NCF Nation: Nate Davis

I just got off the phone with Michigan coach Brady Hoke, whose enthusiasm for his new job hasn't diminished one bit in the past day.

It was great to reconnect with Hoke, whom I covered a bit in the MAC, and I'll post a two-part Q&A with him Friday.

But some things can't wait, and Hoke told me he expects star quarterback Denard Robinson to remain at Michigan for 2011 and beyond. Hoke met with Robinson both Wednesday and Thursday.

Asked if he expects Robinson to be with Michigan going forward, Hoke replied, "Yes. I don’t question that at all."

“We’ve had great conversations,” Hoke added. “I’m so impressed with him as a kid and his humility and his vision and his love for Michigan. So that’s been real positive. It’s just fun being around him. He wants a Michigan degree and he feels very good about Michigan.”

Needless to say, this is huge news for the Wolverines. Although I'd heard Robinson was likely to remain in Ann Arbor, it certainly carries more weight coming from Hoke.

The interesting question going forward is how Hoke and his staff will shape the offense around Robinson. They ran more of a pro-style offense at San Diego State but have used elements of the spread with former Ball State quarterback Nate Davis and others.

Al Borges, who has served as Hoke's offensive coordinator, is expected to join him at Michigan.

"Offensively, you never want to put a square peg in a round hole," Hoke said. "We understand that when you have playmakers, you've got to be able to utilize them to their fullest so that they're going to help your football team. With Denard, his capabilities, obviously he's a tremendous athlete that can do a lot of things for you on offense.

"He'll be the lead part of that offense."
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

The draft is over and the stories on the various non-BCS picks are rolling in. I've linked a few of them as well as a couple stories from spring practices and games that went on this weekend.

Only one team from my area is still involved in spring practice -- San Diego State. Most of my teams have moved ahead into the offseason and some much deserved down time (some deserve it more than others). Me? I never stop. College football has no offseason here.

• San Francisco Chronicle writer Bruce Jenkins blogs about whether quarterback Nate Davis is going to be a good prospect for the 49ers.

• David Climer of the Nashville Tennessean had a nice column about the lack of BCS bias in the NFL draft.

• Chadd Cripe of the Idaho Statesman writes that no Broncos were drafted for the first time in four years, but several ended up with free-agent contracts.

• Casper Star-Tribune reporter Austin Ward, who reports on all things Wyoming, had a couple of nice stories this weekend, including one on the receivers and the strides Wyoming has made during camp this spring.

• The offense took control of the Fresno State spring game, but the defense should catch up by the fall.

• Gary Fauber of the Register-Herald writes that Marshall might end up starting a true freshman quarterback.

• The Bowling Green offense struggled in its spring game under first-year head coach Dave Clawson.

• The San Diego State defense, which is learning a new system this spring, had 20 tackles for loss during an intrasquad scrimmage this weekend.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Jan. 6, 8 p.m., (ESPN)

Both Tulsa and Ball State were picked to win their respective conferences and both fell short. For Ball State, its loss to Buffalo in the MAC Championship Game cost the Cardinals a perfect season. Tulsa, which started the season 8-0, lost three of its final five games.

Now it's a matter of which team can rebound.

Both of these offenses are similar in the fact that both have potent passing games, can diversify with the running game and can score quickly. Both Tulsa quarterback David Johnson and Ball State quarterback Nate Davis rank in the top 15 in total offense and both teams rank in the top 11 in total offense.

So what's going to set these teams apart?

As both teams learned in their respective championships, defense and turnovers are the way to victory. Ball State has the slightly better of the two defenses -- allowing 347.92 yards per game as opposed to 391.15 yards per game by Tulsa -- and these teams have played similarly potent offenses. But Ball State has gained 23 turnovers as opposed to losing 15, and Tulsa has gained 22 as opposed to losing 30.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
 
 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
 Ball State quarterback Nate Davis' attempt to score a touchdown in the third quarter by taking to the air backfired. Buffalo's Mike Newton recovered Davis' fumble and went 92 yards for the score.

DETROIT -- Ball State started the season with one clear goal -- a MAC championship.

It wasn't about going undefeated or possibly being a BCS buster. Dreams like those weren't even a thought for a team that was coming into the year fresh off a 7-6 season, the first winning campaign since 1996.

So when Ball State fell 42-24 to Buffalo in the MAC championship game, it was hard to keep a record-breaking season in focus, since the one thing the team had concentrated on was now gone.

"We've got to start again, we've got to start over," Ball State coach Brady Hoke said. "It's going to hurt for a little bit, I'll promise you, but our kids will bounce back and be resilient and start over again and get ready for what's next."

Taking the Cardinals into the next phase will be quarterback Nate Davis, who announced after the game that he was coming back for his senior season. There had been speculation most of the year that Davis would leave early for the NFL since many believe he could be a first-round draft pick. But Davis was adamant about getting Ball State back to this position again next year.

"I will come back, there's no doubt about it," Davis said. "That's been the plan. I've never thought about coming out."

Davis' promise to return could have been fueled by the fact that he had one of the shakiest games of his career on Friday. Although he completed 31 of 48 passes for 351 yards and a touchdown, he also had two fumbles that were run back for touchdown, an interception late in the game, and he was part of a team fumble that was a result of a botched snap.

Davis said the flu-like symptoms he experienced earlier in the day had no bearing on his performance.

"I made some dumb decisions," Davis said.

The Cardinals will have to wait until Sunday to find out which bowl will be their winter destination. It will either be the Motor City Bowl or the GMAC Bowl. The International Bowl offered Buffalo a bid after the game.

Motor City Bowl representative Ken Hoffman said the loss did not hurt Ball State's chances of playing in Detroit, but that the opponent would determine Ball State's destination.

It's at least one final opportunity to end the season on a high note and continue to an amazing season even if its course was slightly altered.

"If you look at the season, it speaks for itself," defensive end Brandon Crawford said. "We came out, did what was asked of us week in and week out. We competed in 12 games straight and we got to this 13th game and we had a bad game. It doesn't take away from, as far as our minds, what we worked at and what we've been working for. We just fell short and we can't do that. We understand what happened tonight. We understand that they capitalized off the mistakes we made... It's very disheartening, but at the same time, I feel that we pushed this program a long way from where it has been."

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

DETROIT -- The perfect season is in some serious jeopardy.

Buffalo returned two fumbles for touchdowns to take a 28-17 lead into the fourth quarter. The two fumble recoveries for touchdowns ties an NCAA record set by USC in 2003.

And early it looked like Ball State was going to take a 10-point lead.

It started with James Starks fumbling his second ball of the game. Ball State took its drive to the 2-yard line before Ball State quarterback Nate Davis tried to do his best Sam Bradford flying-through-the-air-at-the-goal-line impression and fumbled the ball. It was picked up Mike Newton and run back 92 yards for a Buffalo touchdown.

On Ball State's next series, Ball State center Dan Gerberry snapped the ball before Davis was ready and it was picked up by cornerback Sherrod Lott and returned 74 yards.

All night there's been something off about Ball State, but it looked there was some semblance of rhythm early in the third quarter. That's gone now, and the Cardinals find themselves in unfamiliar territory, down 11 heading into the fourth quarter. The Cardinals have not faced a fourth-quarter deficit this large this season.

And Buffalo know how to close out game and play to close endings. Buffalo has played in four overtime games this season and is 3-1. It's played three games with point differentials of a field goal or less.

Ball State was in a tight fourth quarter game against Central Michigan and won late. Otherwise, it hasn't had much competition beyond the third quarter.

While I thinking about it, there have been a couple records set during this game:

  • Buffalo quarterback Drew Willy became the first Buffalo quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season. The threshold was broken on the second touchdown pass to Naaman Roosevelt.
  • Ball State running back MiQuale Lewis set the single-season rushing record when he hit 1,625 in the third quarter. He has over 100 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
  • Ball State receiver Briggs Orsbon has 11 catches, which is a new MAC Championship record.
Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

DETROIT -- A week ago, I thought Western Michigan would ruin Ball State's perfect season because of the diversity of the offense and strength of the defense. Obviously, that didn't happen. But as I've watched Buffalo through the first quarter of the MAC Championship, it is playing out the way I thought Western Michigan would a week ago.

The Bulls have been able to successfully move the ball on the ground and in the air and it has been efficient on defense. Nate Davis has had a lot of time to throw, but the coverage has been fantastic. Davis went deep once and he failed to connect.

A fumbled snap between Davis and center Dan Gerberry forced Ball State to turn the ball over at the Ball State 25, which resulted in the only score of the quarter -- a two-yard fade from Drew Willy to Naaman Roosevelt.

The touchdown was huge for Buffalo because the Bulls have proven to themselves that Ball State is not invincible. Had Ball State scored first, this might be a lopsided game.

The only problem for Buffalo has been two key false start penalties, including one on a third-and-9 situation that stopped a potential scoring drive.

Davis hasn't played poorly, but he hasn't been the Davis we've seen most of this season. If he was sick earlier I guess you could blame it on that or nerves, but he'll need to pick it up against an inspired Buffalo team.

The Cardinals started to play better toward the end of the quarter behind some tough and shifty running by tailback MiQuale Lewis and Cory Sykes.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

A few weeks ago, a coach, who was speaking on the condition of anonymity, was sitting in his office, talking with NFL scouts when the subject turned to Ball State quarterback Nate Davis.

 
 Joey Foley/Icon SMI
 Ball State quarterback Nate Davis could be a first-round pick in April.

The day before, the coach's team had become yet another victim of Davis' arm strength, elusiveness and accuracy, and suffered a blowout loss to the Cardinals. Five NFL scouts chatted about Davis that day and they all came to the same conclusion:

Nate Davis is a first-round pick.

The junior has not made a decision about whether he'll stay for his senior season or make the jump to the NFL, but with a weak senior class, Davis is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the draft and several scouts claim he might be the best overall depending on who else declares.

"I have him in the first or second round," said Todd McShay, director of college football scouting for Scouts Inc. "And part of it will have to do with what other quarterbacks come out, and this is all under the assumption that he does leave early... There's not a whole lot to dislike about Nate Davis, that's the thing. I think that his footwork could be a little better, which he can improve. He doesn't grip the laces. He uses gloves on both hands, which can be a little bit concerning to NFL teams.

"But the strengths far outweigh the weaknesses. He's a very good athlete. He's an accurate passer, and he can actually become a more accurate passer as he continues to improve his footwork. He throws well on the run. He has a very strong arm, he can make all the NFL throws and he's a gamer, too. He's performed well in the clutch, obviously a very good leader, and NFL teams are intrigued by his competitive nature."

So far this season, Davis is completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,822 yards, 24 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He's also rushed for 177 yards and three scores. He's helped Ball State to an 11-0 record, best in school history, heading into tonight's game against Western Michigan. The Cardinals are one game away from an undefeated regular season.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

After tonight, the argument that Ball State hasn't played anyone will no longer be valid.

The Cardinals square off against Central Michigan, the two-time defending Mid-American Conference champion and the team currently in first place with Ball State in the MAC West. The Chippewas are 8-2 this season including a 6-0 mark in MAC play.

But this game has more than just conference ramifications.

Ball State, at 10-0 this season, is hanging on to the slim hope for a BCS bowl. The Cardinals are ranked 17th in the most recent BCS standings behind four other non-BCS teams. They would need some losses by their non-BCS brethren to have a shot at a BCS bowl, but that won't matter if they don't get through the final two games on their schedule -- CMU and Western Michigan -- which are considered to be the toughest games of their season.

"This is a great football game between two great football teams, who have very good players on their teams, and it's going to be a lot of fun," Ball State coach Brady Hoke said, trying to downplay the importance of the game. "We've just got to go out there and play our best football, and execute, and have fun doing it."

Ball State has played just two teams with winning records this season -- Navy and Northern Illinois. The game against Navy was actually the closest the Cardinals have played, winning by a measly 12 points. Ball State has defeated its opponents by an average of 22 points this season.

But Central Michigan presents a different challenge. Not only do the Chippewas have the experience of being the frontrunner for the MAC title, but they've also owned the Cardinals in past seasons. Ball State has not beaten Central Michigan since 2003, but up until last year's 58-38 debacle, the Cardinals had not lost by more than 11 points, including a 1-point loss in 2004.

(Read full post)

Big Ten: What to watch in Week 4

September, 19, 2008
9/19/08
10:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Only eight games on the slate this week, but there's no shortage of subplots, especially on the defensive side.

Let's take a look:

1. Ringer vs. the world: Notre Dame will do all it can to stop Michigan State's Javon Ringer on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Ringer likely can expect to see eight or nine men in the box, as the Fighting Irish dare Brian Hoyer to beat them. The overloading still might not be enough, as Ringer has racked up 417 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games.

2. Pryor's coronation in Columbus: Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman will split snaps for Ohio State against Troy, but this game is a chance for the freshman to take control of the offense. If Pryor continues to show good poise and playmaking ability, he'll continue to be featured when the Buckeyes enter Big Ten play. Boeckman will get his opportunities as well, but with the top goal off the table for the Buckeyes, they have to look toward the future.

3. Iowa D takes on real McCoy: The Hawkeyes have already collected eight takeaways without allowing a touchdown this season, but they face their first major test in Pitt running back LeSean McCoy. Expect McCoy to run away from Iowa star tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul, which will put pressure on less proven players to step up.

4. Indiana on the defensive: I've already heard from several furious Hoosiers fans about my upset pick of Ball State against their unproven team. Let's see if an improved Hoosiers defense proves me a fool when it faces dynamic quarterback Nate Davis and FBS receiving leader Dante Love. There's no doubt Kellen Lewis will make plays for Indiana, but the team's fate, as usual, rests with the defense.

5. Northwestern chases history: Nonconference losses have been Northwestern's biggest bugaboo, even during the program's renaissance in the mid-1990s. The Wildcats can sweep their nonleague slate for the first time since 1963 by beating Ohio at home. It won't be easy, as the Bobcats are much better than their record indicates and athletic quarterback Boo Jackson spells trouble for an improved Northwestern defense.

6. Tiller gets record: Joe Tiller already should be Purdue's all-time winningest coach, but his team lost another winnable big game last Saturday against Oregon. Tiller sets the record this week as Curtis Painter and the Boilermakers pick apart a Central Michigan defense that looks overmatched against BCS foes. Dan LeFevour makes the game interesting for a while, but Purdue beats the Chippewas for the third straight time.

7. Gophers secondary tested: No one would mistake Minnesota's nonleague schedule for, say, Washington's, but the Gophers deserve a ton of credit if they go 4-0 after winning one game all of last season. Standing in their path is Florida Atlantic quarterback Rusty Smith, who will perform much better than he did in the rain last week in East Lansing. Minnesota's new-look secondary of Tramaine Brock, Traye Simmons, Marcus Sherels and Kyle Theret have shown good playmaking skills so far and need continued progress against the Owls.

8. Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen: Coach Kirk Ferentz seems to be telling Christensen, "Take the job already, will ya?" The junior gets a great chance to do so on the road against a desperate Pitt team already knocked off its preseason perch. Christensen steadied the offense in the clutch last week against Iowa State but will need to make more pressure plays against the Panthers.

9. Penn State's defensive line: Coach Joe Paterno admits his team hasn't faced any adversity so far this season, at least on the field. Temple quarterback Adam DiMichele should be a good challenge for Penn State's defensive linemen, who have held together nicely despite injuries, dismissals and suspensions. Paterno also should address the status of linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma after the game.

10. Michigan State safety Otis Wiley: Wiley once again looks like the guy who led the team in tackles (94) and pass breakups (10) as a sophomore in 2006. The Spartans need him at his peak against Notre Dame because of lingering personnel issues in the secondary. Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen will look to stretch the field with Golden Tate, and it's up to Wiley to limit the damage.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The briefing begins with an item I meant to post yesterday. My apologies.

An independent report showed that Iowa made mistakes in its investigation of an alleged sexual assault involving two former football players, but the school didn't attempt to cover up the incident. The report said head football coach Kirk Ferentz, athletic director Gary Barta and others adhered to school policies. Here are the findings and recommendations.

"The university's response to the alleged sexual assault was inadequate. While the substance of the response was not acceptable, there was no cover-up or attempted cover-up and no pressure to deal with it informally," lead investigator James Bryant said in his presentation.

It looks like Ferentz has dodged a bullet here, as the report showed he never instructed two football players to move back into the dorm room where the alleged incident occurred.

Getting back to the gridiron, here's what's going on around the league:

For one big game, when a team needs to be at a peak mental, emotional and physical state for a dogfight with an elite opponent, give me Urban Meyer or Pete Carroll. Week in and week out, when you want to make sure Minnesota doesn't jump up and bite you, give me Tressel.

Big Ten internal affairs

September, 17, 2008
9/17/08
11:20
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to take a look inside five Big Ten teams:

Indiana -- After two cakewalk victories, the Hoosiers face their first test of the season Saturday against Ball State and need a solid effort from their secondary, which might be without a big piece. Strong safety Austin Thomas is questionable for the game with a lower leg injury sustained last week at practice. Coach Bill Lynch said Thomas, the team's leading tackler last fall, won't practice much this week leading up to the game. If Thomas can't go, heralded Florida transfer Jerimy Finch would get the nod. The matchup with Nate Davis and the Cardinals would give the Hoosiers a great chance to evaluate Finch, considered arguably the nation's best safety coming out of high school.

Iowa -- The Hawkeyes still don't have a definitive starting quarterback, but coach Kirk Ferentz reiterates that the situation under center looks much more stable than it did a year ago because the team boasts two players (Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi) capable of running the offense. Stanzi started the last two games, but Ferentz is leaning toward Christensen for Saturday's game at Pitt (ESPN2, noon ET). Throughout the competition Ferentz has given Christensen every chance to cement himself as the starter. If the junior steps up against the Panthers, Iowa could finally decide to stick with him.

Minnesota -- There could be some shuffling on the offensive line after tackle Dom Alford sprained his ankle last week. Coach Tim Brewster is holding out hope Alford can return Saturday against Florida Atlantic, but junior Ryan Ruckdashel or backup right tackle Jason Meinke likely will get the nod. Redshirt freshman Trey Davis will start at center, but Brewster thinks there's a chance Jeff Tow-Arnett can return from a knee injury. Ned Tavale should return after an ankle injury and is expected to share time with Chris Bunders at right guard.

Ohio State -- Freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor will continue to see increased playing time Saturday against Troy and could split snaps 50-50 with senior Todd Boeckman for the second straight game. Pryor impressed coach Jim Tressel with the way he handled the spotlight last week against USC and made no major mistakes, while Boeckman threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Tressel won't name a starter until later in the week. Though the coach is usually partial to seniors, he doesn't tolerate turnovers and admits he's surprised at how quickly Pryor has grasped the system after getting far fewer reps than Boeckman during the preseason.

Penn State -- A rapidly evaporating group of defensive linemen forced Joe Paterno to move Mike Lucian from offensive guard to defensive tackle last week against Syracuse. The switch might have backfired as Lucian sustained an ankle injury, but Paterno expects the senior to be ready for Saturday's game against Temple. Paterno remains "very concerned" about the depth on the defensive line, and more moves could be on the way if Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma remain suspended. The Lions can't afford injuries to reserve tackles Tom McEowen and Chima Okoli.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

Johnson's legacy: Ian Johnson is hoping to leave some sort of mark on the Boise State program when Saturday's game against No. 17 Oregon is all said and done. Johnson said he wants Boise State to be known for more than its 13-0 campaign and Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma in 2006. The Broncos have never beaten a BCS team in a true road game, and Johnson, a senior, said he doesn't want to leave Boise with thoughts of what he could have done.

East Carolina better than Alabama?: Tulane coach Bob Toledo didn't hesitate to call East Carolina a better team than Alabama, the Green Wave's season opening opponent. Toledo justified his assertion by saying that East Carolina is a more seasoned team that Alabama, which is playing with a lot of younger players.

"In my mind they're better than Alabama," Toledo said. "These guys are an experienced football team. They're very physical and they're very athletic... There's such a fine line between a major team and a mid-major team. I just think there's much more parity in college football and I see it on the film."

UNLV moves forward: UNLV running back Frank Summers said that after Monday he was done talking about the Rebels' upset win over No. 15 Arizona State even though he admitted that the thought of the win was something he's having a hard time getting over. He said he had 25 voice mails and text messages following the game and he saved all of them to commemorate the moment. But after Tuesday, Summers said, the messages would be gone and he's be focused on beating Iowa State, a team that's never won a road game under head coach Gene Chizik.

Ball State not there yet: Despite the 3-0 record, Ball State quarterback Nate Davis isn't ready to give his team the Mid-American Conference crown. He said his team didn't play well against Akron and still has a long way to go if it wants to compete against the likes of Central and Western Michigan. The Cardinals are 3-0 for the first time since 1988, but that season Ball State started strong and went on to lose two of its last three.

Navy in reverse: Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo will spend this week trying to figure out how his high-power rushing offense came to a screeching halt in the second half against Duke last Saturday. The Midshipmen had 130 total yards and three first downs in the second half and the bulk of that came on a 68-yard touchdown pass. Niumatalolo said this weekend's game against Rutgers will be a must win for both programs.

"It's going to be a circle-the-wagons game for them. Just like it for us," he said. "We're both the same. Our backs are against the wall. We're in a very similar situation. It's going to be a dogfight."

Big Ten power rankings

September, 15, 2008
9/15/08
10:46
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The rankings didn't change much the first two weeks as Big Ten teams beat inferior opponents and avoided embarrassing losses. Week 3 provided opportunities to flourish or flop, and Big Ten teams certainly did both.

Both Ohio State and Wisconsin headed to California with something to prove, and only the Badgers reached their goal. They get rewarded in the rankings, while the Buckeyes pay the price for a miserable performance.

1. Wisconsin -- This team had the guts to play Fresno State on the road and emerged with a hard-fought win that drew national attention. Despite some early health questions, Wisconsin has established itself as a legitimate top 10 squad that likely gets over the BCS hump if it holds serve at home against Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois.

2. Penn State -- The Lions have a gripe to be ranked higher in the polls, but they get their due here. Sure, the competition has been shoddy, but Penn State has won its three games by an average of 43 points and is the only FBS team averaging more than 260 rushing yards and 270 passing yards a game. We'll get a better read on this team soon, but the early returns look good.

3. Ohio State -- The Buckeyes still might be the Big Ten's best team, but they haven't shown it so far. A respectable effort without Chris "Beanie" Wells against USC would have kept Ohio State ahead of Penn State, but getting outclassed in every area merits a drop. A senior-laden Buckeyes team has more questions than anyone could have imagined at this early juncture.

4. Illinois -- Consistency continues to elude the Illini, who are struggling to get strong efforts on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Juice Williams struggled Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette after two stellar games, but the defense came up big to erase some earlier problems. A bye week probably comes at a decent time for Illinois, which must regroup before visiting Penn State.

5. Michigan State -- A downpour couldn't stop the Spartans, who finally got the defensive performance they had been looking for against Florida Atlantic. The soggy conditions put a asterisk next to Saturday's shutout, but Michigan State has rebounded well from its opening loss, thanks in large part to running back Javon Ringer. A win this week against Notre Dame would push the Spartans higher in the rankings.

6. Iowa -- Coach Kirk Ferentz is still looking for a quarterback, but he has found a strong defense that could take Iowa a long way this fall. The Hawkeyes have allowed just two field goals in three games -- Iowa State also scored on a safety on Saturday -- and six different defenders already have interceptions. A road game at Pitt provides a good barometer for this team.

7. Northwestern -- The program scored a coup by landing veteran defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, who has made an immediate impact. A usually porous defense has led the way in all three Wildcats victories. Northwestern will need more polished play from quarterback C.J. Bacher and the offense in the coming weeks, but the defense doesn't seem to be a major detriment any longer.

8. Indiana -- No movement for the Hoosiers after a bye, but the mystery about this team ends in six days against Ball State. Indiana has played easily the league's weakest schedule and looked great, but it's impossible to get a read until Nate Davis and a high-powered Cardinals offense come to Bloomington.

9. Michigan -- Getting to a bowl game could be a chore for Michigan, which was a total mess in a potential swing game at Notre Dame. Instead of limiting mistakes and letting a veteran defense lead the way, the Wolverines had seven fumbles (four lost) and two interceptions against the Irish. Freshman Sam McGuffie was a bright spot, but the execution needs to improve on both sides before Wisconsin visits the Big House on Sept. 27.

10. Purdue -- The Boilermakers would have made a major move had they finished off Oregon, but I have a hard time rewarding a moral victory for a team that has had way too many of them. The Ducks appeared to give this game away numerous times and Purdue's defense showed signs of marked improvement, but the Boilers fell short in another big game. Fortunately, they get several more chances for redemption.

11. Minnesota -- A 3-0 start nearly gets the Gophers out of the cellar, but I need to see more this week against Florida Atlantic. Minnesota needed two and a half quarters to pull away from Montana State on Saturday, though DeLeon Eskridge might have established himself as the team's featured back. A strong defensive performance against the Owls should answer some lingering questions.

Big Ten power rankings

September, 8, 2008
9/08/08
10:07
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Every Big Ten team won in Week 2, but some made it look easier than others. Ohio State retains the top spot, but the Buckeyes certainly appeared beatable against Ohio. Penn State and Minnesota posted big wins, and Wisconsin turned a poor start into a blowout. It's tough to get a great read on Iowa and Indiana because of weak competition, but both teams look solid on offense.

There's no dramatic moves in the rundown -- those should come next week -- and the bottom of the league has plenty of parity right now.

1. Ohio State -- The Buckeyes wasted an opportunity against Ohio and visit top-ranked USC with several questions, none bigger than the health of running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. Their defensive stars stepped up with several takeaways on Saturday -- a big plus -- but the unit struggled on third down.

2. Wisconsin -- If the Badgers want to keep this spot, they better avoid a slow start on the road against Fresno State. The offense showed its explosiveness by scoring 51 unanswered points against Marshall, but health and red-zone execution remain concerns.

3. Penn State -- You don't want to face the Nittany Lions offense right now. Stocked with playmakers, Penn State ran all over Oregon State and showed tremendous focus despite the suspensions of three players last week. The Lions should be 6-0 when they head to Madison, Wis., on Oct. 11.

4. Illinois -- Juice Williams continues to put up monster numbers, setting a career best with 174 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Eastern Illinois. There were still some signs of bad Juice (2 INTs, fumble) and Illinois' run defense remains spotty, but the Illini hold their spot.

5. Michigan State -- The Spartans took care of business against poor competition, and Javon Ringer no longer has to share touchdown opportunities with another back. Plus, Michigan State's 7-point loss to Cal looks better after the Golden Bears stomped Washington State.

6. Iowa -- The Hawkeyes might have found a starting quarterback in Ricky Stanzi, and Shonn Greene has energized what looked like a shaky run game. Plus, the defense has allowed three points in its first two games.

7. Michigan -- Rich Rodriguez picked up his first win as Wolverines coach, but not without some tense moments. Led by a strong front four, the defense will keep Michigan in games this fall, but the quarterback play has to improve soon.

8. Indiana -- Quarterback Kellen Lewis continues to look good and finally got some help from his running backs against Murray State. The defense has been solid against terrible competition. They'll face a much tougher test from Nate Davis and Ball State in two weeks.

9. Northwestern -- The Wildcats drop two spots after they should have dropped a game to Duke on Saturday night. Their quest for a perfect nonconference record remains intact, but quarterback C.J. Bacher and a senior-laden offense need to get on track in a hurry.

10. Purdue -- It's hard to fault the Boilers for a 32-point win, but Northern Colorado rivals Coastal Carolina for the weakest Big Ten opponent this season. Things get much tougher for Purdue this week against Oregon, but Joe Tiller's squad has a chance to make a big move up the list.

11. Minnesota -- I'm tempted to bump up the Gophers after an impressive road win against Bowling Green, but none of their Big Ten brethren stumbled this week. Quarterback Adam Weber is on track for a huge season, though the defense still needs to prove itself in league play.

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson

 
 Andy Lyons/Getty Images
 Dan LeFevour had a QB rating of 133.5 for the Chippewas last year.

It's been 17 seasons since a non-BCS player has won the Heisman Trophy. In 1990, BYU junior quarterback Ty Detmer bested Notre Dame's Raghib Ismail and Colorado's Eric Bienemy, among others.  

Could it happen again this year?

The competition is tough, but here are my Top 5 non-BCS candidates worth tracking over the next several months.

1. Dan LeFevour, QB, Central Michigan -- LeFevour was the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2006 and the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2007. The junior is the second quarterback in Division I FBS history to pass for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a single season.

2. Eugene Jarvis, RB, Kent State -- Jarvis is the best running back no one is talking about. He is the nation's top returning rusher, averaging 139 yards per game and 6.0 yards per carry as a sophomore. He one of the nation's smallest backs at 5-foot-5, 170 pounds.

3. Max Hall, QB, BYU -- Hall is already considered a Heisman contender after becoming the nation's top-ranked sophomore quarterback last season by passing for 3,848 yards over 13 games. He led the MWC with an average of 297.1 yards of total offense per game. He also had a league-high 26 touchdown passes on the season.

4. Chase Holbrook, QB, New Mexico St. -- Holbrook suffered a rib injury midseason which contributed to his passing yards dropping by nearly 1,000 from his sophomore to junior seasons. When healthy, he has the ability to repeat his 4,619 yard (70 percent completion rate) sophomore campaign. Holbrook has never completed fewer than 70 percent of his passes in any season.

5. Jarett Dillard, WR, Rice -- Dillard comes into this season as the active NCAA leader in receptions (205), receiving yardage (2,828) and touchdown receptions (40). His 40 touchdowns ranks eighth all-time in NCAA history. His numbers were down last year because of double coverage but still led all C-USA receivers with 14 TDs.

The darkhorses

1. Ian Johnson, RB, Boise State -- Led the nation in scoring and touchdowns in 2006 and was on his way to a repeat performance before a bruised kidney sidelined him for two games. He finished with 1,030 yards and 16 touchdowns on 203 carries.

2. Nate Davis, QB, Ball St. -- Davis led the MAC in passing efficiency while compiling a league-leading 3,667 yards and 30 touchdowns. He had a five games 300-plus passing yard games last season.

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