NCF Nation: Michael Phelps

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- A bye week clearly didn't teach Michigan how to respect the football.

After giving away the Notre Dame game with seven turnovers, the Wolverines have fumbled six times in the first half today, losing three. Redshirt freshman quarterback Steven Threet topped off the turnover spree by tossing two interceptions within the final two minutes. That's absolutely pathetic, especially after a two-week break in which I'm sure Rich Rodriguez and his staff stressed the importance of limiting turnovers. And it's not just young players. Senior Morgan Trent fumbled a kickoff return.

How bad has it gotten for the Maize-and-Blue faithful? They sarcastically cheered kickoff returner Martavious Odoms for simply hanging onto the ball on a short runback with five minutes left in the half. I just walked by several "Old Blues" in the press box who are saying this is the worst they've ever seen Michigan play at the Big House, and it's the 500th game.

Can Michael Phelps start taking snaps for Michigan?

And it's not like the Wolverines are doing anything when they keep the ball. Michigan finished the half with 21 total yards and minus-7 passing yards. Can you say Notre Dame of 2007?

Barring a dramatic turnaround after halftime, Michigan will find itself at the bottom of the Big Ten power rankings on Monday.

Wisconsin is doing what Wisconsin does best: dominating the line of scrimmage and capitalizing on an opponent's mistakes. The Badgers don't get much respect nationally because they aren't flashy, they don't run a spread offense and their quarterbacks are fairly anonymous. But this defense should start generating some buzz. They're laying the wood to Michigan right now on almost every play. LinebackersJonathan Casillas and DeAndre Levy have been fabulous. Sam McGuffie has no room to run, and Threet is constantly under duress.

John Clay is healthy, by the way. The Badgers' third-string running back sat out several practices with back spasms but looked just fine on a 46-yard scamper that set up a P.J. Hill touchdown. Clay could be Wisconsin's most talented back, but Hill is the established starter and has another year of eligibility left. It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin uses the two backs as Clay gains more experience. Nice problem to have.

Credit the Michigan defense for hanging in there. Linebacker Jonas Mouton is having a solid game, and the veteran-laden line had done its best. But when the offense gives the defense no chance, there's only so much you can expect.

All-American tight end Travis Beckum remains on the sideline, his helmet now no longer on his head. The Badgers don't need Beckum the way they're dominating this game. Save him for Ohio State next week. This one looks like it's over.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michael Phelps just made his way across the field in a No. 8 jersey (gold medals, people). We just got under way here in the Big House.

  

MICHIGAN STATE-INDIANA

Pencil in Javon Ringer for 40 carries a game from here on out. But the best part about this win for the Spartans was the play of senior quarterback Brian Hoyer (262 pass yards). He had been a question mark through the first four games and capitalized on a patchwork Indiana secondary with a couple of touchdown passes. Indiana played two quarterbacks (Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell) and racked up a lot of yards, but this team's success or failure always rested on the defense. And right now, that defense isn't very good.


  

NORTHWESTERN-IOWA

Yeah, about that post praising the Iowa offense at halftime, try to forget about it. Sophomore Ricky Stanzi still should be Iowa's clear-cut starting quarterback, but the Hawkeyes stalled in the second half, thanks to an extremely aggressive Northwestern defense. The Wildcats not only shut out the Hawkeyes; they brought the pain. Safety Brad Phillips briefly knocked Shonn Greene out of the game with a vicious hit. I don't know what has happened to Northwestern's defense, but a ton of credit goes to new coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Teams that commit five turnovers never deserve to win, and Iowa certainly did not. This is a huge win for Northwestern, which will be 5-0 when Michigan State visits Ryan Field on Oct. 11. The Wildcats overcame a lot of obstacles, including several dumb penalties and a questionable call or two by the officials. This could be the start of a rough stretch for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who needs better results on the field to justify all the team's problems off of it.


  

MINNESOTA-OHIO STATE

The Chris "Beanie" Wells effect transformed a struggling Buckeyes offense, which racked up 414 yards in a win over the Gophers. In many ways, this was the perfect situation for Wells' return from a toe injury. He only had 14 carries and still showed his top-shelf skills with 106 rushing yards. The junior will be fresh for next week's road trip to No. 9 Wisconsin. He also made everyone else around him better, namely freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor (97 rush yards, 2 TDs). I thought Adam Weber and the Minnesota offense would make this a bit more interesting, but Ohio State's defense came to play. Buckeyes senior Todd Boeckman also played more than many had expected and threw a touchdown.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Nebraska's punishing ground attack historically has been as big a part of the Cornhuskers' storied program as Herbie Husker, sellout crowds at Memorial Stadium and Academic All-Americans.

Consider that between 1977 and 2003, Nebraska ranked at least seventh or higher every season in the national rushing rankings. That's right: seventh or better. And in 13 of those seasons the Cornhuskers led the nation in rushing.

That's why the rankings during the four seasons of Bill Callahan's tenure -- 34th, 107th, 23rd and 66th -- were so disappointing. Two of the four teams even threw the ball more than it ran. How un-Nebraskalike, even in this age of spread passing offenses.

Most observers are expecting Nebraska to more effectively run the ball this season. Some are even predicting a smash-mouth running attack keyed by an experienced offensive line and four strong I-backs led by Big 12 returning rushing leader Marlon Lucky.

Running the ball would also provide a way for new coach Bo Pelini to keep his defense off the field, dominating time of possession and lessening the time his defensive unit will have to make plays.

Senior Nebraska offensive guard Matt Slauson told the Omaha World-Herald it would be noticeable compared to his previous seasons.

"We're going to line up and smash guys, and if it works, we're going to keep doing it," Slauson told the newspaper.

Which tells me one thing. Simple dives and off-tackle smashes won't be nearly as unpopular among Nebraska fans as they might be at other places across the Big 12 this season.

And speaking of traditional, hearty fare, how about this lip-smacking collection of links this morning? It's good for what ails you.

  • Former Penn State DT Phil Taylor has enrolled at Baylor and begun practicing with the team. Taylor was dismissed from the Nittany Lions after his involvement in an on-campus fight last season. Freshman K Ben Parks has won the starting job for the Bears' opener Thursday night against Wake Forest.
  • Boulder Daily Camera coulumnist Neill Woelk said Colorado fans are providing a form of corporate welfare to Colorado State, buying tickets this week that weren't scarfed up by the Rams' fans.
  • Colorado TE Riar Geer avoided jail Monday after his friends and family members pleaded to a judge that his role in an off-campus fight was out of character. But he'll miss the first two games of the season as he recovers from knee surgery.
  • Heralded Colorado freshman TB Darrell Scott is trying to keep up with the other demands than just playing.
  • Iowa State will have 27 freshmen in its two-deep roster Thursday night against South Dakota State. But Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler writes that Iowa State coach Gene Chizik needs to choose a starting quarterback soon and stick with him. 
  • Kansas State list four newcomers on its starting lineup for Saturday's game against North Texas. Three are from junior colleges -- RB Keithen Valentine, CB Blair Irvin and LB Ulla Pomele - and LB Olu Hall is arrives from Virginia.
  • Jeff Martin of the Kansas City Star/Wichita Eagle provides a few nuggets from Kansas State's press conference, including Coach Ron Prince uttering the word "confirmed" 14 times during a 30-minute stint at the podium.
  • Kansas State officials learned that top returning receiver and punt returner Deon Murphy has an extra year of eligibility. He will be considered a junior in the upcoming season.
  • Kansas has 10 freshmen and 15 sophomores in its two-deep roster, including PR Daymond Patterson as a starter.
  • The Lawrence Journal-World's Matt Tait writes about Kansas rebuilding its secondary without All-American CB Aqib Talib.
  • Dugan Arnett of the Lawrence Journal World wonders who would be the bigger chick magnet in downtown Lawrence -- Michael Phelps or Todd Reesing?
  • Manhattan Mercury beat writer Mark Janssen breaks down the ABC's of Kansas State football.
  • Dave Matter of the Columbia Tribune's Big 12 notebook leads with Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger's comments about Texas.
  • Kansas City Star college columnist Blair Kerkhoff has Oklahoma ranked No. 5 in his top 25 countdown. Kerkhoff also expects faster play and shorter games with the new clock rules.
  • Missouri WR Jared Perry gave Dave Matter the quote of the day about how he hopes to impress the Illinois defense after struggling with injuries. "It's a big motivation," Perry said, "because people are just sleeping on me. So, I have to wake them up."
  • Nebraska coach Bo Pelini says he's not any more excited about Saturday's game against Western Michigan than any other. "My level of excitement really isn't any different than it was last year," said Pelini, who spent the last three seasons as defensive coordinator at Louisiana State. "I treat them all the same. I think we'll be prepared come Saturday and let it all hang out. It'll be a fun time, but at the same time I've got to keep my emotions in check, as does the team."
  • Lee Barfknecht of the Omaha World-Herald says that Kansas State QB Josh Freeman has provided the best quotes of the preseason -- particularly those that threw Kansas State's seniors last seasons under the bus for their lack of leadership. Barfknecht also gives his preseason Big 12 rankings.
  • Omaha World-Herald columnist Tom Shatel wonders if ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit really likes Nebraska as much as he's saying - or if he's only try to throw a bone to his old Ohio State teammate and current Nebraska coach Bo Pelini.
  • The Lincoln Journal-Star's Curt McKeever doesn't expect any suprise teams from the Big 12 because of the conference's depth at the top.
  • Pelini met with the media for about two minutes Monday after an intense practice on the first day of classes. Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan never practiced his team on the first day of classes.
  • Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy will be back calling plays for the Cowboys this season after delegating that job to assistants in recent years.
  • Oklahoman columnist John Rohde is expecting Saturday's Oklahoma State-Washington State game to be fun on Saturday.
  • Jake Trotter of the Oklahoman writes that Oklahoma's non-conference schedule shouldn't be a liability to their national title hopes - even as the Sooners start the season Saturday against Chattanooga, a 2-9 team last season.
  • Oklahoma State WR Damian Davis has been suspended for the Cowboys' opener against Washington State for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
  • Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter has set a goal of rushing for 1,000 yards this season according to Bill Haisten of the Tulsa World.
  • Tulsa World columnist John Klein said that Mike Gundy should have more talent at his disposal this season than any previous season when he was Oklahoma State's head coach.
  • Jimmie Tramel of the Tulsa World writes about Texas A&M's water balloon fight in his weekly Big 12 notepad, also providing a quotepad and his rankings.
  • Eleven positions remain up for grabs on Texas' depth chart, heading into Saturday's game against Florida Atlantic.
  • Kirk Bohls of the Austin American Statesman writes of Texas' new slogan worn on their orange wristbands: "Consistently good to be great."
  • Depth at tailback could produce Texas A&M's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2003, according to Randy Riggs of the Austin American-Statesman.
  • Freshman WR Jeff Fuller is listed as a starter for Texas A&M's opener. And QB Stephen McGee told the San Antonio Express-News that backup QBs Jerrod Johnson and Ryan Tannehill are "two of our four top guys" at receiver.
  • Texas Tech CB Darcel McBath is determined that Eastern Washington won't sneak up on his team on Saturday night - particularly as Coach Mike Leach has repeatedly talked about Michigan's upset losos to Appalachian State last season. "I definitely don't want to make Sports Center for that," McBath told the Lubbock Avalanche-ournal. "We can't let that happen."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Start your clocks. We're two weeks away. Before the scrimmages get going around the league, check out these links:

  • Bad news for Illinois as wide receiver Jeff Cumberland, a projected starter, will miss two to four weeks with a foot injury. The Illini could have used Cumberland's size against Missouri in the season opener. The (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen has a revised preseason depth chart with Chris Duvalt moving into Cumberland's spot with the first-team offense.
  • Indiana tight end Max Dedmond models himself after Dallas Clark and even gets called "Dallas" in practice, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star. Also, no word yet on whether Florida transfer Jerimy Finch will be allowed to play this season. 
  • Iowa's offensive linemen hate the number 46 -- last season's sacks allowed total -- and vow to change things this fall, Susan Harman writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. There's also a nice personnel breakdown of the line. The sexual assault trial involving two former Iowa players appears headed for a delay.
  • Missed this from a few days ago, but The Ann Arbor News' Jim Carty answers some Michigan questions. He thinks four players, including running back Carlos Brown, will take snaps this fall.
  • Free safety has become a position of concern at Michigan State. Roderick Jenrette, a projected starter alongside Otis Wiley, has been asked to take an indefinite absence from the team to address a personal matter. Also, Spartans sophomore Enrique Shaw has left the program voluntarily. Junior Dan Fortener could step in for Jenrette. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio is borrowing some baseball sayings to address his team's current position, John Lemon writes in the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald.
  • Minnesota has gone live (full tackling) more than most teams this preseason -- after last season, it needed to. Today's scrimmage will mark the end for a while, Kent Youngblood writes in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune.
  • Don't know how Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis would do in the 200-meter butterfly, but he bears a resemblance to that Phelps guy, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises writes in his blog. If you're going to Ohio State's open practice Monday, leave your cameras at home.
  • Penn State wideout Derrick Williams wants to end his career like he started it, with a trip to a BCS bowl.
  • Jaycen Taylor holds a slight edge over Kory Sheets right now, but if history is a guide, both Purdue running backs will play plenty, Tom Kubat writes in The (Lafayette, Ind.) Journal and Courier. Sheets first has to fix his fumbling problems.
  • Wisconsin might go with two kickers this season, but the Badgers definitely will use three running backs this season, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy returned to practice Friday after heading home following the death of his older brother.

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