NCF Nation: Vincent Smith

CHICAGO -- After fielding questions about the NCAA's new targeting policy for two hours, Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo nearly escaped the interview area Thursday morning when a former Ohio State safety tracked him down.

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini shook Carollo's hand and joked that he, too, was tired of talking about targeting. Pelini remains a bit peeved about the targeting penalty called on Huskers receiver Kenny Bell in last year's Big Ten championship game.

[+] EnlargeBill Carollo
Reid Compton/USA TODAY SportsBig Ten coordinator of officials Bill Carollo on the NCAA's targeting policy: "It's a severe penalty, but I don't think it's too harsh."
All this targeting talk isn't a bad thing. It's a topic that merits attention from now until the start of the 2013 season, mainly because of the new consequences when a defenseless player is targeted above the shoulders.

Starting this season, players guilty of the foul will be ejected from games. On-field officials and replay officials must both agree before a player is disqualified.

"They might want to be on 'SportsCenter' for a big hit, but you're not going to be on 'SportsCenter' when you're sitting in the locker room," Carollo told ESPN.com. "As long as that consistent message gets to the players through the coaches, I don't think the game is going to change a whole lot."

The ejection penalty, spurred by the increasing focus on head injuries in football, is a game-changer of sorts. While the targeting rule itself doesn't change entering the season, it will be a focal point when training camps kick off next month.

It was a major topic of discussion this week at Big Ten media days.

Here's a sampling of comments:

  • Nebraska's Pelini: "I don’t think it’s an easy thing to call. And in my opinion it’s going a little bit overboard right now. And some things I’ve seen on TV and different examples that they’ve shown, you know, like even as a coach watching it on TV, I haven’t quite agreed with some of the things they’ve talked about. But I understand where it’s coming from. It’s about the safety of the players, and we're all for that. We just have to make sure that we’re not messing with the integrity of the game or the sport and how it’s supposed to be played."
  • Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman: "Me being [6-foot-6] and going full speed at a running back who's like 5-7, that's hard. And you have to understand that. I'm not trying to go head-to-head with somebody. But I feel like I have to fix my game a little bit. It's a new rule for our safety, so I can't hate on it. But it's kind of difficult when you're 6-6 and you go out at a running back or a quarterback. If I knock off somebody's helmet, now I'm going to get ejected? That's crazy."
  • Indiana safety Greg Heban: "If that's the decision they're going to make, then that's what they're going to make. It's going to be something kind of different for us, and we have to realize when we go to hit, we have to kind of think about what we're going to hit instead of just attacking."

Carollo met with the Big Ten coaches in February and showed them about a dozen potential targeting fouls from the 2012 season. He also told them the NCAA playing rules oversight panel likely would approve ejections for the most egregious offenders. Carollo spent the spring and early summer educating his officials on the rule.

The focus now turns to players as the season approaches.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," Carollo said. "We have a plan in place that we'll get to every team, whether it's myself or a head referee or senior official. The same information that we gave our officials, the same message is going to the coaching staffs, and if there's a need, we'll take it to the players ourselves and spend a couple hours showing plays."

Michigan State All-Big Ten linebacker Max Bullough said the Spartans' defense hasn't discussed the targeting policies yet as a group. He didn't know much about the increased penalties until he came to media days.

"It's not something you do on purpose," Bullough said. "If something like that happens, it's an accident, anyway, so there's nothing you can do about it. Whether they penalize you or eject you, there's nothing different you can do. It happens so fast. The rules they make are a little bit ridiculous.

"What, are you just going to stop and think? What are you going to do when a running back puts his head down? It's just too hard."

When informed of Bullough's concerns, Carollo acknowledged that it's difficult to change course or angle at full speed.

"I'm not asking you to adjust in midair," he said. "I'm asking you to adjust in June, July, August. I'm not asking you to change the way you teach players how to make tackles. I'm asking them, don't launch and lead with your head, keep your head up, move it to the side, wrap up with your arms, put a shoulder into [the opponent's] chest, hit 'em as hard as you want, but don't hit them in the head."

The much-publicized Jadeveon Clowney hit against Michigan's Vincent Smith in the 2013 Outback Bowl, while vicious, was a legal play because Clowney didn't target Smith's head, Carollo said.

Although the coaches aren't in total agreement about the rule and its heavy consequences -- Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald this week proposed a soccer-style approach with a warning (yellow card) for the first offense and an ejection (red card) for the second -- they all want to protect players. But Carollo thinks the number of targeting fouls will drop "once they start losing players."

"The good coaches will get out ahead of it," he said. "Some coaches that don't totally buy into it, if [their players] don't make changes, that's fine, but they're subject to greater risk of not playing. It might take a year. It might take our officials another year to really perfect this call.

"It's a severe penalty, but I don't think it's too harsh. The intent was to make it immediate, and raise the stakes a little bit to get attention and change players' behavior."
CHICAGO -- Jadeveon Clowney's hit on Michigan running back Vincent Smith in January’s Outback Bowl is still receiving a ton of attention. The reasoning, though, is now due to its legality.

With the NCAA focusing on potential ejection for targeting -- described as a player who “target(s) and contact(s) defenseless players above the shoulders” -- one of the premier hits of last season is now back in focus.

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney and Vincent Smith
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsJadeveon Clowney's hit on Vincent Smith in last season's Outback Bowl could be deemed illegal in the 2013 season.
Smith told ESPN.com earlier this year he had no problem with the hit. On Wednesday, neither did Hoke, who said he did not feel it was a dirty play.

“No. And I’m a defensive coach,” Hoke said. “A guy makes a great play and a great move and Smitty hopped right back up. So it didn’t look that way to me.”

He and other Big Ten coaches, though, have some concerns about the targeting rules and the subjectiveness of what could be labeled as targeting, leading to ejections.

Both Hoke and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz mentioned the potential of replay being used to determine ejections -- think something like what college basketball does with flagrant elbows to the head -- to make sure calls are correct.

The issue, though, is a serious one for coaches.

“The targeting issue is obviously something we have to do a great job of saving the game of football, to be honest with you,” Hoke said. “There’s some real vicious hits that have been taken and delivered.

“It’s one of those issues where replay is probably going to need to be involved. I’d hate to see a young man get alleged for targeting and he didn’t and the consequences of what happens to his season.”

Most of the league’s coaches who were asked about targeting said they stressed it during spring football as a means of educating players on what they can and cannot do. Hoke said it won’t change, though, how he teaches tackling.

However, with things happening at high speeds on the field, some of these types of hits are inevitable, which leads to the concern from coaches.

“It’s going to be pretty subjective,” Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said. “And I don’t think it’s an easy thing to call. And in my opinion it’s going a little bit overboard right now. And some things I’ve seen on TV and different examples that they’ve shown, you know, like even as a coach watching it on TV, I haven’t quite agreed with some of the things they’ve talked about.

“But I understand where it’s coming from. It’s about the safety of the players, and we’re all for that. We just have to make sure that we’re not messing with the integrity of the game or the sport and how it’s supposed to be played.”

Whether it is or not will start to show up in a month.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The video has been making the rounds for much of the offseason, garnering more than 12,000 views since it was first uploaded in January.

If hype and preseason projections hold to form, it may feature a future Heisman Trophy winner. If Everett Golson develops into the kind of quarterback he hopes to become, it may eventually feature two Heisman winners.

The first play of the South Carolina High School League AAA title game, as CSNChicago's JJ Stankevitz notes, offered a familiar sight: Jadeveon Clowney obliterating everything in its path en route to the quarterback.

The quarterback remembered getting tossed on the sack -- "like it was yesterday," Golson joked -- but he also remembered the night for something else. His Myrtle Beach team beat Clowney's South Pointe squad, 27-23.

Clowney, a rising junior at South Carolina, is among the early spring favorites to lift college football's most coveted individual hardware in 2013, especially after he capped his 2012 campaign with a hit like this one on Michigan's Vincent Smith.

Golson is quietly rooting for the fellow South Carolina native to become the first pure defensive player to win the Heisman. Golson's former teammate, linebacker Manti Te'o, came as close as any pure defender ever in 2012. But there is a caveat.

"I hope he does, but at the same time, I think I'm pushing for the same thing," Golson said. "I know it's maybe a goal some may say is a little bit far-fetched, but I want to be the best competitor I can be. So I want to see him do great, but I also want to be there at the same time."

Starting at the glamor position of quarterback -- at Notre Dame, no less -- one year after taking his team to the final game of the college football season gives Golson a built-in advantage. A year of ups and downs at the highest level, plus the ever-so-slight comfort of knowing the No. 1 job is his to lose, also gives Golson more confidence heading into his redshirt sophomore season. He is better prepared for this year after admitting to being a bit overwhelmed by the media attention.

"I think I came in and it was probably like six [reporters]," he said of last year's spring game, which served as his first breakout public performance. "I was like, 'All right, it's cool.' And next thing I know, I look up and it's like 20, 30 people. I'm like, 'Whoa.' So I'm trying to watch my words more carefully and stuff like that."

He is hoping his plan heading into the 2013 season goes a little bit better than his team's did entering that 2010 title game in South Carolina, end result notwithstanding.

"Oh man," he said laughing. "Let's just say what we planned to happen didn't happen at all. It was the complete opposite. I guess we had a great plan, scheme-wise. We thought it was a good plan. We were basically cracking back on Jadaveon so we would block him with our tackle and our tight end was actually detached and he would crack back as soon as the ball was snapped.

"But I remember we snapped the ball and he just gets off the line and I don't think my tight end gets to him. So I'm like, 'Awww man.' I know he's coming, so like I'm trying to get out but he's a great athlete and it wasn't really combat from me, I guess. I couldn't do anything. I was at a loss so I just kind of took that one."
Big Ten officials ejected only one player (Illinois safety Earnest Thomas against Penn State) for a helmet-to-helmet hit during the 2012 season.

If the new NCAA rules for targeting had been in place, that number would have swelled to seven or eight, according to Big Ten coordinator of football officials Bill Carollo. The NCAA's playing rules oversight panel on Thursday approved a new rule that requires the ejection of players flagged for targeting or contacting defenseless opponents above the shoulders. The current targeting penalty includes only a 15-yard penalty. The new policy, which goes into effect for the 2013 season, requires the penalty plus an ejection.

[+] EnlargeEarnest Thomas and Matt Lehman
Bradley Leeb/USA TODAY Sports Under new NCAA rules, ejections for targeting a defenseless opponent above the shoulders -- Illinois' Earnest Thomas was the only Big Ten player ejected for that last season -- could become more common.
The ejection for targeting mirrors the one for fighting. Players who commit the foul in the first half miss the remainder of the game, while those who commit the foul in the second half miss the remainder of the game and the first half of the next contest.

"It's a very serious penalty," Carollo told ESPN.com on Thursday. "It's a big change. However, I think it will be a big positive point for the game. When we look back in 3-5 years, I think we're going to say this is a really big moment."

Player safety has become an increasingly bigger point of emphasis for officials in recent years, especially with increased education about the effects of concussions. The Big Ten has led the charge nationally, and while the number of unnecessary roughness penalties in the league has remained about the same, Carollo has seen a slight decrease in helmet-to-helmet targeting fouls.

The hope is that the numbers continue to drop because of the new, stricter policy.

"The impact is not that we're going to throw out a lot of guys," Carollo said. "The impact is we're going to have a lot of coaches and a lot of players adjusting to the rules. It may take a little bit of time, a few months of practice and a few weeks in August, and maybe even a couple games, but I think we'll get some positive results.

"The impact will be positive from the standpoint that players will continue to work hard to lower the target zone and to take the head out of the game."

Carollo and others in his position will spend the coming months working with officials to define targeting as clearly as possible. It can be a tedious process, as there can be helmet-to-helmet contact without obvious targeting, while intent "has nothing to do with it," Carollo said.

Officials will make mistakes -- Carollo has told Big Ten coaches that one out of every 10 high hits called on the field technically was a legal hit -- but their consistency on the field must be as strong as possible. They also have a safety net of sorts in the replay booth. The replay official will review every on-field targeting penalty that carries an ejection and will rule whether the ejection should be upheld.

"Now we're asking replay to get a little bit involved more in the judgment call," Carollo said. "They do [currently] have some judgment, a few rules where they can create penalties, but the replay person in the booth is not the eighth official. The game is being officiated by the seven men or women on the field.

"Now he'll buzz down once it’s targeting, and he'll confirm that hit. ... The targeting calls are going to stand unless there's indisputable video evidence that shows it's nowhere near above the shoulders."

Carollo supports the use of replay in these instances but doesn't want to "make a 5-minute production out of it." The onus remains with the on-field officials.

Carollo also expects to review targeting ejections -- submitted to him by coaches after games -- along with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, and, in some cases, reduce the penalty impacting the following contest.

Not surprisingly, Carollo received some "good rebuttals" from "defensive-minded" Big Ten coaches about the proposed change at their annual meeting last month. He told them the policy change was inevitable and showed them plays that may or may not be targeting, including a block by Nebraska receiver Kenny Bell against Wisconsin cornerback Devin Smith in the 2012 Big Ten championship.

Bell was flagged for a personal foul, negating a touchdown. Carollo thinks the hit merited a penalty, but not an ejection for targeting the head.

The coaches also reviewed the now-famous hit against Michigan's Vincent Smith by South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney in the Outback Bowl, which didn't draw a penalty.

"The tackler had his helmet up," Carollo said. "It was helmet-to-helmet, but it wasn't targeting. The helmets kissed, if you will, with the helmet up like that. The helmet came, the ball popped out, all at the same time. It looked vicious because [Smith's] helmet popped off, but technically, it was probably a legal play. That's in the gray area where it's close."

Carollo doesn't expect football to stop becoming fast and violent and noted that many "really vicious" hits are completely legal. But officials are going to err on the side of player safety whenever a blow to the head is involved.

The it's-just-football excuse no longer flies.

"It may be 'just football' for the last 50 years," Carollo said. "But going forward, we're trying to get that play out of the game."

In addition to another revision of the rules on low blocks, the rules committee also approved a rule requiring at least three seconds to remain on the clock in order to spike the ball to stop the clock at the end of halves. Carollo said the change stems from the 2012 Rose Bowl, where Wisconsin's Russell Wilson attempted to spike the ball for one more play with two seconds left, but the clock ran out.
video
Other than Katherine Webb, Johnny Manziel and, of course, Jadeveon Clowney, no person logged more airtime during college bowl season than Michigan running back Vincent Smith.

Unfortunately for Smith, his 15 minutes consisted of one play being showed on a loop with the same ending -- Smith's winged helmet flying off of his head. Midway through the fourth quarter of Michigan's highly entertaining Outback Bowl matchup with South Carolina, Clowney, the Gamecocks' star defensive end, burst through the line and dislodged Smith's helmet from his head and the football from Smith's hands. Clowney, by the way, checks in at 6-foot-6 and 256 pounds, a foot taller and 81 pounds heavier than Smith.

It was undoubtedly the top play of the bowl season, one that illustrated Clowney's superlative skills and put the South Carolina star on the radar for the 2013 Heisman Trophy. Get ready to see the play a ton in the buildup to the 2013 season and in the buildup to the 2014 NFL draft, where Clowney is already being pegged as the No. 1 overall pick.

Smith, to his credit, is taking his brush with fame very much in stride. Colleague Michael Rothstein of Wolverine Nation caught up with the Michigan running back to discuss the play.
Smith joked on the sidelines with his teammates the hit would likely be on ESPN later that day -- it was -- and after the game he received text messages asking how he was doing.

The answer? It might not have looked pretty, but Vincent Smith is doing just fine.

"You've got to get it out of your head because I'm going to bounce back and turn it into a positive," Smith said. "I was joking about it after on the sidelines. I was like, 'Yeah, he got me.'

"I saw it later on ESPN and yeah, he got me."

Smith also breaks down the play: how a change in blocking scheme gave Clowney a clear path to the backfield, how Smith recognized South Carolina's blitz before the play, and how Michigan's fullback chose to block a cornerback in the path of the run play rather than Clowney.
Smith figured he was going to be hit in the backfield and would have to break a tackle, either from the corner or someone up the middle. He didn't anticipate everything falling apart as it did just as quarterback Devin Gardner tried to give him the ball.

"I saw it coming and I couldn't do anything about it," Smith said.

The good news is that Smith didn't suffer any serious injuries and can talk and joke about the play now. No one can question the toughness of the 5-6, 175-pound Wolverine after a hit like that.
As we continue to put a bow on the Big Ten's bowl season, here are some superlatives from the league's seven postseason contests:

Best game: I picked the Outback Bowl as my favorite matchup before the postseason began, and Michigan and South Carolina showed why. The game featured all kinds of big plays and four lead changes in the final 15:02. The Gamecocks won 33-28 thanks to a 32-yard pass from their backup quarterback with 11 seconds to go. And Jadeveon Clowney made the play of bowl season with his thundering hit on Vincent Smith and one-handed grab of the loose ball.

Worst game: Purdue insisted it would be ready to surprise Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Instead, the only surprise was just how badly the Boilermakers played. They fell behind 45-0 before eventually losing 58-14, turning the ball over five times and allowing 524 yards. It was the largest margin of defeat in any bowl game.

Best moment: They should have called it the Curseslayer.com Gator Bowl. Seeing Northwestern break its 63-year bowl drought was emotional for its fans, players and head coach Pat Fitzgerald. "This was the one last negative we needed to erase," Fitzgerald said on the field after his Wildcats defeated Mississippi State in Jacksonville.

[+] EnlargeJadeveon Clowney
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsMichigan, South Carolina and especially Jadeveon Clowney put on a show in the Outback Bowl.
Best finish: Michigan State spent most of the season coming up short at the end of close games. So it was good to see the Spartans reverse that against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Backup quarterback Connor Cook drove the team down the field for Dan Conroy's game-winning 47-yard field goal with 1:01 left, a nice redemption for Conroy's shaky season. And the defense held on in the final seconds to preserve the 17-16 victory.

Worst finish: Minnesota led Texas Tech 31-24 with a little more than 70 seconds left in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. But Seth Doege hit Eric Ward for a 35-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. The Gophers' Philip Nelson then threw an interception on a deep ball on third-and-7 from his own 33 that D.J. Johnson returned 41 yards. That set up the Red Raiders' winning field goal on the game's final play. Should Minnesota simply have played for overtime after Texas Tech's touchdown pass? Jerry Kill defended his aggressiveness. "We were in a two-minute offense and trying to win the game," Kill said. "We had a minute left on the clock, we were indoors, our kicker [Jordan Wettstein] has a chance to kick 50 yards and we were on the 35-yard line. We make two or three passes and kick a field goal and win the game."

Craziest sequence: The Capital One Bowl between Nebraska and Georgia provided plenty of points and entertainment value, especially during a wild first quarter. Midway through the quarter, the teams combined for three touchdowns on four plays from scrimmage (not counting PATs). After a Taylor Martinez touchdown strike to Jamal Turner, Nebraska's Will Compton picked off a second-down pass from Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and returned the ball 24 yards for a touchdown. Murray responded on the next Georgia play, finding Tavarres King for a 75-yard touchdown pass. The teams combined for 30 first-quarter points.

Best quarterback impersonation: As if Le'Veon Bell hadn't done enough for Michigan State this season, he completed a 29-yard pass from the Wildcat on third-and-2 in the third quarter to set up the Spartans' first score. He finished with more passing yards than starting quarterback Andrew Maxwell. That was enough for us to forgive his awful attempt at a throwback pass to Maxwell early in the game on a terrible-looking trick play.

Best running back impersonation: What position will Denard Robinson play in the NFL? Who knows? But we wouldn't bet against him at whatever he tries. In his final collegiate game, Robinson ran 23 times for 100 yards while lining up primarily at tailback. In doing so, he set the FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback, even though he technically didn't play the position in his final few games. No one ever said Robinson was conventional.

Best season microcosm: (Tie) Wisconsin and Nebraska. Sometimes, teams can reverse their tendencies in bowls after a month-long layoff. Not so much for the Badgers and Cornhuskers. Wisconsin showed that the Big Ten title game win was the aberration in their season, as their 20-14 Rose Bowl loss to Stanford was a near carbon-copy of their previous five defeats in 2012. The lack of a strong passing game and the inability to close out games once again cost them. It was a similar story for Nebraska, which showed the ability to score points and move the ball at will against a talented Georgia defense. But the Huskers' problems with ball security (three turnovers) and defensive lapses turned a 31-31 game into a 45-31 Capital One Bowl loss.

Strangest moment: Michigan gambled on a fake field goal on a fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter against South Carolina, and Floyd Simmons appeared to come up just short. The officials called for a measurement, and the ball was clearly short of the first down marker by a full chain length. Yet referee Jeff Maconaghy signaled first down for the Wolverines, sending Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier into a rage. "We felt like he was pointing the wrong way," Spurrier said later. "I asked if he meant that way. He wasn't going to change his mind." After one of the oddest calls we've ever seen, Clowney exacted his own form of justice with the hit of the year on Smith.

Goofiest moment: You knew Stanford's irreverent band wouldn't miss an opportunity to make a big splash at the Rose Bowl. At halftime, the Cardinal band presented an ode to cheese in deference -- or mockery -- of one of Wisconsin's chief products. The show was full of often painful cheese puns, with the band spelling out "Homage" on the field and then changing it to "Fromage," and a voice over the P.A. system saying things like "Leave us prov-alone." Wisconsin fans didn't like it very much and booed the performance. I thought it was pretty funny, or "punny" as the band spelled out at one point.

TAMPA, Fla. -- Quick thoughts after South Carolina's wild 33-28 victory over Michigan in the Outback Bowl:

It was over when: South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson found receiver Bruce Ellington wide open down the field with 11 seconds left, scoring a 32-yard touchdown. Michigan had scored with 3:29 left on a pass from Devin Gardner to Jeremy Gallon, all part of a fast-paced fourth quarter.

Game ball goes to: South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders. The 5-foot-8 wide receiver had a massive game, catching two touchdown passes and breaking a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown. Sanders had nine catches for 92 yards and accounted for three of the Gamecocks’ four touchdowns.

Stat of the game: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson finished his four-year career with 4,495 rushing yards, setting an NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback. He passed former West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who rushed for 4,480 yards. The two quarterbacks have always been linked because of the coach who recruited them both, Rich Rodriguez.

Turning point: With 8:15 left in the game, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney broke through the Michigan rush and hit Vincent Smith as he took the handoff, crushing Smith, sending his helmet flying and causing a fumble that Clowney recovered. On the next play, Gamecocks quarterback Connor Shaw threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Sanders that gave South Carolina a 27-22 lead.

Record performance: Jeremy Gallon had a career-high nine catches for 145 yards to go along with his two touchdowns. He was the only Michigan receiver with more than 27 yards and consistently made big plays and grabs. His first touchdown came in the back corner of the end zone and the second one, which gave the Wolverines a late lead, came on a slant in which he beat his defender inside.

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

September, 24, 2012
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Well, that wasn't a great week and it was a terrible nonconference season. Let's rewind Week 4 and then start looking forward to conference play.

Team of the week: Minnesota. The Golden Gophers are a golden 4-0 for the first time in four years. And while the team still has many strides to make, 4-0 is 4-0. A bowl game is not just a possibility now; it's a realistic option, especially if Minnesota continues to play defense like it did in a 17-10 win over Syracuse. The Gophers just need to win two Big Ten games to get to the postseason, and they might do even better than that.

Game of the week: It wasn't much fun for the majority of the crowd in Iowa City, but Central Michigan's 32-31 win over Iowa had the most drama of the day. The Chippewas scored nine points in the last 45 seconds, recovering an onside kick and making a 47-yard field goal with three seconds left to stun the Hawkeyes.

[+] EnlargeCentral Michigan
Denny Medley/US PresswireThe Chippewas scored nine points in the final 45 seconds to shock the Hawkeyes.
Biggest play: Let's go back to Kinnick Stadium for that onside kick. Central Michigan got two cracks at it, after the first, unsuccessful attempt was wiped out by a delay of game penalty. Then David Harman, just moments before he'd kick the game winner, bounced the ball off to his right. Iowa never touched it, and tight end Henry Krieger-Coble backed away from the ball. "We just looked very confused out there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said afterward. “That’s not a good thing." No, it's not. And after Iowa lost to Minnesota last year in part because of a failed onside kick recovery, you'd have thought the Hawkeyes would have been more ready.

Best call: Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees checked into a play at the line of scrimmage on third-and-4 with less than three minutes left. Turned out to be checkmate. Rees found Tyler Eifert for a 38-yard catch in one-on-one coverage, effectively letting the Irish run out the clock and keep the ball away from miracle-maker Denard Robinson in the 13-6 win. Brian Kelly's decision to sub Rees in after Everett Golson threw two early interceptions was also a great call. Worst call definitely goes to Michigan for somehow thinking diminutive halfback Vincent Smith throwing a halfback pass over the towering Irish front seven on the Notre Dame 10-yard line was a good idea. The entire complexion of that game could have changed if Michigan got points there instead of that interception.

Best blunt assessment: Urban Meyer, after his Ohio State team had another wobbly win, this time over UAB: "You've got to think about where this team was now. This is not a finely tuned machine right now, and it hasn't been for a while. We've got to develop a finely tuned machine. Obviously there's some growing pains and it's not as easy. I thought we'd be further ahead."

Big Man on Campus (offense): Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin has had a rocky career, but he might have turned in his finest effort on Saturday against Temple. The senior finished 24-of-36 for a career-high 318 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and he also had the Lions' first two rushing scores of the season in the 24-13 win. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell (36 rushes, 253 yards, one touchdown) also had a monster game, but he did it against the worst rushing defense in the nation.

Big Man on Campus (defense): How's this for dominant? Nebraska's Eric Martin had five tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks against Idaho State, and he didn't even play a full three quarters. In games against opponents with a pulse, Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland collected 12 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 2 sacks, plus two pass breakups, in the Badgers' 37-26 win over UTEP.

Big Man on Campus (special teams): Northwestern's Brandon Williams averaged 56.7 yards per punt, including a long of 61, in the Wildcats' 38-7 win over South Dakota. Two of his three punts were downed inside the 20. Special shoutout also to Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah, who had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Worst hangover: Ay, Ay, Ay for the two U. of I's. Iowa's loss brought about a long week of hand-wringing and sports talk show phone-ringing in Hawkeye nation. Already on Twitter after the game Saturday, many fans were complaining about Ferentz and his salary, as if they were responsible for footing the bill. At least the Hawkeyes almost won. Illinois got blasted on its own field by Louisiana Tech, 52-24. The Illini imploded in the second half, setting up two Bulldogs scores with turnovers and giving the ball away six times on the night. Illinois looked like a mystery team coming into the season; now the mystery is, just what are this team's strengths? Too bad Illinois and Iowa aren't playing each other. They both could use a winnable game.

Strangest moment: Michigan's final five pass attempts in the first half against Notre Dame were all intercepted. That, my friends, is hard to do. And it's a good way to sum up the Big Ten nonconference season.
Denard Robinson was the difference in the Michigan-Notre Dame classics in 2010 and 2011.

Robinson was again the key figure in the 2012 meeting, though not in a good way for the Wolverines. And the game was anything but a classic -- but Irish fans will gladly take the ugly 13-6 victory.

It was a bizarre game in South Bend that featured eight turnovers, including six of them by the losing team. Here's a quick look at how it went down.

It was over when: Tommy Rees found Tyler Eifert for a 38-yard gain on third-and-4 from the Notre Dame 31 with less than two-and-a-half minutes remaining. That play, coming against one-on-one coverage, allowed the Irish to run out the clock and keep Robinson from pulling off another miracle. It was Eifert's only catch of the game.


Game ball goes to: The Notre Dame defense. For the past two years, they were absolutely terrorized and traumatized by Robinson. This time, the Irish not only held Michigan out of the end zone, they forced Robinson to turn it over five times (four interceptions, one fumble). He had 228 total yards, and his longest run was only 20 yards. It was like a photo negative of Robinson's previous two performances in this series. The front seven got great pressure and stayed in its lanes, while Manti Te'o played an enormous game with two interceptions and two hurries that led to turnovers. That's why the Irish erased their nightmares from years past.

Stat of the game: Michigan had 299 total yards to only 239 for Notre Dame. But the minus-four in turnovers was too much to overcome.

How the game was won: Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly made the best move of the game when he lifted Everett Golson for Rees in the first half. Golson looked too skittish for this stage and had two bad interceptions. Rees settled down the offense and while he threw for only 115 yards, he was the only quarterback in the game who took care of the ball.

Second guessing: Michigan was driving the ball well in the first quarter and had the ball on the Notre Dame 10-yard line when offensive coordinator Al Borges got a little too tricky. He called for a halfback pass from the diminutive Vincent Smith, who jumped in the air with Te'o barreling down on him and lobbed an easy interception in the end zone. The Wolverines could have used the momentum early and ended up really needing the points.

What Notre Dame learned: While this one wasn't pretty, the Irish could hardly have asked for a better start to this season. Its defense is playing at a championship level -- to hold Michigan and Robinson to six points is an outstanding achievement. There are still questions for this team, and Kelly will have to answer even more quarterback controversy questions this week, but this is the toughest Irish team we've seen in a while.

What Michigan learned: The Wolverines still aren't ready for prime time. They got blown out in the opener against Alabama and then were ridiculously sloppy with the ball in this one. While Michigan had by far its best defensive performance to date and can build on that, Robinson is still making too many mistakes in the passing game. There's really no reason for the Wolverines to be ranked in the top 25 right now, but Michigan still will be a factor in the weakened Big Ten, which went 0-3 against Notre Dame.
Michigan's challenge against defending national champion Alabama may have just gotten even more difficult.

[+] EnlargeFitzgerald Toussaint
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireRB Fitzgerald Toussaint has been suspended indefinitely.
Star running back Fitz Toussaint has been suspended indefinitely following a weekend arrest for drunk driving. According to reports, the junior was stopped for a traffic violation in downtown Ann Arbor just a little before midnight Saturday and failed a breathalyzer test. Head coach Brady Hoke announced Monday afternoon that Toussaint is suspended indefinitely.

By definition, we don't know how long that indefinite suspension will last. It is reasonable, however, to conclude that Toussaint may not be available for the opener against the Crimson Tide at Cowboys Stadium. And if so, that's a tough blow.

Toussaint ran for 1,041 yards last season, doing much of his best work late in the season. He spoke confidently this spring about surpassing 1,600 rushing yards this season. His emergence in the middle of last year lightened the offensive load on star quarterback Denard Robinson and made the Wolverines' offense that much more versatile and dangerous. Michigan will need all the weapons it has to try and move the ball effectively against what is expected to be another fierce Alabama defense.

If Toussaint is out for the opener, or even longer, the Wolverines would most likely turn to sophomore Thomas Rawls as their main tailback. A physical, 219-pounder, Rawls earned praise from Hoke for his play this spring and was described by offensive coordinator Al Borges as "a battering ram." He doesn't have the explosiveness of Toussaint, but a guy who can run through tackles might not be bad to have against 'Bama, anyway.

Other options at tailback include veterans Vincent Smith and Stephen Hopkins and sophomore Justice Hayes. Still, there's a big dropoff from Toussaint to anyone else in terms of experience and production.

Again, we don't know for sure how long this suspension will last. Hoke dismissed receiver Darryl Stonum this winter after traffic violations landed Stonum in jail, but the troubled player had previous run-ins with the law. This is, as far as we know, Toussaint's first misstep.

It hasn't been a great offseason for Michigan players. Starting defensive tackle Will Campbell pleaded guilty earlier Monday to a civil infraction for blocking a sidewalk; he'll be sentenced later this week for a misdemeanor destruction of property charge. He had originally been charged with felony destruction of property and possession of alcohol by a minor. Receiver Jerald Robinson had a warrant out for his arrest for allegedly damaging a parking gate; his case is scheduled to be heard later this summer.

But Toussaint is the biggest name of the bunch and his suspension could be costly. Without him, the Michigan offense could be back to a familiar place in the 2012 opener: relying on Denard Robinson to make some magic.
If Al Borges had his preference, Michigan would be running more of a pro-style offense. That's clearly the future for the Wolverines and the type of players they have been recruiting.

But Borges is no dummy. He knows he has Denard Robinson at quarterback for one more year. Michigan wisely did not try to cram Robinson into an ill-fitting system last year, as Borges adjusted his offense to his star player's unique talents. That worked out pretty well, as the Wolverines went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl.

So the full-fledged movement to a pro style can wait another year.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDenard Robinson will need to improve his accuracy and cut down on his interceptions in 2012.
"We have pieces of our offense that are still very pro style, like our passing game," Borges told ESPN.com. "But we're still very much a spread because of Denard, and we'll continue to be because that is the best thing that suits his skill set. We'll have some plays under center at times, and we were very productive at those last year. But because of Denard's running ability, that will never be a prominent part of our offense."

The most frequent and often tiresome question around the Michigan offense is how much Robinson will run the ball. Borges found a nice balance last year, using it as a weapon but also keeping his quarterback mostly healthy. He sees no reason to alter that formula.

"I don't see his role changing any," Borges said. "We may up the ante a little bit with him throwing a couple more times a game. But any change will be subtle and hardly noticeable."

Robinson completed only 55 percent of his passes last season and threw 15 interceptions, the most in the Big Ten. That obviously has to improve. Borges said he's been working on Robinson's footwork and hip placement. Another year in the system should also help.

"He's probably at the top of the list of guy who just understand better," Borges said. "Last year at this time, he couldn't call the play. Now he can call the play with no problems at all. We're still working hard on his fundamentals to get him better that way, but his understanding is so much better than it was a year ago."

Borges also knows he has another strong option in the backfield in running back Fitz Toussaint, who emerged as a star midway through last season and finished with more than 1,000 yards rushing.

"He didn't really come on until the fourth or fifth game of the season," Borges said. "Now he'll be in there from the beginning and show his worth from Day 1. If he stays healthy, he can have a hell of a year."

Michigan has good depth at running back with Vincent Smith, Stephen Hopkins and Thomas Rawls returning. Borges said the coaching staff is taking "a hard look" at redshirt freshman Justice Hayes this spring.

Wide receiver isn't quite as deep with Junior Hemingway gone and Darryl Stonum dismissed from the team. Roy Roundtree, Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo are the returning veterans, and Borges said redshirt sophomore Jerald Robinson has looked very good early on in spring practice. Some incoming freshmen will likely have a chance to contribute as well.

Roundtree might hold the key to the group. He had 72 catches for 935 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore but caught just 19 balls for 355 yards last season. Borges has moved Roundtree to flanker, which was Hemingway's spot a year ago.

"Playing flanker, I think you'll see Roy's numbers go back up," Borges said. "He's in great shape, running well and catching the ball right now in our first couple of practices. He's playing as well as he's played since I've been here. He's learned how to run the routes and read the coverages, and he has a big-play dimension to him. If he stays in one piece, I look for him to have a big year."

Just don't look for Michigan to change too much else this year on offense.
The warning signs were there from the beginning.

Persistent thunder and lightning rocked South Bend, Ind., throughout halftime of Notre Dame's season opener against South Florida, culminating in a game that ended five hours, 59 minutes after it started. The final tally was Bulls 23, Irish 20, with a quarterback switch and nighttime falling somewhere in between.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame's Michael Floyd
Charles LeClaire/USPRESSWIREEven with Notre Dame's unsettled quarterback situation, receiver Michael Floyd rewrote the Irish record books this season.
The lights came on one week later in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the Irish faced Michigan in the Big House's first-ever night game. But a 17-point lead entering the fourth quarter was not enough for Notre Dame, which surrendered 28 points to Denard Robinson & Co. in the game's final 15 minutes, with a pair of fumbles taking wrong turns, to add to the pain.

An 0-2 start rendered any preseason BCS-bowl expectations meaningless, and the manner in which those defeats took place were as sure a sign as any that this would be one strange season.

Consider:

  • Notre Dame then routed Michigan State 31-13 in Week 3, one of only two regular-season losses for a Spartans team that ended up falling a few plays shy of the Rose Bowl.
  • The Irish faced a third-and-goal from the 1, down seven, in the third quarter in Week 8 against USC before a fumbled snap resulted in an 80-yard touchdown the other way, effectively killing any chance of a win. It was the second fumble returned for a touchdown against the Irish when facing third-and-goal from the 1 during the season. (USF did it on Notre Dame's first drive of the season.)
  • Five days later, Brian Kelly made controversial comments about the difference between the players he recruited and those he inherited, leading to player backlash on Twitter and an apology to the team the next day.

The Irish won eight of their final 10 games to finish 8-4 and clinch a berth in the Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State, another 8-4 team that saw lofty preseason expectations take a hit early. Tommy Rees will start for Notre Dame, the sophomore's 12th consecutive start after replacing Dayne Crist to start the second half against the Bulls in Week 1. Fellow sophomore Andrew Hendrix, who replaced Rees to start the second half at Stanford in the regular-season finale, is slated to see plenty of action against the Seminoles as well.

The status of Crist, meanwhile, is up in the air after the senior was granted his release to explore options outside of Notre Dame for next season, his final year of eligibility after graduating later this month.

Also leaving the Irish is senior receiver Michael Floyd, who re-wrote the school record books and hauled in 95 catches for 1,106 yards this season. Floyd, a projected first-round draft pick, could be joined by junior linebacker Manti Te'o, who is also projected as a first-round pick after leading the Irish defensively for the second consecutive season.

Personnel questions will be answered later. For now, let's take a look back at this campaign and hand out some hardware:

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Michael Floyd

Floyd took full advantage of one last chance after a third alcohol-related offense last March put this season in jeopardy. The senior's 95 catches this season are an Irish record, as are the 266 for his career. His 3,645 career receiving yards are the most in school history. So, too, are his 36 career receiving touchdowns. Floyd was lined up virtually everywhere this season and dealt with three different quarterbacks. His downfield blocking improved greatly. And, big statistical performance or not, he remained a threat in every game and always required the full attention of opposing defenses. The Irish will certainly miss him next season.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Manti Te'o

Following his 133-tackle output from a year ago, the junior has racked up 115 more tackles through 12 games this season, by far the most on the team. He has become more familiar in the backfield, too, notching 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, both good for team highs. Add in the fact he dealt with an ankle injury midseason, and Te'o had himself quite a junior campaign. A big decision awaits him this offseason, as Te'o is projected as a first-round NFL pick should he choose to forego his final year of eligibility.

Newcomer of the Year: Defensive end Aaron Lynch

The freshman burst onto the scene with a giant Week 3 performance against Michigan State, recording one sack, forcing a fumble and notching six quarterback hurries. To put that into proper context, no Notre Dame player recorded that many throughout all of the 2010 season. Lynch enters the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State — a school he once committed to — with 5.5 tackles for loss, 4 sacks and 13 hurries on the season. He was forced into extended playing time because of injury along the line, and he did not disappoint.

Coach of the Year: Running backs coach Tim Hinton

Hinton helped the rushing game exceed everyone's expectations but its own. Cierre Wood rushed for 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns, and Jonas Gray may have joined him in the 1,000-yard mark if not for an ACL tear Nov. 19. Gray, a senior, scored 12 touchdowns this season, including at least one in eight consecutive games, finishing his final campaign with 791 yards and a 6.9-yards-per-carry average. Hinton could draw interest from Urban Meyer at Ohio State, but for now the Irish are thankful for the work he put in this season.

Biggest surprise: Running back Jonas Gray

Speaking of Gray … Kelly said before the Irish's game against Boston College that he had never in his career seen a senior renaissance like Gray's. Gray overcame a potentially devastating Week 1 fumble against USF — one that resulted in a game-changing touchdown the other way — and ended up getting game captain honors against Air Force and starting four games. He spent much of the season in pursuit of George Gipp's single-season yards per carry record of 8.11, finishing with a 6.9 average. He had never scored a touchdown before notching 12 this season. Sadly, the campaign ended prematurely on Senior Day. Here's hoping Gray makes a speedy recovery and left enough of an impression on NFL scouts, as he was playing his way onto their radars before going down Nov. 19.

Biggest disappointment: Punt-return game

The Irish finished the season with a punt-return average of 0.30 yards per return, the worst among FBS teams. The Theo Riddick experiment backfired, as the junior fumbled one away in Week 1, and even the normally sure-handed John Goodman let one get away deep in his own territory Week 3 against Michigan State. Floyd voluntarily went back there to try to make something happen, but he never got a chance to return one this season. The Irish have plenty of work to do in this area in the offseason.

Robinson
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireThe first night game at Michigan Stadium featured a classic final quarter-- but one that didn't go Notre Dame's way in a 35-31 loss Sept. 10.
Game of the Year: Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31

The Sept. 10 contest had everything a college football fan could ask for: The first night game in the history of the Big House. Two of the three winningest programs in college football history. College GameDay on campus. The biggest crowd in college football history.

Then the game actually started, and it somehow surpassed the hype.

Michigan came back from a 24-7 deficit after three quarters, scoring four touchdowns in the fourth quarter and two in the final 1 minute, 12 seconds to shock the Irish. Vincent Smith's 21-yard touchdown catch made it 28-24 Michigan, Tommy Rees responded 42 seconds later with a 29-yard scoring strike to Riddick and Robinson closed things out with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Roy Roundtree with 2 seconds to play, capping off Michigan's third consecutive thrilling win over Notre Dame and a night for the ages. The Big House might as well quit while it's ahead; no night game there will ever surpass the first one.

Michigan offering reasons to believe

October, 5, 2011
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There's a certain 1980s power ballad that's quite popular whenever it is blared on the loudspeakers at Michigan Stadium. Particularly the line about a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit.

Michigan coach Brady Hoke is singing a similar but slightly different tune: "Don't Start Believin'."

Hoke has consistently downplayed just about every aspect of his team's 5-0 start. When the two major polls placed the Wolverines among the top 12 in the country this week, Hoke did everything but lead an "Over-rated!" cheer.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
Tim Fuller/US PresswireBrady Hoke is telling anyone who will listen that the Wolverines have not arrived yet.
"I think we're a long way from being a Michigan football team," Hoke said Tuesday. When asked if he saw any signs on the field to believe his team could eventually become one of the nation's best this year, he answered simply: "No."

That attitude has filtered down to the players.

"The thing that I like about our team the most is that none of us believe we should be ranked what we’re ranked," center David Molk said. "We don’t like it. We don’t want anything to do with it. As a group, we believe we’ll downplay ourselves and look at our weaknesses before we look at our strengths."

It's a smart move on Hoke's part to keep expectations low. In each of the past two years, Michigan got off to solid starts in September and worked its way into the national rankings. Those teams, however, quickly fell back to earth in Big Ten play under Rich Rodriguez. This year's squad has most of the same players and many of the same flaws. And these Wolverines have played each of their first five games at home, with their first road trip of the season finally coming this week at Northwestern.

But Hoke and his players can soft-pedal the situation all they like. Truth is, there are actually reasons to start believing in Michigan.

Our preseason view of the Wolverines was that they could be a little better on defense while perhaps taking a step back offensively as Denard Robinson adjusted to a new system. The stats show a significant improvement on defense, while the offense remains one of the most potent in the Big Ten.

It's almost shocking to see Michigan tied for second nationally in points allowed per game (10.2) after the way this defense played the past few seasons. First-year coordinator Greg Mattison's switch to a 4-3 scheme has helped maximize the team's talents, and players like Craig Roh, Kenny Demens and Jordan Kovacs are playing some of the best football of their careers. Through five games last year, Michigan allowed 127 points and 433.6 yards per game. Through the same span this season, it has yielded just 51 points and 316 yards per game.

What's even more encouraging is how the defense usually gets better throughout the course of a game. Wolverines opponents have scored only seven points in the fourth quarter all year long, a sign that Mattison and the players are making good adjustments. The defense is also stiffening at big moments, as opponents have scored only seven times in 14 red zone opportunities.

This is hardly a shutdown defense. But Michigan did pitch its first shutout since 2007 last week against Minnesota, and Mattison's crew has had a knack for coming up with turnovers, grabbing an average of three takeaways per game. Mattison has kept players fresh by rotating in lots of bodies up front, and this defense is playing with obvious confidence, if not always perfect technique. It's certainly doing enough to keep the Wolverines in every game they play, especially given how the offense is performing.

Robinson & Co. may be playing in a new system, but things don't look all that different statistically and stylistically. Michigan is averaging 37.2 points per game, only slightly down from last year's production through the first five games (41.4 ppg) and ahead of the 2010 full-season average of 32.8 points a contest. Robinson ran for more than 1,700 yards a year ago; this year, he's on pace for 1,565 yards.

Shoelace's running numbers dipped during Big Ten action last year, as the toll of taking so many hits got to him. The Wolverines have committed to using more people than just their quarterback to run the ball this year, and Fitzgerald Toussaint and Vincent Smith are each averaging at least 6.5 yards per carry. While Robinson has looked shaky as a passer at times this season, offensive coordinator Al Borges pledged to design more short and intermediate throws to help his confidence. Using that plan last week, Robinson completed 15 of 19 passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions against Minnesota.

Maybe the best reason to believe, though, is the schedule. While Michigan finally hits the road this week and will play a tough rivalry game the following Saturday at Michigan State, it caught a big break by not drawing Wisconsin as a cross-division opponent. Everyone else in the Big Ten looks beatable, and Michigan's final two games at home against Nebraska and Ohio State don't appear nearly as daunting as they did back in the preseason. With all the Buckeyes' current problems, the Wolverines could finally snap their seven-game losing streak in their most important rivalry.

Is this the nation's 12th-best team right now? Probably not. But ...

"I believe we have the potential to be [ranked that high]," defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said. "I don't think we've played enough quality opponents, and I don't think we've played to the level we need to have earned that honor. But we can get there."

The journey is really only beginning. Maybe, though, it's time to start believing.

Big Ten weekend rewind

October, 3, 2011
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Don't look back in anger. Well, unless you're a fan of Nebraska, Ohio State, Purdue, Northwestern or Minnesota. Then we'll allow it.

Team of the week: Wisconsin. The only real question about the Badgers after their first four games was how they would fare against better competition. Then they steamrolled Nebraska 48-17. Any more questions?

[+] EnlargeNathan Scheelhaase
AP Photo/Seth PerlmanConsistency will be a major focus for Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase next season.
Best game: Illinois' 38-35 win against Northwestern. This game was full of twists and turns, as Northwestern built a 28-10 third quarter lead, only to watch the Illini rally for 21 straight points. The Wildcats reclaimed the lead with 1:15 left, but Nathan Scheelhaase scored on a 1-yard run with 13 seconds left to end it. After it was over, the Illinois scoreboard proudly proclaimed its homeboys as "The State of Illinois' Undefeated Big Ten Team" while the speakers blared "Sweet Home Chicago," Sinatra's "My Kind of Town" and Kanye's "Homecoming." What, was the band Chicago unavailable for a live performance?

Biggest play: There were plenty to choose from in the Illinois-Northwestern game, but I'm going with one that might have been overlooked from early in Michigan State's 10-7 win against Ohio State. The Spartans botched the punt snap on their first possession, and Buckeyes defenders were bearing down on punter Mike Sadler deep in his own territory. Sadler somehow recovered, eluded the rush and got off a 37-yard punt. If disaster strikes there for Michigan State, Ohio State might have scored, gained confidence and changed the entire complexion of that game.

Best call: Maybe we should call this the most interesting calls, not necessarily the best. Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges unveiled a new wrinkle against Minnesota, putting Devin Gardner in at quarterback with Denard Robinson and two other running backs also in the game. The Wolverines used it a handful of times, employing a double pitch and a double pass. They also used a halfback pass from Vincent Smith for a touchdown. Let's be honest: Michigan didn't need any trickery against Minnesota in a 58-0 blowout. But Borges has just given every other Big Ten defensive coordinator something else to worry about.

Big Men on Campus (Offense): Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson. Jenkins broke a school record with 268 receiving yards plus three touchdowns on 12 catches in the Northwestern win. It was the fourth-best receiving day ever by a Big Ten wideout. Wilson led the Badgers to the win in the biggest game of the year so far in the Big Ten by completing 14-of-20 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 32 yards and a score.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor. He made a career-high 14 tackles, one of them for a loss, and intercepted a pass in the second quarter of the Badgers' win. Nebraska entered the game averaging more than 42 points, but was held to just 17.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Penn State's Anthony Fera. He drilled three field goal attempts (from 22, 27 and 33 yards) in a 16-10 win against Indiana. He also punted seven times for an average of 39 yards, placing three inside the 20-yard line.

Worst hangover: Purdue. While acknowledging the terrible Saturdays that Minnesota and Ohio State also suffered through, the Boilermakers legitimately thought they could beat Notre Dame. They had two weeks to get ready for a night game at home, making this a real circle-the-wagons type of game. After the Irish won 38-10, the Purdue bandwagon has three broken wheels and a flat tire.

Strangest moment: Let's go back to Purdue for this one. Early on in that game, the Boilers forced an Irish incompletion on third down from their own 10. But safety Albert Evans was called for a celebration penalty for high-fiving some fans in the end-zone stands. Notre Dame would cash in with its second touchdown. "They said I high-fived someone," Evans told reporters. "I was in the moment, so I couldn't tell you who I high-fived. The band was right there. I guess you can't high-five anyone." Can't blame Evans too much for his premature celebration, as it was one of the few times all night the Purdue defense got a stop.
It's time to recognize the best and the brightest from Week 5 in the Big Ten:
  • Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins: Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had a big day, too, but Jenkins was by far his favorite weapon. The senior had 12 catches for a school-record 268 yards and three touchdowns in a wild, 38-35 win over Northwestern.
  • Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson: He's baaack. After a one-week absence, Wilson returns to the helmet stickers after a scintillating performance against No. 8 Nebraska. The senior completed 14 of 20 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown as Wisconsin humbled the Huskers 48-17. Badgers RB Montee Ball (151 rush yards, 4 TDs) merits a mention here.
  • Michigan RB Vincent Smith: Smith did a little bit of everything for the Wolverines in the first half against Minnesota. He ran for a touchdown, grabbed a touchdown reception and even threw one on a halfback pass as the Wolverines rolled to a 58-0 victory. Smith became the first FBS running back to record rushing, passing and receiving touchdowns in the same game since Clemson's C.J. Spiller in 2009.
  • Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase: Scheelhaase rallied Illinois from deficits of 28-10 and 35-31 to preserve his team's perfect record. The sophomore completed 21 of 32 passes for 393 yards and three touchdowns, setting career highs for completions, attempts and passing yards. He also rushed for the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left.
  • Michigan State DE William Gholston: Gholston's numbers (five tackles, three for loss, one sack and one pass breakup) don't really tell the tale of just how disruptive he was. Spartans coach Mark Dantonio called the sophomore "dominant." Gholston was a key contributor in a defensive effort that piled up nine sacks and kept Ohio State scoreless until the final 10 seconds.

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