Big Ten morning links

October, 30, 2014
Oct 30
8:00
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A wild November is two days away. Buckle up.

1. Conversation starter: The College Football Playoff rankings are going to change, that much is certain. But as a starting point, the first-ever edition is pretty useful for gauging where the Big Ten sits and what it must do hitting the homestretch over the final month of the regular season. The heavy lifting mostly applies to Nebraska and Ohio State, and the spots those programs hold at Nos. 15 and 16 might have revealed more about the thinking of the selection committee than just about anything else on Tuesday. For starters, at this point, it's hard to argue that the Huskers didn't deserve the higher ranking since their lone loss was at Michigan State and they own a reasonably attractive win over Miami. The loss to Virginia Tech is currently weighing down the Buckeyes, and despite how hard-fought the victory was at Penn State against its stout defense, there isn't much else on the resume right now worth getting too excited over for the committee. But it's important to keep in mind that even with all those teams standing between Nebraska and Ohio State and a playoff berth, there is a lot of football left to play -- and if either of them can win out, it still seems likely that a one-loss Big Ten champ is going to climb enough rungs to get into the field. Only one of those teams can do it since they would face off in the conference title game, but the Big Ten as a league remains very much alive in the race for the national crown.

2. Bucking up: J.T. Barrett isn't completely healthy yet on his sprained knee, but the Ohio State quarterback made it clear after practice on Wednesday that he was on track to play on Saturday night against Illinois. Considering what's looming for the Buckeyes on Nov. 8 at Michigan State, though, it might be best for Urban Meyer to get him out of the game as early as possible to make sure he's in one piece for such a critical matchup with both the Big Ten and national-title implications. Like any week, nothing can be taken for granted, and Illinois has put together some decent game plans on defense and is coming off an upset win over Minnesota. But if the Illini do live up to their billing as the worst total defense in the league in the Horseshoe this weekend, Meyer would be wise not to leave Barrett on the field into the fourth quarter behind backup offensive linemen in an effort to get him extra reps like he did two weeks ago against Rutgers. The stakes are too high, and Michigan State is more than capable of beating the Buckeyes again even if they're at full strength.

3. Under-the-radar matchup: Basically from here on out, the West will have a matchup every week that could serve as an elimination game for the division title. The undercard for a heavyweight November starts with Northwestern visiting Iowa, which isn't exactly a showdown between leading contenders but will nevertheless leave one team in the race and essentially knock the other out. The Hawkeyes have had an extra week to address the issues that popped up in a loss at Maryland that cut down on their margin for error in the rough-and-tumble West. Playing at home will also be an advantage for Kirk Ferentz and his club. Northwestern has been something of a wildcard, though, and it already has gone on the road and come home with a surprising victory after taking apart Penn State in late September. The Wildcats do have two losses in the league already, and they don't have much going for them in a theoretical tiebreaker should they win out. But they're not all that different than the Hawkeyes at this point -- and the loser on Saturday will effectively be out of the race.

East Division
  • Jabrill Peppers has obviously not had the season anybody envisioned for Michigan, and Brady Hoke admitted the freshman is frustrated.
  • Mark Dantonio is only focused on taking care of business with Michigan State after the first rankings were unveiled.
  • Thanks to an injury to veteran safety Ryan Keiser, Penn State will take the redshirt off Troy Apke.
  • Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova took another step forward, but his status remains unclear for this week's game against Wisconsin.
  • Maryland started its preparation for Penn State in the summer by breaking down Vanderbilt film, looking for ways to get pressure on Christian Hackenberg.
  • J.T. Barrett left no doubt about his intentions this week for Ohio State.
  • Word continues to spread about Indiana running back Tevin Coleman.
West Division
  • Nebraska has received a boost for its offensive line off the bench.
  • Where does Minnesota's loss at Illinois rank among the most deflating for the program over the last 15 years?
  • Reilly O'Toole remembers vividly the noise at Ohio Stadium two seasons ago. The Illinois quarterback will actually have a chance to play in front of that crowd this time.
  • Wisconsin has already had success in the past recruiting New Jersey. Putting on a good show at Rutgers might open up a few more doors.
  • Iowa is fed up with poor tackling, and it has made cleaning it up a priority this week.
  • Statistically, Northwestern has plenty in common with Iowa.
  • Raheem Mostert is running down a record at Purdue.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- There is still some soreness in J.T. Barrett's left knee and he isn’t quite back to full strength on the practice field, but the Ohio State quarterback remains on track to start on Saturday.

The redshirt freshman played the second half and overtime last weekend against Penn State after spraining his MCL and still led the No. 16 Buckeyes to a win. And despite being limited in workouts early in the week thanks to some swelling, barring a setback Barrett is expected to be in the starting lineup for a prime-time matchup with Illinois.

“There would have to be something drastic happen between now and Saturday at 8 p.m.” Barrett said after practice Wednesday. “I plan on playing Saturday.”

That plan is unchanged from the one coach Urban Meyer unveiled Monday, and there hasn’t been anything physically at this point to suggest Barrett won’t be ready to take on the Illini.

The injury is similar to one sustained by Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller a year ago, and the sprained MCL actually forced him to miss two full games and most of another early in the season. But Meyer isn’t anticipating being without his current starter even for a week after his gritty performance down the stretch against the Nittany Lions, and the Buckeyes certainly figure to need him on Nov. 8 for a critical Big Ten clash at Michigan State.

“He [practiced], I wouldn’t say quite full, but he’ll be full tomorrow,” Meyer said. “He did good, real good.

“It’s very similar to what [Miller] had. I’m not a doctor, but it’s probably not as severe. Everybody is built differently, I guess.”

Whether it’s a matter of severity or build makes little difference for the Buckeyes. The main thing is the prognosis moving forward, and all signs are pointing to Barrett returning to the field without missing a game.

Big Ten Wednesday mailbag

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
5:00
PM ET
It's a new era in college football, as the first playoff rankings have been released. And understandably, questions about those rankings and the playoffs dominate Wednesday's mailbag:

Brian Bennett: That's the key question, isn't it? I'm not so sure. It's impossible to answer without knowing what happens elsewhere, and the Big Ten needs other leagues to falter. That's why Thursday night's game between Florida State and Louisville is huge for the conference. If the Seminoles win, it's hard to see them losing this season. That would all but guarantee FSU a spot in the playoff, and I believe two SEC teams will make it (the committee showed its admiration for the SEC by ranking three teams from that league in the top four and four in the top six on Tuesday night). That leaves only one spot open, and the Big Ten would be competing with the Big 12 champ, the Pac-12 champ and possibly Notre Dame. At this point, I would say the Big Ten does not get in. But there is a lot of football left. Remember that at this time a year ago with the BCS, Michigan State was unranked. Brian Bennett: An excellent question. On the surface, it would seem like a one-loss Pac-12 champion Ducks team would help Michigan State's cause. But I as I wrote in the previous answer, there could be a lot of jockeying among one-loss teams for perhaps only one or two playoff spots. I actually think the Spartans are better off if Oregon loses another game (but just one) and goes on to win the Pac-12. Michigan State will still get credit for going to Eugene despite the loss, but the Pac-12 would be essentially out of the running. Heck, the coaches' poll already has Michigan State ranked ahead of Oregon. If only those guys watched some games ... Brian Bennett: It was a mild surprise seeing Nebraska ranked one spot ahead of Ohio State, but it was also completely understandable. The Huskers' résumé is just as good if not better than the Buckeyes', and their lone loss (at Michigan State) is infinitely better than Ohio State's loss at home to 4-4 Virginia Tech. This would probably be a good time to review bowl tie-ins and procedures in case the Big Ten champion does not get into the playoff. The league winner would then go to either the Cotton, Peach or Fiesta Bowl. Those bowl matchups will be decided by the playoff selection committee. The Big Ten champion is not eligible to play in the Orange Bowl, though that game could feature a Big Ten non-champion if it is ranked higher than SEC non-playoff teams or Notre Dame -- which seems unlikely given the glut of top 10 SEC teams. Nebraska almost certainly needs to win the conference to be ranked high enough to qualify for one of the marquee non-playoff bowls. I still think the Huskers are the best team in the West Division, though trips to Wisconsin and Iowa won't be easy. If Nebraska doesn't win the Big Ten, I would bet on the Bo Pelini's team ending up in the Holiday Bowl, because the league's new bowl guidelines are aimed at avoiding repeat destinations, and Big Red has gone to Florida three straight years. Kameron from Glen Ellyn, Ill. writes: I agree both Ameer Abdullah and Melvin Gordon are deserving of making it to NYC. I am biased as a Husker fan but Abdullah's blemish against MSU I feel is better than Gordon's against an inferior opponent like WIU where he had 38 yards. I would think voters would view that as worse than the MSU game for Abdullah. Your thoughts?

Brian Bennett: If you're going to have a bad day during a Heisman campaign, it's better to do it in a blowout game against a no-name opponent than to in a loss during your biggest game of the season on national TV. Gordon also was coming off a hip flexor injury against LSU when he had the subpar game against Western Illinois. Abdullah was not able to carry his team to victory or get much of anything going at Michigan State.

But let's acknowledge that we're splitting hairs here. Both players are having incredible seasons, and both are more than worthy of a trip to New York City as Heisman finalists. As is, for that matter, Indiana's Tevin Coleman. Recent history suggests, however, that it will be tough for more than one running back to make it there.
Champions are made in November. That's the same for individual award winners. But as we close the book on October in the Big Ten, several players have already built strong foundations for their awards push.

We're tracking the offensive and defensive player of the year races every week. And this week's bonus category is offensive lineman of the year.

Here we go:

Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year

1. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah (five first-place votes): Abdullah had been overtaken in our poll by Melvin Gordon in recent weeks, but he's back on top after he broke the Nebraska record for all-purpose yards versus Rutgers. This race should last all year.

2. Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon (one first-place vote): Gordon did nothing wrong in running for 122 yards and three scores against Maryland last week. It's just that his competition is steep.

3. Indiana RB Tevin Coleman: He and the Hoosiers were off last week. He will try to keep his streak of 100-yard games going at Michigan on Saturday.

4 . Michigan State WR Tony Lippett: He had his fourth straight 100-yard day and sixth of the season against Michigan, while recording his Big Ten-best ninth touchdown catch.

5. Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett: The Buckeyes freshman didn't have his best day at Penn State. But battling through a knee injury and leading the team to two scores in overtime was very impressive.

Also receiving votes: Minnesota RB David Cobb

Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year

1. Ohio State DE Joey Bosa (six first-place votes): He came up with the walk-off sack at Penn State and won his first Big Ten defensive player of the week award. It likely won't be his last.

2. Penn State LB Mike Hull: Inexplicably left off the Butkus Award semifinalist list, Hull leads the Big Ten in tackles and was sensational against Penn State with 19 stops.

3. Nebraska DE Randy Gregory: Despite missing some time earlier this year, he still has 5.5 sacks and is a holy terror to block.

4. Iowa DE Drew Ott: With the Hawkeyes off, Ott fell out of the Big Ten sacks lead. But he still has seven in as many games

5. Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun: He was a little quiet early in the season, but the defending Big Ten defensive lineman of the year has come on strong of late and has six sacks on the season.

Also receiving votes: Penn State DT Anthony Zettel; Wisconsin LB Derek Landisch; Maryland CB William Likely.

Rimington–Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year

1. Michigan State LT Jack Conklin (six first-place votes): We unanimously agrees that the Spartans sophomore, who had no other Division I scholarship offers out of high school, is the Big Ten's best offensive lineman so far this year. What a great story.

2. Ohio State LT Taylor Decker: The Buckeyes' O-line has made great improvement since early in the season, and Decker is the anchor at left tackle. That's why he is somewhat surprisingly ahead of ...

3. Iowa LT Brandon Scherff: The Hawkeyes senior probably still will be an early first-round draft pick, and he made the ESPN midseason All-American team. But he and the Iowa line have been disappointing, especially last time out against Maryland.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The basics of playing quarterback had effectively already been evaluated, and Ohio State already knew what it had in J.T. Barrett.

His arm might not be the strongest, but the Buckeyes have seen him consistently put the football where it needs to be with accuracy and to a variety of targets. He might not be the fastest runner in the country, but the redshirt freshman is certainly athletic and intelligent enough to operate the zone-read attack and pile up yardage. He has proven to have the brains to memorize the playbook, has established a voice that can command a huddle ,and he has the confidence to speak his mind in the locker room.

[+] EnlargeJ.T. Barrett
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesJ.T. Barrett sprained his knee against Penn State but still rushed for 32 yards and two touchdowns in the double-overtime win.
Ohio State largely was able to learn all that about Barrett without all that much adversity, at least relative to what he was facing on the sideline last weekend before a make-or-break drive in overtime against one of the nation’s toughest defenses backed by a white-out student section making it hard to even think. But the meaningful lessons, the truly revealing moments for a player at Barrett’s position, come when the stakes are highest -- and that’s when Urban Meyer evaluates a quarterback’s eyes.

“I'll probably never forget that look,” the Ohio State coach said. “The more you’re around him, he’s just a very serious guy who handles his business on and off the field. To see what he did in that game in overtime, in that environment, it just -- I had him stand up in front of the team [after the game].

“To say that I really knew him a year and a half ago, I did not. Now I do.”

The Buckeyes are largely still early in the learning process with the redshirt freshman and finding out more about him every week, but the way he handled a hostile environment with the team’s College Football Playoff chances hanging in the balance told them plenty about the makeup of a guy who has already shown he had the physical tools to run Meyer’s high-flying attack.

And while Barrett had to deal with a sprained knee during the second half and overtime against the Nittany Lions, there’s already another measuring stick on tap this week for Ohio State as it watches how he deals with and responds to an injury.

The Buckeyes planned to limit his role in practice early in the week while he received treatment on his MCL, hoping to get him back to full speed by Wednesday. Scaling back his workload isn’t something the coaching staff would be in a hurry to do if it weren’t necessary considering how much importance they’ve placed on getting the first-year starter reps. They even kept him in behind an inexperienced line in a fourth-quarter blowout two weeks ago against Rutgers.

Ideally, of course, Ohio State would never have to find out how its quarterback responds to physical setbacks or how much pain he can play through. But it already has reason to be encouraged by what it has seen from Barrett heading into the final month of the regular season and Saturday’s matchup with Illinois.

“Coach Meyer likes to call them War Daddies,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “He was a hero, definitely.

“He came out there with a lot of confidence, a little banged up, but he played through it.”

He also delivered when it mattered most for the Buckeyes. Barrett rushed for 32 yards on four carries in the overtime sessions and scored both touchdowns, fighting off both an upset bid from the Nittany Lions and the sprained knee to keep Ohio State unbeaten in Big Ten play.

Illinois likely won’t pose quite as much difficulty thanks to the worst total defense in the league that also is allowing more than 34 points per game. That migtht wind up being a blessing for the Buckeyes if they can get Barrett out of the game quickly and ensure he’s rested and ready for a massive showdown against Michigan State. But if they need more from him, they’ve got fresh evidence and even more confidence that Barrett can give them what they need regardless of the circumstances.

“It was a tough, gritty performance,” Meyer said. “It wasn’t a great performance, as far as making the right reads and doing all the things that a quarterback has to do. But the more experience a quarterback has, the better he is adapting to things that maybe we have not practiced. You can’t practice everything.”

Hostile crowds, overtime situations and playing hurt can’t really be simulated. Turns out, the Buckeyes appear to have a guy who can handle all three at the same time without blinking an eye.
Some Penn State fans have grown a little paranoid this week, after the latest series of bad calls against them. But can you really blame the group? The missed calls against Ohio State weren’t isolated incidents; they were part of a pattern. It’s systematic! A conspiracy!

Luckily, our equipment -- laptop/TV -- isn’t broken, so let’s replay Saturday’s egregious acts and then break this case wide open. Two minutes into the game, the officials’ replay system just so happened to fail when Christian Hackenberg threw a clearly incomplete pass that was ruled an interception. It didn’t help much that the refs insisted they couldn’t see the play on their own equipment and weren’t allowed to look elsewhere, like, oh, I don’t know, up at the TWO NEW GIANT VIDEO BOARDS. Yeah, tough to get a good look when there are two big screens that feature a combined total of 10,285 square feet of video space and show replays in high definition just behind each end zone.

[+] EnlargeJames Franklin
MCT via Getty ImagesPenn State's James Franklin wasn't real pleased with the officiating last Saturday.
Or maybe they could just borrow a smart phone from one of the fans in the front row (maybe the fan could put a jacket over an official so he could feel like he was in a booth) if they felt they needed a closer look.

Innocent mistake or malice?

A quarter later came Ohio State’s 49-yard field goal, which was snapped about three seconds after the play clock expired. Referee John O’Neill and his crew messed up so many calls that there has to be something more sinister at play. Ohio State needed the win to keep its – and the Big Ten’s -- playoff hopes alive. The Buckeyes’ game at Michigan State is a playoff elimination game if both enter with just one loss, and can’t have Ohio State stumble before that Nov. 8 primetime matchup, right? Naturally, the B1G officials had to protect the B1G. If it takes out Penn State in the process, that’s acceptable collateral damage. So, of course, the biggest screw-ups just so happened to go against the Nittany Lions.

Coincidence? Even Dana Scully thinks that’s a reach.

O’Neill is the same official who worked the Penn State-Nebraska game in 2012, when the crew ruled tight end Matt Lehman did not cross the goal-line for a score. Here’s visual evidence to the contrary.

But wait, there’s more proof that officials are clearly out to get Penn State. Remember the Penn State-Michigan game earlier this season? How about the Lions’ onside kick recovery, when tight end Jesse James was ruled offside and the ball was mistakenly given to the Wolverines? Does THIS look offside to you?

And just for fun apparently, on Monday, somehow, linebacker Mike Hull – easily the best linebacker in the conference – didn’t make the list of Butkus semifinalists. Penn State’s coaches didn’t hide their feelings there.

So how do you explain all that?

To quote Joseph Heller, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”

Overreaction of the week: All this fuss over the College Football Playoff Rankings, and there’s still a lot of season left.

No, the committee is not out to get your team. Sure, three SEC teams are currently ranked within the top four. But that really doesn’t matter. Seriously. Take a look at where we would’ve stood at this time last season with the rankings, and you’ll see why. After Week 10 in 2013, Michigan State was ranked No. 22 and Auburn was No. 11. But both teams entered the bowl season ranked within the Associated Press' top four.

Oregon and Ohio State were also ranked within those four spots at this time last year -- but finished outside of those four spots following losses late in the season.

In other words, let this serve as a reminder: Rankings can change a lot in a couple weeks and, just because a team’s ranked outside the top four, top 10 -- or maybe even the top 20 doesn’t mean it’s out of the playoff hunt. Six of the committee’s top-10 teams will play at least one other top-10 team, after all.

Underreaction of the week: Why isn't anyone talking about Marshall? Maybe Conference USA should ask for its money back from the PR firm it hired to boost Marshall’s profile in the College Football Playoff. Because the undefeated Thundering Herd (8-0) didn’t make any noise in the inaugural CFP Rankings.

They’re not even ranked.

As was mentioned earlier, teams can move up. Plenty of season is left. But that doesn’t quite hold true for a Group of 5 member that doesn’t boast a single ranked team on its schedule. It’s a bit of a shame, but we just don’t know how good Marshall is. Even Marshall’s nonconference slate is sickeningly easy, with three MAC teams and an FCS school.

The PR firm, Brener Zwikel & Associates, still has time to boost Marshall’s profile. But, since it’s not yet ranked, even overtaking No. 23 East Carolina for a contract bowl won’t be an easy accomplishment.

Rankings Winners And Losers

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
12:11
PM ET


video

Now that the first College Football Rankings have been made official, Brad Edwards looks at who were some of the winners and losers.
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Brad Edwards and Antonietta Collins react to the College Football Playoff rankings that were released on Tuesday night.

Big Ten playoff tracker: Oct. 29

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
9:00
AM ET
The College Football Playoff rankings are out, but they're hardly the last word. Teams have another five weeks to build their cases for inclusion in the four-team playoff. But they know where they stand now.

Three Big Ten teams remain in the playoff mix. Let's take a look at how things stand for them:

Michigan State

Record: 7-1 (4-0)

Rank: 8

Next big obstacle: Nov. 8 vs. Ohio State

Reason for optimism: The Spartans have won 14 straight games against Big Ten opponents, and their toughest remaining game -- against Ohio State on Nov. 8 -- will be in East Lansing. Plus, their lone loss of the season was at Oregon, which was understandable. They remain the favorites to win the Big Ten and could easily move up as others lose.

Cause for concern: This year's defense has been more susceptible to the big play than defense in recent seasons, and Mark Dantonio's team has yet to play its A-game against a good opponent for four full quarters. The margin of the Oregon loss -- 19 points -- is a black mark, and the Spartans could suffer from the Big Ten's weak perception.

Whom they’ll be rooting for this week: Michigan State wants Ohio State to beat Illinois so the matchup against the Buckeyes is a marquee one. The Spartans need Oregon to beat Stanford and continue winning. They would also benefit from a Florida State loss at Louisville, a Notre Dame loss to Navy and more chaos in the SEC West.

Nebraska

Record: 7-1 (3-1)

Rank:
15

Next big obstacle: Nov. 15 at Wisconsin

Reason for optimism: The Huskers are still lurking in the Big Ten race and could avenge their lone loss -- on the road by five points to Michigan State -- in the Big Ten championship game. They have an easier path to Indianapolis through the Big Ten West and have one of the nation's best players in running back Ameer Abdullah.

Cause for concern: Nebraska's best victory of the season came against a 5-3 Miami team, which just might not be good enough. The Huskers have been inconsistent at times and still have road tests at Wisconsin and Iowa. In their lone marquee game, they trailed Michigan State 27-3 in the fourth quarter before a furious comeback. They also don't have any ranked teams left on the schedule, though that could change if they make the Big Ten title game.

Whom they’ll be rooting for this week: Nebraska still needs a lot of help to move up 11 spots (at least). The Cornhuskers should definitely root for Florida State to lose and will want TCU to go down to West Virginia to weaken the case for both the ACC and Big 12 champ. Losses by Notre Dame, Oregon and chaos in the SEC West are needed. Nebraska also wants Wisconsin and Iowa to keep winning to make those games look more important and for Miami to finish strong.

Ohio State

Record: 6-1 (3-0)

Rank: 16

Next big obstacle: Nov. 8 at Michigan State

Reason for optimism: The Buckeyes have steadily improved since a Week 2 loss to Virginia Tech, and quarterback J.T. Barrett has developed into a reliable playmaker. If the Buckeyes win in East Lansing in two weeks, they should have relatively smooth sailing to the Big Ten championship game. The selection committee will respect Urban Meyer's track record and Ohio State's talent.

Cause for concern: That loss to Virginia Tech -- by two touchdowns, at home -- could be hard to overcome, especially because the Hokies are just 4-4. Other than Michigan State, there's no real opportunity for a statement win. And the Buckeyes barely survived the past week at Penn State, which suggests their offensive improvement might have been built on the back of a weak schedule.

Whom they’ll be rooting for this week: The Buckeyes need all the same carnage Nebraska is hoping for, but at least they could get a significant boost by winning at Michigan State. They'll also want the Huskers to win out and hope to play them in Indianapolis.

National links: Rankings madness 

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
8:30
AM ET
Now that we have had time to digest the first Top 25 from the College Football Playoff Committee, it is pretty obvious the group delivered on the promises it made before the process began.

Strength of schedule matters. Quality wins matter.

The AP and coaches poll do not.

One glance at the College Football Playoff Top 25 and the other rankings clearly illustrates the committee truly started with a clean slate.

There are several discrepancies that illustrate this point:

Big Ten morning links

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
8:00
AM ET
Welcome to a new age of college football. The year is now 1 CFPE. The College Football Playoff Era began last night with the first release of the selection committee’s Top 25 rankings.

1. The Big Ten landed three teams in the initial poll, which is about as good as the league could have expected. The No. 8 Spartans lead the way. Nebraska coming in at No. 15, one spot ahead of Ohio State, was the biggest surprise for Big Ten teams. As entertaining as it was to see the first rankings unveiled, next week’s will be far more interesting. Then we’ll find out if the committee will let its previous rankings affect the new version -- one of the biggest faults of the AP and Coaches’ polls -- or if it will more liberally move teams up and down based on how they look at the moment. Either way it’s safe to assume there will be just as much consternation and complaining about snubs as in the BCFPE.

2. Speaking of snubs, somehow Penn State’s Mike Hull was somehow left off of the list of 15 semifinalists for this year’s Butkus Award for the country’s top linebacker. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who has a vote for the final winner, said he will make Hull a write-in candidate. Fitzgerald said the semifinalist lists, which he was on as a player in the mid-90s, are just a popularity contest. Hull did get noticed by the Bednarik Award folks this week. They added him to the watch list for their top defender award.

3. No snubs this week, however, were more headshaking than the ones Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon dished out to Wolverines fans via e-mail during the past year. A report on mgoblog.com Tuesday revealed a collection of snarky and condescending e-mails that the beleaguered athletic director has sent to fans. It’s baffling that a man described as a master of public relations when he took the job at Michigan in 2010 could be so tone deaf when talking to his customers. Brandon called the blog report "nonsense" when asked about it leaving an award ceremony Tuesday night, but the messages can’t sit well with the university president currently mulling over Brandon’s future at Michigan.

East Division
West Division

Big Ten bowl projections: Week 9

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
8:15
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Tuesday nights have become rather significant in college football with the release of the playoff selection committee's rankings. As a result, bowl projections also move to Tuesdays and will be released immediately after the committee's rundown.

Last week, we projected Maryland to the Holiday Bowl based on merit, while noting that the Terrapins would have to prove themselves again at Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin ended up mauling Maryland, so the Badgers move up the projections. Remember: the Big Ten is taking greater control over bowl pairings this season, so the teams that have earned it on the field, not necessarily those with the largest fan bases, will land in the higher-profile games.

We had a brief discussion about projecting Michigan State or Ohio State to the playoff, but a few more things need to break the Big Ten's way. There's a good chance the winner of the Nov. 8 showdown at Spartan Stadium moves up a rung, but we're not ready to pull the trigger.

We also discussed whether to project Illinois to its first bowl game under coach Tim Beckman after a big home win against Minnesota. The Illini only need two more wins, but we need to see a little more.

Maryland and Rutgers move down after losses. Penn State, meanwhile, actually moves up after taking Ohio State to the brink before falling in two overtimes.

Here are the latest projections:

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

SEC West: 3 of top 4 in rankings

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
5:25
PM ET
video

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- The College Football Playoff selection committee has spoken -- and it likes the SEC.

At least for now.

Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Mississippi are the top four teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings.

The first of seven Top 25 rankings compiled by a 12-member selection committee was released Tuesday night. The selection committee will ultimately pick the four teams to play in the national semifinals and set the matchups for the other four big New Year's Day bowls that are part of the playoff rotation.

"It was extremely difficult, more difficult than any of us had expected having gone through our mock selections before," Arkansas athletic director and committee chairman Jeff Long said. "There are 18 one-loss teams in FBS at this point in time, and the difference between many of them is very slim."

Oregon was fifth and Alabama was sixth, giving the Southeastern Conference's West Division four of the top six teams. There are still four games remaining matching those SEC West rivals, starting with Saturday's matchup of Auburn and Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi.

"We don't analyze it by conference," Long said. "We look at those teams and evaluate the teams they played and the success they had, or the failures they had."

The final rankings will be released Dec. 7, the day after the most of the conference championships are decided.

"Everyone on the selection committee recognized that our rankings will change over the next six weeks," Long said. "I think that's important for us to emphasize. We expect our rankings to change over the next six weeks. One week's rankings won't influence the next week's rankings."

TCU


(Read full post)


Best of Week 10 Big Ten conference call

October, 28, 2014
Oct 28
3:29
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Questions were asked. Coaches had answers. Here are a few of the highlights from this week's Big Ten conference call.

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The College Football Playoff selection committee will issue its first-ever set of rankings Tuesday night.

It's an exciting time for fans and the signal of a bold new beginning for the sport. Many will be glued to their TV sets for the unveiling of the Top 25.

But in terms of appointment viewing for the three Big Ten figures who have the most to gain or lose tonight, this show might as well be a rerun of "New Girl."

On Tuesday's Big Ten coaches' teleconference, I asked Nebraska's Bo Pelini, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Ohio State's Urban Meyer -- all of whom should see their teams ranked in the top 20 -- how much attention they'd pay to the rankings release. All three said they didn't even plan on watching the show.

"I think you'll notice it, but I think our focus has got to be on our next football game," said Dantonio, whose team has a bye this week before hosting Ohio State. "That will be where the challenge is. I think this is the starting point for everything from a media perspective. I'm really not quite sure how it will even work."

"I'm sure I'll hear about it, but I've got other things on my mind than what that vote is today," Pelini said. "It's not something that affects me."

"I'm sure I'll look at them tomorrow morning," Meyer said. "We're practicing and it's a heavy game plan night. So I know I won't watch it, though I'm aware it's going to happen."

Playoff talk has dominated college football since the end of last season. But even though there are two men with major Big Ten ties on the committee -- Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez and former Nebraska coach/athletic director Tom Osborne -- the coaches all said they were unfamiliar with how the process will work.

Pelini even said he's had no conversations with Osborne about the playoff selection in the past year. I asked him if he'd address the playoff rankings with his team.

"No," he said. "Other than to ignore them."

None of the coaches expected to learn much from the rankings, either, though the committee could tip its hand on which areas -- like strength of schedule, good wins vs. bad losses -- it prioritizes.

"I haven't followed it that much," Meyer said. "I don't know if it's much different than the old BCS system when the BCS rankings came out. The only thing I look at it as, it's four teams instead of two. I really don't understand the whole dynamics."

"I think it's just another poll," Dantonio said. "I'm sure they have their methodology. It will be interesting to watch as it goes through. [But] we need to try and live in the present."

Tonight's show should attract a lot of interested college football fans. But not so many Big Ten coaches, apparently.

"I didn't know the rankings were tonight and will not watch them," Penn State's James Franklin said. "But I am curious about how the whole thing will play out. I will follow it from a distance in my free time."

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Drive Through: Rankings Reaction
Brad Edwards and Antonietta Collins react to the College Football Playoff rankings that were released on Tuesday night.
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