NCF Nation: Charlie Gantt
"He'll stop in and say, 'I didn't know you threw a fake pass against Notre Dame,'" Aaron Bates said.
"We'll talk about [the play] a little bit, and then they'll go on their way," said Bates, who became Fairfield Christian Academy's athletic director this spring. "And then the next week, I'll have a new kid come in. It's something."
Indeed, Michigan State's knack for calling trick plays is something. It has become a hallmark of Spartans coach Mark Dantonio and the program, partly because of the playful names attached to the plays, but mostly because they've worked so well.
Michigan State employed its latest fake last week at Nebraska when it lined up for a field goal but instead sent punter Mike Sadler on the move. Sadler picked up a first down, and the Spartans eventually scored a touchdown in a 41-28 win.
Sadler's dash placed "Charlie Brown" in the glorious glossary with "Hey Diddle Diddle," "Mouse Trap" and, of course, "Little Giants" -- previous Spartans fakes that led to big wins.
"Our players like to see us take a calculated risk," Dantonio said. "We don't want to do it every game. We've done it twice in 10 games, we did it once last year, so it’s not like we’re doing these things every week.
"It's just a part of who we are."
Dantonio isn't sure how the tricks trademark evolved but credits the success to his players. Bates recalls executing a successful fake field goal against Indiana in 2007, and how Dantonio then wanted to run one every week.
The reputation grew in 2010 with "Little Giants" and "Mouse Trap," a fake punt pass from Bates to Bennie Fowler that helped Michigan State erase a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit at Northwestern.
"That was kind of the breakout year for the trick plays," Sadler said. "In the past, they ran a couple fakes, but 2010 was ‘Little Giants,’ ‘Mousetrap’ and everything. That's when we became known for it because of the magnitude of those two plays."
Michigan State runs through the fakes at every practice during the special teams portion of the workout. The Spartans enter games with "at least a dozen in our back pocket," according to Sadler, but the plays actually used are based largely on opponent and situation.
"We create them as we go," Dantonio said.
A fake punt sweep employed last season against Michigan, nicknamed "Sandlot," wasn't practiced during the week but still worked as Sadler raced for 26 yards.
"There's always some base ones, plays that will work against any look," Sadler said. "And then every week, there's one or two specific looks. We just try to play according to their tendencies. That's why the one at Iowa worked ['Hey Diddle Diddle'], because they turn their backs. Same with Northwestern, when we ran 'Mouse Trap.'
"But that same fake wouldn't work against a bunch of other teams in the Big Ten."
The famous fakes enhance the profiles of often overlooked specialists like Bates and Sadler, good friends who compare stats. Bates finished his career with a passer rating of 400.4, while Sadler averages 18 yards per carry.
MSU's coaches make the planning process interactive, encouraging players to brainstorm plays and names for them. Sadler is still waiting for one of his ideas to be used in a game.
"Mike has a tendency to have a few over-the-top suggestions," special teams coach Mike Tressel said, laughing. "There's no doubt we have fun with coming up with them and naming them. The kids get into it."
So does Dantonio. He's a defensive-minded coach who comes from the typically conservative Jim Tressel coaching tree, but his penchant for trick plays shows a different side.
Even the playful names like "Mouse Trap" ("We had to get them to take the cheese," Dantonio joked afterward) and "Hey Diddle Diddle" (send Sadler up the middle) point to a sense of humor Bates describes as unique.
"Normally people associate defensive coaches with being risk-averse people," Sadler said, "but you don’t run that fake against Nebraska if you're not trying to win a championship. While he's a defensive coach, he's definitely not afraid to take risks."
The Spartans' top-rated defense makes it easier to gamble, but Dantonio often calls fakes in the fourth quarter, with the Spartans trailing and with the ball in MSU territory.
Opponents are aware of MSU's trick record. As Michigan prepared to face Michigan State, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke told ESPN.com, "I'm sure Mark's got something for this week."
“But the knowledge rarely helps. Dantonio said Nebraska looked ready for "Charlie Brown" but still couldn't prevent a first down. After "Hey Diddle Diddle" worked against Iowa, Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz lamented, "We may never try to return one again."
Normally people associate defensive coaches with being risk-averse people, but you don’t run that fake against Nebraska if you're not trying to win a championship. While he's a defensive coach, he's definitely not afraid to take risks.
-- Mike Sadler on Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio
Predicting when and where Michigan State will run a fake is futile, even for those closely involved.
"There's times you might feel like he's in the mood and this is the right time and he doesn't do it," Tressel said. "Other times, you're shocked that he does do it. I suppose if he’s keeping us on our toes and we don't know, that means the other guys can't know, either."
It's unlikely Dantonio has emptied his bag of tricks for the 2013 season. Don't be surprised if he has something ready if Michigan State returns to the Big Ten title game.
"He wants to win," Bates said. "He thinks the ground-and-pound and the conservative mentality is probably good for the most part, but you do have to take those risks here and there if you want to be a champion."
"You think all we had to do was this ..."
"But when I was sitting there watching the field goal, it took me until the play was over to realize they're in a fake, because I was zoned in on them missing the field goal. I was picturing that in my mind.
"It is what it is. It's a gutsy play call and it worked out for them."
For the Fighting Irish, a matchup with Michigan State this Saturday serves as a harsh reminder of the way the Spartans utilized a play out of a video game to record a home victory last season.
The situation: Overtime, down 31-28 and facing a fourth-and-14 and from the Irish 29, MSU trotted out its field goal unit, seemingly hoping to force a second overtime.
"I was getting ready, me and Armando [Allen] were sitting right next to each other," Jonas Gray recalled, "and we were sitting and going over what we thought the defense was doing."
But not even the best-prepared unit could have predicted punter, holder and former high school quarterback Aaron Bates taking the snap, hopping to his feet and hitting tight end Charlie Gantt with a perfect throw for a game-winning touchdown, securing a 34-31 Spartans win and making the play call, "Little Giants," a smashing success.
"We were on the sideline just watching, and it was unbelievable," Braxston Cave said. "I couldn't believe it just happened. It did. It took some time. Even walking back into the tunnel I couldn't believe it just happened. I still can remember the feeling of walking off the field after that play."
Added head coach Brian Kelly: "I think the down and distance was a bit of a surprise. We know in that situation, regardless of it, we had to defend it better. But no, I thought it was a great call. It worked."
Offensive line coach and run-game coordinator Ed Warinner called the ending "devastating." Warinner coached the Spartans' linebackers and secondary from 1985-86, when he met his wife, Mary Beth.
She, of course, was working in the school's football office. And, of course, is from a family full of MSU graduates.
"I always go back there, there are so many people there that I still know that I worked with that are part of the shaping of my career and the support mechanisms," Warinner said. "Mark Dantonio and I coached together at the University of Akron, we actually lived together for six months, so we're very close and I know other guys on that staff very well as well.
"So it's one of those things."
Gray drew parallels to that loss and the one Notre Dame is currently rebounding from, a 35-31 loss to Michigan that saw three lead changes in the final 72 seconds.
But Kelly's 24-hour rule couldn't prevent Gray from running into the fake field goal while randomly turning on the television during the offseason.
"You pretty much take the reaction you had before," Gray said. "Still surprised, and realizing how close we were and just a guy here, there and they were able to get that play. You just realize how close you are and how you don't ever wanna be put in that position again."
Hours later, Dantonio, the Spartans' head coach, suffered a mild heart attack. He returned to coaching in the press box three weeks later at Michigan, then to the field two weeks after that at Northwestern.
The Spartans won that game thanks in large part to a fourth-quarter fake-punt call, appropriately titled "Mousetrap."
MSU finished the regular season 11-1 and in a three-way tie for the Big Ten title, and it now has the bull's-eye on its back against a 0-2 Irish squad all-too-familiar with last-second defeats.
"Very shocking," Cave said. "It was the last thing I expected, and it's disappointing. Definitely still got that bad taste in our mouth from that, and to see the highlight over and over when they show the top plays from last year, makes you sick to your stomach.
"And it's definitely something we haven't forgot about, and it's a little extra motivation going into this week."
My ESPN colleagues are all over the happenings in Naptown, so check out the combine blog and the latest Scouts Inc. combine notebook.
There's more testing and timing Monday with the defensive linemen and linebackers, but some results are in, so let's take a look. I'm breaking these down into top performers by position. I'll put together an overall top performers post once the combine is finished.
- Nebraska's Niles Paul finished second in bench-press reps (225 pounds) with 24
- Paul tied for 14th in the 40-yard dash at 4.51 seconds
- Indiana's Terrance Turner tied for second in vertical jump at 41 inches
- Turner finished seventh in broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches
- Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher finished second in 3-cone drill at 6.46 seconds; Turner tied for 14th at 6.77 seconds
- Sanzenbacher finished third in the 20-yard shuttle at 3.97 seconds; Paul finished 12th at 4.14 seconds; Turner finished tied for 13th at 4.15 seconds
- Sanzenbacher finished second in the 60-yard shuttle at 10.94 seconds; Turner tied for ninth at 11.21 seconds
- Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien tied for 13th in the 40-yard dash at 4.93 seconds
- Stanzi finished ninth in the vertical jump at 32.5 inches; Tolzien tied for 12th at 29.5 inches
- Tolzien tied for seventh in the broad jump at 9 feet, 8 inches; Stanzi finished 12th at 9 feet, 2 inches
- Tolzien tied for third in the 3-cone drill at 6.84 seconds; Stanzi finished 12th at 6.95 seconds
- Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. finished sixth in the 40-yard dash at 4.42 seconds; Ohio State's Brandon Saine finished seventh at 4.43 seconds;
- Illinois' Mikel Leshoure tied for third in the vertical jump at 38 inches; Helu tied for eighth at 36.5 inches
- Leshoure tied for fourth in the broad jump at 10 feet, 2 inches; Helu finished 10th at 9 feet, 11 inches
- Helu finished second in the 3-cone drill at 6.67 seconds; Leshoure finished sixth at 6.82 seconds
- Helu finished first in the 20-yard shuttle at 4.01 seconds; Penn State's Evan Royster tied for eighth at 4.18 seconds
- Helu finished first in the 60-yard shuttle at 11.07 seconds
- Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks finished eighth in the 40-yard dash at 4.75 seconds; Michigan State's Charlie Gantt finished 11th at 4.93 seconds; Iowa's Allen Reisner finished 12th at 4.95 seconds
- Gantt tied for first in bench-press reps with 27; Kendricks tied for third with 25
- Kendricks finished sixth in vertical jump at 34.5 inches; Gantt finished 13th at 30.5 inches
- Kendricks finished second in broad jump at 10 feet, 2 inches; Gantt finished ninth at 9 feet, 4 inches; Reisner tied for 12th at 9 feet
- Kendricks finished sixth in the 3-cone drill at 6.94 seconds; Gantt finished 11th at 7.15 seconds
- Kendricks tied for second in 20-yard shuttle at 4.15 seconds; Gantt tied for eighth at 4.4 seconds
- Kendricks tied for sixth in 60-yard shuttle at 11.9 seconds; Gantt and Reisner tied for 11th at 12.12 seconds
- Wisconsin's J.J. Watt tied for fourth in bench-press reps with 34; Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan tied for sixth with 31
- Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan finished first in bench-press reps with 32; Ohio State's Brian Rolle finished fourth with 28; Illinois' Martez Wilson tied for ninth with 23
- Iowa's Julian Vandervelde tied for 10th in the 40-yard dash at 5.21 seconds; Indiana's James Brewer and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi tied for 14th at 5.27 seconds
- Michigan's Stephen Schilling and Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski tied for sixth in bench-press reps with 30; Carimi tied for ninth with 29; Ohio State's Justin Boren tied for 14th with 28
- Carimi finished fifth in vertical jump at 31.5 inches; Vandervelde tied for sixth at 31 inches; Wisconsin's John Moffitt tied for eighth at 30.5 inches
- Carimi finished fifth in broad jump at 9 feet, 1 inch; Vandervelde finished tied for 13th at 8 feet, 8 inches
- Vandervelde finished seventh in 3-cone drill at 7.46 seconds; Wisniewski finished eighth at 7.51 seconds; Boren finished 11th at 7.57 seconds
- Moffitt finished sixth in 20-yard shuttle at 4.53 seconds; Vandervelde tied for seventh at 4.59 seconds; Schilling tied for ninth at 4.62 seconds;
2. Little Giants: Mark Dantonio made the call of the year to help Michigan State beat Notre Dame in overtime Sept. 18. Rather than attempt a potential game-tying field goal, the Spartans went with "Little Giants," a fake where punter/holder Aaron Bates passes to a (hopefully) open receiver. Tight end Charlie Gantt sneaked behind Notre Dame's defense, caught the ball and trotted in for the game-winning score.
3. Pryor's fourth-down scramble: Ohio State's run of five consecutive Big Ten titles was in serious jeopardy in a Nov. 20 game against Iowa. The Buckeyes trailed 17-13 late in the fourth quarter and receiver DeVier Posey had dropped a wide-open pass in the end zone, setting up fourth-and-10. But quarterback Terrelle Pryor scrambled 14 yards for a first down and Ohio State went on to record the game-winning score moments later.
4. Runaway Robinson: Michigan's Denard Robinson had a record-setting start to the season, and his signature play came Sept. 11 at Notre Dame. Late in the first half, Robinson shot through a gap and raced 87 yards for a Michigan touchdown. It marked the longest run in Notre Dame Stadium history as Robinson broke his own record for Big Ten quarterback rushing. Robinson also led Michigan's game-winning touchdown drive in the closing minutes.
5. Gilreath's opening statement: Special teams plays largely defined Wisconsin's run to the Rose Bowl, and Gilreath made a huge one to open an Oct. 16 game against No. 1 Ohio State. The senior receiver returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown as Camp Randall Stadium quaked. The return set the tone for Wisconsin's 31-18 win, its first against a top-ranked team since 1981.
6. Divisions set, division names decried: The Big Ten revealed its new division alignment on the eve of the regular season, and for the most part the league received praise for its efforts. It was a very different story in December when the Big Ten revealed its new division names, Legends and Leaders, which failed to connect with fans and brought an onslaught of criticism.
7. Spartans win one for Dantonio: Dantonio was supposed to return to Spartan Stadium on Oct. 2 after recovering from a heart attack that took place following the Notre Dame win, but a blood clot forced him back to the hospital. Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell guided the Spartans to a huge win against Wisconsin, make several gutsy play calls along the way. After the game, Dantonio spoke to the team through a cell phone in the locker room. Michigan State showed incredible composure during Dantonio's absence.
8. Bittersweet end for Persa: Few players in the country meant more to their teams than quarterback Dan Persa did to Northwestern, a fact underscored Nov. 13 and in the weeks that followed. Persa led a furious fourth-quarter rally against Iowa and fired the go-ahead touchdown pass with 1:22 left. He also ruptured his Achilles' tendon on the play, ending his season. Although Northwestern held on to beat Iowa 21-17, the Wildcats weren't the same without Persa, dropping their final three games.
9. Bowl heroics from Hyde, Thomas: I'll combine two huge moments into one as Big Ten defenders made game-saving plays in bowls. Iowa's season appeared headed toward a fitting end before cornerback Micah Hyde picked off a pass and raced 72 yards for the winning touchdown against Missouri in the Insight Bowl. A week later, Ohio State defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, one of five suspended players allowed to play in the Sugar Bowl, recorded the first interception of his football career at any level to preserve a Buckeyes' win against Arkansas.
10. Wisconsin trounces Hoosiers: Wisconsin's 83-20 pasting of Indiana on Nov. 13 became one of the more talked-about games of the Big Ten season. Some contended that Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema ran up the score, a common criticism of Bielema this fall. Those who actually studied the game saw it more as a culmination for Wisconsin's record-setting offense, which produced three 1,000-yard running backs.
Cousins continues to execute play-action passes to perfection and confuse Wisconsin's defense. The Michigan State junior quarterback had the Badgers' defense biting on a first-down fake, allowing him to hit a wide-open Charlie Gantt for a big gain. Michigan State ended the drive the same way, as Cousins found Gantt for a 1-yard score after another good play-action fake.
After a slow start, Cousins is outplaying Scott Tolzien, completing 17 of 24 passes for 221 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
If Michigan State continues to run effectively with Le'Veon Bell and Edwin Baker and get this type of play-action execution from Cousins, it'll be tough to beat the rest of the season. Wisconsin is in big trouble now, down 27-17 entering the fourth quarter.
Team of the Week: Michigan State. After suffering a series of close losses in the past three years, Michigan State finally turned the tables -- against one of its top rivals, no less. A seesaw game featured some offensive fireworks on both sides, and for certain stretches, Michigan State achieved the type of offensive balance that could make it very dangerous when Big Ten play rolls around. But the Spartans once again seemed to wilt in the clutch as quarterback Kirk Cousins took some costly sacks. Notre Dame regained the momentum late in regulation and in overtime, but Michigan State changed everything with a gutsy fake field goal call that resulted in the game-winning 29-yard touchdown pass. Although coach Mark Dantonio's health setback put the celebration on pause, Michigan State has an opportunity to build off this win.
Biggest play: Isn't it obvious by now? No one expected the fake field goal, especially from a typically conservative coach like Dantonio. It was the right call at the right time and Bates, a former high school quarterback, deserves credit for going to his second read after Le'Veon Bell was covered. If Michigan State goes on to have a big season, we'll all point to this play. Wisconsin also received two huge special-teams plays from safeties Shelton Johnson and Jay Valai. Johnson tripped up Arizona State kick returner Kyle Middlebrooks at the 1-yard line as the second quarter clock expired, saving six points and a huge momentum swing going into halftime. The 5-foot-9 Valai showed off his hops by blocking the potential game-tying PAT attempt with 4:09 left as Wisconsin won 20-19.
Specialist spotlight: Bates had a huge night against Notre Dame, and his game-winning pass to Gantt overshadowed his prowess as a punter, as he averaged 45.4 yards on eight punts. Illinois punter Anthony Santella leads the nation in punting average (48.9 ypg) after averaging 48.7 yards per boot on Saturday against Northern Illinois. Northwestern kicker Stefan Demos went 3-for-3 on field goal attempts against Rice, and Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman averaged 43 yards on four punts and had one downed inside the 5-yard line against Arizona State.
Game balls (given to players from winning teams not selected for helmet stickers):
- Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks: Kendricks knew he'd have to step up Saturday as Wisconsin played without two of its top receivers (Nick Toon and David Gilreath). The senior tight end looked like a wide receiver again as he hauled in seven receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown, even though he was interfered with in the end zone. He shares the game ball with quarterback Scott Tolzien (19-25 passing, 246 yards, 1 TD).
- Michigan RB Michael Shaw: Denard Robinson didn't have to do it all against UMass as Shaw racked up career highs in both rushing yards (126) and touchdowns (3) on only 12 carries. He shares the game ball with Robinson, who had another big day, and receiver Darryl Stonum (3 receptions, 121 yards, 2 TDs).
- Ohio State LB Ross Homan: Homan has carried over his stellar play from 2009 and continues to become one of the league's top defensive playmakers. The senior had seven solo tackles, a forced fumble and an interception against Ohio. Kudos also go to fellow Buckeyes defender Tyler Moeller, who recorded his first career interception, a forced fumble and 1.5 tackles for loss.
- Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell: Bell is the early leader for Big Ten Freshman of the Year after recording his second 100-yard rushing performance in his first three collegiate games. The big man rumbled for 114 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against Notre Dame. He shares the game ball with receiver B.J. Cunningham (7 receptions, 101 yards, TD) and fellow back Edwin Baker (14 carries, 90 rush yards, TD).
- Northwestern LB Quentin Davie: The senior leads the Big Ten in interceptions after recording his third -- a pick-six, no less -- in Saturday night's blowout win at Rice. Davie recorded a game-high 10 tackles, including 1.5 for loss and a pass breakup. He shares the game ball with defensive linemen Vince Browne, Corbin Bryant and Jack DiNardo, who combined for 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
- Purdue WR Cortez Smith: The Boilers need a No. 1 receiver to emerge after losing Keith Smith, and Cortez Smith looks reads to fill the void. He recorded five receptions for 117 yards and two touchdowns against Ball State. He'll share the game ball with defenders Gerald Gooden (5 tackles, forced fumble, pass breakup), Kawann Short (two pass breakups, blocked PAT) and Jason Werner (INT, 1 TFL).
OK, moving on to Week 4. Do we have to? I know it's my job to get your excited for Big Ten football 24-7-365, but this week provides a major challenge, to say the least.
Northern Colorado (2-1) at Michigan State (3-0): Spartans offensive coordinator Don Treadwell takes over the head-coaching duties from Mark Dantonio, who suffered a mild heart attack following the Notre Dame win. The Spartans look for a more complete defensive performance before Wisconsin visits on Oct. 2.
Central Michigan (2-1) at Northwestern (3-0): Northwestern aims for its second perfect nonconference mark in the past three seasons after going 35 years with at least one non-league loss. Central Michigan should test Davie and the Wildcats' defense, which has forced nine turnovers in the first three games.
Bowling Green (1-2) at Michigan (3-0): The Wolverines' sputtering defense likely won't face Falcons starting quarterback Matt Schilz, who isn't expected to play because of a shoulder injury. Michigan's offense will light up the scoreboard, but the D has to get better before Big Ten play.
Austin Peay (2-1) at Wisconsin (3-0): Yawn. If Wisconsin can't dominate the Governors (ello, guvna!), Badgers fans should get worried. This provides a good chance for the Badgers to assess their depth on both sides of the ball.
Ball State (1-2) at Iowa (2-1): Although the Cardinals hung in there at Purdue, Iowa should have no trouble Saturday. The bigger question is whether the Hawkeyes can clean up their play in the kicking game, on the offensive line and in the secondary after the Arizona loss.
Toledo (2-1) at Purdue (2-1): Quarterback Robert Marve's left knee injury doesn't appear to be serious, and the Boilers need to get No. 9 through this game and into the bye week without further setbacks. Arizona shredded Toledo's defense in the season opener, and Purdue should have opportunities to further develop a receiving corps missing star Keith Smith.
Eastern Michigan (0-3) at Ohio State (3-0): The Buckeyes could score 70 in this one. I'm not kidding. Eastern Michigan has surrendered 111 points in its first three games.
Temple (3-0) at Penn State (2-1): This is the most interesting game in the Big Ten. Temple heads to State College with a ton of confidence as coach Al Golden might be auditioning for the Nittany Lions' faithful. Penn State's running back race now is open as slumping senior Evan Royster tries to hold off junior Stephfon Green and dynamic freshman Silas Redd. Should be a good one in Happy Valley.
Akron (0-3) at Indiana (2-0): Ben Chappell and the Hoosiers' offense likely will carve up another bad team Saturday, as Akron has been blown out by Syracuse and Kentucky and lost at home to Gardner-Webb (ouch). The bigger question is whether the Hoosiers' defense can shut down the Zips.
Northern Illinois (1-2) at Minnesota (1-2): It's must-win time for embattled coach Tim Brewster and his Golden Gophers, who performed a lot better Saturday against USC but still couldn't finish off a good team. Northern Illinois will test Minnesota's new-look defense with quarterback Chandler Harnish, and Minnesota needs to reignite the run game despite Duane Bennett's ankle issues.
Bye: Illinois (2-1)
"He names just about all of our plays after that movie," Spartans punter Aaron Bates told ESPN.com. "I think it's about the only one he's watched."
Dantonio might have seen "The Gambler" a few times, too.
The Spartans' boss let it ride in a big way Saturday night against Notre Dame, and he hit the jackpot in overtime. Down 31-28 and needing a 46-yard field goal to tie, Dantonio, not known for his risk-taking, called for a fake the team had worked on all week in practice.
"Coach D really wanted to call it," Bates said. "They were giving us the right looks, and we just happened to get the opportunity in overtime. Coach D's got a lot of guts to make that call.
"Coach D always says, especially in big games, 'We're playing to win.'"
Bates initially looked for top target Le'Veon Bell, who had been open all week in practice. Notre Dame blanketed Bell, but Gantt slipped behind a fallen Irish defender, and Bates, who doubled as a quarterback in high school, made the throw.
"It was just like the glory days," said Bates, the first punter in team history to be named a captain. "I guess Notre Dame's a little better opponent than I was playing back [in high school], but when you catch them off guard like that, it's not too difficult. Easy throw and catch for a touchdown."
The play wasn't free of controversy, as replays and photos showed the play clock hitting zero before the snap. Nearly nine years after The Clock Game between Michigan State and Michigan, time(keeping) once again was of the essence at Spartan Stadium.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly didn't see the play clock, but Bates had a good view from the field.
"I looked up and saw it was 3 [seconds] and just gave my long-snapper a little motion," Bates said. "The last I saw, it was at 3 [seconds], and he snapped it right after that. I assume we still had a second left or so, but it doesn't matter now."
All that matters is Michigan State remains undefeated and within striking distance of the Big Ten's elite. Michigan State was just 6-12 under Dantonio in games decided by eight points or fewer until Saturday night, including a 2-5 mark last fall.
"It comes with experience," Bates said. "When you have experience, you win those close games. It's something we didn't have last year. This year, we have that."
1. Iowa's magic runs out: Those of us who closely follow Iowa undoubtedly nodded our heads as defensive end Broderick Binns scooted into the end zone with the tying touchdown against Arizona. Indeed, we had seen this all before, and it meant good things for the Hawkeyes. But Iowa's fourth-quarter magic ran out, as Arizona quarterback Nick Foles and the Wildcats' defensive line ended Iowa's hopes of another incredible road win. Iowa's faults at offensive line and cornerback were exposed, and a new weakness, special teams, also really hurt its cause early on in Tucson. Just too much inconsistency all around. The Hawkeyes' hopes for a national title run likely are over, but they still can push Ohio State and others for the Big Ten crown.
3. The Big Ten has a "special" problem: Special teams breakdowns continue to be a major story line throughout a league known for stressing the kicking game. Iowa allowed a kickoff return touchdown and handed Arizona another touchdown after getting a punt blocked, not to mention missing the potential go-ahead PAT late in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin saved itself with two special-teams plays, but the Badgers also allowed a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Ohio State, plagued by special-teams woes all season, had a punt blocked in Saturday's romp against Ohio. Minnesota took a 14-13 third-quarter lead against USC, only to give it up 12 seconds later by allowing a kick return touchdown. Michigan's place-kicking situation is a mess. There have been some special teams highlights this year, but they've been overshadowed by a surprising trend of miscues.
4. Evan Royster is in a slump: Not exactly a revelation here, but most people thought this would be the week when Royster broke out and started to look like an All-Big Ten running back again. Royster finally reached the end zone for the first time in 2010, but he recorded only 38 yards on 11 carries in Penn State's 24-0 win against Kent State. The senior has rushed for 40 yards or fewer in each of his first three games this fall. Penn State has a young quarterback, a so-so offensive line and a reduced playbook, but other running backs seem to be having more success than Royster. Penn State simply has to get him going next week against Temple before visiting Iowa on Oct. 2.
5. Michigan should expect shootouts this year: Quarterback Denard Robinson continued his brilliance Saturday against UMass and got some help from running back Michael Shaw and wide receiver Darryl Stonum. But how much longer can Michigan win in spite of a very leaky defense? The Wolverines allowed 37 points and 439 yards to the FCS Minutemen, who would have had more if not for two costly turnovers. Michigan has been fighting a numbers game on defense for years, and the recent swell of injuries and player departures isn't helping. Upcoming opponents will continue to attack a vulnerable Wolverines secondary, putting pressure on Robinson to keep working his magic.
The Michigan State coach just made the Call of the Year in college football. And I'll be honest: I didn't think he had it in him.
This is a guy who cut his teeth under Jim Tressel. Speaking of Tressel, I'd love to know what The Vest thought when his pupil risked it all against Notre Dame on a fake field goal. I'll have to ask him on Tuesday.
Dantonio's decision to eschew a 46-yard attempt in overtime worked to perfection, as punter Aaron Bates, a former high school quarterback, found a wide-open Charlie Gantt streaking to the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown as Michigan State beat Notre Dame 34-31 at Spartan Stadium. Michigan State had stalled on its overtime possession, as Kirk Cousins took a costly sack on third down.
When you step back and think about it, Dantonio's call made a lot of sense. Dan Conroy is a first-year starter at kicker, although he had three conversions of 40 yards or longer last week against Florida Atlantic. Dantonio said afterward that Michigan State had practiced the fake all week, and Bates and Gantt executed it to perfection.
After several of Brian Kelly's gambles failed against the Big Ten, Dantonio's decision paid off in a huge way for Michigan State.
Dantonio's tenure has been defined by close losses, especially in 2007 and 2009. Cousins did a lot of good things tonight, but he struggled once again in the clutch. Michigan State couldn't convert some chances at the end of regulation, and Notre Dame seemed to have the momentum in OT. That is, until Dantonio, Bates and Gantt changed everything.
This could be a turning point in Dantonio's career and for a Michigan State team aiming to join the Big Ten's lead pack.
This was the toughest position to whittle down to five (actually, six), but here goes ...
2. Indiana: The Hoosiers return two of the Big Ten's top five receivers in Tandon Doss, a first-team all-conference selection, and Damarlo Belcher. They also add experience with Terrance Turner and exciting young players like Duwyce Wilson and Dre Muhammad. Overall depth is a bit of a question mark, but both Doss and Belcher will get the attention of opposing defensive backs after combining for 1,732 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last fall. Max Dedmond returns at tight end after recording 18 receptions in 2009.
3. Wisconsin: I'm not completely sold on this entire group, although receiver Nick Toon and tight end Lance Kendricks should contend for All-Big Ten honors this fall. Isaac Anderson and David Gilreath both boast a ton of experience, but must take the next step in their development. Wisconsin could use a rebound season from Kyle Jefferson, and walk-on Jared Abbrederis continues to make plays in practice and should be a contributor this fall.
4. Purdue: Surprised by my choices so far? You won't be when the season starts. Like Michigan State, Purdue's depth will reveal itself this fall. The Boilers are led by Keith Smith, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 and the league's top returning receiver (1,100 yards). He's joined by two veterans in receiver Cortez Smith and tight end Kyle Adams. But the real boost could come from young players like Antavian Edison and Gary Bush, as well as Justin Siller, the team's former starting quarterback who brings size and big-play ability to the perimeter.
T-5: Penn State: I'm tempted to rank the Lions a little higher but want to see how the entire group performs this season, provided they get the ball thrown to them. Derek Moye has all the tools to be an All-Big Ten receiver after recording 48 receptions for 765 yards and six touchdowns last season. Graham Zug is a very solid target who reached the end zone seven times in 2009. Although Chaz Powell moves to defense, Penn State boasts several exciting young wideouts like Devon Smith. Tight end is a big question mark after the departures of Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
T-5. Iowa: The Hawkeyes boast the league's top big-play tandem at receiver in Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt. DJK is on track to become the team's all-time leading receiver this fall, and McNutt averaged 19.8 yards per catch and scored eight touchdowns in 2009. I like the potential of guys like Keenan Davis and Paul Chaney Jr., who returns from a knee injury. Tony Moeaki is a major loss at tight end, but Allen Reisner returns and talented freshman C.J. Fiedorowicz enters the fold.
Just missed the cut: Ohio State, Michigan
Up next: Quarterbacks
More rankings ...
Remember colleague Bruce Feldman's annual "Freaks" list, which examined the top workout warriors in college football for 2010? Ohio State sophomore defender John "Sandman" Simon made the rundown, along with other weight-room stars from around the country.
Several of you loved Feldman's list so much that you wanted me to create a similar one just for the Big Ten. Thanks to help from sports information staffers and strength coaches from around the conference, I've compiled the following list.
I based my selections primarily on weight-room numbers and comments from Big Ten strength coaches.
Not every player submitted made the rundown, and both Wisconsin and Iowa chose not to make any individual player nominations. While I know guys like Iowa's Adrian Clayborn and Wisconsin's J.J. Watt do some serious damage in the weight room, I'd rather only list players who have their schools' support and whose schools provided weight-room data and/or comments from strength coaches.
Penn State didn't provide weight-room statistics but singled out linebacker Michael Mauti, wide receiver Derek Moye and defensive tackle Devon Still for their weight-room performance.
Here are my selections, listed alphabetically by school:
- Bench-presses 405 pounds, squats 500 pounds, power cleans 352 pounds
- Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds
- Has just four percent body fat
- Bench-presses 455 pounds, leg-presses 760 pounds
- Has 33-inch vertical jump
- Clocked at 4.2 seconds in the shuttle run
- Bench-presses 505 pounds, squats 700 pounds
- Power cleans 430 pounds, hang cleans 475 pounds
- Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds
- Strength coach Mike Barwis says: "Mike is an absolute warrior. He has a never quit attitude and is a natural born leader. He is one of the most impressive physical specimens I have ever seen."
- Bench-presses 490 pounds, squats 660 pounds
- Power cleans 420 pounds, hang cleans 440 pounds
- Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds
- Strength coach Mike Barwis says: "Dave is an outstanding worker and a natural athlete. He is one of the most naturally explosive linemen I have ever trained."
- Bench-presses 415 pounds
- Squats 600 pounds
- Best 40-yard dash time among Spartans linebackers at 4.52 seconds (Greg Jones clocks in at 4.55)
- Bench-presses 470 pounds
- Squats 535 pounds
- Has the top 40-yard dash time among Spartans tight ends at 4.72 seconds
- Has increased his bench press from 325 to 365 pounds during the last year
- Power cleans 345 pounds and squats significantly more than 550 pounds
- Strength coach Mark Hill says: "Mike's work ethic exemplifies a guy who wants to succeed. He comes into the weight room every day and shows that he wants to contribute to this team winning. He does everything he needs to do. Mike absolutely attacks his workouts every day."
- Has improved his squat from 250 pounds when he arrived at Minnesota to 375 pounds now
- Increased his bench press from 300 pounds to 340 pounds during the last year
- Has increased his power clean from 250 to more than 300 pounds as a Gopher
- Strength coach Mark Hill says: "I’ve been very impressed by DeLeon's improvements. He was a 185-pound freshman who had to play, due to depth issues. He could have used a red-shirt year to get bigger and stronger. But to see where he’s gone to achieve the strength, weight, speed, explosiveness and power needed to be a successful Big Ten back says a lot about his hard work."
- Bench-presses 385 pounds, squats 550 pounds and power cleans 330 pounds, all top marks for Wildcats quarterbacks
- Soon will earn second consecutive "Top Cat" award as Northwestern's top weight-room performer
- Strength coach Larry Lilja says: "Dan is off the charts. No one works harder in the weight room. For his size, I doubt there is any quarterback who can match his numbers."
- Bench-presses 475 pounds, squats 600 pounds and power cleans 385 pounds
- Has a 34-inch vertical jump
- Strength coach Larry Lilja says: "He's one of our best workers and a true champion in the weight room."
- Bench-pressed 450 and squatted 700 pounds as a high school senior
- Can do 40 bench-press reps at 225 pounds
- Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds
- Strength coach Jeff Uhlenhake says: "John Simon is the best total package workout guy I’ve ever been around, in college, in the pros, as a coach, anybody. He is amazing."
- Former defensive lineman bench-presses 435 pounds, squats 605 pounds, power cleans 352 pounds
- Has a 31-inch vertical jump
- Runs the 40-yard dash in 4.82 seconds
- Strength coach Jim Lathrop says: "Great worker who really has challenged himself. He has taken the position change and run with it. He is a leader in the weight room."
- Bench-presses 355 pounds, squats 500 pounds
- Power cleans 319 pounds
- Strength coach Jim Lathrop says: "Albert has really improved and is establishing himself as a leader."
Team of the postseason: Ohio State. The team everyone loves to hate silenced its critics with a terrific performance on both sides of the ball against a favored Oregon team in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi. Ohio State snapped the Big Ten's six-game slide in BCS games and the league's six-game slide in the Rose Bowl.
Best game: The Outback Bowl. It didn't result in a Big Ten win, but arguably no bowl game had more plot twists as Northwestern made a furious comeback against Auburn. Wildcats quarterback Mike Kafka set an NCAA record for most plays by one player (98 -- 78 pass, 20 rush), and Auburn had to win the game three times in overtime before finally prevailing 38-35 after Northwestern's trick play on fourth down didn't reach the end zone.
Best drive: Two really stand out to me. Ohio State marched 81 yards in 13 plays and burned 6:01 off of the clock in the fourth quarter against Oregon Pryor hit DeVier Posey for a 17-yard score to cap it all off. Penn State trailed 17-16 in the fourth quarter when Daryll Clark led a 12-play, 65-yard drive that ended with the game-winning field goal and burned 5:57 off of the clock.
Offensive Player of the Postseason: Ohio State's Pryor. He finally turned in the complete performance we've all been waiting for, and he did it on a huge stage. Pryor set career highs in both completions (23) and passing yards (266) as he fired two touchdowns against Oregon. He also had a game-high 72 rushing yards. Pryor earned Offensive Player of the Game honors.
Defensive Player of the Postseason: Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. As we mentioned countless times during Virtual Pressbox, Clayborn was a beast against Georgia Tech. Clayborn recorded nine tackles and two sacks in Iowa's FedEx Orange Bowl victory and helped derail Georgia Tech's triple option offense. He was named Orange Bowl MVP.
Special Teams Player of the Postseason: Penn State kicker Collin Wagner. The horrible field conditions at the Capital One Bowl were a major story, but they didn't bother Wagner, who went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts in Penn State's victory.
Coach of the postseason: Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker. The veteran defensive guru rendered the triple option offense totally ineffective for most of the game. Parker had his players prepared for Georgia Tech, and it showed in a dominant defensive performance. Honorable mentions go to Ohio State defensive coordinators Jim Heacock and Luke Fickell and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Doeren.
Surprise performance: Everybody knew about Garrett Graham, but it was another Wisconsin tight end, Lance Kendricks, who stole the show in the Champs Sports Bowl. Kendricks became Scott Tolzien's go-to receiver, recording a career-high 128 receiving yards on seven receptions. He had the second most receptions by a Wisconsin player in a bowl game, behind only Pat Richter's 11 in the 1963 Rose Bowl.
Bowled over: Fortunately, Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray and Northwestern kicker Stefan Demos will have other opportunities to step up for their teams. But the postseason will sting both men for a while. Gray fumbled deep in Iowa State territory as Minnesota was driving for the potential game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter of the Insight Bowl. Speaking of field goals, Demos missed three, including the potential game-winner, plus an extra-point attempt in the Outback Bowl.
Best calls: They didn't result in victories, but I loved Michigan State's fake field goal and Minnesota's fake punt call. Michigan State's fake to Charlie Gantt went for 18 yards and set up the go-ahead touchdown on the next play. Minnesota punter Blake Haudan passed to safety Kyle Theret, who had a monster performance in the Insight Bowl. The play went for 40 yards and Minnesota scored its first touchdown moments later.
Second guessing: I'm still somewhat in shock about Iowa's decision to run a fake field goal midway through the fourth quarter when it led Georgia Tech by only three points. The decision didn't end up hurting the Hawkeyes, who forced a turnover on the ensuing possession, but it could have been disastrous. Also, Michigan State seemed to lose the momentum in the fourth quarter against Texas Tech when it ran the ball on third-and-long to set up a field-goal try. Yes, quarterback Kirk Cousins had struggled and left tackle Rocco Cironi was out, but field goals weren't going to beat the Red Raiders.
Craziest stat line: Northwestern's Kafka completed 47 of 78 passes for 532 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. He added 30 rush yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. He had thrown 117 consecutive passes without an interception until his first pick in the opening quarter.
Memorable post-game quote: After an odd question about Iowa representing the heartland, quarterback Ricky Stanzi, standing on the victory podium, replied, "Of course. There's nothing better than being American. So, this is the greatest feeling. If you don't love it, leave it! USA, No. 1!"
Fresh faces: Two freshmen running backs stood out in their postseason debuts. Iowa's Brandon Wegher had 113 rush yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the Orange Bowl, while Michigan State's Edwin Baker went for 97 rush yards and a score on just 12 carries in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
How the game was won: Michigan State couldn't hold a 31-27 lead as Texas Tech backup quarterback Steven Sheffield led an impressive scoring drive midway through the fourth quarter. The Red Raiders were more aggressive with their decisions down the stretch, and it paid off. Sheffield and starting quarterback Taylor Potts flummoxed Michigan State's defense and outplayed Spartans signal caller Kirk Cousins, who completed just 13 of 27 passes for 220 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, and he imploded in the second half. Texas Tech too many times capitalized on a soft Spartans' secondary.
Turning point: After Michigan State played it safe and settled for a field goal, Texas Tech interim head coach Ruffin McNeill and receivers coach Lincoln Riley played it bold down the stretch. They went to Sheffield for the first time, and the backup led an eight-play, 77-yard scoring drive. The Red Raiders completely regained the momentum, and Cousins threw an interception on Michigan State's ensuing series. The Spartans never recovered.
Player of the game: For Texas Tech, it's got to go to Potts and Sheffield. For Michigan State, freshman running back Edwin Baker introduced himself to the college football world tonight. The heralded high school prospect had 12 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown. After being overshadowed by classmate Larry Caper for much of the fall, Baker showed that the Spartans have another solid option in the backfield.
Best call: Down 27-21 in the fourth quarter, Michigan State lined up for a 43-yard field-goal attempt, but ran an excellent fake, as punter Aaron Bates threw to tight end Charlie Gantt for an 18-yard gain. Then, on first-and-goal from the 8-yard line, wide receiver Keshawn Martin found fellow wideout Blair White in the end zone. Both Bates and Martin played quarterback in high school.
Second guessing: Michigan State led 28-27 and faced third-and-12 from the Tech 29-yard line, but called a simple run play that didn't gain much. The Spartans had been aggressive and innovative with their play-calling for much of the game, and playing it safe there seemed out of place, even with left tackle Rocco Cironi injured. Texas Tech responded with the go-ahead touchdown and reclaimed all the momentum. Lesson: you've got to go for touchdowns against Texas Tech.
What it means: Few thought a Spartans team playing without 14 players would hold a fourth-quarter lead against Texas Tech. The Spartans deserve credit for fighting hard, but a 6-7 record wasn't what anyone had in mind heading into this season. There's a very exciting young nucleus in East Lansing, but this program still hasn't turned a corner yet. Cousins and Keith Nichol will continue to compete at quarterback, but the talent at running back and wide receiver is very good. Head coach Mark Dantonio's biggest offseason priority will be a defense that must get tougher, especially in the secondary.
The wide receiver group has been hit especially hard as four suspended players -- B.J. Cunningham, Mark Dell, Chris D. Rucker and Myles White -- play the position. Cunningham and Dell rank second and third on the team in receiving, having combined for 1,090 receiving yards, 74 receptions and five touchdowns.
Cunningham started nine games, while Dell started the final three regular-season contests. Their presence will be missed Jan. 2 against Texas Tech in a game where Michigan State likely needs to throw the ball a lot and put up points.
"We've talked about all season how at a lot of positions, we feel one of the strengths of our team is depth," Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "We have lost some guys, and it's going to test our depth. There are guys who haven't had opportunities yet to play in games, who we know work very hard year-round behind closed doors when no one else is really watching.
"They're guys we know we can count on, come the bowl game."
Cousins knows what he's got in Blair White, a first-team All-Big Ten receiver who leads Michigan State and ranks third in the league in receiving average (73 ypg). The Spartans also can turn to sophomore Keshawn Martin, who, in addition to becoming a threat on returns, has 14 receptions for 325 yards (23.2 ypr) and four touchdowns.
After those two, though, it's slim pickings. Michigan State can turn to tight ends Charlie Gantt, Brian Linthicum and Dion Sims, but it needs more production from the wide receiver position.
So who steps up? Cousins thinks sophomore walk-on Brad Sonntag could emerge.
"He's got a lot of upside," Cousins said.
Sonntag and redshirt freshman Milton Colbert are listed as the backups to White and Martin on Michigan State's pre-bowl depth chart. Neither Sonntag nor Colbert has caught a pass this season.
"We're still tinkering with all that," Cousins said. "We don't have a set plan yet, and we're still figuring out what would be the best matchups to use. And we're a team that likes to use our tight ends, so we always want to get them the football, too."
Ohio State sits atop the league standings once again, and until someone decides to dethrone the Buckeyes, they will be the league's signature program. Iowa is a clear No. 2, while Penn State and Wisconsin share the third spot.
Heading into the final week of conference play, here's where things stand.
1. Ohio State (9-2, 6-1): The Buckeyes got all they could handle from Iowa on Saturday, but clutch defensive play and a powerful run game proved to be the difference. It wasn't Ohio State's best defensive performance of the season, but the unit stepped up in overtime to silence James Vandenberg. The running backs and offensive linemen have taken heat throughout the season, but they stepped up in a big way. As a result, Ohio State is Pasadena-bound.
2. Iowa (9-2, 6-2): Wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos said Iowa didn't make a statement Saturday because it lost. I'd argue the Hawkeyes made a stronger statement in defeat than they have in several of their victories this season. No one gave Iowa much chance with Vandenberg making his first career start, but the Hawkeyes paced Ohio State for 60 minutes and beyond. If the Big Ten receives a BCS at-large berth, Iowa deserves it.
T-3. Wisconsin (8-2, 5-2): The Badgers torched Michigan in the second half en route to a 45-24 victory. Head coach Bret Bielema has this program reflecting its core values once again, and Wisconsin will be even better in 2010. The Badgers should be playing in a Jan. 1 bowl, and they can notch 10 or more victories for the third time in five years by beating Northwestern and Hawaii.
T-3. Penn State (9-2, 5-2): Thanks to linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee, Penn State rallied past Indiana after coming out completely flat on Senior Day. The Lions were fortunate not to be in a much bigger hole after committing four first-half turnovers. Penn State are still in the BCS at-large mix, but the Lions need a much more impressive showing next week at Michigan State, where they lost in 2007.
5. Northwestern (7-4, 4-3): It hasn't been an easy road for the Wildcats this year, but they've established the type of consistency the program needs. Northwestern will be going to back-to-back bowls for just the second time in team history. The Wildcats also went 3-1 in Big Ten road games for the second consecutive season. A win this week against Wisconsin would cap a strong finish and continue the momentum generated last year.
6. Michigan State (6-5, 4-3): Purdue dominated many parts of Saturday's game, but Michigan State made the big plays when it mattered. As a result, the Spartans are bowl eligible and can end up in a pretty nice spot if they knock off Penn State this week in East Lansing. Special teams and big plays from Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham, Charlie Gantt and others helped Michigan State win the shootout at Ross-Ade Stadium.
7. Minnesota (6-5, 3-4): An odd season for the Gophers continued Saturday with a strange victory against South Dakota State. But strong defensive play helped Minnesota get bowl eligible heading into next week's showdown at Iowa. It seems like Minnesota hasn't won a trophy game in forever, and an upset of the Hawkeyes would in many ways validate the season. A loss would increase the grumbling about the direction the program is headed.
8. Purdue (4-7, 3-4): I wouldn't blame Danny Hope for burning the game tapes of Purdue's losses as soon as the season ends. The Boilers once again let one slip away against Michigan State, allowing too many big plays and squandering great performances from Joey Elliott, Keith Smith and Ralph Bolden. Hope should have a good team coming back in 2010, but he needs to figure out ways to get over the hump.
9. Indiana (4-7, 1-6): Bill Lynch might want to join Hope and create a bonfire of game tapes before this week's Old Oaken Bucket game. Indiana's four road losses in Big Ten play have been especially painful because the Hoosiers could have won each game. When a team commits four first-half turnovers like Penn State did Saturday, you have to score more than 10 points. Indiana has made progress this season, even though the record doesn't show it.
10. Illinois (3-7, 2-6): Illinois didn't look like a team fighting for its bowl life until it was far too late in Saturday's loss to Northwestern. The Illini shouldn't have been trailing at halftime, and their third-quarter strategy left many shaking their heads. It's another lost season for head coach Ron Zook, who still must prove he can get the best out of the talented players he recruits.
11. Michigan (5-6, 1-6): Tate Forcier played well and Brandon Graham had another huge performance on defense, but Michigan once again unraveled in the second half to drop its sixth consecutive Big Ten game. The defense needs serious work in the offseason, which could start on Sunday. Michigan needs to beat Ohio State to avoid missing the postseason for the second straight year and finishing last in the Big Ten for the first time since 1962.