NCF Nation: Abe Koroma
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A year ago, Penn State's defensive line meeting room was packed with players, and Aaron Maybin could hang out in the back.
|Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI|
|Aaron Maybin produced 12 sacks and 19 tackles for loss this season.|
Maybin had a role, but not a key one. He contributed four sacks as a redshirt freshman and had carved a niche as a rush end who could provide a boost every now and then.
Maybin's role figured to remain more or less the same for the 2008 season. Anything he gave Penn State would be gravy, but the defensive line would be solid without him.
Then Chris Baker and Phil Taylor were dismissed from the team, Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma were suspended and Devon Still and Jerome Hayes sustained major injuries.
A few games into the season, the meeting room had nearly cleared out, and Maybin sat down with line coach Larry Johnson.
"He really let me know it was time to turn up the heat," Maybin said. "Because there was nobody else."
Maybin followed orders, and the temperature rose in opponents' backfields. The redshirt sophomore made his first career start in Week 3 at Syracuse and started nine of the final 10 games for the Lions.
He emerged as the Big Ten's top pass rusher, racking up 12 sacks and 19 tackles for loss to go along with three forced fumbles. A first-team AP All-American, Maybin anchored a Penn State defensive line that survived all the personnel losses and ranked ninth nationally against the run (95.9 ypg).
"Obviously, it was a tough situation to deal with," Maybin said. "Being as close as I am with my whole D-line, it was tough to see some guys go down and some guys be removed from the equation because of situations that are out of my control.
"But obviously, I had to step up and contribute a lot of things to this defense. Throughout the course of the season, I've been able to do that."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Despite the dominant victories, the emerging stars and the climb up the national rankings, No. 3 Penn State continued to generate a mixture of doubt and curiosity.
|Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE|
|Penn State improved to 9-0 by knocking off the Buckeyes Saturday night.|
How would the Nittany Lions respond to adversity? Not first-half adversity against a significantly inferior Michigan team. Real adversity. The kind that comes on the road against a quality opponent with the clock winding down.
Head coach Joe Paterno was the most curious. He liked his team and its potential. But he couldn't get a true gauge on how good the squad could be until it was placed under extreme pressure.
A fourth-quarter deficit at Ohio Stadium certainly qualified, not to mention having starting quarterback Daryll Clark standing on the sidelines with a head injury.
"We've got a good football team," Paterno said definitively after Saturday night's 13-6 win against No. 9 Ohio State.
Defensive end Josh Gaines knew the truth about Penn State before the season began. And though the Lions didn't face adversity on the field until Saturday night, they had faced plenty off of it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Ned Dishman/Getty Images|
|Josh Gaines and the Penn State defense have overcome injuries to start the season 6-0.|
Josh Gaines feels like a survivor.
Back in the spring, Penn State's defensive line meeting room included 17 men, the majority of whom had starting experience or played significant minutes in 2007. Gaines, a senior defensive end, anchored a Nittany Lions defense led by Sean Lee, the next great linebacker at Linebacker U.
Then one by one, Penn State's depth began to diminish.
- Lee tore his ACL in spring drills.
- Defensive tackles Chris Baker and Phil Taylor, who combined for 11 starts last season, were dismissed from the team in the summer.
- Promising defensive tackle Devon Still broke his leg in a preseason scrimmage.
- Prior to a Week 2 matchup with Oregon State, first-team All-Big Ten defensive end Maurice Evans and starting defensive tackle Abe Koroma were suspended after police found marijuana in their apartment. They missed three games.
- Reserve end Jerome Hayes tore his ACL in the Oregon State game.
The personnel purge would be enough to deplete most defenses, but not Penn State's. All the Nittany Lions have done is lead the Big Ten in both rushing defense (80.2 ypg) and total defense (250.3 ypg).
A dynamic new offense stocked with rushing threats gets most of the credit for Penn State's 6-0 start, but Gaines and his group shouldn't be overlooked. The line has held its ground, and despite some lingering questions at linebacker, Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull have elevated their play in recent weeks.
"Coming in, we were [picked] third or fourth in the Big Ten, and now we're in the top 10," Gaines said. "That's great and all, but it still feels like we're surviving. We've still got a long road ahead of us."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Ritttenberg
The curtain raises on Big Ten play this weekend, and you don't want to miss the show. Penn State attempts to validate its impressive start against a respectable opponent. Wisconsin tries to end a streak at Michigan, while the struggling Wolverines want to keep one going. Beanie's back in Columbus, but how much of a boost will he provide? Northwestern and Minnesota enter league play at 4-0, and no player is hotter than Michigan State's Javon Ringer.
Here are 10 things to keep track off Saturday:
1. Penn State HD-ready -- The Lions' new Spread HD offense has earned straight A's so far, but it has yet to take a real exam. Illinois' defense should provide one Saturday night at Beaver Stadium (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). Penn State has showcased myriad weapons and had unparalleled production, but it will be interesting to see how first-year starting quarterback Daryll Clark performs under pressure. Ron Zook called Illinois' defensive line the team's strength. It's time to prove it.
2. Going streaking in Ann Arbor -- No, not me. But I'll be on hand to see if Michigan can win its 23rd consecutive Big Ten home opener. The Wolverines are underdogs against Wisconsin, which tries to snap its own streak, a four-game slide at the Big House. The Badgers are stronger and more experienced, but they went 1-3 in league road games last season and suffered their only loss of 2006 at Michigan.
3. All is Wells again at Ohio State -- The Buckeyes haven't been the same team since star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells injured his right big toe in the season opener. After three tortuous weeks without the onetime Heisman Trophy candidate, Ohio State will get Wells back in the mix for its league opener against Minnesota. Wells probably will be limited to 15-20 carries, but he could provide the emotional spark Ohio State's offense has lacked.
4. Ringer goes for another 200 -- Running back Javon Ringer is the first player in Michigan State history to record consecutive 200-yard rushing performances. He aims for another big day against Indiana, which couldn't contain Ball State back MiQuale Lewis last week. Ringer will get his carries -- he always does -- but it's important for Indiana's front seven, led by end Greg Middleton and linebacker Matt Mayberry, to make Brian Hoyer beat them.
5. Boilers secondary on alert -- Notre Dame doesn't want to abandon the run, but the Irish were much more effective against Michigan State when operating in a shotgun, pass-happy offense. Expect more of the same against Purdue, which needs another strong performance from an improved secondary. Wideouts Golden Tate and Michael Floyd will stretch the field, putting pressure on Purdue's solid safety tandem of Frank Duong and Torri Williams.
6. Minnesota and Northwestern on the defensive -- The Big Ten's two worst defenses last season have stepped up big behind new coordinators Ted Roof and Mike Hankwitz. An influx of junior college talent has sparked Minnesota to a league-leading 13 takeaways, and Northwestern tops the Big Ten's sacks chart with 15, three behind its season total from 2007. Both defenses can validate their strong starts by stifling Ohio State and Iowa.
7. Lions D-line gets a boost -- Penn State coach Joe Paterno said defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma probably will play against Illinois after being suspended the last three games. Both players could be a bit rusty, but they give a depleted defensive line a big lift. Evans could be the league's most dominant pass rusher, and he'll help chase Illinois quarterback Juice Williams.
8. Hill back at the Big House -- Two years ago, Wisconsin's P.J. Hill went to Michigan as the league's leading rusher and was held to 54 rushing yards on 20 carries. Hill ranks ninth nationally and second in the league in rushing average this fall (126.3 YPG) as he returns to the Big House. His ability to wear down Michigan's veteran defensive line could give Wisconsin the edge.
9. Stanzi back on center stage -- Iowa desperately needs a starting quarterback, and sophomore Ricky Stanzi gets another shot to fill the role. Hawkeyes fans were infuriated when coach Kirk Ferentz stuck with struggling junior Jake Christensen in the second half of last week's loss at Pitt. Stanzi will have the support of the home crowd as he faces a much-improved Northwestern defense.
10. Indiana under pressure -- It's still September, but Indiana needs to rebound after a 22-point home loss to Ball State. The Hoosiers' opening schedule sets them up for a repeat bowl run, but another setback could sidetrack things. Quarterback Kellen Lewis faces an aggressive Spartans defense led by Big Ten interceptions leader Otis Wiley and linebacker Greg Jones.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Only eight games on the slate this week, but there's no shortage of subplots, especially on the defensive side.
Let's take a look:
1. Ringer vs. the world: Notre Dame will do all it can to stop Michigan State's Javon Ringer on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Ringer likely can expect to see eight or nine men in the box, as the Fighting Irish dare Brian Hoyer to beat them. The overloading still might not be enough, as Ringer has racked up 417 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games.
2. Pryor's coronation in Columbus: Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman will split snaps for Ohio State against Troy, but this game is a chance for the freshman to take control of the offense. If Pryor continues to show good poise and playmaking ability, he'll continue to be featured when the Buckeyes enter Big Ten play. Boeckman will get his opportunities as well, but with the top goal off the table for the Buckeyes, they have to look toward the future.
3. Iowa D takes on real McCoy: The Hawkeyes have already collected eight takeaways without allowing a touchdown this season, but they face their first major test in Pitt running back LeSean McCoy. Expect McCoy to run away from Iowa star tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, which will put pressure on less proven players to step up.
4. Indiana on the defensive: I've already heard from several furious Hoosiers fans about my upset pick of Ball State against their unproven team. Let's see if an improved Hoosiers defense proves me a fool when it faces dynamic quarterback Nate Davis and FBS receiving leader Dante Love. There's no doubt Kellen Lewis will make plays for Indiana, but the team's fate, as usual, rests with the defense.
5. Northwestern chases history: Nonconference losses have been Northwestern's biggest bugaboo, even during the program's renaissance in the mid-1990s. The Wildcats can sweep their nonleague slate for the first time since 1963 by beating Ohio at home. It won't be easy, as the Bobcats are much better than their record indicates and athletic quarterback Boo Jackson spells trouble for an improved Northwestern defense.
6. Tiller gets record: Joe Tiller already should be Purdue's all-time winningest coach, but his team lost another winnable big game last Saturday against Oregon. Tiller sets the record this week as Curtis Painter and the Boilermakers pick apart a Central Michigan defense that looks overmatched against BCS foes. Dan LeFevour makes the game interesting for a while, but Purdue beats the Chippewas for the third straight time.
7. Gophers secondary tested: No one would mistake Minnesota's nonleague schedule for, say, Washington's, but the Gophers deserve a ton of credit if they go 4-0 after winning one game all of last season. Standing in their path is Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith, who will perform much better than he did in the rain last week in East Lansing. Minnesota's new-look secondary of Tramaine Brock, Traye Simmons, Marcus Sherels and Kyle Theret have shown good playmaking skills so far and need continued progress against the Owls.
8. Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen: Coach Kirk Ferentz seems to be telling Christensen, "Take the job already, will ya?" The junior gets a great chance to do so on the road against a desperate Pitt team already knocked off its preseason perch. Christensen steadied the offense in the clutch last week against Iowa State but will need to make more pressure plays against the Panthers.
9. Penn State's defensive line: Coach Joe Paterno admits his team hasn't faced any adversity so far this season, at least on the field. Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele should be a good challenge for Penn State's defensive linemen, who have held together nicely despite injuries, dismissals and suspensions. Paterno also should address the status of linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma after the game.
10. Michigan State safety Otis Wiley: Wiley once again looks like the guy who led the team in tackles (94) and pass breakups (10) as a sophomore in 2006. The Spartans need him at his peak against Notre Dame because of lingering personnel issues in the secondary. Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen will look to stretch the field with Golden Tate, and it's up to Wiley to limit the damage.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Should get a Chris "Beanie" Wells update from Ohio State coach Jim Tressel in a little bit, so check back later.
- The Indianapolis Star's Bob Kravitz is unimpressed with the Big Ten.
- Illinois coach Ron Zook has been tough on his team after an unimpressive first three games, John Supinie writes.
- Indiana's defense is more than just Greg Middleton, but the improved unit faces a huge test in Ball State, Tim Ethridge writes in the Evansville Courier & Press. Coach Bill Lynch notes that the Hoosiers' gaudy rushing numbers are a bit misleading, LaMond Pope writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Iowa's depth on defense has fueled a strong start, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. University officials expressed concerns about the response to allegations of sexual assault against two former football players, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reports. The Board of Regents reveal their findings of an investigation into the response later today.
- Former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson tries to salvage his NFL career with the Lions, Jeff Arnold writes in The Ann Arbor News. At least one Wolverines player is having a solid season -- punter Zoltan Mesko.
- Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer doesn't mind being overshadowed by Javon Ringer and the run game, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press. The Spartans defense has got to like Notre Dame's poor third-down conversion percentage, Michael Rothstein writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. The Spartans haven't forgotten the disaster that happened the last time Notre Dame came to town, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News.
- Minnesota tries to become the first team to sack Florida Atlantic's Rusty Smith, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune. Gophers linebacker Sam Maresh updated the media on his progress after undergoing heart surgery this summer. The Gophers running back competition remains open, the Pioneer Press' Marcus Fuller writes in his blog.
- Northwestern's depth has increased competition and shuffled the depth chart early on, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune. Special teams tilt in Northwestern's favor against winless Ohio, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock took the heat Wednesday after his defense provided none against USC, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Defensive tackle Doug Worthington tries to atone after his DUI arrest this summer, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Offensive lineman Stefen Wisniewski could be the best Wisniewski ever to play at Penn State, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Joe Paterno could be waiting for Penn State's Office of Judicial Affairs to discipline Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma before leveling his own penalty, the Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane writes in his blog. Paterno is hobbled by a sore right leg, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror.
- Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter is quiet and collected despite the ups and downs, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier.
- Allowing key players time to heal tops Wisconsin's bye week to-do list, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Offensive coordinator Paul Chryst wants more from his unit when Big Ten play begins, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's time to take a look inside five Big Ten teams:
Indiana -- After two cakewalk victories, the Hoosiers face their first test of the season Saturday against Ball State and need a solid effort from their secondary, which might be without a big piece. Strong safety Austin Thomas is questionable for the game with a lower leg injury sustained last week at practice. Coach Bill Lynch said Thomas, the team's leading tackler last fall, won't practice much this week leading up to the game. If Thomas can't go, heralded Florida transfer Jerimy Finch would get the nod. The matchup with Nate Davis and the Cardinals would give the Hoosiers a great chance to evaluate Finch, considered arguably the nation's best safety coming out of high school.
Iowa -- The Hawkeyes still don't have a definitive starting quarterback, but coach Kirk Ferentz reiterates that the situation under center looks much more stable than it did a year ago because the team boasts two players (Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi) capable of running the offense. Stanzi started the last two games, but Ferentz is leaning toward Christensen for Saturday's game at Pitt (ESPN2, noon ET). Throughout the competition Ferentz has given Christensen every chance to cement himself as the starter. If the junior steps up against the Panthers, Iowa could finally decide to stick with him.
Minnesota -- There could be some shuffling on the offensive line after tackle Dom Alford sprained his ankle last week. Coach Tim Brewster is holding out hope Alford can return Saturday against Florida Atlantic, but junior Ryan Ruckdashel or backup right tackle Jason Meinke likely will get the nod. Redshirt freshman Trey Davis will start at center, but Brewster thinks there's a chance Jeff Tow-Arnett can return from a knee injury. Ned Tavale should return after an ankle injury and is expected to share time with Chris Bunders at right guard.
Ohio State -- Freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor will continue to see increased playing time Saturday against Troy and could split snaps 50-50 with senior Todd Boeckman for the second straight game. Pryor impressed coach Jim Tressel with the way he handled the spotlight last week against USC and made no major mistakes, while Boeckman threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Tressel won't name a starter until later in the week. Though the coach is usually partial to seniors, he doesn't tolerate turnovers and admits he's surprised at how quickly Pryor has grasped the system after getting far fewer reps than Boeckman during the preseason.
Penn State -- A rapidly evaporating group of defensive linemen forced Joe Paterno to move Mike Lucian from offensive guard to defensive tackle last week against Syracuse. The switch might have backfired as Lucian sustained an ankle injury, but Paterno expects the senior to be ready for Saturday's game against Temple. Paterno remains "very concerned" about the depth on the defensive line, and more moves could be on the way if Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma remain suspended. The Lions can't afford injuries to reserve tackles Tom McEowen and Chima Okoli.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten entered the season with two ways to improve its national image. The first called for a veteran-laden Ohio State team with 20 returning starters to finish what it started the previous two years and win a national championship. The other option ultimately was more important to the league's long-term health, but seemed difficult.
Other teams needed to show they could close the gap with the Buckeyes and compete well on the national stage. If Ohio State was far and away the class of the league but continued to flop against elite opponents, national respect would be in short supply. Well, Ohio State flopped big-time on the grandest stage Saturday night, not even managing a touchdown against top-ranked USC in a 35-3 loss at the L.A. Coliseum. The Buckeyes will get Chris "Beanie" Wells back and still make a run for a BCS bowl, but the door is open for other Big Ten teams to carry the banner.
Wisconsin and Penn State certainly look up to the task. The Badgers claimed a gutsy road win against always-tough Fresno State and Penn State, despite weak competition so far, has simply blown teams away.
Here's a look at five lessons from Week 3:
1. Big Ten title goes through Madison -- Wisconsin survived its biggest road test of the season by overcoming several obstacles, including the officials, at Fresno State. The power run game came through at critical moments and the defense, led by linebacker DeAndre Levy and tackle Jason Chapman, contained Tom Brandstater and the Bulldogs. The Badgers now benefit from a home schedule that includes Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois. Wisconsin hasn't lost at home under coach Bret Bielema.
2. Ohio State's offense needs more than Beanie -- There's no doubt Wells makes Ohio State a much better offense, not only from a productivity standpoint but because of the confidence he gives others and the on-field leadership he provides. But the USC game showed that the unit has several areas to repair. There's still not nearly enough creativity in the scheme. A veteran line crumbled against the Trojans, surrendering five sacks. And Todd Boeckman had another rough night when the team desperately needed strong quarterback play.
3. Fear the Lions -- The real season begins Sept. 27 against Illinois, but Penn State's offense has shown no signs of slowing down. Syracuse became the latest punching bag for Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and their teammates, as Penn State scored 35 points in less than 28 minutes. The Lions' road poise will determine how far they go this fall, as they travel to both Wisconsin and Ohio State, but there's little doubt the Spread HD offense makes them a much better team.
4. Purdue better, but still Purdue -- The Boilermakers' defense deserved better, as a top defender lamented as he stood outside Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday night. Purdue showed it could keep pace with speedy Oregon, thanks to a much-improved secondary and strong line play from Alex Magee and Ryan Baker. But once again, Purdue couldn't come through in a big game. Quarterback Curtis Painter has had a fine career, but the signature win continues to elude him.
5. Defenses flex their muscles -- Ohio State couldn't stop Mark Sanchez and Michigan never got much chance to stop Notre Dame, but the rest of the league showcased its defensive prowess. Michigan State blanked Rusty Smith and Florida Atlantic in the rain, Iowa kept in-state rival Iowa State out of the end zone, Illinois needed a defensive touchdown by Brit Miller to outlast Louisiana-Lafayette and Northwestern continued to improve under new coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Purdue wasted a tremendous defensive performance against Oregon and Penn State continued to excel without Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
In case you missed it, Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells took another step toward playing Saturday. We're rolling right along as game day approaches.
- Big Ten coaches realize what's at stake this weekend, The New York Times' Mike Ogle writes in The Quad blog.
- After being right in the mix at this point last season, Illinois backup quarterback Eddie McGee is waiting his turn behind the surging Juice Williams, Terry Bannon writes in the Chicago Tribune. Illini freshman wideout Jack Ramsey has been cleared academically to play, but he's still filling an invaluable role this week in practice, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald.
- The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens blogs about Indiana's sagging attendance at home games. Maybe a quality opponent or two would help the Hoosiers.
- A wide receiver corps besieged by injuries and inconsistency has become a strength for Iowa, Eric Page writes in the Quad City Times. Ricky Stanzi's newfound popularity hasn't affected the Iowa quarterback, the Iowa City Press-Citizen's Andy Hamilton writes in his blog.
- Both teams are struggling on offense, but Michigan and Notre Dame historically shine late in games, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. This is nothing like what's happening on the Gulf Coast, but weather could play a factor at Notre Dame Stadium, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News.
- The pass rush has become a priority for Michigan State, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press. Spartans center Joel Nitchman is a political junkie, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- Trey Davis got off to a rocky start as Minnesota's center but will have plenty more chances Saturday, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune. Gophers coach Tim Brewster remembers Montana State's last major upset, Scott Mansch writes in the Great Falls Tribune.
- Are the Buckeyes holding back on offense? Coordinator Jim Bollman won't tell, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Wideout Brian Hartline thinks so, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch. Wells likely won't be 100 percent Saturday, and cornerback Donald Washington might not reclaim his starting job.
- A report says Penn State defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma will remain suspended Saturday, but Koroma doesn't know his status, The Daily Collegian reports. The Penn State-Syracuse rivalry has lost its luster, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror.
- Purdue's David Pender has faced Oregon quarterback Justin Roper before and recognizes the challenge the Boilers will face Saturday, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier. Coach Joe Tiller isn't concerned about Purdue's all-time wins record, Stacy Clardie writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- P.J. Hill's early fumbles don't worry his Wisconsin coaches, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Badgers get a big boost Saturday when linebacker Jonathan Casillas returns, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Penn State doesn't need Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma to beat lowly Syracuse, but both starting defensive linemen could be suspended for the second straight week. A source tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Musselman thatboth players will miss the Syracuse game, though their long-term playing status remains undecided.
No charges have been filed against either player at this time.
- Iowa's new starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi has brought a calming presence to the huddle, the Quad City Times' Eric Page writes in his blog. Offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said:
"In the huddle, I mean, [Stanzi] is a little more calm and relaxed. Jake [Christensen] is more business focused, I think. Either way you look at them, they both have their positive aspects. You want a guy in the huddle that is going to be business focused and wanting to win, but, at the same time, you want a guy who is not riled up and every little thing doesn't get him excited."
Interesting stuff. Also, if you have time, check out the YouTube video with Stanzi's highlights set to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." Hilarious music choice.
- Terrelle Pryor needs to play plenty on Saturday -- and he will, CBSsports.com's Dennis Dodd writes.
- The return of cornerback Donald Washington from suspension gives Ohio State some options in the secondary, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises writes in his blog.
- There's some mystery surrounding Illinois defensive tackle Josh Brent, Bob Asmussen writes in The News-Gazette.
- Getting Chris "Beanie" Wells back and pressuring Mark Sanchez could keep Ohio State in Saturday's game, SI.com's Stewart Mandel writes.
- Indiana offensive lineman Rodger Safford plays through back pain, Chris Korman writes in the Bloomington Herald-Times (subscription required).
- Ohio State has rebounded well from near disasters early in the season, according to Bleacher Report.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Injuries are cropping up around the league, and coaches are shuffling pieces to try to find the right fit. Here's a look at five key issues in the Big Ten.
Minnesota -- Just when the Golden Gophers found a viable running threat, they received news that Duane Bennett tore his ACL against Bowling Green and will miss the rest of the season. Coach Tim Brewster will audition three players -- junior Jay Thomas and freshmen Shady Salamon and DeLeon Eskridge -- at the running back spot in hopes of identifying a featured back. The Gophers need more than one capable runner, but Brewster doesn't want a rotation there. Though Thomas has by far the most experience, Eskridge and Salamon are listed behind Bennett on this week's depth chart.
Michigan State -- The Spartans apparently no longer have cornerbacks or safeties, just general defensive backs. Before the season, coach Mark Dantonio moved starting corner Kendell Davis-Clark to safety after projected starter Roderick Jenrette took a leave of absence. Dantonio now is considering switching another starting cornerback, Ross Weaver, to safety after Davis-Clark sustained a shoulder injury against Cal and missed last week's matchup against Eastern Michigan. Davis-Clark is listed as day-to-day but didn't appear on this week's depth chart for Florida Atlantic.
Ohio State -- Cornerback Donald Washington returns from a two-game suspension Saturday against USC (ABC, 8 p.m. ET), but the two-year starter might not retain his job. Ohio State likely will platoon Washington and sophomore Chimdi Chekwa, who has started the first two games. Coach Jim Tressel also seems intent on keeping Jermale Hines in the mix, possibly at nickel back. Hines should get decent playing time Saturday because the Buckeyes don't know whether linebacker/safety Tyler Moeller will be able to play after suffering an injury.
Michigan -- Redshirt sophomore Perry Dorrestein likely will make his season debut as the Wolverines' starting left tackle Saturday at Notre Dame after Mark Ortmann dislocated his elbow last week. Dorrestein previously had backed up Stephen Schilling at left tackle. Michigan already is without two guards who went down with injuries before the season. Coach Rich Rodriguez expects Bryant Nowicki and true freshman Patrick Omameh to fill in behind Dorrestein on the left flank.
Penn State -- The still-unresolved suspensions of starting defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma and the season-ending injury to Jerome Hayes leave the Nittany Lions in a bit of a bind. Both the end and tackle positions have depth issues, and end might be a greater concern as Penn State doesn't have much behind Josh Gaines and Aaron Maybin. One possibility would be moving true freshman Jack Crawford from tackle to end, though Paterno is leery about Crawford's inexperience. If Crawford switches, it puts more pressure on keeping Jared Odrick, Ollie Ogbu and Tom McEowen healthy.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
There's obviously not a great game selection this week, but the Big Ten features plenty of intriguing storylines on Saturday. And no, not all of them have to do with Beanie Wells' big toe.
Here are 10 things to keep an eye on:1. Penn State's response to turmoil: The Nittany Lions thought they were past off-field melodrama, but the suspensions of starting defenders Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma and reserve tight end Andrew Quarless cast a shadow over Happy Valley. Will this team cave to the distractions or take care of business against a decent Oregon State team? The D-line will be shorthanded against Beavers quarterback Lyle Moevao.
2. Boom and Zoom: With Beanie Wells out, the spotlight turns to Ohio State's young running backs Dan "Boom" Herron and Brandon "Zoom" Saine, who along with Maurice Wells will carry the rushing load against Ohio. The Buckeyes need every weapon they can muster for USC, and the performances of the three backs against Ohio could loom large for next week.
3. Steven Threet era might begin: The Michigan redshirt freshman seemed to gain confidence toward the end of a season-opening loss to Utah and should get the starting nod against Miami (Ohio). Both Threet and Nick Sheridan are far from finished products, but Threet could take an important step in his evolution with an efficient performance against the RedHawks.
4. Tyrell Sutton faces Duke: The Northwestern senior sat out last season's embarrassing home loss to the Blue Devils, a game that kept the Wildcats out of a bowl. He'll be ready to roll on a potentially sloppy track in Durham, N.C., as Northwestern aims for redemption and a 2-0 start.
5. Star-studded crowd in Champaign: It should be a banner day for Illinois, which unveils the renovated Memorial Stadium and plays before a collection of living legends, including Dick Butkus. Eastern Illinois shouldn't present too much trouble, but the Illini are searching for a stronger defensive effort after last week's poor tackling display against Missouri.
6. Doyt Perry Stadium rocks as Gophers arrive: Bowling Green hosts its first-ever Big Ten opponent at Doyt Perry, and Minnesota will try to spoil the fun. The Gophers barely survived at home against a rebuilding Northern Illinois team last week and will need a much stronger effort, particularly on defense, to overcome Tyler Sheehan and the Falcons on the road.
7. Flipping quarters at Iowa: Is this the week Hawkeyes junior Jake Christensen cements himself as the starting quarterback? He'll have the chance to do so against Florida International, but improved sophomore Ricky Stanzi remains very much in the mix. It's important to see some separation soon, and Christensen still needs to improve his consistency and decision-making.
8. Beckum returns for Badgers: Wisconsin gets All-American tight end Travis Beckum back against Marshall, a potential tune-up for next week's trip to Fresno State. It's important for Beckum and new starting quarterback Allan Evridge to establish a good in-game rhythm, particularly in the red zone, where Wisconsin had two turnovers last week. Evridge can't rely solely on the run game, and he knows Beckum will be his greatest asset.
9. Penn State's Clark ready to run: We should get a much better read on Nittany Lions starting quarterback Daryll Clark this week against Oregon State. After facing no pocket pressure last week, Clark expects to showcase his running skills often against a Beavers defense that allowed 210 yards in a season-opening loss to Stanford. Clark will get help from Evan Royster and Stephfon Green as Penn State tries to run over the Beavers.
10. Purdue's offense takes flight: The Boilermakers finally make their debut and feature several offensive players in different roles. Senior Kory Sheets becomes Purdue's featured running back -- a spot he always coveted -- following a season-ending knee injury to Jaycen Taylor. Quarterback Curtis Painter gets to sample several wide receivers in more prominent roles (Brandon Whittington, Keith Smith, Desmond Tardy) against Northern Colorado.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Penn State has got to be thinking: What's next?
Star defensive end Maurice Evans, defensive tackle Abe Koroma and tight end Andrew Quarless won't play Saturday against Oregon State after police seized marijuana from their apartment earlier this week, coach Joe Paterno announced Thursday night on his radio show. A fourth player who lives in the apartment, cornerback A.J. Wallace, was not involved in the incident and can play against the Beavers (ABC, 3:30 p.m.).
Paterno also said cornerback Willie Harriott has been dismissed from the team for unrelated reasons.
Remember, no charges have been filed and the situation is still under investigation. However, this doesn't look good for a Penn State program already under fire for a string of off-field incidents. Paterno dismissed defensive tackles Chris Baker and Phil Taylor earlier this summer for their involvement in off-field incidents, but players insisted the team had moved forward from its problematic past.
Paterno's control of the program will once again come into question after the suspensions. The incident took place late Tuesday/early Wednesday, just days before a critical game. Now the Lions will be without Evans, their top pass rusher and most dynamic defender, and fellow starter Koroma, who plays a position where depth is a concern. Quarless, a promising tight end, has had previous disciplinary issues, so he could be in the most trouble.
It will be interesting to see how Penn State responds to this latest bout with adversity.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The e-mails are flowing in, and it's obvious that Big Ten fans are geared up for the 2008 season.
Let's see what's on your mind:
Shadd, from Toledo, Ohio, writes: Adam, Do you see Ohio State using Terrelle Pryor in a "read option" type of offense when he comes into the game, or do you see the OSU coaches having him execute the same dropback style gameplan that Boeckman plays? Seems like Jim Bollman can be thick headed sometimes when it comes to play packages with different personnel.
Adam Rittenberg: Pryor's skills definitely translate for a read option system, much like the one Illinois uses at times with Juice Williams. It's the reason Michigan wanted Pryor so badly for its new offense. Though he will be used in those situations, I think Ohio State also will have Pryor operate in a more traditional system as he progresses. The first two games, Youngstown State and Ohio, provide excellent opportunities for Pryor to get playing time and run the team's standard offense. If he shows he can pass effectively against college defenses, the Buckeyes should gradually increase his workload. His transition as a runner and a playmaker will be easier than as a drop-back passer, but he's got to learn sometime.
Andrew from Pittsburgh writes: First off, the 2005 field goal kicking meltdown occurred at MSU, not at Michigan. I was at that game, and at the Ohio State game a week later, and I can personally say that the OSU match-up was infinitely more heartbreaking. However, those two losses pale in comparison to the agony of Notre Dame, 2006. I vaguely remember the feeling of happiness while building a lead, but otherwise the entire evening is nothing but a cold, dark, and lonely sinkhole of a memory that haunts me to this day.
Adam Rittenberg: Thanks to Andrew and several other e-mailers for pointing out that the 2005 Michigan-Michigan State game did take place in East Lansing, not Ann Arbor. Like Minnesota, Michigan State has had too many traumatic losses in recent years. I covered the Notre Dame game in 2006, and it was a total collapse for the Spartans. The game began under clear skies, but the rain came at halftime and gradually increased. Michigan State led 37-21 with 10 minutes to play, but then went ultra-conservative on offense down the stretch as Notre Dame rallied. Drew Stanton didn't throw a pass in the fourth quarter until three minutes remained, and ND cornerback Terrail Lambert intercepted it and scored the game-winning touchdown. The loss spelled the end for coach John L. Smith and sparked one of the greatest radio rants I've ever heard.
David from Champaign, Ill., writes: Do you believe the matchup this year between Illinois-Indiana at 8pm in Champaign will be one of the more exciting games in the Big ten this year? Everyone around here is really looking forward to it! Also, what are your thoughts on Greg Middleton and rising star LB Matt Mayberry? How can we slow down the two quick defenders this year?
Adam Rittenberg: David, as an Illinois fan, you might want to be a little more concerned about Missouri, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State than the Hoosiers, but that game will definitely be worth watching. I've gotten several e-mails about Mayberry, a junior middle linebacker who made 42 tackles as a reserve last season. It seems like hopes are very high for him to solidify Indiana's defensive midsection. Middleton is a beast, but Xavier Fulton can hold his own at left tackle. Should be a great matchup. I'm also interested to see two of the league's most versatile quarterbacks, Juice Williams and Kellen Lewis.
Stan in Grand Haven, Mich., writes: OK, I'm a UM fan so I hope you won't write this off before reading it. WR/TE rankings: did you forget about Carson Butler? Injury and his attitude lessened his p.t. a bit last year, but the dude is one of the best in the conference at his position. Also, why factor in the QB when ranking the unit? That makes no sense--it's like discounting a RB because his line isn't that good. Think Barry Sanders. Finally, all you have to ask yourself when ranking units is which one you'd trade for the other. I guarantee if you were Michigan's coach and you traded your receiving unit for that at Northwestern, you'd be fired instantaneously. 'Nuff said.
Adam Rittenberg: Stan, I'll never write you off, but I've got a hard time bumping up the Wolverines because of Carson Butler. He had a nice grab in the Capital One Bowl, but 39 catches in two years? Even with the off-field stuff and the injury, I need to see more from him. These preseason rankings are largely based on what these players have showed in the past, and besides Greg Mathews and Butler, Michigan hasn't shown much. It doesn't mean with additions like Darryl Stonum, Michigan won't have one of the league's top receiving corps in November. But judging the Wolverines against experienced groups, including Northwestern's, it's hard to put them higher right now. Rich Rodriguez shouldn't want to trade any of his players, but I'm sure he'd love more experience at that position.
Brian from New York, N.Y., writes:I'd like to comment on Penn State's returning DL if I may as I truly believe this could prove to be the best Penn State Defensive Line any of us have ever seen. Of course, every CFB fan knows who Maurice Evans is due to the terrific job he did in earning All-Conference honors last year as a true sophomore. But are outsiders aware of the fact PSU actually returns 52 starts from last year across the line? This represents every player from a unit that finished 2nd in the nation in sacks (46) and 7th in rush D, so we're talking about much more than just Mo Evans here. Opposite Evans at DE is Josh Gaines who started all 13 games and racked up 5 sacks while splitting time with situational pass rusher redshirt freshman Aaron Maybin who had 4 1/2 sacks of his own. And the depth inside - fuggadaboutit! Larry Johnson basically has five proven starter quality DTs in his arsenal including: Jared Odrick, Ollie Ogbu, Abe Koroma, BIG Phil Taylor and Chris Baker. The thing to remember with this group is four of the five were merely 2nd year players last fall meaning, redshirt freshmen or true sophomores. Have I mentioned freshmen Devon Still and Chimaeze Okoli yet? Let's just say the word this spring is both freshmen are "impressive". Anyways, just want to mention PSU's returning DL before you and others "lock" Wisconsin or somebody else into the #2 conference finish spot behind OSU in the Big Ten this preseason because last year's youngsters in the Blue and White are certain to be even better in '08.
Adam Rittenberg: Brian, that's a quality breakdown of Penn State's defensive line. The Nittany Lions have the league's best defensive front in my view, just ahead of both Ohio State and Illinois. There's experience and talent throughout the line, and the front four will help Penn State survive the loss of linebacker Sean Lee. I ranked Wisconsin at No. 2, but the Badgers are by no means a lock, particularly with all the injuries they had in spring ball. Penn State could jump into that spot, but a reliable quarterback must be identified in preseason camp.
Steve from Anchorage, Alaska, writes: I think Steve Breaston should have been a special teams addition to the All-Lloyd list in the Free Press. When he was healthy, Breaston was a threat every time he touched the ball. That sick return against Illinois where he watched it bounce toward the sideline, grabbed it just before going out, then made 10 guys miss back and froth acros
s the field before scoring stands out.
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, glad to hear Big Ten football is alive and well in Alaska. Breaston would have been a solid addition to the All-Lloyd team. He was the league's most feared return man for several seasons. After seeing your note, I checked out Breaston's highlights on YouTube this afternoon. The Illinois return is third on the rundown. What a play. By the way, any highlight clip with Kool Moe Dee rapping in the background will find its way to this blog.