-0) at Fresno State (0-2), 10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network: Expect a wild atmosphere in Fresno that may lift the Bulldogs, who have gotten blown out by USC and Utah thus far. Nebraska should prevail, but the late kickoff and road environment could conspire to keep this one interesting.

Week 3 byes: Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin

Required reading

Big Ten mailbag

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
I'm back on the mailbag today. It's been too long. What's on your mind?

Fred S. from Washington, D.C., writes: Read with interest regarding a path for BIG to the playoff. I see where you still hold out Michigan State after their 19-point loss. Why would not the same hold true for a Wisconsin team after a four-point loss to LSU, even without considering the personnel loss in that game?

Brian Bennett: Good question and a fair point, Fred. Wisconsin is really intriguing from a College Football Playoff standpoint. If the Badgers are able to run the table and their only loss is a game in which they led LSU by 17 points in the second half, they will have a strong case, potentially. But Wisconsin will also be pretty much invisible from a national perspective until mid-November because of its schedule. Michigan State has more spotlight games, including an early conference showdown with Nebraska, plus the Oct. 25 Michigan game and Ohio State two weeks later. I also think Oregon is one of the very best teams in the country, while LSU looked, to me, like it will be too young and shaky offensively to win a loaded SEC West.

But that's the beauty of the season. Lot of time left, and Wisconsin could certainly continue to hang around and sneak its way up the selection committee's board.

Ashley from JC, Missouri, writes: I understand why the B1G took its lumps last week, not winning any high-profile games and struggling in "easy" games. But I guess I don't understand why the Big 12 and ACC aren't getting the same kind of heat. Big 12 teams have lost every one of their high-profile games and as a conference, the best win is probably Oklahoma beating a 1-1 Tulsa team. Other than Virginia Tech's win over Ohio State, ACC squads have lost to better teams and struggled in most of their games against lesser opponents, just like the B1G. Not to mention 13 of their 20 wins are against FCS schools. Why the double standard?

Bennett: Probably not the best time to rip the ACC, Ashley, right after a Virginia Tech team that was a little under the radar in that league just went into the 'Shoe and soundly beat Ohio State. (Which comes on the heels of last year's Orange Bowl win by Clemson over the Buckeyes, not to mention Florida State is the defending national champion.)

So the ACC gets a bit of a pass for now, but I'm with you on the Big 12. Other than Oklahoma and possibly Baylor, which plays a ridiculous schedule, I'm not sure there's a great team in that league. This is a big week for the Big 12, with several major Power 5 showdowns. Watch closely: If that league falls flat, maybe the Big Ten won't be alone in its misery.

Bennett: I think Minnesota would be a real threat to win it. I really like the Gophers' back seven on defense, though the injuries on the D-line concern me (and Jerry Kill). The offensive line is strong, and Minnesota has a stout running game (233 yards per game so far). But I've been disappointed that the passing game, to this point, has yet to improve very much. I think it's very hard in football these days to win without the ability to rip off explosive plays in the pass game. And the last thing you want to be against a Gary Patterson-coached TCU defense is one-dimensional, so Saturday's game is a bit scary.

Bennett: You're making a big assumption there that the Big Ten will actually win all those games. But even if so, the answer is no. Why? Because none of those teams are ranked. Yes, polls are mostly meaningless, but they do help shape the conversation, and none of those games would be seen as marquee victories (ironically, by beating a team like Washington, for example, Illinois would ensure the Huskies stay unranked). The Big Ten had its shot at getting perception-changing wins, and it blew it.

Bennett: This obviously comes up in the wake of Michigan coach Brady Hoke's comments this week that "true" Michigan fans would stay behind his team. That's a bit of a cop-out, in my view. Real or true fans support their team by filling up their stadium, rooting hard for a win and paying close attention to what's going on. When a team plays terribly, as Michigan did against Notre Dame, criticism is warranted, as long as it doesn't go over the line (i.e., harassing players, calling for firings two weeks into the season, etc). Fans pour a ton of passion, energy, time and, most importantly, money into their beloved programs. They have a right to be upset and ask tough questions when things go horribly wrong. 

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
It’s another week and another opportunity for Big Ten teams to impress prospects. There are a few games within the conference that could have major recruiting implications, so here are the three biggest events of the weekend.

Penn State at Rutgers:
New Jersey has produced 32 ESPN 300 prospects since the 2013 class, so it’s hardly a coincidence that college coaches from all over have made the state a priority on the recruiting trail.

Those elite prospects don’t always stay local, either, as 14 schools have benefited from the wealth of talent. While recruiters will always go where the talent is, college coaches believe the prospects from the Garden State come well prepared, for a variety of reasons.

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has recruited the area for years and believes the high school coaches in his home state are a big reason there is a continuous stream of talent.

“I think there’s a value placed on the high school football coaches in New Jersey and as I travel around, recruiting these schools for a long time, you go into a New Jersey high school, you can sense in the community how important that position is. We’ve got some of the best high school coaches in the country right here in New Jersey,” Flood said. “There might be other places in the country with talent, but I’m not sure how important football is in the community. I think in New Jersey, football is very important and that all leads to why high schools are recruited the way they are.”

Flood doesn’t believe there has been more competition, necessarily, for New Jersey prospects recently, but that there might be more coverage since Rutgers has joined the Big Ten. What used to be battles with out-of-conference programs are now Big Ten battles.

Programs such as Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, which landed ESPN 300 prospects in the last four classes from the state, know how valuable to the state is in recruiting and make it a priority.

Penn State, for example, has placed three of its coaches in the state, dividing the areas up strategically between receivers coach Josh Gattis, quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne and offensive coordinator John Donovan.

“We do a really good job making sure we’re splitting up the territory in the state. It’s really easy for us because it’s just a three-hour drive to New Jersey,” Gattis said. “We consider the region very important to us, and that’s the state of Pennsylvania, the state of New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. It’s a great state with a number of talented athletes. They play great football and we have a huge Penn State support within the state, so it’s important to us.”

The Nittany Lions have landed 10 New Jersey prospects in the past two classes, including five ESPN 300 prospects.

The recruits themselves have even noticed how many programs come through their state. Running back Kareem Walker, the No. 5 prospect in the Class of 2016, hails from New Jersey and has already seen his interest from college programs spike through the roof.

Walker holds offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers and more.

The ESPN Junior 300 prospect understands his ability has attracted the offers, but believes his home state has something to do with the interest from schools out of the region.

“I think the schools in the South know, without a doubt in their mind, that guys from Jersey can compete. We’re just as fast, and just as strong as a guy that’s from their hometown state,” Walker said. “I think Jersey guys can be just as strong and as fast as the Southern guys and it’s not a problem trying to adapt at those schools. I definitely think that’s why they come up and recruit guys from Jersey.”

Big Ten morning links

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
An interesting dynamic has played out at Penn State and Rutgers this week.

The Scarlet Knights have said they’re approaching this as another game -- but they acknowledged it’s not just another game. The Nittany Lions have also said they’re approaching this as another game -- but because it is just another game.

“We are just as motivated in this game as were for Akron,” James Franklin said. “And we are just as motivated for this game as we were for Central Florida.”

Said Kyle Flood, regarding his players: “I want them to be excited about this game. They should be excited about this game. Games like this are the reason you play college football at a place like Rutgers.”

Flood was inundated with questions about the Nittany Lions; Franklin begged for questions about the Scarlet Knights. The only thing fans want to talk about in Piscataway, New Jersey, is Saturday’s game; the only thing fans want to talk about in Happy Valley is reduced sanctions.

Said Franklin: “I know you guys are going to ask me 55 questions that don’t have to do with Rutgers, but I would like to talk about Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers -- and then maybe a little bit more about Rutgers.”

The first question of Franklin’s weekly news conference: Can you describe the atmosphere and emotions after the NCAA’s announcement?

“Were you on the phone when we said we were going to talk about Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers and more Rutgers?” Franklin asked with a laugh.

It's worth noting that Franklin mentioned “Rutgers” so much, because Flood hasn’t said “Penn State” once. He’s decided to refer to PSU as “the team from Pennsylvania” since ... well ... at least this fall.

Even among players, the contrast has been stark.

“Everyone knows it’s a big game. In the back of our minds, it’s a big game -- but we’re going to treat it like it’s any other game on the schedule,” Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo said. “It would be a great win for the program, a huge win for the program and for recruits and for everything.”

Penn State linebacker Brandon Bell was also asked if, as a New Jersey native, he put any added emphasis on this game -- or if he thought his team at least watched its words this week, so as not to add any bulletin-board material.

“They’re obviously going to be looking for anything to fuel them up, as they’ve been hyping up the game a lot,” Bell said. “It’s their first Big Ten game; they should be excited. But, pretty much, we’re just looking at it as another game this week.”

So, there you have it. Two seemingly different mind-sets going into this game. We’ll see which one wins out Saturday ...

Now on to the links:

East Division
  • Michigan's Brady Hoke on fan angst: "We're not really happy, either."
West Division
  • Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald calls his team's lack of toughness "an embarrassment."

Tracking our B1G fantasy teams: Week 3

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
I demand a redraft.

We’re hosting our league on the ESPN College Football Challenge, and The Trombone Shorties currently rank No. 3 overall – nationally – in points scored. It hasn’t been close yet, but hopefully that’s about to change. Your Week 2 results:

The Trombone Shorties (Adam Rittenberg): 160
Massive Attack (Austin Ward): 119
Coal Crackers (Josh Moyer): 91
Sherman Tanks (Mitch Sherman): 81
Legendary Leaders (Brian Bennett): 70

And your overall standings so far:

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg): 333
Massive Attack (Ward): 227
Legendary Leaders (Bennett): 206
Coal Crackers (Moyer): 195
Sherman Tanks (Sherman): 177

The Shorties have a big lead, but a lot can change in this league. We only have one bench spot, so bye weeks can be killer. The waiver wire is especially important, so here’s a look at our moves this week:

Sherman adds Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner and drops Northwestern QB Trevor Siemian

Moyer adds Penn State RB Bill Belton and drops Michigan State kickers

Bennett adds Illinois WR Martize Barr and drops Michigan RB Derrick Green

Rittenberg adds Purdue QB Danny Etling and drops Wisconsin RB Corey Clements

Sherman adds Michigan RB Derrick Green and drops Maryland WR Deon Long

Moyer adds Michigan kickers and drops Michigan State WR Tony Lippett

Bennett adds Michigan defense and drops Rutgers defense

Rittenberg adds Iowa defense and drops Minnesota defense

Moyer takes Penn State defense and drops Michigan State defense

Waiver-wire overview: Most of the moves this week were simply made because our players were on bye, but there were a few exceptions. The big switched happened on Bennett's team, where he tried to upgrade at wideout by picking up Barr and sliding Kenny Bell over to his bench. Bell has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, while Barr is sure to rack up some numbers with Wes Lunt under center. Both Bennett and Rittenberg also both substituted their defenses for more favorable matchups.

The Trombone Shorties (Rittenberg)
Purdue QB Danny Etling
Nebraska QB Tommy Armstrong
Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah
Rutgers RB Paul James
Michigan WR Devin Funchess
Penn State WR Jesse James
Ohio State kickers
Iowa defense
Bench: Michigan State QB Connor Cook (on bye)

Massive Attack (Ward)

Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett
Indiana QB Nate Sudfeld
Illinois RB Josh Ferguson
Minnesota RB David Cobb
Ohio State WR Devin Smith
Penn State WR Geno Lewis
Nebraska kickers
Ohio State defense
Bench: Rutgers QB Gary Nova (vs. Penn State)

Legendary Leaders (Bennett)

Michigan QB Devin Gardner
Maryland QB C.J. Brown
Indiana RB Tevin Coleman
Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Illinois WR Martize Barr
Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp
Maryland kickers
Michigan defense
Bench: Nebraska WR Kenny Bell (at Fresno State)

Coal Crackers (Moyer)

Illinois QB Wes Lunt
Iowa QB Jake Rudock
Penn State RB Bill Belton
Iowa RB Mark Weisman
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Indiana WR Shane Wynn
Michigan kickers
Penn State defense
Bench: Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (on bye)

Sherman Tanks (Sherman)

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg
Minnesota QB Mitch Leidner
Michigan RB Derrick Green
Penn State RB Zach Zwinak
Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Penn State kickers
Nebraska defense
Bench: Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford (on bye)


Michigan Pulls Away From Miami (OH)
Devin Gardner threw for two touchdowns, and Derrick Green rushed for two more to help Michigan beat Miami (OH) 34-10.