NCF Nation: Jermale Hines

Buckeyes defense must tighten up

September, 10, 2011
9/10/11
2:29
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Ohio State knew it would be an adventure on offense early this season.

After all, the Buckeyes lost starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and had three starters suspended for the first five games.

The Ohio State defense, despite losing seven starters of its own, was supposed to be the pillar on which the offense could lean. Ohio State had proven time and again it could reload on defense, and this year didn't appear to be any different, especially after the Buckeyes blanked Akron in the season opener.

But Toledo is making Ohio State look mortal on defense, and the Rockets have reclaimed the lead 22-21 in the third quarter. Coach Tim Beckman has been fearless with two fourth-down calls in the second half, both of which Toledo converted. Beckman is going for it today, and who can blame the former Ohio State assistant?

This marks the first time Ohio State has allowed more than 20 points to an in-state foe since 1999.

While the Buckeyes remain stout against the run, their personnel losses in the secondary -- Jermale Hines, Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence -- seem to be hurting, as Toledo's passing attack has clicked for 213 yards.

No matter how this one turns out, Ohio State has to be a bit concerned about its defense before next week's trip to Miami.

Ranking the Big Ten safeties

July, 13, 2011
7/13/11
1:30
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We wrap up our preseason look at Big Ten secondaries with a look at the safeties.

Safety isn't quite as stacked as cornerback, and the Big Ten loses some solid players like Iowa's Tyler Sash and Ohio State's Jermale Hines. There are fewer elite prospects at safety, but several teams have potential playmakers.

Here are the top 10 entering 2011:

[+] EnlargeTrenton Robinson
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireSafety Trenton Robinson is entering his third season as a starter for Michigan State.
1. Trenton Robinson, Michigan State, senior: Robinson played a big role in Michigan State's improvement as a secondary in 2010. He led the Spartans with four interceptions and tied for the team lead in passes defended with eight. Robinson, who enters his third season as a starter, had 76 tackles last season and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches.

2. Aaron Henry, Wisconsin, senior: After emerging as a playmaker in 2010, Henry should be primed for even bigger things in his second season at safety. The former cornerback made the switch and recorded two interceptions, seven pass breakups, a forced fumble and three fumble recoveries last season. Like Robinson, he earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches.

3. Tyler Moeller, Ohio State, senior: Moeller will provide a huge boost for a new-look Ohio State defense as he returns from a torn pectoral muscle that shortened his 2010 season. He can play either safety or linebacker and showed impressive playmaking skills early last fall, recording two forced fumbles, an interception and 4.5 tackles for loss in just five games. If Moeller stays healthy, he'll be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors.

4. Brian Peters, Northwestern, senior: Peters boasts a lot of experience, appearing in every game the past three seasons. He also shows a knack for the football, recording three interceptions in each of the past two seasons. A second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010 after recording 107 tackles, Peters must get a bit more consistent in coverage but looks ready to lead the defense.

5. Micah Hyde, Iowa, junior: After starting all 13 games last season at cornerback, Hyde likely will move to safety as the Hawkeyes lose two multiyear starters in Sash and Brett Greenwood. Hyde showed last fall that he's a tremendous playmaker, recording four interceptions, including the pick-six that won the Insight Bowl against Missouri. He led the team with 11 passes defended, finished second with 82 tackles and had a forced fumble.

7. Nick Sukay, Penn State, senior: Like Moeller, Sukay was doing big things in 2010 before a torn pectoral muscle ended his season. Sukay recorded three interceptions, a forced fumble and 29 tackles in just six games. He's a natural playmaker who finished third in the Big Ten in passes defended with 13 in 2009. His return makes a very good Lions secondary even better.

8. Trulon Henry, Illinois, senior: An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2010, Henry will help anchor an Illini secondary that could do some big things this fall. Henry led Illinois with three interceptions and two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, three pass breakups and 64 tackles. He should be helped by the return of Supo Sanni from injury.

8. Logan Link, Purdue, senior: Link quietly turned in a solid 2010 season, finishing eighth in the Big Ten in tackles with 91. He's a solid tackler who added an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The former walk-on has emerged as a really nice contributor for the Boilers' defense.

9. Drew Astorino, Penn State, senior: Astorino has been the iron man in Penn State's secondary, starting each of the past two seasons as well as three games as a redshirt freshman in 2008. He has played through injuries, including a shoulder problem that impacted him last fall, when he recorded 70 tackles, an interception and five pass breakups. If Astorino stays healthy, he could blossom in his final season.

10. Courtney Osborne, Nebraska, junior: This is a bit of a projection pick, but Osborne should be able to help fill Nebraska's gaps at safety this fall. He appeared in every game last season, starting four, and recorded 41 tackles, an interception, a sack and five tackles for loss. Osborne did some nice things down the stretch and seems primed for bigger things in a bigger role.

Also considered: Minnesota's Kim Royston, Michigan's Jordan Kovacs, Indiana's Greg Heban

Big Ten NFL combine wrap-up

March, 2, 2011
3/02/11
10:33
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The NFL scouting combine wrapped up Tuesday with the defensive backs going through drills.

Let's check out the Big Ten's top performers:

CORNERBACKS
  • Ohio State's Chimdi Chekwa tied for third in the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds; Nebraska's Prince Amukamara tied for fifth at 4.43 seconds;
  • Ohio State's Jermale Hines (listed as a cornerback for the combine) tied for 10th in bench-press reps with 19
  • Amukamara tied for fifth in the vertical jump at 38 inches
  • Amukamara tied for second in the broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches; Chekwa tied for sixth at 10 feet, 6 inches
  • Nebraska's Eric Hagg finished 10th in the 3-cone drill at 6.73 seconds
SAFETIES
  • Iowa's Tyler Sash tied for fourth in the 40-yard dash at 4.62 seconds
  • Sash tied for fifth in the vertical jump at 33 inches
  • Sash tied for second in the 3-cone drill at 6.9 seconds

Now that the combine is finished, let's see which Big Ten players ranked in overall top performance.

BIG TEN TOP COMBINE PERFORMANCES (all positions)
  • Chekwa tied for eighth in the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds; Nebraska running back Roy Helu Jr. finished 13th at 4.42 seconds; Amukamara finished 14th at 4.43 seconds
  • Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt tied for fourth in bench-press reps with 34; Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan tied for 10th with 32; Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan tied for 12th with 31
  • Indiana receiver Terrance Turner tied for fifth in vertical jump at 41 inches
  • Amukamara and Turner tied for ninth in broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches
  • Ohio State receiver Dane Sanzenbacher finished third in the 3-cone drill at 6.46 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished sixth in the 20-yard shuttle at 3.97 seconds; Helu tied for 11th at 4.01 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished fourth in the 60-yard shuttle at 10.94 seconds; Helu tied for ninth at 11.07 seconds
Spring practice is creeping closer, and Purdue will hit the field in less than two weeks (March 1 to be exact) for the first of its 15 workouts.

Here's a snapshot of what to expect in the Leaders Division this spring.

ILLINOIS

Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • New look at linebacker: Illinois loses first-team All-Big Ten selection Martez Wilson as well as playmaker Nate Bussey. They combined for 195 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, two interceptions and four fumble recoveries. The Illini need a middle linebacker and could turn to productive senior Ian Thomas or promising sophomore Jonathan Brown. Illinois also is replacing linebackers coach Dan Disch.
  • Ford tough: All-American running back Mikel Leshoure departs, turning the spotlight to Jason Ford. At 235 pounds, Ford is a true power back who will give the Illinois offense a slightly different look in 2011. The Illini also want to build depth at running back with players like Troy Pollard.
  • Replacing Liuget: Illinois begins the difficult task of replacing the Big Ten's most disruptive interior defensive lineman in Corey Liuget, a likely first-round draft pick in April. Akeem Spence had a very solid redshirt freshman season and will take on a larger role, but Illinois must build around him with Glenn Foster and others. This is a major priority for defensive coordinator Vic Koenning and line coach Keith Gilmore this spring.
INDIANA

Start of spring practice: March 8
Spring game: April 16
End of spring practice: April 19

What to watch:
  • Culture change: Kevin Wilson has talked extensively about changing the culture around the Indiana program, and the process begins in full force this spring. Players will have to adjust to the demands of Wilson and his staff, which still isn't in place but soon will be. There will be plenty of teaching and learning, as players must absorb Wilson's offense and a 4-3 defensive scheme (IU operated out of the 3-4 for part of last season).
  • Quarterback competition: Three-year starter Ben Chappell departs, and there's no clear-cut successor entering spring practice. Both Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker played sparingly in five games last season, and they bring different skills to the table. It'll be interesting to see who emerges under center this spring before acclaimed recruit Tre Roberson arrives for fall camp.
  • Identify defensive contributors: Indiana can't expect to get over the hump until it upgrades the defense, and co-coordinators Mike Ekeler and Doug Mallory begin a crucial evaluation process this spring. The Hoosiers need to build depth and identify Big Ten-ready players throughout the defense, particularly in the back seven after losing standout linebacker Tyler Replogle and others.
OHIO STATE

Start of spring practice: March 31
Spring game: April 23
  • Suspension preparation: Ohio State knows it will be without four offensive starters and a key defensive reserve for the first chunk of the 2011 season. This spring, the Buckeyes start the process of evaluating who will step in, especially at the quarterback spot for Terrelle Pryor. Joe Bauserman holds an edge in experience (though little has come in games), and he'll compete with Kenny Guiton and heralded incoming freshman Braxton Miller.
  • Receiving orders for Drayton: Stan Drayton left Florida for Ohio State primarily to expand his coaching repertoire and oversee a new position group. The career running backs coach will work with a mostly unproven group of Ohio State wide receivers this spring. Ohio State must replace All-Big Ten standout Dane Sanzenbacher, and DeVier Posey is among those suspended for the first part of the season. Says Drayton of his receivers, "Personnel wise, they're in competition with the whole offensive unit."
  • Up-the-middle defensive replacements: Excuse the baseball reference, but Ohio State loses several standout players in the core of its defense: linemen Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore, linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, and safety Jermale Hines. Although the Buckeyes always find ways to reload on defense, it will be interesting to see who emerges this spring, especially at linebacker.
PENN STATE

Start of spring practice: March 18
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks, especially Rob Bolden: Penn State's quarterback competition should be wide open this spring, and it might be the most fascinating race in the Big Ten. You've got sophomore Rob Bolden, who asked for his release after the Gator Bowl but didn't get it from Joe Paterno, and has returned to compete for a job he thought he never should have lost. Junior Matt McGloin tries to redeem himself after the bowl disaster, and Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome also are in the mix.
  • Line play on both sides: The Lions boast enough at the skill positions on both sides of the ball to be a much improved team in 2011. But they have to get better and more consistent on both lines. The offensive line must replace standout Stefen Wisniewski and find the form it displayed in 2008. The defensive line tries to regain its swagger after backsliding in 2010, and identify a pass-rushing threat or two.
  • Kicking it: Collin Wagner was Penn State's top offensive weapon for much of the 2010 season, but the standout kicker departs the program, leaving a void. Punter Anthony Fera likely will handle the bulk of the kicking duties this spring until incoming freshman Sam Ficken arrives.
PURDUE

Start of spring practice: March 2
Spring game: April 9

What to watch:
  • Replacing Superman: Purdue returns nine defensive starters, but the Boilers lose Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Kerrigan. The Boilers were the league's top pass-rushing team in 2010, but Kerrigan's production and presence played huge roles in the overall sacks and tackles for loss totals. The entire defensive line took a step forward last fall, and will need to do so again without No. 94.
  • The quarterbacks: Robert Marve is still recovering from his second ACL tear, so Rob Henry, Caleb TerBush and Sean Robinson will be in the spotlight this spring. Henry showed promise when healthy in 2010, and TerBush had a strong spring a year ago before being ruled academically ineligible for the season. The quarterback race won't be decided until the summer, but all the candidates can help themselves in spring ball.
  • The offensive identity: A wave of injuries forced Purdue to overhaul its plan on offense in 2010. Although several key players will be out or limited this spring, the Boilers can start to reshape their plan on offense. Coach Danny Hope is optimistic Marve and the others return at full strength, but he doesn't want to take anything for granted. This is a huge spring for players a notch or two down the depth chart to get noticed.
WISCONSIN

Start of spring practice: March 22
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • Finding Tolzien's successor: After a one-year respite, Wisconsin's annual spring quarterback competition resumes. Sort of. Jon Budmayr will have every opportunity to establish himself as the Badgers' top option before Curt Phillips (knee) returns to full strength. Budmayr turned heads with his performance two springs ago, but played sparingly last season behind Scott Tolzien.
  • New leadership on defense: Charlie Partridge and Chris Ash are familiar faces who step into new roles this spring. Partridge and Ash were promoted to co-defensive coordinators following Dave Doeren's departure, and they'll get their first opportunity to shape the defensive vision this spring.
  • Reloading on the lines: Wisconsin loses three All-American linemen from 2010: Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt on the offensive side, and J.J. Watt at defensive end. Although the Badgers must replace more bodies on the offensive front, they boast excellent depth there and should be able to fill the gaps. Watt leaves a bigger void, and Wisconsin needs strong springs from players like Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert.

ESPN.com's 2010 All-Senior Big Ten team

January, 24, 2011
1/24/11
5:00
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As we gear up for the Senior Bowl, I wanted to piggyback off of an excellent post by colleague Chris Low from last week.

It's time to identify an All-Big Ten team comprised only of seniors. There were easy picks like Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, but several positions created some tough choices.

Reminder: This team includes only fourth-year or fifth-year seniors, not redshirt juniors.

Bowl performance is included in this rundown, if applicable.

In case you forgot, my All-Big Ten team included only 12 seniors, all of whom will appear below. I also selected 14 underclassmen.

Without further ado ...

OFFENSE

QB: Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin
RB: Evan Royster, Penn State
RB: Dan Dierking, Purdue
WR: Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State
WR: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa
TE: Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
C: Bill Nagy, Wisconsin
T: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
T: D.J. Young, Michigan State
G: John Moffitt, Wisconsin
G: Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State

DEFENSE

DL: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
DL: Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
[+] EnlargeEric Gordon
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesEric Gordon narrowly edged out Ross Homan for a spot on the All-Senior Big Ten team.
DL: Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
DL: Karl Klug, Iowa
LB: Greg Jones, Michigan State
LB: Brian Rolle, Ohio State
LB: Eric Gordon, Michigan State
CB: Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State
CB: Chris L. Rucker, Michigan State
S: Jermale Hines, Ohio State
S: Brett Greenwood, Iowa

SPECIALISTS

K: Collin Wagner, Penn State
P: Aaron Bates, Michigan State
Returns: David Gilreath, Wisconsin

Some thoughts:

  • I really struggled with the quarterback spot. Tolzien ultimately made fewer mistakes than Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, who had superior statistics and had fewer weapons surrounding him. You can make a good case for Stanzi or Indiana's Ben Chappell, but Tolzien gets a slight edge.
  • No disrespect to Royster or Dierking, but the Big Ten really struggled to produce many decent senior running backs this season. Perhaps that's a promising sign for the future, but typically there are more experienced ball-carrying options. Royster was the only senior ranked among the Big Ten's top 10 rushers. I thought about Ohio State's Brandon Saine, but Dierking did more as a ball carrier.
  • The No. 3 linebacker was a really tough call between Gordon and Ohio State's Ross Homan. Ultimately, Homan missing time with a foot injury and Gordon displaying remarkable consistency alongside Greg Jones made Gordo the pick.
  • Another tough call was DJK ahead of Indiana's Terrance Turner, who had 21 more receptions but fewer yards and seven fewer touchdown catches.
  • The deepest position among Big Ten seniors (by far): offensive guard. I went with Moffitt and Carimi, but players like Ohio State's Justin Boren, Michigan's Stephen Schilling, Iowa's Julian Vandervelde and Illinois' Randall Hunt all were good options.
  • Five teams didn't produce selections: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern. Is that a good omen or a bad one for 2011?
Selections by team: Wisconsin (6), Ohio State (5), Michigan State (5), Iowa (4), Penn State (3), Purdue (2)
The Big Ten's final chance at redemption arrives in the Big Easy, as Ohio State takes on Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Let's take a quick look at the matchup.

WHO TO WATCH: Ohio State's five suspended players who will participate in the bowl, particularly starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor, starting running back Dan Herron, starting left tackle Mike Adams and starting receiver DeVier Posey. They created a major distraction for the program, and all have vowed to make things right not only in the bowl game but by returning for their senior seasons. It will be interesting to see the mental states of players like Pryor, no stranger to scrutiny and a guy who stepped up in the 2010 Rose Bowl. Ohio State needs a strong showing from its offense, and Pryor and his teammates will be in the spotlight.

WHAT TO WATCH: Ohio State's secondary vs. Arkansas' pass-catchers. Despite several season-ending injuries, the Buckeyes' defensive backs have more than held their own, helping Ohio State rank sixth nationally in pass defense (156.3 ypg allowed). But the Buckeyes' secondary faces its toughest challenge of the season with Arkansas, which boasts five players with 500 receiving yards or more and four with 600 receiving yards or more. First-team All-Big Ten selections Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines need strong performances against Ryan Mallett and his many targets.

WHY TO WATCH: The Buckeyes' suspension and the controversy surrounding the penalties certainly adds interest to this game. Will Ohio State have a united locker room as it tries to beat an SEC foe in a bowl game for the first time in 10 tries? The Buckeyes' decorated senior class needs to bring the team together for a critical game before the program enters an uncertain 2011 season. If you like exciting offense and polished defense, this is the game for you as expert playcaller Bobby Petrino tries to find holes in Ohio State's D. The Big Ten's disastrous New Year's Day performance also adds intrigue, as Ohio State tries to redeem its league a bit.

PREDICTION: Ohio State 24, Arkansas 21. It certainly could go the other way, but I expect Ohio State's seniors to bring the team together and go out with a victory despite all of the controversy. Pryor makes enough plays when it counts and Herron provides a lift in the run game. Mallett moves Arkansas between the 20s but Ohio State limits the Hogs' scoring opportunities. Expect a big game from Cameron Heyward as Ohio State ends its bowl slide against the SEC.
It's going to be a rough Christmas in Columbus.

After several days of rumors and speculation, Ohio State announced Thursday that the NCAA has suspended five football players for the first five games of the 2011 season for selling items and accepting improper benefits. A sixth football player will miss the 2011 season opener for receiving discounted services, a violation of NCAA rules.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteTerrelle Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university.
These aren't just any players. The list included four starters -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan "Boom" Herron, receiver DeVier Posey and left tackle Mike Adams -- as well as reserve defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Linebacker Jordan Whiting, a redshirt freshman, is the player who will miss only the first game next fall.

Wow. Huge news indeed.

The twist is that all the players will be eligible for the upcoming Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup against Arkansas. According to Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's vice president of academic and membership affairs, the players are allowed to participate in the Sugar Bowl based on several factors, which include "the acknowledgment the student-athletes did not receive adequate rules education during the time period the violations occurred."

From Ohio State's news release:
NCAA policy allows suspending withholding penalties for a championship or bowl game if it was reasonable at the time the student-athletes were not aware they were committing violations, along with considering the specific circumstances of each situation. In addition, there must not be any competitive advantage related to the violations, and the student-athletes must have eligibility remaining.
The policy for suspending withholding conditions for bowl games or NCAA championship competition recognizes the unique opportunity these events provide at the end of a season, and they are evaluated differently from a withholding perspective. In this instance, the facts are consistent with the established policy, Lennon said.

Hmmm. This seems like a very creative way for the NCAA to defer punishment.

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith contends that the players were only specifically educated on the consequences of selling items in November 2009, after they had committed the violations. Players cannot sell items given to them by the university while still eligible, but they can sell them after their eligibility is up.

"We were not explicit with these young men that you could not resell items that we give you," Smith said. "We began to be more explicit in November 2009."

Ohio State will appeal the NCAA's decision in hopes of getting the number of games reduced for the suspended players. This case sounds very similar to what happened with Georgia receiver A.J. Green, who received a four-game suspension for selling his bowl jersey. I wouldn't be surprised to see the suspensions reduced from five games to four.

There's a lot to discuss, so I'm going to break things up into categories:

SMITH'S ECONOMIC ARGUMENT

Smith said the players sold championship rings and other items to help their families during a rough economic time. While not condoning players' actions, Smith said they went into the decisions "with the right intent, to help their families."

This situation certainly refuels the debate about whether college players should be paid -- Ohio State safety Jermale Hines defended his teammates here and here -- but it's a tough argument for Smith to win. Pryor and his teammates get a lot of perks simply for being Ohio State football players, not the least of which is a free education. And they're certainly not the only people in Columbus dealing with a tough economy.

While a lot of folks are jumping on the tattoo thing, this situation was about money.

"The discount on tattoos is not as big as the other pieces," Smith said. "The cash was relative to family needs. The bigger violation is the cash."

I don't buy the fact that the players didn't know that their actions violated NCAA rules. Smith and the other Ohio State officials can fall on their sword as much as they want, but these guys had to know the consequences.

THE NFL QUESTION

[+] EnlargeDan Herron
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDan Herron may consider opting for the 2011 NFL draft.
Before Thursday's announcement, Ohio State didn't seem like a team that would be heavily impacted by juniors entering the NFL draft.

That has changed.

Four of the five players receiving the stiffest penalties -- Pryor, Herron, Posey and Adams -- are candidates to go pro after the bowl game. I had heard Herron was the likeliest to do so, but he'll probably have some company. I just can't see all of these players coming back to miss what likely will be at least one third of their senior seasons.

“I’m not sure this would be the most advantageous time to have a job interview," coach Jim Tressel said.

That's true to an extent, but I doubt it's enough to keep players in Columbus, especially if they can finish their careers with a Sugar Bowl championship.

Whether or not there's an exodus, Ohio State will be impacted by these suspensions in 2011. The first five games aren't too severe -- Akron, Toledo, at Miami, Colorado, Michigan State -- but Pryor's absence will loom large, and the same goes for Adams, who really came on strong.

SELLING TRADITION

The worst part of this mess is what the Ohio State players sold to the individual now under federal investigation.

It's one thing to sell a jersey or a pair of cleats. Those are individual things. But selling Big Ten championship rings and Gold Pants (given to Ohio State players for beating archrival Michigan) won't sit well with Buckeyes fans. Pryor, Adams, Posey and Solomon sold their 2008 Big Ten championship rings, while Pryor and Solomon sold their Gold Pants from the 2008 Michigan game.

Those are items won as a team. They're special. They're integral to Ohio State football and what it stands for.

"I suppose the older you are, the more you understand the difficulty of what’s gone into having a chance to earn those things," Tressel said. "I don’t know what's in the minds of a 19-year-old. It might be, 'I'm going to win four more of these, so I’m going to help out at home [by selling] this one.'"

It will be interesting to see how Ohio State fans view the players after finding out what they sold.

WHAT'S NEXT

Ohio State reconvenes as a team Sunday and will fly to New Orleans on Wednesday. Today's announcement certainly could be a distraction, or it could bring the team closer together.

Smith sounded confident this incident is isolated to these players and to the individual under investigation. This isn't a criminal case or one related to agents or boosters. The person under investigation isn't connected with Ohio State.

"There are no other NCAA violations around this case," Smith said. "We do not have a systemic problem in our program.

Tressel said it's good he'll have a few days at home to think about the situation before seeing the players on Sunday.

"These guys feel terrible," Tressel said. "If you said go run 50 miles before you come to practice tomorrow, they would go run 50 miles."

The players likely won't face further disciplinary action from Ohio State. Their focus will turn to the bowl game, in which they're amazingly allowed to participate. The NCAA certainly will take more heat than Ohio State in this case.

What a day in Columbus. Stay tuned for more.

ESPN.com's 2010 All-Big Ten team

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
10:30
AM ET
It's time to reveal my All-Big Ten team. As always, there were some tough decisions, and several deserving players don't appear on the rundown below.

For your reference, the official All-Big Ten teams and my preseason all-conference squad.

OFFENSE

QB: Denard Robinson, Michigan
RB: Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
RB: Edwin Baker, Michigan State
WR: Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State
WR: Jeremy Ebert, Northwestern
TE: Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
C: David Molk, Michigan
T: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
T: Mike Adams, Ohio State
G: John Moffitt, Wisconsin
G: Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State

DEFENSE

DL: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
DL: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
DT: Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
DL: Corey Liuget, Illinois
LB: Greg Jones, Michigan State
LB: Martez Wilson, Illinois
LB: Brian Rolle, Ohio State
DB: Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State
DB: Tyler Sash, Iowa
DB: Jermale Hines, Ohio State
DB: Ricardo Allen, Purdue

SPECIALISTS

K: Derek Dimke, Illinois
P: Aaron Bates, Michigan State
KR: Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota
PR: Keshawn Martin, Michigan State

Selections by team: Ohio State (5), Wisconsin (4), Michigan State (4), Illinois (4), Michigan (2) Purdue (2), Iowa (2), Northwestern (1), Penn State (1), Minnesota (1)

Five players are repeat selections from 2009: Wisniewski, Carimi, Clayborn, Jones and Sash.

AllState Sugar Bowl

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
2:18
AM ET
Arkansas Razorbacks (10-2) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1)

Jan. 4, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Arkansas take by SEC blogger Chris Low: Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino joins two of his SEC colleagues (Nick Saban and Urban Meyer) in becoming only the third coach to take two different schools to BCS bowl games. Petrino led Louisville to a victory in the 2007 Orange Bowl.

The Hogs (10-2) charge into their Allstate Sugar Bowl matchup with Ohio State playing their best football of the season. They’ve won their past six games and are averaging 42.5 points in those six contests.

Arkansas’ résumé is equally impressive. The Hogs own four wins over teams ranked in the top 25 of the final BCS standings. They’re the only team in the country with a quarterback (Ryan Mallett) who has passed for 3,000 yards, a running back (Knile Davis) who has rushed for 1,000 yards and five receivers (Greg Childs, Joe Adams, Cobi Hamilton, Jarius Wright and D.J. Williams) who have at least 500 receiving yards.

While known for its explosive offense, Arkansas’ defensive improvement has been the real story to its success. The Hogs were 89th in the country in total defense a year ago, but enter the bowl game ranked 34th nationally this season.

This is a team playing with a lot of confidence right now and a team that showed a lot of resilience after losing a close game at home to Alabama in September and then getting toasted in the fourth quarter by Auburn a month later.


Ohio State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Ohio State ended its three-game slide in BCS bowls last January in Pasadena. Now the Buckeyes’ take aim at snapping a more sobering streak.

Most Buckeyes fans know what 0-9 means, and if they don’t, SEC fans will happily remind them. Ohio State is 0-9 against SEC teams in bowl games, including back-to-back losses in the BCS title games in 2007 and 2008 that continue to blotch the Buckeyes’ national reputation. Jim Tressel’s crew will try to overcome its SEC blues in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Arkansas.

Ohio State has been a slow-starting, strong-finishing team, both in games and throughout the season. The Buckeyes’ early stumbles against Wisconsin led to their only loss, but they won their final five regular-season games, all but one contest by 24 points or more.

Aside from the Wisconsin setback, Ohio State’s defense allowed no more than 17 points in a conference game and overcame some key injuries, particularly in the secondary. Containing Mallett is clearly Ohio State’s top priority, and the Buckeyes boast a top 10 pass defense led by cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and safety Jermale Hines.

Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor took a major step forward in the Rose Bowl and looks for another big performance on the big stage. Pryor’s mobility could be key against an Arkansas defense that applies a lot of pressure.

Crowded at the top of the Big Ten

November, 28, 2010
11/28/10
7:08
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A year from now, there will be no debate.

Beginning in 2011, the Big Ten will thankfully dispose of its Little League-ish co-champs title and crown a definitive king in a league championship game. Until then, we're stuck with this: a three-way tie atop the league.

Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all finished the regular season with identical records (11-1 overall, 7-1 Big Ten). Since Ohio State and Michigan State didn't play, the Big Ten's automatic BCS bowl berth goes to the team ranked highest in the final BCS standings.

Judging by the roses hanging from the mouths of the Wisconsin Badgers late Saturday afternoon, it's pretty clear which team that will be.

But which is the Big Ten's best team? The debate is far from over.

Wisconsin is the league's hottest team, having won its final seven regular-season games, including the final four by a combined score of 235-84. Ohio State still can call itself the league's most talented team, boasting elite recruits on both sides of the ball. Michigan State might be the league's most accomplished team, with a 1-0 record among the league leaders and seven wins against bowl-eligible squads, more than both Wisconsin and Ohio State.

But each squad can make a case to be the league's best.

"We are the best team in the Big Ten," Ohio State linebacker Brian Rolle said.

Not surprisingly, Rolle isn't the only one who feels this way in central Ohio.

"I would say us," Buckeyes safety Jermale Hines said. "Am I supposed to say somebody else? I feel we're the best in the Big Ten, hands down."

Informed of the Buckeyes' sentiments later Saturday, Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi laughed.

"I guess that's Ohio State for you," said Carimi, whose Badgers beat the Buckeyes 31-18 on Oct. 16. "If Ohio State thinks that, then whatever. I'd only play with my team."

Michigan State has been somewhat forgotten in the debate, and most project the Spartans to miss a BCS bowl. But Spartans coach Mark Dantonio isn't about to back down after his team won a record 11 games.

"We're the only football team that's beaten Wisconsin, and I might add that we did it convincingly," Dantonio said after Michigan State's win at Penn State. "I'll say it twice: we did it convincingly. They're up there at six or seven [in the BCS standings], and we should be right there with them."

All three teams feel deserving of BCS berths, but only two will be rewarded. Wisconsin certainly knows the feeling after being shut out of the BCS bowls despite an 11-1 record in 2006.

Not that the Badgers are taking pity on Michigan State.

"The cards just didn't fall for us that year, kind of it's not going to fall for Michigan State this year," Carimi said. "But I'm a Badger, not a Spartan, so I honestly don't feel for them."

Tough talk at the top.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Justin Boren is a 6-foot-3, 320-pound monster known as one of the Big Ten's best and nastiest offensive lineman.

But back in 2008, at that moment, Boren was absolutely terrified.

He had made the seemingly unthinkable transition from Michigan to archrival Ohio State, and he had no idea how he'd be received.

[+] EnlargeJim Tressel
AP Photo/Amy SancettaCoach Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes have outscored Michigan 79-14 in the past two games at Ohio Stadium.
"I was so scared when I walked in for the first time," Boren recalled Saturday. "I had played 'em five months ago and I was coming in here like the new kid. I was more scared than when I went up to Michigan as a freshman. But they [welcomed] me with open arms. They've been awesome."

Boren didn't begin his career as part of one of the most successful classes in Ohio State history. But he's finishing it that way, and he couldn't be happier.

"I didn't want to look back and have any regrets," Boren said. "I didn't want to second-guess myself. And I can honestly say I've never done that. ... It's the greatest choice ever made."

It's hard to argue after Boren and his fellow seniors led Ohio State to its seventh consecutive win against Michigan, a 37-7 triumph that was essentially over by halftime. Ohio State claimed a share of the Big Ten title for a record-tying sixth consecutive season.

The Buckeyes' seniors improved to 43-8 in their careers. A bowl victory next month will tie them with their predecessors in 2009 for the most wins in team history. But perhaps most important, the class made it through without ever losing to Michigan.

"Five Big Ten rings and five pairs of gold pants," coach Jim Tressel said, referring to the large group of fifth-year seniors in the class. "That's a big deal."

Ohio State's seniors have contributed to The Game losing some serious luster in recent years. The Buckeyes have won each of the past four meetings by double digits, including the past two at Ohio Stadium by a combined score of 79-14.

Imagine what it would be like to be on the other side.

"I really can't," senior wideout Dane Sanzenbacher said. "It's got to be tough, but we work all year for this game, and we want to come out and execute. We can't really worry about what it would be like on the other end because we don't ever want to be on the other end."

Neither does Michigan, but the Wolverines had to endure another beating at the hands of their archrivals.

The buzz before and after the game centered on Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez, who continued to struggle against top-tier Big Ten opponents. Rodriguez fell to 0-6 against Michigan's two conference rivals -- Ohio State and Michigan State.

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez
AP Photo/Amy SancettaRich Rodriguez is 0-6 as Michigan's coach against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State.
"I'm ticked," Rodriguez said. "Do you want me to go jump out there with all the Buckeye fans and sing 'Kumbaya?' I wish we'd played better. Our guys, they played hard, and that's to be expected, but I wish we'd executed better and as coaches, we've got to try and put them in positions so they can make some plays.

"I'm going to be mad for a while, and then we'll move on to the next one."

The next one likely will take place Dec. 28 at the Insight Bowl in Arizona. But will Rodriguez still be around to coach the Wolverines?

Speculation has mounted in recent days about Rodriguez's job security. Athletic director Dave Brandon on Saturday reiterated his stance that he'll evaluate the program at the end of the season.

"I'm going to work tomorrow as always," Rodriguez said. "I worry about my future every day. Before I took the job, after I took the job.

"But nothing's going to change how we work."

While Michigan stews in the midst of its slide, Ohio State's seniors emphasized the importance of keeping their streaks alive. They stepped in after an Oct. 16 loss to Wisconsin, which linebacker Brian Rolle said "bonded the team together even more."

Ohio State hasn't lost since, and several seniors finished the regular season playing their best football.

Rolle and fellow linebacker Ross Homan combined for 16 tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble Saturday. Senior safety Jermale Hines broke up three passes. Sanzenbacher, without question the Big Ten's top receiver this season, caught three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.

The result: Ohio State's seniors maintained the status quo.

"I think people will look back and say we were a tight-knit group, a class with class and character," Rolle said. "When we come back for a reunion, I want guys to say, 'Man, those guys were great.' "

So what's left for Ohio State's seniors?

The Buckeyes continue to fight the negative perception stemming from their back-to-back blowout losses in the BCS title game. They should get a chance in January for a second consecutive BCS bowl victory, quite possibly against an SEC team (LSU or Arkansas) in SEC territory (New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl).

Not a bad way to go out.

"Getting a win this year in whatever game we go to would be great," Rolle said. "It'll show that this senior class, guys fought hard to bring tradition back to Ohio State."
Jermale Hines laughs when told that he's the old man among Ohio State's safeties.

"Something like that," he said.

Hines is a little old by college football standards -- he turns 23 next month -- but he also boasts by far the most experience of any Buckeyes safety. He's one of Ohio State's most valuable players because if there's a spot on the depth chart that looks a little, well, young, it's safety.

[+] EnlargeJermale Hines
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJermale Hines has helped lead an Ohio State secondary that ranks 13th nationally in pass defense.
After the 2010 Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes said farewell to veteran safeties Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell, with Coleman being the team's only consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. Tyler Moeller returned from a head injury to start at the "star" position -- a safety-linebacker hybrid used in Ohio State's nickel package -- but he's now out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. Promising sophomore C.J. Barnett also won't return following a knee injury, and junior Nate Oliver has been banged up.

Ohio State's two-deep for Saturday night's showdown at No. 18 Wisconsin lists Hines as the starting free safety, sophomore Orhian Johnson, a first-year starter, at strong safety, and true freshman Christian Bryant at the "star" position.

There's little doubt as to who leads the group.

"It's been an experience trying to tell guys what to do and where to be, just helping them out as much as I can," Hines said. "Somebody came along and did it to me, Kurt and Anderson and those guys, so I'm just looking to give back and do the same thing."

The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Hines knows he needs to show some patience as a leader. After all, he wasn't always the easiest pupil for Coleman and Russell.

"There were times where I didn't want to follow them, but they made me," said Hines, who moved past Russell on the depth chart in 2009 and recorded 57 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions. "Just basically going to seek me out, talking to me, making me listen, telling the coaches and things like that. Or putting me on the spot. They showed me the ropes, the little things to be successful. And that's what I’m trying to do with these guys."

Hines has led by example on Saturdays.

He recorded an interception in Ohio State's Big Ten opener at Illinois and ranks third on the team with 26 tackles. The Cleveland native attributes his progress to a better understanding of Ohio State's defense and how opposing offenses want to attack the Buckeyes.

Along with cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and others, Hines has helped Ohio State lead the Big Ten and rank 13th nationally in pass defense (158.3 ypg). The Buckeyes have surrendered only four pass touchdowns through the first six games (only Miami, San Diego State and Missouri have allowed fewer).

Hines' personal project has been Bryant, who took over for the injured Moeller against Illinois and made his first career start last week against Indiana, recording one tackle.

"I'm definitely his big brother," Hines said. "Any time I can be, on the field, off the field, just making sure he understands things, checks and things like that, just making sure his head is right."

Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Hines could play the "star" spot if need be, a move Hines wouldn't oppose. But if Hines' tutelage works, he can stay put and Ohio State likely will be better off for it.

"Anywhere I can help the team win," Hines said. "We've all got one goal, and I'm a part of it."

A big part.
Ten items to track as you watch the second Saturday of Big Ten games.

1. Slowing down Shoelace: No one this season has slowed down Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who leads the nation in rushing (181 ypg) with 27 runs of 12 yards or more. Michigan State All-American linebacker Greg Jones plans to change things Saturday in Ann Arbor. Jones is by far the best defensive player Robinson has faced this season and was all over the field last week against Wisconsin. Jones vs. Robinson is a fascinating subplot to the most anticipated game in the rivalry in recent memory.

[+] EnlargeJones
AP Photo/Dale G. YoungMichigan State's Greg Jones and the Spartans defense against Denard Robinson and Michigan will be one of the more intriguing matchup of the weekend.
2. Pass the Buck(eyes): Excuse the bad pun, but Indiana brings the Big Ten's top pass offense (348.2 ypg) to Columbus, where it faces an Ohio State Buckeyes team that leads the Big Ten in defending the pass (161.8 ypg allowed). Something's got to give as Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell and his talented wide receivers and tight ends go up against Chimdi Chekwa, Jermale Hines and a speedy Ohio State secondary. Chappell (480 pass yards) and receiver Tandon Doss (15 rec., 221 yards) come off of huge games, while Ohio State plays its first full contest without Tyler Moeller.

3. Gophers gunning for the Axe: If Minnesota plans to turn around its season, there's no better place to start than Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday. The Gophers love their trophy games, but their trophy case in Minneapolis has been empty for some time. No trophy and no game means more to Minnesota than the annual clash with Wisconsin for Paul Bunyan's Axe. Minnesota seniors like quarterback Adam Weber don't want to go through their entire careers without hoisting the coolest rivalry trophy in college sports. An upset victory would provide a huge boost, while a loss would virtually shut the door on postseason play and possibly Tim Brewster's future as Gophers head coach.

4. Seeing red in Happy Valley: Penn State has failed to reach the end zone twice in five games this season, and the Lions have slipped into a tie for 114th nationally in red-zone efficiency, converting just two-thirds of their opportunities into points. Illinois ranks fourth in the league in red-zone defense (75 percent conversions), but coordinator Vic Koenning tells me that depth problems have prevented him from employing a true goal-line package. Penn State coach Joe Paterno says opening up the playbook in the red zone isn't the answer, but the Lions had better try something against an improved Illini defense.

5. Henry leads banged-up Boilers: No team in America has been hit with more significant injuries than Purdue, which mercifully received a bye last week to regroup a bit. After losing quarterback Robert Marve to a season-ending ACL tear, the Boilers now turn to redshirt freshman Rob Henry to guide their offense. Henry is an exceptional athlete with good potential as a quarterback, and Danny Hope doesn't plan to shrink the playbook Saturday at Northwestern. But Henry will be tested in his first career start -- a Big Ten road game at night, no less.

6. Mark Dantonio returns for rivalry: Mark Dantonio has placed a premium on the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry ever since he became Spartans head coach. It would take more than a blood clot to make him miss Saturday's game in Ann Arbor. Dantonio, released from the hospital Monday, opened his news conference Tuesday by saying, "Can't keep me down Michigan week." The plan calls for him to spend the game in the coaches' booth. Michigan State is 2-0 during Dantonio's recovery from a mild heart attack, but his presence should provide a lift in a hostile environment.

7. Wisconsin's running back rotation: John Clay might be the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, but he's being pushed for carries by dynamic freshman James White. After White had another big day last week at Michigan State, Badgers running backs coach John Settle said, "We're going to put the competition out there and open it up." Clay continues to put up solid numbers, but he hasn't shown home-run ability like White this season. The burly junior has responded well to challenges before and on Saturday faces a vulnerable Minnesota defense that has allowed a league-high 10 rushing touchdowns.

8. Northwestern aims for historic start: There have been some bumps along the way, but the Wildcats sit at 5-0 for the second time in two years. A win Saturday night against Purdue would give Northwestern its first 6-0 start since 1962, the last time the program was ranked No. 1 nationally. The Wildcats are favored to do so, but they can't expect to keep overcoming penalties and turnovers, especially in Big Ten play. A polished performance against Purdue would put Northwestern in both national polls when No. 17 Michigan State visits on Oct. 23.

9. Sorting out the Buckeyes' backfield: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor (strained quad) should be ready for Saturday's game, but he still needs some help from his backfield mates. Ohio State's situation at running back has been the hot-button topic among Buckeye Nation, which wants to see either more production from Dan Herron and Brandon Saine or more opportunities for Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall. If the Buckeyes can't spark their ground game against an Indiana defense ranked 108th nationally against the run (207 ypg allowed), they should start to get worried.

10. Cousins takes aim at shaky Michigan D: As incredible as Denard Robinson has been for Michigan, there's a growing sense that the Wolverines will see their fortunes turn soon if Greg Robinson's defense doesn't show some improvement. Indiana's Chappell had his way with Michigan's secondary last week, and while Michigan State brings a more balanced offense to Ann Arbor, Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins is playing with a lot of confidence. If Michigan can't pressure the pocket, Cousins will pick apart the Wolverines' secondary with his talented receivers and tight ends.
As you might have seen earlier today, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio will once again attempt to watch his team from the press box this week at archrival Michigan.

Dantonio, released from the hospital Monday after being treated for a blood clot in his leg, is back in the office and started his news conference today by saying, "Can't keep me down Michigan week." The 54-year-old had planned to coach from the press box last week against Wisconsin but was readmitted to the hospital Thursday after doctors found the clot.

"As long as I don't have a setback, that’s where I'll be," Dantonio said of the Michigan Stadium press box.

Dantonio feels "outstanding" and is back at the football complex after spending Sunday and Monday watching film. He watched the Wisconsin game from the hospital, where he communicated with his assistants at Spartan Stadium.

"I'll take it easy, I won’t overdo things, I’ll listen to what people are telling me, I’ll listen to my body," Dantonio said. "But at the same time, I feel very good."

It's encouraging to hear Dantonio is doing well again, and while I'm not a doctor, allowing him to spend three-plus hours on his feet Saturday following a blood clot probably isn't a wise move. Hopefully, he'll spend the game in Michigan's spacious and luxurious new press box.

Other Big Ten health nuggets:
  • Ohio State coach Jim Tressel confirmed that safety-linebacker Tyler Moeller is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle that will require surgery later this week. Moeller is a big loss after leading Ohio State in both tackles for loss (4.5) and forced fumbles (2). I'll be stunned if he doesn't receive a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, so we should see him back in 2011. Freshman Christian Bryant will step in for Moeller, although Tressel said Jermale Hines also can play the "star" position in Ohio State's nickel package. Nate Oliver also is getting healthy and should be able to help.
  • Buckeyes starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor should be fine for Saturday's game against Indiana. Pryor, who missed two series with a strained quad against Illinois, might be limited in practice early this week but will "get as close to 100 percent as one can be" for the Hoosiers.
  • Speaking of Indiana, starting cornerback Richard Council will miss "an extended period of time" with a knee injury, coach Bill Lynch said. Council's injury isn't season ending at this point, but Indiana will turn to others, namely Adrian Burks, as well as Greg Heben and juco transfer Andre Kates, to fill the void.
  • Not a health note, but a personnel nugget regarding Brandon Wegher. There had been some buzz about the running back returning to Iowa, but it's not happening. "If he comes back, we'll let you know," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "As far as I know, he's gone for at least this season and maybe forever."
  • The hits keep coming for Purdue, as coach Danny Hope said receiver Justin Siller will miss three to six weeks with a sprained foot. The good news is the Boilers are getting healthier at running back as players like Al-Terek McBurse and Keith Carlos improved during the bye week. Purdue can move Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross back to receiver.
  • Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges and receiver Curtis Drake are improving from their injuries but likely won't be back for a little longer. Tight end Andrew Szczerba (back) started to do some light jogging but won't be back as Penn State turns to true freshman Kevin Haplea as its starter against Illinois. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill (ankle) is expected to play Saturday.
  • Finally, some good news about Minnesota receiver Connor Cosgrove, who last month was diagnosed with leukemia. He's doing well and was in the locker room before last week's game against Northwestern. "The leukemia counts in his body are way down," Gophers coach Tim Brewster said. "His body is reacting positively to the chemotherapy. The outlook for Connor is really positive." Great to hear.

Big Ten predictions: Week 2

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
9:09
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Nobody beats Mr. Perfect ... Nobody!

I achieved perfection in Week 1, which can mean only one thing: a rough week ahead. The competition gets tougher around the Big Ten on Saturday, which makes the games tougher to predict.

Let's see if I can keep the streak alive.

Wisconsin 45, San Jose State 10: The Badgers put forth a much cleaner performance in their home opener, as quarterback Scott Tolzien completes 75 percent of his passes and fires touchdowns to Lance Kendricks and Isaac Anderson. Running back John Clay once again eclipses 100 rushing yards as Wisconsin rolls to 2-0.

Michigan State 31, Florida Atlantic 20: Don't be fooled by those white jerseys, as Michigan State will feel right at home in Ford Field despite technically being the road team Saturday (ESPNU, noon ET). I don't see a rout as Florida Atlantic is a decent team that won at UAB last week. The Owls make some noise early before Spartans backs Edwin Baker, Larry Caper and Le'Veon Bell take over in the second half.

Northwestern 35, Illinois State 17: Former Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack has his team prepared, and the Redbirds hang around for a half before Northwestern's offense gets going. Quarterback Dan Persa finds Sidney Stewart for two touchdowns and the Wildcats finally have a breakaway run from scrimmage (not sure who carries the ball).

Minnesota 31, South Dakota 13: The Gophers employ a similar plan to Week 1 and control the line of scrimmage and possession time with their offensive line and running back Duane Bennett. A young defense stays off the field and Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber establishes a good rhythm with receiver Da'Jon McKnight.

Purdue 44, Western Illinois 10: Expect a big game from Robert Marve and the Purdue offense, which stretches the field early and often against Western Illinois. Marve tosses three touchdown passes and no interceptions and the Boilers get a boost from Al-Terek McBurse in the run game.

Iowa 24, Iowa State 13: Last year's final score (35-3) was a bit misleading because Iowa State threw five interceptions and Iowa cruised despite admittedly not playing well up front on defense. Star defensive end Adrian Clayborn answers the bell Saturday with 2.5 sacks, and Iowa pulls away a bit in the third quarter behind running backs Jewel Hampton and Adam Robinson. Both teams play conservatively on offense and keep the score down.

Michigan 31, Notre Dame 30: For the second consecutive year, these two teams provide the most exciting game on the Week 2 slate. Notre Dame attacks Michigan's young secondary early and has success with Michael Floyd, but the Wolverines rally in the second half. The Irish have no answer for Denard Robinson's speed, and Vincent Smith breaks away for a long fourth-quarter touchdown run to put Michigan in front.

Ohio State 27, Miami 20: I expect a better Jacory Harris and a better Miami team than the one Wisconsin totally outclassed in the Champs Sports Bowl. But there are too many reasons to like Ohio State in this one. Terrelle Pryor and Brandon Saine combine for three rushing touchdowns as Ohio State wins the game at the line of scrimmage. Jermale Hines comes up with a fourth-quarter interception to seal it for the Scarlet and Gray.

Alabama 26, Penn State 16: This is my Game of the Week. I'll explain my selection in a video post later today.

Illinois 24, Southern Illinois 20: The Illini are on upset alert against one of the nation's better FCS programs. Expect another slow start from the offense, but quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and running back Mikel LeShoure get it together in the second half. The defense holds off the Salukis long enough, and both Scheelhaase and LeShoure reach the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Bye: Indiana

Last week: 11-0

Season record: 11-0 (1.000)

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