NCF Nation: Deon Butler

Big 12 media days live: Day 2

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
9:40
AM ET
The Big 12 media days continue on Tuesday in Dallas, as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and new Texas coach Charlie Strong each take the stage. Keep this page open throughout the day's proceedings as we bring you the latest from our reporters, who will cover all 10 teams at the event.


Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Penn State wide receivers Derek Moye and Chaz Powell were relaxing in their room Tuesday night when the subject came up again.

The feeling of disrespect tends to fester, and despite three victories this season, both Moye and Powell still sense it.

"Last year, the year before, we were just sitting on the sideline watching these games," Moye said. "Now we're going to be in the spotlight. All eyes are going to be on us and we're happy to be in this position. We're going to go out and show everybody what we can do."
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Penn State wide receiver Derek Moye intends to prove the doubters wrong.

Penn State had turnover at several positions following its Rose Bowl run in 2008, and no spot lost more production than wide receiver. Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood all started for most of their careers and combined for 132 receptions, 1,932 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns last year.

Throw in Williams' production as a rusher and a return man, and it was obvious that Penn State had a major void to fill. Receivers like Moye, Powell, Graham Zug and Brett Brackett had appeared in plenty of games, but their numbers paled in comparison to the big three.

So how have the Rodney Dangerfields of Happy Valley fared so far? Pretty well. Penn State has been forced to throw the ball a lot in its first three games, and Moye, Powell and Zug all have reached double-digits in receptions. They have combined for 37 catches, 474 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

But doubts still linger. Penn State hasn't played anyone so far, and the wideouts are still unproven on the big stage, which arrives Saturday night against Iowa (ABC, 8 p.m. ET).

"There's always people who say the competition wasn't there," Moye said. "But this week and in weeks to come, we'll prove what we did the first few weeks wasn't a fluke."

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A year ago, Daryll Clark was an unproven commodity competing for Penn State's starting quarterback spot alongside Pat Devlin. Clark now finds himself at the helm of the Nittany Lions as arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten.

 
  Paul Spinelli/Getty Images
  Already entrenched as the starter, Daryll Clark hopes to build on what he accomplished in 2008.

He beat out Devlin for the top job and went on to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors, tallying 2,592 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with only six interceptions. Clark added 282 rush yards and 10 touchdowns for the nation's 14th-rated offense. After helping guide Penn State to an 11-2 mark and a Rose Bowl appearance, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound senior steps into a primary leadership position this spring on an offense that returns only five starters.

Here are Clark's thoughts on spring practice, his emergence last fall and the coming challenges for Penn State.

How different has this spring been for you as opposed to last year?

Daryll Clark: Last spring, it was a big decision on who was going to be the quarterback. It was competition. Whereas now, it's a little bit different. With Kevin Newsome being here, he's a freshman, he has a lot to learn. So this is a time for me to critique the mistakes I made from the past season and fine-tune everything I have to, to become a better quarterback and a better asset to this football team. Just become a bigger and better leader. There was a lot of help with all of the seniors we had last year. We have some this year, and our coaches have been calling upon a lot of our young guys to step to the forefront because we're going to need a lot of leadership to step up this year and fill some gaps. There are a lot of positions up in the air this spring. It's been real interesting. The first practice was pretty weird going out there and not seeing those three wideouts that I'm used to seeing [Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood].

Have you spent a lot of time watching those position battles at O-line and wide receiver?

DC: It's kind of tough to watch because I'm practicing in the thick of things throughout the entire practice. My reps are not limited. My main thing is just trying to get the timing down with all the wide receivers we have now. And it's going very well. With Derrick, Deon and Jordan, after the [2007] Alamo Bowl game, we started working on timing two weeks after. The same thing happened after the Rose Bowl this year with the younger guys. We have everyone on the same page to what we're trying to get accomplished this year, both offensively and defensively. Things have been pretty much going back and forth each practice, so that's a pretty good thing. Our wideouts are doing a great job of catching the ball, downfield blocking and making runs after the catch. Everything is on the up and up right now.

Who has stood out to you among the young guys?

DC: No one's really stood out. I think everyone is working at an even rate -- at a high rate, actually. To name a few, Chaz Powell, Derek Moye, Brett Brackett, Graham Zug, James McDonald, those guys really know that they're going to play this year, so it's important that they get everything down, get the whole terminology of the offense down and get used to the positions that they're going to play. I really haven't seen any nerves or anything like that because a lot of the guys have been playing, but just didn't get as many reps as our senior receivers from last year. They've played in a couple games already. Now they're going to be moving into a starting role, so I think they'll be ready.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
  AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
  Pat Fitzgerald should probably stick to tackling demonstrations.

There's a reason Pat Fitzgerald got into the College Football Hall of Fame as a Northwestern linebacker and not the Baseball Hall of Fame as a member of his beloved White Sox.

Unfortunately for Fitzgerald, he got a painful reminder of that reason on Thursday. During a demonstration with a JUGS pitching machine, the Northwestern head coach had a baseball hit him right in the mouth. According to ESPN.com senior writer Ivan Maisel, who alerted me to Fitzgerald's mishap, the coach damaged his front teeth and will need some dental work.

Fitzgerald remains in good spirits, telling me in a text message this morning, "I'm all good. Still ugly as ever with a full head of teeth." We agreed that in the future, he should stick to tackling demonstrations.

I tell you this because I was recently asked in a chat which Big Ten coach I'd want backing me up in a bar fight. Well, I think I have my answer.

Before the weekend kicks off, some links for you.

  • The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette's Michael Rothstein has been blogging all day from the NFL combine in Indianapolis and posted some good quotes from Penn State wide receivers Derrick Williams and Deon Butler. Williams gets a little morbid when discussing Lions head coach Joe Paterno.
"The things that spook us out as players is that we think Joe is going to be buried on the field," Williams said. "Everyone is going to come to the stadium and if he does go, it's just going to be a big funeral at the stadium."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching, and so is spring practice. Fellow bloggers Heather Dinich and Ted Miller passed out roses to teams in their leagues earlier Friday.

I'm not too big on flowers (neither is my fiancée, thankfully), so here are five Valentine's Day gifts for prominent Big Ten figures.

 
  James Lang/US PRESSWIRE
  Coach Rich Rodriguez would love some improved quarterback play.

1. A quarterback for Rich Rodriguez -- Any improvement Michigan makes must start at the quarterback position, which was a disaster for most of 2008. Whether freshmen Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson step up or holdovers Steven Threet or Nick Sheridan elevate their play, Rod deserves a quarterback who can run the spread offense without tripping over his feet.

2. A wide receiver for Daryll Clark -- Clark, the Penn State quarterback, loses top targets Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood. Butler finished as Penn State's all-time receptions leader, and Williams was a unique talent. Clark is a smart, efficient quarterback, but he needs a capable target to emerge in spring ball. Another offensive lineman would be nice, too.

3. A magic healing potion for Bill Lynch -- The Indiana head coach saw his roster completely depleted by injuries last season. Indiana isn't at a point where it can survive a rash of injuries, and Lynch needs his key contributors healthy, particularly in the secondary and along the offensive line. Safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk remain out for spring ball, but Indiana should get a few players back in the mix.

4. An offensive identity for Minnesota -- There were a lot of changes in the Twin Cities this winter, as the Gophers hired new coordinator Jedd Fisch and new line coach/run-game coordinator Tim Davis. The spread is dead and Fisch wants to run a pro-style system, but Minnesota must improve its run game. There will be an adjustment period for players, but they need to get on the same page fast.

5. A quarterback for Bret Bielema -- The quarterback position really hurt Wisconsin last year, and another competition is coming this spring. Game managers have worked at Wisconsin before, but Curt Phillips and Jon Budmayr are solid recruits who can do more. Wisconsin must demand bigger things from its quarterbacks going forward.

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

PASADENA, Calif. -- Penn State won the first quarter 7-7.

The Nittany Lions won the quarter because the score is tied despite two huge plays -- one on offense and one on defense -- killed by penalties.

Defensive end Aaron Maybin was offsides when he forced a fumble from USC quarterback Mark Sanchez in Trojans territory. USC regrouped and finished an 86-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Damian Williams.

On the ensuing possession, a long completion from Daryll Clark to Deon Butler that ended up inside the Trojans 10-yard line was nullified by an illegal shift.

No matter. The Nittany Lions bounced back and finished the 80-yard drive when Clark slashed in from nine yards out.

Penn State didn't come out intimidated by the USC defense, and they've made plays both running and passing.

USC's offense also won early battles with Penn State's touted defense.

So maybe the defenses won't rule the day.

Jan 1, 4:30 p.m., ABC

USC take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: There's a chance an impressive win by either team might earn a scattering of protest No. 1 votes in the final national polls. But even without major national title implication, this is an intriguing matchup between a pair of traditional national powers led by big-name coaches who couldn't be more different. The popular storyline will be the Nittany Lions "HD" offense vs. the USC defense. It's interesting to note, however, that the Lions touted offense is nearly a statistical dead heat with a Trojans unit that's been maligned all season. USC averages 453 yards and 37.5 points per game; PSU averages 452 yards and 40 points per game. Oh, and the Lions aren't too shabby on defense themselves, ranking fifth in total yards (264) and fourth in scoring (12.4 ppg). Of course, USC, playing in its fifth Rose Bowl in six years, in many ways is in a no-win situation because of a nationwide lack of respect for the Big Ten. The Trojans also have dominated the Big Ten of late, winning eight straight against the conference by an average of 25 points, including four consecutive BCS bowl games.


Penn State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: A Penn State team that struggled to gain respect despite dominant results gets a chance to earn plenty against college football's most respected program in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi.

The Nittany Lions will be underdogs in their first Rose Bowl appearance since Jan. 1, 1995, and they'll face a USC team that has captured the last two Rose Bowls and hasn't lost to a Big Ten team since falling to Penn State in the 1996 Kickoff Classic.

Penn State's toughest challenge will be finding ways to decode a USC defense that statistically could be one of the best in college football history. The Lions' Spread HD offense is most effective when aggressive, and junior quarterback Daryll Clark will have to attack a talent-stocked Trojans secondary with senior wide receivers Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood.

Though the Lions have an excellent offensive line and strong rushing attack with Evan Royster, Clark and Williams, they might need to take some risks down the field to set up the run.

Points could be hard to come by for Penn State, and the Lions need to be polished on defense and special teams to beat USC. The Lions' underrated defense ranks fifth nationally and boasts standouts in end Aaron Maybin and linebacker Navorro Bowman. Williams is one of the nation's top return men and needs a strong performance to help Penn State win the field-position battle.

Big Ten helmet stickers: Week 13

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
11:52
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wow. A lot of big-time performances in the league this week, so a few more stickers than usual.

These guys saved their best for last.

Penn State QB Daryll Clark: As he promised, Clark got his swagger back in a big way against Michigan State. The junior passed for a career-high 341 yards and four touchdowns, marking Penn State's first 300-yard passing performance since Michael Robinson in 2003. Clark completed seven passes of 26 yards or longer as No. 8 Penn State crushed No. 15 Michigan State, 49-18, to reach the Rose Bowl. Penn State had a school-record 419 pass yards.

Purdue QB Curtis Painter: Painter ended a disappointing season on an extremely high note, completing 38 passes for 448 yards and five touchdowns in a 62-10 rout of Indiana. The fifth-year senior connected with five different players for touchdowns and moved into third place on the Big Ten's career list for total offense.

Iowa RB Shonn Greene: He capped a remarkable year by setting Iowa's single-season rushing record with 144 yards and two touchdowns in a 55-0 victory over Minnesota. Greene became the first back to eclipse 100 yards in all eight Big Ten games since Penn State's Curtis Enis in 1997. The junior should win the Doak Walker Award and might earn an invitation to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

Penn State WR Deon Butler: Butler had only three receptions, but all of them went for touchdowns, marking a career high. He had scoring receptions of 70, 59 and four yards and registered the third 100-yard game of his career (133 yards).

Iowa WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos: Like many of his Hawkeyes teammates, Johnson-Koulianos had a huge night at the Metrodome, racking up seven receptions for 181 yards and a 29-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The sophomore came on strong in Iowa's final three regular-season games.

Northwestern defense: The Big Ten's most improved unit shut down the league's top offense, holding Illinois to a season-low 10 points in a 27-10 victory. Defensive end Kevin Mims (2.5 sacks, forced fumble) led the way as Northwestern held Illinois to 113 yards below its average.

Coming up Roses in Happy Valley

November, 22, 2008
11/22/08
9:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State rediscovered what made it such a dominant team for the first two months, and as as a result, the Nittany Lions are going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since Jan. 1, 1995.

 
 Rich Kane-US PRESSWIRE
 Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark got his swagger back, defeating Michigan State, 49-18, and earning the Nittany Lions a Rose Bowl berth.

After three lackluster offensive performances and several troubling starts, the Lions wasted no time in showing that they're the best offense -- and the best team -- in the Big Ten, pounding Michigan State 49-18. As promised, Daryll Clark got his swagger back and accounted for three first-half touchdowns (two pass, one rush) as Penn State surged to a 28-0 lead.

Clark had his best game of the season, and so did wideout Deon Butler, who racked up 133 passing yards and three touchdowns. Clark, Butler and Jordan Norwood overshadowed another dominant defensive effort, as Penn State held Javon Ringer to a season-low 42 yards.

For a team that endured so much off-field drama, this season has changed the mood in Happy Valley. Head coach Joe Paterno has earned the right to determine his own future at the school, which likely will last well beyond the Rose Bowl. And his assistant coaches probably deserve to be named Big Ten Coach of the Year, if that were possible.

Penn State's victory creates several tiers in the Big Ten. The Lions are and Ohio State are on top, and both are worthy of BCS bowl bids (the Buckeyes need Oregon State to lose once). Next comes Michigan State, Northwestern and probably Iowa, followed by Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Michigan State slipped into the second tier with its second poor performance against an elite opponent. The Spartans just aren't quite there yet, though head coach Mark Dantonio has things on the right track in recruiting. Michigan State's talent gap showed today, and when Ringer couldn't get going, an upset became nearly impossible. The defense had no answer for Clark, who moved back in the Big Ten MVP discussion with today's game.

The Spartans aren't a BCS-worthy team and they won't be. The Capital One or Outback bowl will be happy to have them come January.

* To see more on this game, check out the video highlights.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

By this point in the season, every college football player is banged up in one way or another.

But sore knees, stiff shoulders and balky backs aren't bothering the Penn State Nittany Lions. All of their problems are between the ears.

 
  AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
 Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark is trying to get his swagger back.

Penn State's mental state is in the spotlight heading into Saturday's home showdown against No. 15 Michigan State (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). If the eighth-ranked Lions win the game on the field, they'll clinch a share of the Big Ten title and their first trip to the Rose Bowl since Jan. 1, 1995.

But Penn State players first must win the game in their minds. And lately, that's been a tough thing to do.

"Guys just need to relax and calm down and we need to get back to our old ways when we played with a lot more confidence, a lot more swagger," senior wide receiver Deon Butler said. "Now it's like, 'I hope we get the first down.'"

There has been mounting concern about junior quarterback Daryll Clark, an admitted perfectionist who is often too hard on himself. And several offensive players acknowledged that there has been some questioning of play calls.

Senior center A.Q. Shipley can't pinpoint exactly what caused the mood change.

It could have been the weight of expectations, the talk of the BCS and a national title and how head coach Joe Paterno might not get another shot to reach the top. It could have been facing stronger defenses like Ohio State and Iowa after steamrolling everyone during the first seven weeks. It could have been the colder temperatures, which seemed to elicit a more conservative strategy.

Whatever it was, Shipley is determined to fix it.

"No matter how much is at stake, it's a game and the reason I play this game is not to get uptight," Shipley said Wednesday morning. "The reason I play it is to be smiling, to just have as much fun as I can have on Saturdays. That's the approach I try and send across. The Rose Bowl's at stake. An 11-1 season's at stake. There's a lot at stake. But again, at the end of the day, when it comes down to it, you can't go out there and have fun when you're playing uptight.

"You've got to keep that loose approach, go out there and just have fun.' That's how you're going to play your best."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There was no anesthetic for Penn State on Saturday afternoon.

The pain of what had just happened, the magnitude of what it all meant, set in as soon as Daniel Murray's field goal sailed through the uprights.

 
  Jerry Lai/US Presswire
 Nittany Lions quarterback Daryll Clark (17) had his hopes for a national championship dashed with a loss to Iowa Saturday night.

"It's hitting me now, man," Nittany Lions quarterback Daryll Clark said, his voice cracking as he spoke. "I'm hurting real bad because I let my team down."

Obviously, Clark didn't deserve all the blame for a 24-23 loss to Iowa.

Normally sure-handed wide receivers dropped passes in the clutch. A dominant defensive line couldn't pressure Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi on the final drive. The nation's third least penalized team drew two flags in the final five minutes.

"There's 25 plays in that game that if we make one of them, we win the game," quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said.

In the end, it came down to one play, a 31-yard field goal with six seconds left. Murray drilled it, and Penn State's hopes for an undefeated season and a national title floated away into the frigid Iowa night.

"It was like a huge bomb exploded," senior wide receiver Deon Butler said. "It was so close to being a perfect season our senior year."

Moments after the kick, 81-year-old coach Joe Paterno hobbled of the visitors' coaching booth, his arm around an aide, as he made his way toward the press box elevators. Like Clark, Paterno couldn't hide the disappointment on his face.

This season was widely regarded as the coaching legend's final shot at a national title. He has no contract for 2009 and is expected to have surgery on his right leg following the season. Though Paterno has every intention of returning to the sideline next fall, he might never get this close to the top again.

"We still can have a heck of a year," Joe Paterno said. "We can't start moaning about this one, though. Maybe go home and cry on Sunday, but Monday we've got to come out ready to go to work. ...

"People are people. They have expectations and they're disappointed. I'm more worried about my football team. Their balloon isn't busted."

It's certainly deflated, at least for the moment.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Football weather is here, folks. No snow yet at Kinnick Stadium, but the conditions are brutally cold.

Here are some points of emphasis for No. 3 Penn State and Iowa as they lock horns later today.

PENN STATE

Run to the edges -- Despite having the Big Ten's top center in A.Q. Shipley, the Nittany Lions might struggle to run between the tackles against Iowa standouts Mitch King and Matt Kroul. Primary running back Evan Royster prefers to run up the middle but would be better served on the edges. Penn State also should use Stephfon Green more and pressure Iowa's linebackers with the option.

Stack the box -- Shonn Greene has been Iowa's only consistent weapon on offense. The Lions need to make quarterback Ricky Stanzi beat them down the field. Expect eight and even nine men in the box to contain Greene, the nation's third-leading rusher (139.6) and a player defenders hate to tackle alone.

Make smart decisions in the passing game -- Daryll Clark comes off a concussion and enters a hostile environment with less-than favorable weather conditions. You can bet Iowa will key on Penn State's rushing attack. But the Lions have superior receivers and if there's a weakness to Iowa's defense, it's the secondary. Clark must recognizing downfield passing opportunities when they're available and use senior wideouts Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood.

IOWA

Go Greene -- Keeping Greene on the field and the Penn State offense off it it is paramount for the Hawkeyes. No defense has consistently slowed down the 235-pound junior running back. Iowa needs to control the clock and pound Penn State's front seven with Greene and freshman Jewel Hampton, limiting third-and-long situations.

Red zone execution -- The Hawkeyes are tied for ninth in the Big Ten in red zone offense, scoring only 20 touchdowns on 40 trips inside the opponents' 20-yard line. They won't get many chances today, so better execution is critical. Greene needs to be more of a weapon near the goal line, and Stanzi must make better decisions.

Win the field-position battle -- Iowa has been in every game this season, and the poor weather could keep the scoring down today. Punter Ryan Donahue needs to have a good day, pinning Penn State deep, so the crowd can get involved. The Hawkeyes have forced a decent amount of turnovers this season (20), and putting Clark in pressure situations is extremely important.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Michael R. Sisak/Icon SMI
 Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions are not looking to embarrass a team by running up the score.

The practice of winning impressively doesn't bother Joe Paterno.

The 81-year-old coach has no plans to go back and re-adjust Penn State's victory margins from earlier this season. The eight wins by 14 points or more will remain. So will the six victories by 29 points or more.

It's the idea of intentionally shooting for style points, of premeditated punishment, that drives Paterno nuts.

"It bothers me," he said this week.

He recalled the 1994 season, the last time Penn State went undefeated and, more notably, the last time the Nittany Lions were prevented from playing for the national title.

Penn State won six of its first seven games by 24 points or more. The Lions' lone non-blowout -- a 31-24 win at No. 5 Michigan -- vaulted them to No. 1 nationally, and the next week they pounded No. 21 Ohio State 63-14 despite never passing the ball in the second half.

Then came a trip to Indiana.

"The game's over," Paterno said. "And [former Indiana coach] Bill Mallory's a good friend of mine. And I put the [second-team] kids in there, didn't throw the ball. So it comes out that we won by 10 points or something and Nebraska goes by us."

Penn State actually won by six points, but it fell to No. 2 nationally and never got back to the top.

"I'm not comfortable with how big you run up the score," Paterno said. "You win. The object of the game is not to embarrass anybody. The object of the game is to go out and play well enough to win the football game and enjoy playing against good opponents and respect them and walk off the field feeling that you haven't embarrassed anybody.

"If it comes out that it's a big [margin], what are you going to do?"

Paterno's last line encapsulates third-ranked Penn State's position heading to its last three games.

(Read full post)

Big Ten picks for Week 11

November, 6, 2008
11/06/08
10:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After going 2-3 in a wild Week 10, my chance for redemption has arrived. The weather could be a major factor in three of the four outdoor games, as rain and potential snow showers are forecasted for Iowa City (where I'll be), East Lansing and Evanston. It'll be room temperature in the Metrodome and Ford Field.

Here's the rundown.

Ohio State 28, Northwestern 13 -- It's simply not a good matchup for Northwestern, and though the Wildcats' much-improved defense could keep things close for a while, Ohio State eventually breaks through behind running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. Northwestern still has injury issues at key positions -- check back later for the official injury report -- and Ohio State's defense seems to be hitting its stride in the second half of the season. This won't be nearly as ugly as the last three seasons, but the Buckeyes prevail.

Wisconsin 31, Indiana 21 -- Both teams have been big disappointments, but Wisconsin's offense appears to be finding a rhythm with quarterback Dustin Sherer and running backs John Clay and P.J. Hill. Indiana's defense continues to regress outside from a few players (Matt Mayberry, Jammie Kirlew), and the Badgers' ground game will be too powerful. Indiana's hopes hinge on its ability to attack the Wisconsin secondary with young wideouts Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher.

Michigan State 23, Purdue 14 -- Bad weather could turn this one into the Javon Ringer show, especially since the Michigan State senior running back is recovering well from a stomach virus. Purdue got going last week behind Justin Siller, but the quarterback spot remains unsettled and Michigan State's defense will capitalize on a banged-up Boilermakers offensive line. It won't be pretty -- then again, it never is with Michigan State -- but the Spartans survive on Senior Day.

Minnesota 28, Michigan 17 -- The Wolverines don't have much to play for and likely will be without starting quarterback Steven Threet. At least they have history on their side, never having lost in the Metrodome. Minnesota comes off a tough loss, which in the past would trigger a collapse, but the Gophers have stronger leadership this year, from the head coach on down. Tim Brewster said this won't be a real rivalry until Minnesota starts winning. The Gophers get the job done, using their familiar formula of forcing turnovers and capitalizing for points against a mistake-prone Michigan team.

Illinois 38, Western Michigan 31 -- This is a tough one. Illinois hasn't won consecutive games since Sept. 6-13. The Illini have had some internal discord and head into an odd environment -- Ford Field, which won't be close to capacity -- to face a high-powered Western Michigan team. Quarterbacks Juice Williams and Tim Hiller both have big days, but Illinois' secondary forces a critical takeaway in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Penn State 24, Iowa 14 -- The bad weather and the bye week lead to a slow start for Penn State, but Daryll Clark gets things going by attacking Iowa down the field with senior wideouts Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood. Iowa boasts an excellent defensive front seven that can limit the run game, but Clark will have some deep options. Iowa will be fired up at home, but without much offense besides running back Shonn Greene, the Hawkeyes fall short.

Season record: 58-13 (81.7 percent)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 Penn State quarterback Pat Devlin (7) celebrates his fourth quarter touchdown with receiver Brett Brackett (83) in the Nittany Lions 13-6 in over Ohio State Saturday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The disappointment in Pat Devlin's voice was unmistakable.

He had just lost Penn State's quarterback competition to Daryll Clark after a tightly contested race through the spring and summer. The former Pennsylvania high school superstar, who reneged on a commitment to Miami to play for Joe Paterno and the Nittany Lions, suddenly faced an uncertain future.

When Devlin joined a conference call with reporters, he knew the questions were coming, the ones about transferring.

"People are going to wonder," Devlin recalled Saturday night. "I don't know how rumors start, but people get these ideas in their heads."

Fortunately for Penn State, the idea of transferring never went through Devlin's head.

"Just because you're disappointed doesn't mean your confidence goes away," Devlin said.

The sophomore displayed that confidence in crunch time Saturday night. He relieved Clark and led Penn State on two scoring drives in the final 10:38, scoring the go-ahead touchdown on a sneak behind center A.Q. Shipley.

Devlin didn't complete a pass -- Ohio State was flagged for pass interference on a post route to Derrick Williams -- but he had the touchdown run and picked up a first down on Penn State's final drive to kill more clock. Most important, he avoided a mistake.

"I've said that since Day 1, I have a lot of confidence in Devlin," Paterno said. "Devlin's a good football player. He had a lot of poise and knew what was going on. He milked the clock, he did everything we wanted him to do. "

"[Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno] and I helped him out, to make sure he knew he was one play away."

Clark sustained an apparent concussion on a 7-yard run late in the third quarter. He remained in the game and finished the drive, which ended with a missed field goal, before being replaced.

"I don't think he knew where he was," quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. "It was a medical decision all the way."

Added wideout Deon Butler: "You can tell when someone's zoned out. They're looking somewhere, but they're really not there. He was fighting, but you could tell."

The morning of game day, Jay Paterno showed the offense film of Illinois' game-winning, clock-killing, run-oriented drive at Ohio State last year. He had done a similar thing in 2005 at Northwestern, showing players tape of a perfectly executed two-minute offense.

Penn State rallied to beat Northwestern in the final minutes with the two-minute drill. And on Saturday, the Lions outlasted Ohio State with run plays and good clock management.

"I'm going to try and pick a tape next week that has a blowout on it," Jay Paterno said.

Like his father, Jay always had faith in Devlin's poise, which was only reinforced through the competition with Clark. Devlin had appeared in all but one game entering Saturday night, completing 21 of 41 passes for 367 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

"Knowing Pat, you just know that he's waiting for this opportunity, waiting for a chance to prove himself and show that he can play, too," said wide receiver Graham Zug, Devlin's roommate. "He did that tonight."

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