And despite some challenging weather in Indianapolis, the title game had its best crowd in three years. The presence of Ohio State surely helped, as it appeared that scarlet and gray made up about 70 percent of the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium. Attendance figures for the first three Big Ten title games:
Take that and rewind it back ...
For good measure: Ohio State coach Urban Meyer has faced a lot of criticism for his disciplinary measures and player conduct from his time at Florida. So it's only fair to commend Meyer for taking strong disciplinary actions with the Buckeyes.
There was much hand-wringing last week about the lack of additional punishment for Ohio State offensive lineman Marcus Hall, who got a public reprimand from the Big Ten but nothing more after he was ejected for fighting at Michigan and offered his now infamous two-gun salute to the crowd. Meyer announced on Friday that Hall wouldn't start against Michigan State, which led to a lot of wisecracks about Hall coming in on the second or third play.
But Meyer kept Hall sidelined the entire Big Ten championship game. Even when Ohio State fell behind 17-0 and was doing nothing on offense early on, Hall stayed glued to the bench. For a senior to miss three quarters of his team's biggest rivalry game and then the conference title game, that's pretty stern discipline.
Meyer said Saturday night that he'd decided not to play Hall "a while back." Both Ohio State and the Big Ten could have avoided criticism had Meyer announced early in the week that Hall was suspended for the game. But the Buckeyes probably didn't want Michigan State to have that information.
Meyer's other disciplinary moves during his Ohio State tenure, including the three-game suspension for Carlos Hyde and one-game suspension for Bradley Roby earlier this year, have all seemed fair. So it's time to cut the Buckeyes' coach some slack in that department.
Big Man on Campus (offense): Raise your hand if you predicted in the preseason, or even in September or October, that Connor Cook would be MVP of the Big Ten championship game. But Michigan State's sophomore quarterback earned it by throwing for a career-high 304 yards and three touchdowns, delivering some terrific, clutch throws all night. Cook is uncannily confident in himself, and he's inspiring confidence with the way he's been playing.
Big Man on Campus (freshman): Despite the loss, Ohio State's Joey Bosa introduced himself to the country as a future major star. Bosa created havoc all night from defensive end, finishing with two tackles for loss, a sack and three total quarterback hurries. It seemed like he was in the backfield all night. Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington got all the preseason pub, but Bosa looks like the most fearsome Buckeyes pass-rusher of the future.
Bring on 2014: We're about to say goodbye to both the dreaded BCS and its ridiculous use of the coaches' poll. Even more promising changes are in store for next season when it comes to bowls.
Leagues like the Big Ten promise to have a much greater input on bowl matchups starting in 2014. That should help prevent a situation like we got on Sunday, when the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl took Michigan over Nebraska to play Kansas State. Selecting the Wolverines might have been in the best interest of that bowl, but it created a matchup with no history or really much of a storyline. It also meant the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl got a rematch nobody wanted in Nebraska-Georgia.
It would make much, much more sense, both geographically and in terms of the matchups, to have Kansas State-Nebraska and Michigan vs. Georgia games. The Huskers went to the same bowl in back-to-back years in the 2009 and 2010 seasons (Holiday) and again in 2011 and 2012 (Capital One), and now they play the same team as last year.
Of course, bowls and common sense have rarely gone together. Maybe next year they will.
Fun with numbers (via ESPN Stats & Info): Miller did not convert a first down on 11 third- or fourth-down attempts, including the stuffed fourth-and-2 rush that all but clinched the game. Miller entered Saturday with a 91.7 Total QBR on third and fourth downs, ninth-best in the FBS. He had converted 49 percent of those downs while averaging 8.1 yards per play the first 12 games of the season. Against Michigan State, he averaged minus-1.4 yards in those situations.
Overall, Ohio State converted just 1 of 12 third or fourth downs against Michigan State. That was its lowest conversion percentage in the past 10 seasons. Entering the game, the Buckeyes had converted 54 percent of third- or fourth-down chances this season, the sixth-highest percentage in the FBS.
Kansas State Wildcats (7-5) vs. Michigan Wolverines (7-5)
Dec. 28, 10:15 p.m. ET, Tempe, Ariz.(ESPN)
KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
The Wildcats were left for dead. KSU sat at 2-4 including a loss to FCS power North Dakota State and 2012 breakout star Collin Klein was no longer in the quarterbacks meeting room. Time to start thinking about 2014, right?
Defensive end Ryan Mueller led the way for the K-State defense, terrorizing Big 12 quarterbacks and running backs in route to 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. The Wildcats’ fundamentally sound defense looked similar to the squad that earned a Fiesta Bowl berth a year ago, leading the Big 12 with 4.73 yards per play allowed in the final six-game stretch.
Now Michigan, who lost four of its last five games, awaits and the Wildcats return to Arizona for the second straight year in a bowl matchup will be a battle of two teams who finished the season on opposite sides of the spectrum. -- Brandon Chatmon
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES BREAKDOWN
Early on, Michigan almost dropped games to Akron and Connecticut, while struggling to find any kind of an offensive identity, despite returning key playmakers. Quarterback Devin Gardner took a beating from opposing defenses through the middle of the season (enduring 17 sacks in three games) and while he found a way to make it to the Ohio State game in one piece, he ended the year far from 100 percent.
But after 10 games, the Michigan coaching staff finally found its best offensive line combination and when they did -- and when that group really worked together -- the Wolverines found a run game and managed to give Gardner enough time in the pocket for the plays to develop down field.
Defensively, it was a very different feel all season. The Wolverine defense employed a bend-but-don’t-break mentality and were a bright point for a sputtering team at many times. But near the end of the season, it gave up huge plays and went through major breakdowns in decisive games to end the year with Iowa and Ohio State. -- Chantel Jennings
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
Here's a complete schedule for all the bowls, along with kickoff times and TV information.
The Big Ten lineup is never easy and will be challenging again this time around. Wisconsin and Iowa in particular will have to play at their best against talented SEC teams.
Nebraska fans can't be too pleased about a rematch with Georgia, the Huskers' opponent in the 2013 Capital One Bowl. Both teams are playing without their quarterbacks and the game represents a chance for Bo Pelini to quiet his critics momentarily. We likely won't see such rematches next year, as the Big Ten takes more control in the bowl pairings. Nebraska goes bowling in Florida for the third consecutive season.
The league matches up well in its two BCS games, although Stanford and Clemson are both outstanding when they bring their 'A' games. Ohio State faces Clemson for the first time since the infamous Woody Hayes punch in the 1978 Gator Bowl.
Minnesota will be favored to beat Syracuse and finish with nine wins as it returns to Houston, and Michigan also could end its season on a positive note if it builds on its performance in The Game against Ohio State.
We'll have much more to come on these bowls.
The final regular season USA Today coaches' poll is out, and with it comes the public revelation of how the coaches voted for the first time all season. It's always an intriguing and often comical exercise to review the ballots of a system fraught with inherent conflicts of interest.
Dantonio voted Michigan State No. 2 behind Florida State on his ballot following the Spartans' 34-24 win over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game. And while I don't quite agree, his case does have some merit. Michigan State went 12-1, had one loss on the road to Notre Dame by four points and just beat the team that was ranked No. 2.
West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen apparently agrees. He also voted Michigan State No. 2, the only other coach to do so. Most coaches ranked the Spartans somewhere between No. 3 and No. 5, while Baylor's Art Briles had them No. 8, the lowest ranking for MSU among the coaches in the poll. Briles also ranked Ohio State No. 10.
Here's a quick look at where every Big Ten coach with a vote ranked his league counterparts:
Tim Beckman, Illinois
5. Michigan State
7. Ohio State
2. Michigan State
4. Ohio State
Brady Hoke, Michigan
4. Michigan State
6. Ohio State
Jerry Kill, Minnesota
3. Michigan State
5. Ohio State
Urban Meyer, Ohio State
4. Michigan State
5. Ohio State
Bo Pelini, Nebraska
4. Michigan State
5. Ohio State
Big Ten coaches were clearly higher on their own league than most voters and in many cases, had a much stronger opinion of their own teams. That Pelini's ballot has his own Huskers No. 25 tells you most of what you need to know about the silliness of the system. It would have been fascinating to see how the coaches would have voted if Ohio State had won Saturday and forced a debate with the SEC.
Some other notable votes:
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema had Ohio State ranked the lowest of any voters, at No. 12. Is he a strength of schedule proponent? Apparently not, since he had Louisville, which beat no one with a detectable pulse, at No. 6 (nine spots ahead of UCF, who beat the Cardinals on the road and won the American Athletic Conference with a better schedule. So, um, yeah). Bielema had Michigan State No. 4, his former team Wisconsin No. 21 and his alma mater Iowa No. 25.
Alabama's Nick Saban voted his own Crimson Tide No. 3 and his former team, Michigan State, No. 4. Steve Spurrier had the Spartans No. 3, a spot ahead of Alabama. Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, whose team was the only one to beat the Spartans, had Michigan State at No. 4.
Enjoy the goofiness and controversy of the coaches' ballots, and be thankful that this incredibly dumb system for picking a national championship game will be gone shortly.
The No. 19 Badgers (9-3) are playing in a non-BCS bowl for the first time in three seasons following three consecutive appearances in the Rose Bowl. Wisconsin lost those games, though, and will be looking for its first bowl win under coach Gary Andersen.
South Carolina (10-2) won its final five games of the season, including a double-overtime victory against then-unbeaten Missouri.
The Gamecocks are making their second Capital One Bowl appearance in three seasons, having beaten Nebraska in 2012.
South Carolina is also the only team to beat Fiesta Bowl-bound UCF, rallying in the final three quarters to claim a three-point victory.
It is the first meeting between the schools.
AT&T Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Oklahoma State
SEC runner-up Missouri is headed to the Cotton Bowl, where the No. 8 Tigers will play No. 13 Oklahoma State on Jan. 3.
Missouri (11-2) is coming off a 59-42 loss to Auburn in the SEC championship game in only its second season in that league.
Oklahoma State (10-2) was on track for a Big 12 title and a spot in the Bowl Championship Series before a 33-24 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday.
SEC teams have won the last five Cotton Bowls, and nine of the last 10, over Big 12 teams. The lone exception was the 2008 game when Missouri, then in the Big 12, beat Arkansas 38-7.
Those will come out Sunday night. But before we know for sure where Big Ten teams are going bowling, we've got one last set of projections.
Michigan State's Big Ten championship game win over Ohio State obviously sends the Spartans to the Rose Bowl. And it all but guarantees two BCS bids for the Big Ten, as someone will snatch up the Buckeyes. We think that the Discover Orange Bowl makes the most sense.
The next two bowls are pretty easy to figure out. Wisconsin will go to the Capital One Bowl, where they should face a strong SEC opponent. Iowa, coming off a nice finish to the year, will enjoy the no-rules, just-right feeling at the Outback Bowl.
The biggest debate involves the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl selection. From what we're hearing, that game favors Michigan over Nebraska. That could change, but we're going with it for now. That leaves Nebraska to the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl. How many Huskers fans would travel to Jacksonville if that's the case?
Minnesota has an argument for a better bowl than Michigan or Nebraska, but the Gophers still lack the brand name or traveling reputation. So it's back to Texas for a second straight year for Jerry Kill's guys.
We'll find out later Sunday night if we were right.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by VIZIO, Jan. 1: Michigan State
Discover Orange Bowl, Jan. 3: Ohio State
Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1: Wisconsin
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1: Iowa
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Dec. 28: Michigan
TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl, Jan. 1: Nebraska
Texas Bowl, Dec. 27: Minnesota
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1: Not filled
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Dec. 26: Not filled
Michigan coach Brady Hoke has a no visit policy for his commitments so if a visit were to take place, it would cause some controversy.
Crawford was the second defensive back commit for Michigan to say he was going to visit other schools. 2014 commit Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic) also said there is a possibility he will take official visits after his season is over.
No visits have been scheduled yet for either prospect so there is still a chance for them to sway their thinking.
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Ohio State offensive lineman Marcus Hall won't start Saturday's Big Ten championship game against Michigan State because of his actions last week in the team's victory over Michigan, coach Urban Meyer said Friday.
Hall was one of several players ejected after a first-half fight during Ohio State's 42-41 win over the Wolverines. Hall also made obscene gestures to the crowd as he walked off the field at Michigan Stadium.
The Big Ten issued a public reprimand to Hall this week but did not tack on additional punishment.
But Meyer has decided not to start Hall, saying he was "very, very disappointed" in Hall's actions.
Meyer did not say when or how much Hall might play against the Spartans, saying "We'll see what happens."
Pat Elflein, who filled in after Hall's ejection at Michigan, will start Saturday.
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- Michigan State's heartbreaking loss in the 2011 Big Ten title game is now motivation for this season's Rose Bowl.
- Here's a look at five keys to the Big Ten title game in order for Michigan State to prevail.
- Spartans fans are flocking to Indianapolis to watch their team take on the Buckeyes.
- The only way for Ohio State to win Saturday might be to keep its defense off the field, writes the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Bill Livingston.
- The Buckeyes' confidence faces a test, but they've been here before -- and come out on top.
- For the Buckeyes, the path to the national title game is simple: Beat the Spartans, and they're in.
- Linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden's "resignation" from Penn State has to simply be a matter of style, writes the Harrisburg Patriot-News' Dave Jones.
- Despite an up-and-down season, Michigan remains an attractive choice to many bowls.
Unless Ohio State crushes Michigan State in the Big Ten championship, the league should send two teams to BCS bowls. Ohio State is essentially assured of a BCS bowl, win or lose. If the Rose Bowl Game presented by Vizio loses No. 2 Ohio State to the Vizio BCS National Championship, the Rose almost certainly will take No. 10 Michigan State if the Spartans remain in top 14 of the final BCS standings. The Spartans would have to lose convincingly to slip to No. 15 or lower.
Assuming Ohio State and Michigan State both are headed to the big bowls, the Capital One Bowl is expected to take No. 21 Wisconsin. Iowa has one of the nation's best traveling fan bases and missed a bowl last season, so it would be a mini surprise if the Hawkeyes didn't head to the Outback Bowl in Tampa. The Hawkeyes beat Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota this year, and likely has a more motivated or larger traveling fan base when it comes to this year's bowls.
It starts with the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., which picks before the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., in the final year of the Big Ten's current lineup. Three teams are in the mix for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska.
A lot depends on how the Big 12 side of the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl plays out. Oklahoma visits Oklahoma State and Texas visits Baylor on Saturday. Wins by either of the road underdogs could alter the BCS picture and the bowl selection process. After the Big 12's automatic BCS berth, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl selects third in the Big 12 lineup after the AT&T Cotton Bowl and the Valero Alamo Bowl.
From talking to some folks in the bowl community and reading stories like this and this and this, here's how I see the debate playing out:
- Oklahoma is the team to watch. The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl would love to have the Sooners and revive the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry. But it's unlikely OU falls below the Alamo Bowl, even with a loss Saturday.
- Texas is the likelier option for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Some Nebraska fans would love another shot at their old Big 12 nemesis, but there's not as much enthusiasm on the other side. Although the matchup could be compelling, the bowl would face a tough decision with Michigan also on the table.
- Nebraska's win over Michigan on Nov. 9 won't be a major factor. How both teams finished the season might be more important. Michigan, which played arguably its best game last Saturday against Ohio State, has the edge against Nebraska, which was crushed by Iowa on Black Friday in Lincoln. Nebraska fans always travel well, but how motivated are they after the way things went down both during and after last week's game? That's a question bowl officials are trying to answer.
- Michigan hasn't played a game west of Arlington, Texas, since the 2007 Rose Bowl. The school has a large alumni presence in the West that could easily attend a game in Tempe, Ariz. Nebraska hasn't played a bowl in Arizona since the 1996 Fiesta.
- If the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl takes Michigan, Nebraska likely will go to the Gator Bowl, and vice versa. Although Minnesota has more wins than Michigan and a win against Nebraska, it would be a surprise if the Gator Bowl, which gravitates toward brand-name schools, passes up Nebraska or Michigan. While Minnesota fans are understandably excited about their team, arguably more so than Nebraska fans and Michigan fans, they're fighting a reputation for traveling poorly for bowls.
Our latest projections have Nebraska to the Wings, Michigan to the Gator and Minnesota to the Texas Bowl. We'll have our final projections Sunday, but a lot will depend on how those Big 12 games shake out.
The Big Ten has quite a few of those recruits in the game, so here is a look at five of the bigger storylines heading into the prestigious game.
Will Jabrill Peppers take visits?
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1. Get healthy. Devin Gardner has taken a beating this season. Between a knee brace midway through the season, a walking boot on his left foot following the Ohio State game and the general tackle-fest that occurred on his body through the season, he’ll need to relish in these weeks to really get back to his usual self. On top of that, Brendan Gibbons needs to recover from his groin injury, and James Ross III needs to get back to 100-percent. Really, after that much football, no player on the team is 100 percent so each guy needs to get into rehab until the bowl game.
3. Work on “fundamentals and techniques.” Not sure how many times we heard it this season, but this tagline never really hit home all the way for the guys. Even before the Ohio State game, coaches were saying they couldn’t get all 11 on the field to play together on every down. So a 7-5 season shouldn’t really be that disappointing when the Wolverines were playing 9-vs-11 or 10-vs-11 football at points, should it? But in a bowl game, they need to figure out how to get every player on the same page.
4. Grow chemistry on the offensive line. Now that Michigan has established these five are in fact the best five, the Wolverines need to stick with them and allow them to grow for the next few weeks. With their growth will come major strides for the offense as a whole. So if this group can live, breathe and dream football as a unit, it has a chance to improve upon its impressive performance against Ohio State and really give the Michigan offense a chance in whichever matchup.
5. Get Derrick Green reps. Michigan didn’t turn to Green until late in the season, so he didn’t get a ton of experience. In total, the freshman carried the ball 82 times for 265 yards (3.2 yards per carry). However, the Wolverines didn’t turn to him as the lead back until far too late in the season and because of it, he’s now behind in his development. The Wolverines need to try and get him as many reps against first-team defensive linemen and linebackers as possible. No matter what team Michigan plays, they’ll need Green to show up. He needs this month to make sure he can show up.
- For Michigan State, winning the Big Ten title would mean everything and is on Mark Dantonio's list of "impossible-but-possible" goals for his team.
- Urban Meyer has $4.2 million on the line in the Big Ten Championship.
- Up until he flipped off Michigan Stadium, Marcus Hall had a pretty good reputation. Now he has to deal with the decision he made.
- Five things to know about Michigan State-Ohio State and the Big Ten title game.
- On the BTNLive show, they discuss whether the Big Ten champion should be in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.
- Top Minnesota receiver Derrick Engel's ACL surgery went well.
- The Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl is looking at four Big Ten teams -- Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa and Minnesota.
- Michigan needs to figure out what went wrong, forget about the Ohio State game and get back to work.
- Penn State WR Geno Lewis heads into the offseason on a high note.