NCF Nation: Cody Green

Tulsa season preview

August, 13, 2013
This year Tulsa has decided to introduce a dog ambassador for games and among the most important of Goldie the golden retriever’s tasks will be actually retrieving the kickoff tee after kickoffs -- reason enough to tune in for at least one game.


Coach: Bill Blankenship (19-8, 19-8 at Tulsa)

2012 record: 11-3 (7-1 Conference USA)

Key losses: LB DeAundre Brown, C Trent Dupy, OG Brian DeShane, OT Jared Grigg, and the entire defensive line -- DE Jared St. John, DT Daeshon Bufford, DT Derrick Jackson and DE Cory Dorris

[+] EnlargeCody Green
AP Photo/John F. RhodesCody Green is one of the few returning starters that will have to lead a young Tulsa team.
Key returnees: QB Cody Green, WR Keyarris Garrett, WR Jordan James, RB Trey Watts, DB Marco Nelson, LB Shawn Harris

Newcomer to watch: CB Will Barrow. Tulsa lost three top guys in its secondary (including both corners) and Barrow comes in as the Golden Hurricane’s top defensive back in the 2013 class. This one-time Texas Tech commit has great instincts for the ball and is a player who could step in and contribute immediately.

Biggest games in 2013: at Oklahoma (Sept. 14), vs. Rice (Oct. 5), at East Carolina (Nov. 9), vs. Marshall (Nov. 16)

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Can Tulsa get the same kind of defensive pressure while attempting a wholesale change of its D-line? Last season, the Golden Hurricane defensive line could regularly get to opposing quarterbacks without needing to blitz. This freed up its linebackers and secondary to make plays, specifically Brown, who accounted for 125 tackles during his senior campaign.

The starting D-line accounted for 144 tackles (including 41.5 for losses), 26 sacks and four forced fumbles. But with those four players gone, the chances that the D-line can build that kind of chemistry and accomplish the same amount for the defense just seems farfetched.

Forecast: A lot of production -- both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball -- are gone and fresh faces will be replacing those. And with the number of replacements that Blankenship needs to make, it seems doubtful that this year’s Golden Hurricanes will be the same as last season.

The defense, which ranked in the top 25 nationally in several categories -- tackles for a loss (fifth), red zone defense (fifth), sacks (third), total defense (25th), rushing defense (16th) -- just won’t be the same.

Even with that kind of changeover, though, another run at the Conference USA title isn’t out of the question completely for the Golden Hurricane.

Green returns for his senior season. In 2012 he threw for 17 touchdowns and more than 2,500 yards. Like much of the team, his receivers will be new but the run game (which actually does return some experience) will open up the passing game for Tulsa.

And Green isn’t the only bright spot -- their kickoff return game could be freakishly good. Tulsa finished the season last year as the third best return team in the nation with an average of 27 yards per return. Place kicker Daniel Schwarz also returns. He was 12-of-18 on field goals last season and 52-of-59 on extra points made. Another year of practice and maturity should help both of those numbers go up.

So while there are several question marks surrounding this transitioning team, it’s not all bad news. In its final year in Conference USA, Tulsa could definitely make a run for the title. Or they could end up being nowhere close. That’s the joy of a young team and Blankenship gets to try and make it work.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl keys: Iowa State

December, 31, 2012
Here are three keys for an Iowa State victory in today's AutoZone Liberty Bowl.

1. Make Cody Green beat you. Iowa State's been pretty good at taking away opponents' strengths throughout the season and held Kansas State to just 65 total rushing yards in a near upset in Ames. The Cyclones' best shot for victory is to solidify the front seven and make Green beat them with his arm. Tulsa won games by running the ball this year, and in their last meeting, Green threw two interceptions and completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He's thrown interceptions in each of his past four games, and if Iowa State can slow the run game and make Green throw the ball 30-40 times, the odds are in the Cyclones' favor.

2. Make life easy for Sam Richardson. Richardson is a young guy with a lot of potential, but you can't ask the ISU quarterback to drop back 50 times and win you a game. This starts on the offensive line and with play calling. It's important for the young Richardson to get off to a good start to establish some rhythm. That means a few screens, slants or short plays to get him rolling and some solid balance with the running game. Last year in the Pinstripe Bowl, Jared Barnett got off to a poor start and it snowballed before he was benched. If Richardson gets benched for similar reasons, Iowa State's not winning this game, barring a herculean defensive effort.

3. Slow it down and keep the game low scoring. Iowa State doesn't have a ton of offensive firepower, and surely you've seen the statistic about Paul Rhoads' career with the Cyclones. Under Rhoads, Iowa State is 20-1 when opponents score fewer than 24 points in regulation. When opponents score more than 24 points, he's a staggering 1-22. (He's 2-3 when opponents score exactly 24 points.) That's just the way it is, and you don't need me to explain the odds if this turns into a shootout.

Cyclones gut out another home win

September, 1, 2012
The last time Iowa State played on its home field, it erased a 17-point lead against the nation's No. 2 team for the biggest win in school history.

Saturday's 38-23 victory over Tulsa wasn't quite as dramatic, but the Cyclones yet again showed guts, despite an early deficit.

Trailing 16-7 in the second quarter, the Cyclones offense was sputtering and Nebraska transfer Cody Green was completing passes with ease.

He hit Bryan Burnham for a 21-yard gain to midfield, but Cyclones linebacker Jake Knott blindsided Burnham, jarring the ball loose and turning the game in Iowa State's favor.

The Golden Hurricane scored just seven points the rest of the game, and the Cyclones fans went home happy -- all 54,931 of them, a school record for a season opener.

It wasn't pretty, and produced some nervous moments late with Green trying to rally Tulsa for a comeback of its own, but it's a win for Iowa State, and a much-needed one for a team that can't afford a nonconference loss if it wants to qualify for a third bowl in four years under Paul Rhoads.

The most welcome development: Steele Jantz's much-improved accuracy and decision-making. The Cyclones' passer was plagued by head-scratching throws into coverage and frustrating misfires that eventually led to a midseason benching last season.

He finished an impressive 32-of-45 for 281 yards with two touchdown passes and a rushing score, along with one interception off a tipped pass.

If he plays like he did on Saturday, the job will be his all season. Seeing Shontrelle Johnson back and looking like his old self is reason for celebration, too. His career was nearly over after suffering a neck injury against Texas last year. He's back, and rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on just 18 carries.

His touchdown sealed the win after Deon Broomfield ended Tulsa's last rally with an interception. Broomfield returned it 51 yards to the Tulsa 5-yard line.

Tulsa's a good team, even if they're not on the level of what Iowa State will see in Big 12 play. Rhoads' teams have always been marked by their toughness and resiliency, and it was on display yet again in Week 1. The early struggles and late backslide will offer plenty of film-room fodder for the next week, but Iowa State can smile, knowing it's safely reached 1-0 in a game that it easily could have lost.
The Big 12 is known for its quarterback play, but not every five-star recruit meets his potential.

Not every two or three-star is a diamond in the rough.

Sometimes, careers require a restart.

The most prominent case this weekend? Former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who left high school as the nation's No. 2 quarterback and No. 11 overall prospect.

[+] EnlargeGarrett Gilbert
Brendan Maloney/US PresswireGarrett Gilbert once looked like Texas' future QB, but is now trying to restart his career at SMU.
Gilbert showed limitless promise when he was rushed into duty against Alabama for the Longhorns in the national title game to close the 2009 season. Colt McCoy suffered a shoulder injury on the opening drive, and the rest of the game was Gilbert's.

After struggling early, he hit Jordan Shipley for a pair of scores, and looked the part of McCoy's heir apparent in 2010, despite struggling with turnovers against the Tide. (What redshirt freshman wouldn't?)

He never fixed it. Gilbert threw 17 interceptions a year later as the Horns fell to 5-7, and he was benched in the second game of 2011. He never saw the field again, transferring to SMU after rushing to complete 27 hours at Texas.

That allowed him to graduate and play immediately for June Jones at SMU, where he'll get a shot against more Big 12 competition on Sunday when the Mustangs travel to Waco to face Baylor.

"That says a lot about how badly he wants to be here and what kind of person he is," Jones told reporters this offseason.

He's not the only former Big 12 quarterback getting shot against Big 12 competition in Week 1.

Cody Green signed with Nebraska in 2009 after visiting Lincoln and only Lincoln, despite interest from other major programs.

He earned playing time in 2010 and 2011, but transferred to Tulsa in July 2011 after it became clear Taylor Martinez was Nebraska's future at quarterback.

Green threw for 657 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons for the Huskers, but he's found a new home with the Golden Hurricane, who travel to Iowa State on Saturday.

After redshirting in 2011, Green is the new starter for Bill Blankenship's team.

He's already beaten Iowa State once. In 2010, he completed 7-of-12 passes for 79 yards in a 31-30 overtime win to deny Iowa State an upset win and keep Nebraska in the driver's seat for its eventual Big 12 North title.

Green's squad is once again the favorite, and a Tulsa team that has won 10 games in three of the past five seasons could make more noise with the former Husker at the helm. A win against Iowa State would be the perfect start to a season, and the Golden Hurricane were picked to finish second in the C-USA West division.

Former Missouri quarterback Ashton Glaser, who transferred to Missouri State, could jockey for time on Saturday against Kansas State. Because the Bears are an FCS program, Glaser is immediately eligible.

Glaser appeared in just one game for the Tigers over his three years in Columbia, but the Wildcats will be a familiar opponent across the sidelines in his first game at his new home.

For Gilbert and Green, the same is true.

Non-AQ weekend roundup

June, 13, 2011
There was plenty in the way of news and notes from the non-AQs this weekend:
  • Boise State met for 13 hours with the Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis on Friday to discuss its major infractions case. School officials declined comment after the hearing. Five programs, including football, violated NCAA rules by giving student-athletes improper benefits. All the football violations were minor, but after a major violation in the women's tennis program, the NCAA lumped all the violations into one case and slapped the dreaded "lack of institutional control" label on the athletic department. The school planned to vigorously fight that charge. It already has imposed penalties on itself, but the big question is whether it has done enough. Now all it can do is sit and wait for a decision.
  • The WAC Board of Directors is meeting today and tomorrow, and expansion is on the docket. After the league loses Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada, it will have seven football playing members for 2012-13 (with the addition of UT-San Antonio and Texas State) and eight basketball playing members. Commissioner Karl Benson has said he expects to make an announcement on future plans after the board votes Tuesday. Among those schools being discussed in hoops: Seattle, Utah Valley and Cal State-Bakersfield for basketball. For football, the WAC would be looking at FCS schools to move up. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Lamar, Sam Houston State, Montana and Montana State, Sacramento State and Cal Poly have been discussed.
  • Wyoming backup quarterback Emory Miller Jr. has left the team, leaving the Cowboys in dire straits at the position. Miller is the second quarterback to leave the program this offseason, joining veteran starter Austyn Carta-Samuels. Miller was listed as the co-starter at quarterback after spring practice with true freshman Brett Smith, who enrolled in school early. Now, Wyoming will go into the fall two two freshmen vying for the starting job: Smith and Adam Pittser. “When we signed Brett Smith and Adam Pittser this past February, everyone knows how excited we were to get these two outstanding young talents, and nothing has changed since then,”coach Dave Christensen said in a statement. “I can’t wait to see them compete against one another once fall camp opens.”
  • Former Nebraska quarterback Cody Green reportedly has interest in Tulsa and Houston as he looks for a new team. Green told HuskerOnline he would make a visit to Tulsa soon. That could be a good situation for Green, who would have to sit out one year because of NCAA transfer rules. G.J. Kinne is a senior this year. Shavodrick Beaveris penciled in as the backup for 2011, but you figure there will be a competition for the starting job once Kinne leaves.
  • Jury selection begins today in Orlando in the wrongful death lawsuit the family of Ereck Plancher has filed against UCF. Plancher collapsed and died during an offseason workout in 2008. An autopsy showed he had sickle cell trait, which was triggered and caused "vascular distress." UCF says Plancher was aware he had the trait, and it did everything it could to save him. The Plancher family alleges Ereck Plancher didn't know he had the trait, and also allege coaches and trainers failed to treat Plancher properly.
  • Houston quarterback Case Keenum got married on Saturday. Keenum and his new wife have known each other since they were kids, and have been dating for six years. Keenum was granted a sixth year of eligibility for 2011 after tearing his ACL last season.
Last month, Nebraska quarterback Cody Green announced his plans to transfer.

[+] EnlargeCody Green
Brett Davis/US PresswireCody Green is leaving Nebraska and a few Big 12 schools are on his list of possible landing spots.
Now, in an interview with, Green says he could end up staying in the Big 12. Texas A&M, Baylor and Kansas State joined Tulsa and Houston as schools Green is considering.

"Mostly the guys who already I had a previous relationship with through high school. They were all right there the minute I declared I was going to leave," he said. "I made a visit to Kansas State this week and it went well. Coach [Bill] Snyder and those guys are a class act. When you have a legend like coach Snyder, everything feeds off of him. He's like coach [Tom] Osborne in that way."

Green signed with Nebraska in 2009 as the nation's No. 32 athlete. ranked him as the nation's No. 6 dual-threat quarterback. Since coming to Lincoln, he's started four games and appeared in 18 in two seasons on the field.

In 2009, he spent most of his time backing up Zac Lee, and in 2010, freshman Taylor Martinez.

The Dayton, Texas native has completed 66-of-122 passes for 657 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Green told the site he had been considering transferring for a year, and planned to switch to wide receiver or tight end until injuries to Martinez and Lee forced him back into a starting role in a win against Iowa State. He also admitted that he played most of the game after suffering a concussion.

"I don't think I got as many quality chances as I could have had. It was just one of those things where I'd go in and make a mistake and get pulled. It was frustrating," he told the site.

Early last season, with Martinez becoming a star and the Huskers getting commitments from 2011 signees Bubba Starling and Jamal Turner, I heard from a few unhappy Nebraska fans when I suggested Green's future as a Husker might be abbreviated. Now, that's the case.

As for his future home, I could see him staying in the Big 12.

Texas A&M is a bit of a stretch. Johnny Manziel and Jameill Showers are the likely favorites to replace Ryan Tannehill next year, and even with Green's experience, I doubt his ability to unseat either of them.

As for Baylor and Kansas State, those could both be attractive options. He'd have to beat out some competition at Kansas State, but the Wildcats haven't had a quarterback with his experience or credentials on its roster. Unless Collin Klein, Sammuel Lamur or Justin Tuggle gets a firm grasp of the job this season, the job could be open again next spring.

Baylor's Robert Griffin III, a junior in 2011, has indicated to me on a couple of occasions that he plans to stay in Waco for all four seasons. Behind him, the Bears are thin at quarterback beyond Nick Florence, who started nine games for Baylor in 2009 with mixed results during a 4-8 campaign. Green could add a lot there if he's willing to wait out Griffin. Like Griffin, Green is a mobile quarterback who Art Briles could build his offense around, though Griffin is clearly a much more talented passer.

Green's future is definitely something to keep an eye on, so even though the Huskers are heading to the Big Ten, we could see a former Nebraska quarterback back in the league very soon.
One of the more interesting schools mentioned as a possible landing spot for former Nebraska quarterback Cody Green is Boise State.

[+] EnlargeCody Green
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesCody Green has the mobility, but does he have the accuracy as a passer to fit into the Boise State offense?
This would make sense for Green, who is looking for a new home after failing to win the starting job with the Cornhuskers. Kellen Moore is graduating after 2011. Once Green sits out this season because of transfer rules, he would be immediately eligible to compete for the starting job in Boise in 2012. He would get to spend a year learning the offense, and learning behind Moore would be invaluable.

But would he actually win the starting job? That is a great unknown. Currently, Moore is the only quarterback on the Boise State roster who has started a game, so inexperience behind him is a huge question. Though he has been a career backup, Green has started four games in the past two seasons. So he would give a big boost when it comes to playing time.

Is that enough for him to win a starting job? Joe Southwick is the current backup and headed into his redshirt sophomore year, which means he has had plenty of time to learn the Boise State offense. He also had an opportunity to take about one-third of the snaps this spring as Boise State began getting him more reps so he could develop. Southwick also had more responsibility in the meeting rooms as well.

Freshman Grant Hedrick had a good spring and could push Southwick for the backup job once the fall begins. Boise State has another quarterback in Jimmy Laughrea coming to school this fall and has a verbal commitment from Orlando quarterback Nick Patti for the class of 2012. There might be inexperience, but there is no shortage of talent.

You also have to wonder whether Green would be a good fit for the wide-open Boise State offense. Nebraska runs a completely different style. Green is not as big of a runner as Taylor Martinez, but he would have to improve his accuracy to have any shot at being a starter in Boise. His accuracy is average -- 55 percent in 2009 and 53 percent in 2010 -- and he has thrown five touchdown passes and three interceptions. Moore has never completed less than 64 percent of his passes in his career.

Green certainly has talent and would bring experience to the position. But is that enough to make Boise State the perfect fit? We shall wait and see.
Wow, I didn't see this coming.

Quarterback Cody Green has requested his release from Nebraska and will transfer, colleague Joe Schad and others are reporting. Green appeared in 17 games the past two season, making four starts for the Huskers. He competed for the starting job this spring, but incumbent Taylor Martinez ended spring practice as Nebraska's No. 1 signal caller. Still, Green indicated he would compete for the long haul.

Nebraska has now lost two quarterbacks this week, as Kody Spano announced he's ending his career because of injuries.

Should the Huskers be a bit concerned about their depth at quarterback?

Martinez can be a game-changer, but he has to stay healthy. He was a totally different quarterback after getting banged up midway through the 2010 season.

Brion Carnes, the Huskers' other scholarship quarterback, looked good in the spring game, but he lacks Green's experience. The biggest question mark is incoming recruit Bubba Starling, who likely would have to pass up a major payday in Major League Baseball to play quarterback for Nebraska. Starling says he'll be enrolling for school July 10.

If Martinez holds up, Carnes keeps developing and Starling sticks with football, Nebraska should be fine. But it would have been nice to have Green for insurance, especially after what happened to Martinez last fall.

Green seems to be looking for more playing time, despite reaffirming his commitment this spring. He told the Lincoln Journal Star in late March:
"I've said ever since I got here that tradition was one of the big reasons why I was here," Green said. "It's the tradition, the people, the family. That's what we are, a big family. We're a big family that will die for each other. You don't want to leave that. It's you. That's one of the main reasons I'm here."
The decision this week to leave Nebraska was excruciatingly difficult for Green, according to a source close to the quarterback. However, it should be noted the two coaches who played lead roles in recruiting Green to NU -- offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shawn Watson and linebackers coach Mike Ekeler -- no longer are with the program. What's more, the Huskers' offense under new coordinator Tim Beck is expected to feature more running situations for the quarterback, which would be better suited for the ultra-fleet Martinez.

It's a good point about the change on offense. If Green felt he couldn't thrive in the system, it's hard to blame him for seeking a transfer.

Some Huskers fans likely will pass this off as no big deal. But insurance at quarterback can make or break a season, and Green's departure leaves Nebraska in a bit of a bind.
Since many of you have asked, I won't be attending any spring games this weekend (or next, for that matter). It's a little tough to explain to non-media folks, but I get a lot more out of visiting campuses midweek than for spring games, when things are chaotic. The good news: I'll recap every spring game Monday.

Now it's time to preview the six Big Ten spring games on tap Saturday (in reverse alphabetical order) ...


The vitals: Blue-White Game presented by AAA kicks off at 2 p.m. ET Saturday at Beaver Stadium; admission and parking are free

More details: Penn State has a pregame autograph session and a ton of events planned for the weekend. All the information can be found here.

Three things to watch

1. The quarterbacks: The race for the starting job has been the top story at Penn State this spring, and all four candidates will be on the field Saturday. Most eyes will be on sophomore Rob Bolden and junior Matt McGloin, who split the starts in 2010 and have paced one another throughout the spring. Both players have impressed the coaches, who likely won't name a starter until the summer. Saturday marks the final chance for Bolden and McGloin to showcase their abilities for the coaches and fans before spring ball concludes.

2. Line play: Penn State has to upgrade both lines if it wants to contend in the Leaders division this season. The Lions have very little depth at defensive end because of injuries, but fans should keep an eye on defensive tackles Devon Still, Jordan Hill and Brandon Ware, all of whom have drawn praise from the coaches this spring. Penn State needs a big year from its interior linemen. The offensive line boasts four seniors and should be solid at the tackle spots, but it'll be interesting to see how the guards and centers perform as Penn State must replace standout Stefen Wisniewski.

3. Running backs: Injuries will keep several Penn State playmakers on the sideline Saturday, but fans should get a clear read on the running backs. There's a lot of hype for Silas Redd after a solid freshman season, but he's being pushed by Stephfon Green and Brandon Beachum, who has stood out this spring after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Green and Redd both have breakaway ability, while Beachum could be the power back Penn State has missed in recent years.


The vitals: The spring football "exhibition," which will be more of a situational scrimmage, kicks off at noon CT (1 p.m. ET) at Ryan Field; admission and parking are free but fans are encouraged to bring nonperishable canned-food items for a food drive.

More details: Northwestern is holding a youth football clinic and several other events. All the info can be found here.

Three things to watch

1. The race for backup QB: All-Big Ten selection Dan Persa is on track to return by late May or early June, but he won't be taking any snaps Saturday. Northwestern will divide the reps evenly between three signal-callers -- sophomore Kain Colter, junior Evan Watkins and redshirt freshman Trevor Siemian -- vying to play behind Persa this season. Colter is the most intriguing candidate after a breakout performance against Texas Tech in the TicketCity Bowl, but all three players have endured some ups and downs this spring.

2. New faces on defense: The coaches feel they've upgraded the athleticism on defense with recent recruiting, especially at spots like linebacker and defensive back. Northwestern's defense looked slow and overmatched at times last season, and quite a few jobs are open this spring. Keep an eye on players such as linebackers David Nwabuisi and Damian Proby and redshirt freshman safety Ibraheim Campbell, a player coach Pat Fitzgerald has praised multiple times this spring.

3. The running backs: Persa carried the run game in 2010 but admits he took too many shots and will try to limit the damage this fall. He could use more help from a run game that has suffered since Tyrell Sutton graduated. Mike Trumpy provided a spark late last year and has had a good spring, and Adonis Smith has a year under his belt. Keep an eye on Tyris Jones, a physical runner who has stepped up this spring as a running back/H-back.

(Read full post)

Big Ten scrimmage notes

April, 11, 2011
The Big Ten featured only one spring game this weekend, but plenty of teams took to the field for scrimmages. I've compiled some scrimmage highlights from around the league based on reports from official team websites and other media sources. Several teams didn't provide specifics about their scrimmages, but I included what I could find.


The Illini scrimmaged for about 90 minutes Saturday, and all players were involved in contact aside from starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

  • The offense prevailed in the scrimmage and gashed the defense for several big runs. Troy Pollard took most of the reps at running back as Jason Ford sat out with a sore knee, and Pollard helped his cause with 110 rush yards on 19 carries. Scheelhaase completed 7 of 12 passes for 53 yards and added 58 yards on the ground, while backup Miles Osei had a 63-yards pass to Fred Sykes and finished the day with 165 yards through the air.
  • Coach Ron Zook singled out linebacker Houston Bates for his play in the scrimmage. Bates had a sack and a quarterback hurry. He saw increased playing time after Jonathan Brown was kicked out of the scrimmage after throwing a punch and drawing a personal foul penalty.

The Hoosiers held their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. Check out coach Kevin Wilson's thoughts as well as some highlights.

  • The offense got the best of the defense Saturday after the D shined in Indiana's previous scrimmage. Receivers Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes stood out in the highlights Indiana showed on its website, as Hughes had a long touchdown reception and Wilson was forced out just shy of the goal line. Both players have been impressive this spring and should complement top wideout Damarlo Belcher in the fall.

No official information from Iowa's scrimmage Saturday, but here's a photo gallery and some recent player interviews from the team's website.


No official information from Michigan's scrimmage Saturday, but here are video interviews with defensive tackle Mike Martin and offensive lineman Patrick Omameh. Running backs Vincent Smith, Michael Cox and Stephen Hopkins had some nice runs in the video highlights.


The Spartans held their first jersey scrimmage Friday and the defense prevailed 55-45 in a modified scoring system. The defense had 18 ways to score points, while the offense had 11 ways to score, including touchdowns and field goals.

  • The defense dominated the scrimmage, holding the offense without a first down on the first five possessions and without points for the first 13 possessions. Michigan State's D recorded three sacks and two interceptions during the stifling stanza. The only two touchdowns scored came during the goal line and red zone portions of the scrimmage.
  • Defensive ends William Gholston and Tyler Hoover combined for nine tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and a pass breakup. Sophomore linebacker TyQuan Hammock recorded an interception. "The defense played well -- tackled effectively, pressured the quarterback and came away with some turnovers," coach Mark Dantonio said in a news release.
  • Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins had a rough day (6-for-16 passing, 41 yards, INT), although he didn't get much help from his receivers, who dropped three passes. Backup Andrew Maxwell completed 15 of 26 passes for 116 yards with an interception.
  • The touchdowns came from Edwin Baker (22-yard run) and Le'Veon Bell (6-yard run). Receiver Keith Mumphery caught a 43-yard pass from Maxwell.

The Gophers scrimmaged Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium and ran about 120 plays.

  • Minnesota's defense held the upper hand as the offense struggled to gain a first down early in the scrimmage. The defensive line had a very good day as tackles Brandon Jacobs and Brandon Kirksey both stood out. Jacobs sacked No. 1 quarterback MarQueis Gray and Kirksey recorded a blocked field goal attempt. Ends D.L. Wilhite and Ra'Shede Hageman also made some plays. "The defensive line got up the field a lot more than we have been. [It was] a lot more aggressive," coach Jerry Kill told reporters. "And we need that. We need more push. We had nine sacks last year, and that can't happen."
  • Gray and top receiver Da'Jon McKnight hooked up on receptions of 45 and 20 yards. McKnight also recorded a punt block in the scrimmage.
  • Reserve quarterback Tom Parish threw two interceptions and fumbled a snap. Moses Alipate ran a few series at quarterback and led a scoring drive.

The Huskers ran about 150 plays in a scrimmage Saturday in Lincoln. Quarterbacks Brion Carnes, Cody Green and Kody Spano took most of the reps and drew praise from coach Bo Pelini.
  • The coaches limited reps for quarterback Taylor Martinez after the sophomore hurt his toe in a recent workout. Running back Rex Burkhead participated in the scrimmage and "looked great," according to Pelini, although Burkhead's reps were limited as well.
  • Nebraska had two false-start penalties and one fumble during the scrimmage. "That's not bad," Pelini said. "Most of it is with the young guys. It shows me the emphasis is working and there's progress, but one's too many as far I'm concerned."

The Wildcats scrimmaged Saturday in Evanston in preparation for this week's spring game.

  • Top running back Mike Trumpy had runs of 33 and 25 yards, while Tyris Jones added a scoring run. Jones has had a really nice spring for the Wildcats, who are looking for more options in the backfield.
  • Trevor Siemian and Evan Watkins took the reps at quarterback as Kain Colter was held out of the scrimmage. Siemian completed 8 of 12 passes for 86 yards with an interception, while Watkins, victimized by dropped passes, completed 8 of 21 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown strike to Charles Brown.
  • Defensive end Tyler Scott picked off Siemian on the second play of the scrimmage. Siemian later responded with a 36-yard pass to Rashad Lawrence. Demetrius Fields led the receivers with five receptions, while walk-on Torin Dupper had three catches for 46 yards.

The Buckeyes held a special-teams scrimmage followed by a full jersey scrimmage Saturday in Ohio Stadium. The team went through about 20 possessions and the offense prevailed 56-45.
  • Receiver DeVier Posey recorded two touchdown receptions, a 33-yarder from Joe Bauserman and an 8-yarder from Taylor Graham. Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller had the only other touchdown of the scrimmage on an 11-yard run.
  • Bauserman completed passes of 33 and 16 yards and also threw an interception on a pass tipped by defensive lineman John Simon. Graham completed 10 of 20 passes for 80 yards, while Miller hit on 4 of 6 passes for 43 yards and looked impressive on the touchdown run. Kenny Guiton struggled at quarterback, leading the offense to only one score (field goal) in six possessions.
  • Posey recorded five receptions for 83 yards and two scores, while the other scholarship wideouts combined for only five receptions. Think Ohio State will miss No. 8 in the first five games?
  • Senior running back Dan Herron didn't get much work Saturday, and Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith stood out among the backs with several nice gains.
  • Defensive linemen Adam Bellamy and Melvin Fellows both recorded sacks, while other defensive standouts included cornerback Travis Howard and linebacker Etienne Sabino.

The Lions scrimmaged Saturday, but there's not much info out there aside from this ($$$).


The Badgers held a scrimmage Saturday, running more than 120 snaps, and coach Bret Bielema shares his thoughts here.
  • Sophomore linebacker Conor O'Neill had a big day with interceptions on back-to-back plays, picking off Joe Brennan and Joel Stave. Wisconsin auditioned O'Neill at safety last year, and his experience defending the pass is paying off.
  • Bielema said center Peter Konz will miss the rest of the spring because of ankle and knee injuries. Konz will undergo minor knee surgery and should be fine for fall camp. Versatile sophomore Ryan Groy is seeing time at center and can play all three interior line spots.
  • Remember Zach Brown? The running back is still around in Madison and hopes to enter a crowded backfield this fall. Brown had a 17-yard touchdown reception and an 8-yard scoring run Saturday. "Zach is an angry running back," Bielema told reporters. "Everybody wants to talk about those other guys. People forget he ran for 200 yards [in a game] as a freshman, and he has won some games for us."
Our Big Ten spring preview continues with a look at the Legends Division.


Start of spring practice: March 23
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Succession plan for Stanzi: Remember James Vandenberg? The plucky young quarterback who nearly led Iowa to a milestone win at Ohio State in 2009 returns to the spotlight as Iowa looks to replace three-year starter Ricky Stanzi. Vandenberg had only eight pass attempts in 2010, so it'll be interesting to see how he adjusts to a potential featured role. John Wienke and A.J. Derby also will be in the mix.
  • A new-look defensive front: Iowa loses three multiyear starters along the defensive line, all of whom likely will go onto the NFL. Mike Daniels and Broderick Binns return, but Iowa must begin building depth around them after not playing a large rotation of linemen in 2010. It'll be a big spring for reserve defensive linemen like Lebron Daniel and Steve Bigach.
  • Rhabdo fallout: Iowa expects the 13 players hospitalized last month with rhabdomyolysis to be ready for spring ball, but there are questions about how the group responds to the rigors of practice. Expect the staff to take every precaution to make sure the players are ready to go. Iowa's internal investigation into what happened could reach its conclusion during the spring practice session.

Start of spring practice: March 19
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Hoke springs eternal: All eyes will be on new coach Brady Hoke as he oversees his first 15 practice sessions as the leading man in Ann Arbor. Hoke and his staff introduce new offensive and defensive systems, and Hoke likely will spend much of his time with a defense that reached historic lows during former coach Rich Rodriguez's tenure. An adjustment period can be expected, but Hoke wants to get things rolling as soon as he can.
  • Denard Robinson: The 2010 Big Ten offensive player of the year thrived in Rodriguez's spread offense. How will he be used in coordinator Al Borges' system? Will Robinson's unique talents still be maximized? After making major strides last offseason, Robinson must continue to grow as he adjusts to a new offense. This is also a big spring for backup quarterback Devin Gardner.
  • The move to the 4-3: Michigan is going back to a 4-3 defensive alignment under coordinator Greg Mattison, and the transition begins this spring. The defensive front has to lead the way, and the personnel is there to get it done. The Wolverines are a little thinner at linebacker, but saw some encouraging signs from Kenny Demens this past fall. Others must emerge at the position this spring.

Start of spring practice: March 29
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • Familiar face, new leadership: Dan Roushar takes over as Spartans offensive coordinator, and while you shouldn't expect many dramatic changes, the veteran assistant will put his personal touch on the system. Roushar wants to fully re-establish the run game Michigan State displayed in the early part of the 2010 season. It'll also be interesting to see how he works with quarterback Kirk Cousins.
  • Reloading at linebacker: Michigan State loses two of the more productive linebackers in recent team history in Greg Jones and Eric Gordon. Returning starter Chris Norman will take on an enhanced role, and the spring will be big for younger linebackers like Max Bullough, Steve Gardiner and Denicos Allen.
  • Elevating the O-line play: You can bet Roushar will have an eye on his old position group, the offensive line, as it replaces starters at both tackle spots and at center. If Michigan State can get its offensive line play where competitors like Iowa and Wisconsin have it, the Spartans will be Big Ten title contenders for years to come. Michigan State has some nice pieces like veteran guard Joel Foreman, but it must build depth this spring.

Start of spring practice: March 24
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • A time to Kill. Jerry Kill conducts his first 15 practices as Minnesota's coach and he has no shortage of challenges. He and his assistants must install new systems on both sides of the ball and, perhaps more importantly, get across their expectations for the players going forward. Kill wasn't overly thrilled with his first impression of the squad, so he has a lot of work to do.
  • Gray back at QB: After a season playing primarily wide receiver, MarQueis Gray is back at his preferred position of quarterback. Kill and his assistants made no secret of the fact that they see tremendous potential in Gray, a dual-threat signal-caller who could end up being a terrific fit for Kill's offense. It will be interesting to see how much Gray can absorb this spring as he prepares to lead the unit.
  • Kim Royston's return: Minnesota's defense got a huge boost when the NCAA somewhat surprisingly granted safety Kim Royston a sixth year of eligibility. Royston, who had a strong season in 2009 before breaking his leg last spring, is ready to go and should provide some much-needed leadership in the secondary. New defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys will be on the lookout for playmakers and leaders this spring, and he'll find one in Royston.

Start of spring practice: March 12
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • New vision on offense: Nebraska likely will have a championship-level defense in 2011, but will the offense bounce back from a poor finish to last season? Tim Beck is the man pegged to get things back on track. Coach Bo Pelini promoted Beck to offensive coordinator, and Beck will begin to implement his vision for the unit this spring. Nebraska figures to stick with the spread, but what version Beck wants to use remains to be seen.
  • The quarterbacks: Taylor Martinez stiff-armed the transfer rumors, and in January said he looked forward "getting healthy and getting my strength and speed back." The big question: Will he also get his job back as Nebraska's starting quarterback? Martinez can help himself with a strong spring, but Cody Green also is in the mix and things could get very interesting if Bubba Starling decides to stick with football rather than pursue a pro baseball career.
  • New faces on staff: In addition to promoting Beck, Pelini hired three new assistants: Corey Raymond (secondary), Ross Els (linebackers) and Rich Fisher (receivers). Raymond takes over a talented group that must replace three standout players, including cornerback Prince Amukamara. It'll be interesting to watch Fisher, who most recently coached in high school and also served as a golf teacher, as he transitions back to big-time football.

Start of spring practice: March 7
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Rebuilding the defense: Northwestern figures to have one of the Big Ten's top offenses this fall, but there are major issues on the other side of the ball. The Wildcats' defense flat-lined in the final three games, surrendering 163 points and getting dominated at the line of scrimmage. It's a big spring for coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who must fill gaps at spots like linebacker, but more importantly must restore the aggressiveness seen in 2008 and part of 2009.
  • The backup QB race: Dan Persa is still rehabbing his surgically repaired Achilles' tendon and won't do much in spring ball. It provides an opportunity for Northwestern to hold an extensive competition to see who backs up Persa this coming season. Kain Colter provided a spark in the bowl game and could be the answer. Evan Watkins needs a bounce-back spring, and Trevor Siemian will be in the mix after redshirting this past fall.
  • Here's the kicker: Northwestern loses four-year starting specialist Stefan Demos and will look to identify a replacement this spring. Neither Jeff Budzien nor Steve Flaherty has attempted a field goal in a game -- they have combined for two PAT conversions -- so the race will be wide open. Special teams has cost Northwestern at inopportune times over the years, but it could be an area of strength in 2011 if the kicker situation is sorted out.
Nebraska is officially part of the Big Ten blog, and the welcome wagon hasn't stopped rolling.

To help us learn more about the Huskers, I've reached out to colleague David Ubben from the Big 12 blog. David knows all about Big Red and covered Nebraska during its transition from the Big 12 to the Big Ten. After being nice enough to hand off the Huskers -- actually, I had to pry them from his hands -- Ubben took some time to talk about the Big Ten's newest member.

Let's go back to June 11. What was your initial reaction to Nebraska leaving the Big 12 for the Big Ten?

David Ubben: Ha, well it was certainly an unpopular one among the Nebraska supporters. I thought it was a great move for the university and the football program, but a huge, huge blow to the future stability of the Big 12.

In short, I equated Nebraska leaving to pulling the pin on the Texas Grenade that would blow up the Big 12.

Obviously, that's not what ended up happening, and for a fan base that since June has despised all things Big 12, I was surprised at how much the Huskers didn't want to be blamed for the Big 12's demise. One would think they would relish in it.

At the core, I think there was some fear from fans that their Huskers might be villainized as a program for the self-serving move, but that's not at all what happened to Arkansas, who certainly did much of the same thing to the Southwest Conference when it left for the SEC.

Back to your original question, though, Nebraska leaving definitely meant a weaker Big 12 if it continued to exist moving forward, and anyone who wants to try to argue otherwise is kidding themselves. Nebraska did what it needed to do: secure infinitely more stability and a good amount of cash with a move to the Big Ten, as well as the academic prestige that comes with, to borrow a phrase from deservedly maligned Missouri governor Jay Nixon, aligning themselves with Northwestern and Wisconsin rather than Texas Tech and Oklahoma State.

Yeah, anytime a school wants to upgrade its league, it should remember Mizzou and do exactly the opposite. But back to Nebraska. People know about the national championships, Dr. Tom and the option offense. What should Big Ten fans know about the current Nebraska program and its fan base as the Huskers transition to the conference?

[+] EnlargeMemorial Stadium
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesNebraska's Memorial Stadium has been sold out for every single home game since Nov. 3, 1962.
DU: Nebraska's biggest asset is its fan base. People like to knock Huskers fans for being a bit full of themselves, but they have reason to be. They're going to rival any team in the Big Ten when it comes to traveling for road games. Prepare yourselves for a sea of red in your stadiums when Nebraska comes.

One big reason? It might be tougher to get a ticket to see the Huskers in Lincoln. Every single home game has been sold out since Nov. 3, 1962, a streak of 311 games. That's an NCAA record, of course. The ones who do make it into Memorial Stadium on fall Saturdays enter under permanent signs that read "Through these gates pass the Greatest Fans in College Football."

Is it obnoxious? Yes. Will it turn off a few opposing fans? Most definitely.

But I would argue that it's not inaccurate.

Husker fans are voracious supporters. They love their team. They know their team. They read about and are opinionated about their team. They spend money on their team. Any other fan base should admire at least that much. Because of that devotion, among other things, the program is one of college football's blue bloods and is able to make a big move that will benefit the program tremendously.

Let's talk about the team itself. Bo Pelini is an Ohio guy, and his track record on defense speaks for itself. Nebraska has seemed more up and down on the offensive side. How do you see the Huskers' style translating to the Big Ten?

DU: That's presuming Nebraska has an offensive style. Nebraska was all about the run early in the year, and ran over and around just about everybody in the first half of the season. Since no one could stop it, they didn't have to throw much, and when they did, they were so, so dangerous.

But the offense slowed late in the season, and I thought they relied on Taylor Martinez to simply drop back and pass way too often and didn't run the zone read enough.

The latest word from Nebraska's recruits is they want an offense that most closely resembles Oregon's, likely minus the dizzying tempo. Offensive coordinator Shawn Watson would describe his offense as a bit of a hybrid between Oregon's offense and the West Coast passing attack, but he looks like he's on his way out.

I'm a big believer that you have to do what suits your personnel, and with a zone-read whiz like Martinez and quality running backs like Nebraska has, it would seem that's a good fit.

On the whole, though, Martinez has to continue to develop as a passer to really give the best defenses trouble. How much of that happens over the next three years will determine how successful they ultimately are. If he can't do it, there's nothing saying he's guaranteed to be the starter above incoming freshmen Bubba Starling (if he stays with football and doesn't sign an MLB contract) and Jamal Turner. Even Cody Green, who played when Martinez was injured this year, could earn some quality snaps if Martinez struggles as a sophomore.

Wow, sounds like we could soon have a QB controversy. Interesting. What do you think will be the biggest adjustments for Nebraska in transitioning from the Big 12 to the Big Ten?

DU: I'm a big believer in Pelini as a defensive coach, so I think they'll be able to make these adjustments eventually, but they're going to have to change the type of players they recruit defensively. You need so many defensive backs (and good ones) to have success in the Big 12, and winning the line of scrimmage will put you over the top, but teams like Missouri and Texas Tech have had success in the league without doing it on a consistent basis.

The Big Ten is all about the beef up front. The Huskers are big and fast on the defensive line with guys like Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler. I don't see many problems there.

Nebraska's best linebacker this year, Lavonte David, made a Big 12-best 152 tackles. He also happens to be 210 pounds. Players like him, while they're incredibly valuable in the Big 12 for their ability to make plays in coverage and provide a speed rush, will be marginalized in Nebraska's future for bigger, run-stopping linebackers.

There will be all kinds of things that will have to change, but the type of defensive personnel will be No. 1 on the list. Specifically, Nebraska will need more, bigger linebackers and fewer defensive backs.

Nebraska always has recruited so well in the state of Texas. How do you think the move to the Big Ten will impact Nebraska's recruiting strategy?

[+] EnlargeJamal Turner
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI Now that it's left the Big 12, Nebraska will have more difficulty luring elite Texas high school players like Jamal Turner.
DU: Oh, what a contentious question. So, so much disagreement on this issue.

I don't think there will be a time when Nebraska just has no one from Texas, but their success in the state will take a considerable hit with the move. I do believe the Huskers should continue to recruit the state, but I also think they need to take some of those efforts and resources previously allocated toward Texas and use them to start scraping the Rust Belt and compete with their new conference mates, rather than their old ones.

Pelini knows the area well, and I think the Huskers will have some success doing it. They had a huge year in 2011 in Texas, getting three top-tier, ESPNU 150 players in ATH/QB Jamal Turner, RB Aaron Green and CB Charles Jackson.

I do believe they can keep getting some talent like that in 2012 and 2013, but as recruits and their families really realize what life is like as a parent of a Texas kid playing in the Big Ten, they'll realize why so few Texas recruits elect to play in the Big Ten. I talked with Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville about this issue last week actually, and he said for most families, it's a huge deal. Watching on TV simply isn't the same thing as going to games, home or away. And the facts are, a lot of families can't afford to fly to a ton of games.

Nebraska traditionally only played one or two games in Texas during a season, three if they made the Big 12 title game and it was in Texas. That doesn't sound like many, but look at it this way, unless you can pay for a flight or make a ridiculously long drive, you're talking about going four or five months without seeing your son versus around two or fewer if they play games in Texas.

So in short, I don't think there will be a time when Nebraska absolutely can't recruit in Texas, but they need to take advantage of their new opportunities in Ohio and Michigan, too, as compensation for the guys who won't want to play up North.

OK, you're on the spot. How do the Huskers fare in Year 1 in the Big Ten, which has already branded them a legendary team in the Legends division?

DU: The Big Ten certainly didn't do them any favors with their first-year schedule, booking them for trips to Wisconsin, Penn State and Michigan. Hosting Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State is going to be tough, and they have to play the Buckeyes in the first game with their five suspended players back. Who knows what happens there?

With a still-maturing passer who won't have a ton of help at receiver, they'll have some struggles offensively, but they should be solid again on the defensive end.

I'll say 9-3 or 8-4. Short of what you might call a Legendary season, but certainly a good one.

Thanks to David for his time, and stay tuned as we'll both have more on Nebraska's move to the Big Ten.
That was pretty shocking. I didn't give Washington much chance to win, and I don't think I was alone there. The Huskies proved us all wrong with a 19-7 victory.

How the game was won: Washington got physical and overpowered Nebraska's defensive line up front for 60 minutes. The Huskies had some success doing it the first time around, but a poor defensive performance kept them from doing it enough to win the game. The defense got it done this time, Washington's offensive line got consistent pushes up front and Jake Locker only had to throw into the Blackshirts fearsome secondary when he wanted to. More often, he used his legs to make plays, on called runs and scrambles as part of that success running the ball. The Huskies rode Locker and Chris Polk to a 268-yard rushing night and a convincing win over a team almost no one picked them to beat.

The Huskers, meanwhile, made constant mistakes, lost the turnover battle 2-0 and were penalized 12 times for 102 yards. One of the most costly came in the fourth quarter after a goal-line stand that looked like it might swing momentum with the Huskers trailing 17-7. Cody Green ran for a first down, but All-Big 12 guard Ricky Henry was called for holding in the end zone, resulting in a safety, which stretched the deficit to 19-7 and gave the ball back to the Huskies. Blame the supposed scapegoat, the dreaded "lack of motivation" if you'd like, but the Huskers' lack of execution in all three phases of the game is a bigger reason for the loss. I never, ever would have pegged Nebraska for seven points against Washington's defense after ringing up 56 in Seattle with three 100-yard rushers back in September.

Turning point: Locker scored on a 25-yard run early in the third quarter to cap a four-play, 53-yard drive that put Washington up 17-7. The game teetered at halftime even though the Huskies had dominated the line of scrimmage, but Locker's emotional run shifted control of the game firmly in Washington's favor.

Turning point II: Locker's return. The quarterback took a nasty-looking hit and remained on the ground for several minutes early in the second quarter. He left the game for a few plays, but was able to return and lead his team to a big bowl win after a winless season in 2008 and no bowl appearances since 2002. I don't wear hats often, but if I did, mine would be off to Steve Sarkisian. This was impressive.

Stat of the game: This wasn't the prettiest passing game. All the quarterbacks combined threw for 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 16-of-40 passing.

Player of the game: Jake Locker, QB, Washington. Polk racked up the yards, but Locker played smart, tough, and made plays with his feet. Polk and the offensive line have a legitimate case for player of the game, but Locker kept the Huskies' offense rolling and did exactly what he had to do for his team to win. Considering the nightmare outing he had last time against the Blackshirts, it's even more impressive.

Record performance: Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David topped 150 tackles on the season for a single-season school record in just his first year on the field. The junior juco transfer broke former Blackshirt Barrett Ruud's previous record of 149 tackles in 2003.

What it means: Nebraska's season began with so much promise. National championship aspirations arose following a thorough Thursday night undressing of Kansas State to move to 5-0. A loss to Texas and Taylor Martinez's midseason ankle injury were speed bumps for the Big 12 North champions, but a pair of offensive clunkers against Oklahoma and Washington end the Huskers' season with a frustrating thud on the way to the Big Ten.

Conference-wide, it's another loss for the Big 12, who is now 1-4 in bowl games and no loss was more shocking. The Huskers entered as two-touchdown favorites, and were completely outplayed in every way.

What to watch: Week 14

December, 3, 2010
Time for our final regular-season edition of what to watch, where we highlight 10 story lines to keep an eye on this weekend. Special thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for some of the nuggets sprinkled throughout.

[+] EnlargeLaMichael James
AP Photo/Rick BowmerLaMichael James and Oregon need one win to reach the BCS title game.
1. Upsets, anyone? Most expect Auburn and Oregon to win their games this weekend and meet in Arizona for the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game. But how about a little history lesson: The No. 1 team in the BCS standings has lost its conference championship game each of the past three seasons. There’s more: A team ranked in the BCS top two has lost its final game of the regular season 13 times in the previous 12 years. The last time neither of the top two teams lost on the first weekend of December was 2005. So the No. 1 Tigers and No. 2 Ducks are on upset alert.

2. Cam the Man. The NCAA ruled earlier this week that Auburn quarterback Cam Newton is eligible to play in the SEC championship game against South Carolina, much to the outrage of many people around the country. Quibble all you want about the decision, there is no stopping Newton from stepping onto the field, where he has been the best player in the country. He gets one more shot to definitively make his case for the Heisman.

3. Will Auburn make like Houdini again? The Tigers have made a living this season off being a comeback team, and we saw that in full effect last week against Alabama. Auburn erased a 24-point deficit to win 28-27. It was the eighth time in 12 games the Tigers had to come back – including its win against South Carolina this season. In fact, this is the first season in school history where Auburn has won four games after trailing by double-digits.

4. Can Oregon State pull the upset against Oregon? The Beavers would have a better chance if they had James Rodgers playing in this game. They showed some fight two weeks ago in a win against USC, but then got shut out against Stanford last week. The Beavers have lost three of their past four, including games to UCLA and Washington State. Jacquizz Rodgers is going to need a big game to help Oregon State win the time of possession battle and keep the ball away from the high-powered Ducks offense.

5. Big 12 injury report. Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray and Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez come limping into the game with injuries. Murray hurt his knee last week against Oklahoma State, but is expected to play. Martinez sat out last week against Colorado with an ankle and toe injury. Having two of their best players hobbled by injury is less than ideal for both teams. Nebraska coach Bo Pelini suggested this week that he might play Martinez and Cody Green. The bigger impact could be felt with the Huskers, who have played inconsistently with Green at quarterback.

6. Christian Ponder vs. Tyrod Taylor. Two of the best quarterbacks in the ACC battle it out in the conference championship game, and the key to the game for each team: slowing the other down. Ponder has struggled this year because of injuries, but he has played better since he missed the Clemson game, throwing for 391 yards, four touchdowns and one interception over his past two games. Taylor, who was just selected ACC Player of the Year, is going to face a formidable front, one that leads the nation in sacks with 43.

7. Who emerges as the Big East champion? There are a few scenarios: If Connecticut beats USF, the Huskies win the title. If Connecticut loses and West Virginia beats Rutgers, the Mountaineers are in. If Pittsburgh beats Cincinnati and Connecticut and West Virginia lose, the Panthers are in. If Connecticut, Pittsburgh and West Virginia all lose, there would be a five-way tie, but Connecticut wins all the tiebreakers so the Huskies would be the Big East rep in the BCS. Got all that?

8. How does Boise State bounce back? The Broncos are in the unusual spot of having to play a game the week after losing. That hasn’t happened since 2007. They get Utah State at home on a day a senior class that has gone 46-5 will be honored. Of course, there is also the pride of the blue turf on the line. Boise State would finish WAC play with an all-time 40-0 record at home with a win. Utah State is 1-53 against opponents ranked in the AP poll including 0-42 on the road.

9. Non-AQ title games. There are two other championship games this weekend: Northern Illinois plays Miami (Ohio) tonight for the MAC title, and SMU plays UCF for the Conference USA title on Saturday. The Huskies (10-2) have won nine straight and are ranked No. 25 in the BCS standings. UCF is ranked No. 25 in the coaches’ poll. Both are favored to win.

10. BCS selection show. Sunday is the day all the bowl announcements will be made, making the selection show must-see TV for college football fans everywhere. If Oregon and Auburn win, then most of the matchups seem clear. But if either team loses, the BCS standings will be very important in determining who goes to the national championship game. No. 3 TCU has the most hope of any other team to sneak in, but we will know for sure come Sunday night.

Burkhead gives Huskers QB play a boost

December, 2, 2010
Nebraska's game Saturday will begin the same way its season did: with everyone in attendance waiting to see who trots out to quarterback the offense on the opening series.

Taylor Martinez broke a 46-yard run in that game on his first career carry, and ran his way into the midseason Heisman conversation before being slowed by injuries and better defenses. A gimpy right ankle and nagging turf toe on his left foot kept him out of last week's North-clinching win over Colorado, and could slow him on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Rex Burkhead
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesRex Burkhead rushed for 101 yards last week against Colorado, but also threw two touchdown passes.
Martinez was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, but left the field with his left foot in a protective boot.

Zac Lee and, most recently, Cody Green, have filled in for Martinez. Green has yet to top 100 yards passing in a game this year, but made his best start of the season with plenty on the line against the Buffaloes, completing 10 of 13 passes for 80 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Martinez torched Oklahoma State for 323 yards in a 51-41 win earlier this year, but since then he Martinez topped out at 167 yards passing against Kansas -- one of just two teams in the Big 12 giving up over six yards per play on defense.

In short, as conference play has progressed, the Huskers quarterbacks have been uninspiring through the air. Nebraska's offensive line and the Huskers third "quarterback" might make that deficiency irrelevant.

"He has an impact on the game in a lot of different ways," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini of running back/part-time quarterback Rex Burkhead.

Burkhead saw plenty of snaps out of Nebraska's Wildcat package against Colorado, and finished with 101 yards rushing and a touchdown. Defenses are forced to respect the high school quarterback's arm, too.

Burkhead threw his first two passes of the season against the Buffaloes. Both went for touchdowns, including a 26-yard rainbow down the right sideline to Brandon Kinnie.

"Nothing he does surprises me," Pelini said. "He does so many things to make a football team better."

Most of the time, that's playing a role as a traditional running back alongside Roy Helu Jr.

"Everyone focuses on the Wildcat, but he runs the ball hard, he's efficient, he can run inside or outside," Pelini said. "He's just a tremendous football player who's continuing to develop and get better."

Running the ball got Nebraska into the Big 12 title game; with 178 yards, Burkhead could become the Huskers third 1,000-yard rusher this season. If it beats Oklahoma for the Big 12 title game, it'll probably be because of that run game.

But if Burkhead has to take snaps in lieu of ineffectiveness from Green or Martinez, it should make running the ball significantly easier.

"They’re physical. It’s going to be a real physical game. They like to run the ball," Oklahoma defensive end Jeremy Beal said, "and we’ll have to stop the run to win the game."