NCF Nation: weekend rewind 111912

Hot and Not in the SEC

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
11:26
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It’s always hot somewhere in the SEC ... and always not, too:

GLOWING EMBERS

SEC hate: They were celebrating in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Athens, Ga., and maybe even Gainesville, Fla., when Kansas State and Oregon both went down Saturday night. It was the ultimate mulligan for the SEC and a kick in the gut for the rest of college football. Just like that, the SEC is front and center again in the national championship race, and the groans everywhere else but the South are deafening. The SEC in football has become what UCLA was in basketball in the 1960s and 1970s. Everybody has grown weary of seeing the SEC win all the time. Assuming Alabama and Georgia both win this weekend, they will meet in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1 for a spot in the Discover BCS National Championship Game. Here’s the worst news for the SEC haters: There’s also a chance that Florida could squeeze in and make it an all-SEC affair for the second year in a row if the Gators beat Florida State this weekend and Notre Dame loses to USC. If that happens, maybe they’ll just create the SEC’s own division and have an SEC national champion and a BCS national champion.

HOT

SEC championship game tickets: The SEC championship game is always a hot ticket. But nobody was more excited than the ticket brokers when Kansas State and Oregon both lost Saturday. Alabama and Georgia fans will be clamoring to get their hands on tickets now that it looks like the winner will earn a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

NOT

Tennessee receiver Cordarrelle Patterson: Having one touchdown called back for excessive celebration is bad enough. But getting flagged for two in the same season? Patterson is one of the most electrifying players in the league. But geez, get into the end zone and then do your thing. At least then, the penalty is assessed on the ensuing kickoff. There’s also something to be said for acting like you’ve been there before.

HOT

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
AP Photo/Butch DillCould winning the Heisman Trophy be in the near future for Texas A&M freshman QB Johnny Manziel?
Johnny Manziel’s Heisman chances: Johnny Football may soon add a Heisman Trophy to his collection. With Collin Klein throwing three interceptions in Kansas State’s loss last weekend and Kenjon Barner being a nonfactor in Oregon’s loss, Manziel may now be the front-runner. He’s the first freshman in FBS history to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season and has accounted for 38 touchdowns.

NOT

Bottom of the league: Three teams are still winless in SEC play: Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee. They’re a combined 0-21 in the league. The Vols have given up 306 points in their seven losses, or an average of 43.2 points per game. Kentucky has been outscored by an average of 26 points per game and Auburn by an average of 21.7 points per game in each of their seven SEC losses. Talk about some ugly numbers.

HOT

Vanderbilt kicker Carey Spear: The guy is absolutely fearless. Go back and watch his hit on Tennessee’s Patterson on Saturday in the third quarter after Spear kicked off to the Vols. He came flying in and leveled Patterson, and in the process, knocked himself silly. It’s not the first big lick Spear has laid on an opposing player. He might be a kicker by trade, but he’s still a football player.

NOT

Ole Miss’ ability to finish games: If only Ole Miss could finish a game. The Rebels still have a chance to qualify for a bowl game if they can knock off Mississippi State at home this Saturday, but they should already be bowl eligible. They let another game slip away last week at LSU. That’s after also blowing late leads earlier this season against Vanderbilt and Texas A&M at home. The Rebels have overachieved in a lot of ways this season, but finishing games hasn’t been their strong suit.

FREEZER BURN

Missouri’s bowl chances: The Tigers had a great opportunity last week to secure a bowl berth in their first season in the SEC, which would be a nice accomplishment given all the injuries they’ve incurred this season. But they gave up 508 yards of total offense, blew a 14-point lead and lost 31-27 at home to Syracuse, snapping an 18-game winning streak against nonconference opponents. The Tigers (5-6, 2-5) must now win at Texas A&M this Saturday to qualify for a bowl, and the red-hot Aggies are a three-touchdown favorite. The 19-15 home loss to Vanderbilt a few weeks ago was difficult enough for Missouri to digest, but losing to a Big East team at home with so much at stake will sting the most this offseason if the Tigers don’t get it done at Kyle Field this weekend.

Big 12 weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
10:00
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Let's take a look at a few superlatives from the week that was in the Big 12:

Best offensive performance in a win: Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma. Jones reminded us of the talent that could land him in the first round of next year's NFL draft, completing 38 of 51 passes for six touchdowns and a school-record 554 yards in the Sooners' 50-49 win over West Virginia. The last was a 4-yard game-winner on a slant to Kenny Stills.

Best offensive performance in a loss: Tavon Austin, RB/WR/KR, West Virginia. Truth be told, Austin's performance might be one of the greatest in Big 12 history. Alas, it wasn't enough for one of the worst defenses in Big 12 history. Austin moved to running back and ran for 344 yards on just 21 carries (that's 16.4 yards a carry, folks) and two touchdowns. He also caught four passes for 82 yards and returned eight kicks for 146 yards. Add it up and it's 572 all-purpose yards.

[+] EnlargeJoe Williams
AP Photo/LM OteroBaylor cornerback Joe Williams was a big reason Collin Klein had his worst game of the season.
Best defensive performance: Joe Williams, CB, Baylor. Williams picked off Collin Klein twice and led the Bears with 11 tackles in their 52-24 win over Kansas State. He didn't get a chance to return either of them, but I don't think the Bears minded all that much. Klein had been picked off just three times all season before Saturday, the 11th game of the year.

Best team performance: Baylor. The Bears dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and won the game right there. The defensive line beat up Klein all night and didn't let him get in the open field. The offensive line paved the way for a pair of 100-yard rushers and didn't let a great K-State front seven sack Nick Florence once. All of a sudden, Baylor's back in the mix for a bowl game.

Best special teams performance: Zack Craig, Oklahoma State. The safety blocked two Texas Tech punts and returned the second 30 yards for a touchdown. Not bad.

Worst team performance: Kansas State. Where did this team come from and what did it do with the real Kansas State? Have to think the No. 1 spot and road environment got to the Wildcats, which is still a little baffling. They doubled their average in penalty yards and Klein threw three bad interceptions after throwing just three in his previous 10 games. Add in an inability to stop the run, and that 52-24 loss is exactly what you'd expect.

Best play: Landry Jones and Kenny Stills, Oklahoma. It's not every week you see a game-winner, but Jones and Stills provided it in the final minute against West Virginia. Trailing by five, Stills jostled for position on the slant route and Jones made the delivery in a tight window. Stills fought his way to the ball and into the end zone for a huge win to put Oklahoma's Big 12 title hopes back in its own hands.

Best game: Oklahoma 50, West Virginia 49. We saw four lead changes in the final 7:12 and three in the final 4:10 out in Morgantown, capped by Jones' touchdown pass to win it. Tavon Austin provided the fireworks but the Sooners got the last laugh against a talented, desperate team. Impressive.

Best quote: Nick Florence, QB, Baylor On his team's chances against K-State, Florence said: "If you don't believe, get out of the locker room."

Second-best quote: Tavon Austin, on the complex playbook for him at running back that helped him rush for 344 yards on 21 carries in his first game at the position.. "I had two plays. One to the left and one to the right."

Best performance in relief: Sam Richardson, QB, Iowa State. Richardson waited all season for his chance while Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz rode what seemed like weekly roller-coasters. He finally got it and pushed Iowa State into its third bowl game in four years with 250 yards passing on 23-of-27 passing with four touchdowns. He also ran for a score and 43 yards. Four of his touchdowns came in the second quarter as Iowa State raced to a 38-17 halftime lead and erased all second-half doubt in a 51-23 win over Kansas.

Oddest stat: Oklahoma State. The Cowboys didn't complete a pass in the second half and outscored Texas Tech 24-7 in the final two quarters of their 59-21 beatdown.

Big East weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
10:00
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Here's one last look back at another fun Saturday in the Big East.

[+] EnlargeMontel Harris
Danny Wild/US PresswireRunning back Montel Harris set Big East records with his historic performance against Army.
The good: Rutgers remains in control of the Big East race after winning at Cincinnati. Temple snapped a four-game losing streak behind a historic effort from Montel Harris. And Syracuse is going bowling for the second time in three years after a last-second win at Missouri.

The bad: Cincinnati was facing a great defense, but putting up three points at home is underwhelming. And what else can we really say about South Florida that hasn't been said already?

The ugly: OK, only two Big East teams lost Saturday, so the worst of the bunch goes here. USF lost 40-9 to Miami, meaning the Bulls will stay home for the second-straight bowl season. What's more, they burned Bobby Eveld's redshirt in the 10th game of the season … and he got knocked out of the game in the first quarter with a sprained shoulder. Bad times in Tampa right now.

The carousel continues: One of the better wins in Rutgers' recent history got overshadowed after another wave of conference realignment chatter made the rounds, this time pegging the Scarlet Knights as potentially Big Ten-bound. Just another Saturday in college athletics.

The workhorse: Kyle Flood has said he doesn't look at clocks; the job is over when it's complete. His players have taken on that mentality this season, perhaps none more than Savon Huggins two days ago. Stepping in for a limited Jawan Jamison, the sophomore carried the ball 41 times for 179 yards. The 41 carries matched Jamison's school record from Week 3 this season. Not bad for a "backup."

We talkin' bout practice: Harris did not practice last week because of a knee injury. He has accomplished quite a bit in his five years of college ball, but never had he rushed for 351 yards and seven touchdowns in a game -- and never had anyone in the Big East, either. Coach Steve Addazio said last week that he challenged his seniors to make the most of their final two weeks of college ball. Not a bad answer from Harris.

Four in postseason, more to come? The Orange's dramatic win at Missouri made them the fourth Big East team to clinch bowl-eligibility, saving the conference from the possible embarrassment of having just three bowl-eligible teams. UConn and Pitt have chances too, if they win out, but the odds are stacked against them with Louisville and Rutgers awaiting each this week, respectively.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
10:00
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Here’s a look back at the highlights (and lowlights) of Week 12:

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesBeating LSU and finishing the season with 11 wins would be feats worth celebrating for Tajh Boyd and Clemson.
The good: Quarterbacks. Mike Glennon threw for 493 yards and five touchdowns -- and lost. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd accounted for eight touchdowns, Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington had four, Miami’s Stephen Morris threw for 413 yards, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to keep the Hokies’ bowl hopes alive, and North Carolina’s Bryn Renner threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter against Virginia. It was a good weekend overall for the league’s quarterbacks. Well, most of them ...

The bad: Wake Forest’s offense. There wasn’t any. The Deacs didn’t reach the end zone once in the 38-0 loss at Notre Dame, and were held to only 55 yards rushing and nine first downs, and 4-of-15 third-down conversions.

The baffling: Virginia’s two-quarterback rotation. Phillip Sims was hot, and Michael Rocco was cold -- literally. He had to be, coming off the bench and throwing a dreadful pick, followed by a fumble in the Cavaliers’ 37-13 loss to UNC. Pick one, any one.

The news: While the games were being played Saturday, news broke that Maryland is interested in joining the Big Ten. The University System of Maryland's Board of Regents will meet Monday morning to vote whether to accept an invitation to join the Big Ten Conference, a source told ESPN.

The eligible: Both Georgia Tech and Miami became bowl eligible this weekend with wins over Duke and South Florida, respectively.

The relieved: Virginia Tech. The Hokies barely escaped Chestnut Hill with their bowl hopes alive. Virginia Tech must now beat UVa in the season finale to reach six wins.

The champs: Florida State clinched the Atlantic Division and guaranteed itself a spot in the Dec. 1 ACC championship game with a 41-14 win at Maryland.

The perfect 10s: Both Florida State and Clemson earned 10-win regular seasons for the first time in a long time. The Noles did it for the first time since 2003, and Clemson did it for the first time since 1981.

The ugly: NC State’s defense. The Pack allowed Clemson to rack up 754 total yards, 34 first downs and 62 points.

The record: NC State receiver Tobais Palmer set an ACC record with 496 all-purpose yards. He had 277 yards on kickoff returns and caught seven passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns.

The record II: Boyd’s eight touchdowns were a school and ACC record.

The record III: Clemson’s 102 plays were the most in school history.

The ridiculous: How many offensive records have been set this year.

The quote: "I think we came up two yards short for the all-time school record tonight, so we have some improving to do.” -- Clemson coach Dabo Swinney of his team’s 754 yards, according to The Associated Press.

Pac-12 weekend rewind: Week 12

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
10:00
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Taking stock of Week 12 in the Pac-12.

Team of the week: We spent all week asking if Stanford had a chance to overcome its "Oregon problem." Turns out the Cardinal did.

Best game: Stanford's 17-14 overtime win over Oregon was a defensive grinder, something you'd more often see in that conference down south. Both teams played well on defense, but holding Oregon to 14 points in Autzen Stadium means you played great defense, while the Ducks were merely good. The game was exciting throughout as well as meaningful. Stanford not only now controls its destiny -- win out and it goes to the Rose Bowl -- it also overcame a team that had ruined its previous two seasons.

Biggest play: You never know when extra effort can save a game, even in the early going. When Stanford backup safety Devon Carrington caught Ducks speedy quarterback Marcus Mariota from behind, making Mariota's mad dash a 77-yard one instead of a 92-yard TD, it just seemed like an admirable if quixotic effort. Then Stanford stopped the Ducks four plays later on a fourth-and-2 from the Cardinal 7-yard line, and you realized Carrington just took seven points away from Oregon. It was the equivalent of a pick-six. The Ducks could have used those points. And who knows if an early big play might have changed the complexion of the game?

[+] EnlargeJohnathan Franklin
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesJohnathan Franklin's 29-touchdown run in the fourth quarter kept the game out of reach for USC.
Biggest play II: Let's not forget UCLA's impressive win over rival -- and nemesis -- USC. The key play in that game came from Bruins senior running back Johnathan Franklin, who's had a speckled history in the rivalry game. USC had cut the Bruins' lead to 31-28 with 7:22 left in the fourth quarter. You could sense creeping worry in the Rose Bowl. But on a second-and-7 play with four minutes left, Franklin went 29 yards for a touchdown to make the Bruins lead 10 points. It was an assertion of individual and team will, and the biggest moment on a day when Franklin gained 171 yards on 29 carries with a pair of TDs.

Offensive standout: We've taken note of Franklin, but let's not forget his quarterback, redshirt freshman Brett Hundley, who outplayed USC's senior star Matt Barkley. On a huge stage, Hundley completed 22 of 30 passes for for 234 yards with a TD pass. He also rushed for two scores.

Defensive standout: While the usual suspects played well for Stanford's defense, particularly linebacker Shayne Skov, who looked like his old, dominant self with a team-high 10 tackles, it really was a team effort led by coordinator Derek Mason. So this tip of the cap goes to an entire unit, which held a team that had scored at least 42 points in 13 consecutive games to 14 points.

Special-teams standout: Stanford punter Daniel Zychlinski repeatedly made the field long for the Ducks. He averaged 45.7 yards on six punts, but the big news is five of his punts were downed inside the Ducks' 20-yard line. Stanford wanted to force the Ducks to drive the entire field, and Zychlinski played a big role in realizing that strategy.

Smiley face: Sorry to make this all about UCLA and Stanford, but the weekend truly was. Both were playing teams that had dominated them of late. Oregon had won nine of the past 10 with Stanford. The Ducks had scored 105 points combined in the previous two games while winning each by more than 20 points. The Trojans had won five straight and 12 of the past 13 against the Bruins, with all five victories during the current winning streak coming by at least 14 points, including a 50-0 win last season. So there was more than a physical football game going on out there. There were emotional and mental obstacles to overcome. And both teams did, which is a credit to them and their coaches.

Frowny face: It was no secret that California's visit to Oregon State might be coach Jeff Tedford's last game for the Bears after 11 seasons. So it seems cruel that he goes out on a cold, rainy night with his team playing a sloppy, indifferent game in a 62-14 loss to the Beavers. Tedford deserves credit for rebuilding a lost program and laying the groundwork for massive facilities upgrades. He deserved better from his players, who apparently didn't bring their spines to Corvallis.

Thought of the week: One of the rules of so-called sports punditry is to be decisive with opinions. Wishy-washy doesn't wash. So, when asked about a game, or a team, or a coach, or a player, nuance often goes out the window. Something either is or it isn't. In the preseason, USC was presented as a near certainty. The only potential pratfall, it was repeatedly noted, was injuries that could expose a lack of depth. Well, injuries weren't USC's problem. USC was. Many after-the-fact critics will swing the generic "overrated" term, and that certainly works because, you might have noticed, the Trojans no longer are rated after falling out of the national polls. But what is at work here is the complexity of team sports, where a group of talented young men sometimes actually becomes less as a collective than they should be based on their value as individual parts. There's also this little fact we too often forget: There is no certainty in sports. There are no sure things.

Questions for the week: Is Oregon still in it? The short answer is yes. The biggest thing Oregon's and Kansas State's losses did was open the door to the SEC for a seventh consecutive title. The most likely scenario is for unbeaten Notre Dame to play the once-beaten SEC champion on Jan. 7 for the national title in Miami. But if Notre Dame loses at USC on Saturday, then the gates of possibility open, as the beleaguered BCS system would then be asked to spit out two finalists from a diverse crew of one-loss teams. It will be controversial whatever happens. And the Ducks, if they beat rival Oregon State on Saturday, could still end up in a top-two spot.

Weekend rewind: Notre Dame

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
10:00
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Here's one last look back at a historic weekend for the Irish.

The good: Um, Notre Dame is No. 1. Good enough? The Irish routed Wake Forest 38-0 to complete their first perfect home season in 14 years. Then they watched No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon fall, leaving them in control of their own destiny.

The bad: Get back to me at the start of next season. If the 2013 campaign opens and it turns out Notre Dame Stadium still has natural grass for its next game, that means we have (at least) five more years to talk about the issue.

The ugly: Everett Golson played his best home game of the season, but his one mistake was a pretty ugly one, as he recklessly launched a deep ball into an end zone with nothing but white jerseys in it, promptly getting picked off by Allen Ramsey.

Nice send-off: Classy gesture from Brian Kelly to call a timeout in the fourth quarter and give his defensive seniors a curtain call. Classy move to put walk-on quarterback Charlie Fiessinger in at the end, too. Also, anyone else catch Shane Victorino in town?

Next up: The preseason No. 1 team hosts the nation's actual No. 1 team. And the preseason No. 1 team is now unranked, just like the actual No. 1 team was in the preseason. Got it? Good. Notre Dame. USC. Title-game berth on the line for the visitors. "College GameDay." Nothing to see here.

Weekend rewind: Big Ten Week 12

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
10:00
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Time to reflect ...

Team of the week: Ohio State became the first team to clinch a division title, winning the Leaders outright despite a postseason ban. The Buckeyes also moved to 11-0 while yet again defying defeat, this time on the road in overtime at a frenzied stadium after Wisconsin had seized all the momentum at the end of regulation. As Johnathan Hankins said after the 21-14 win, "We can't be beat. We're not settling for a loss."

Game of the week: There wasn't a whole lot of scoring at Camp Randall Stadium, but there was plenty of drama. You had Montee Ball getting stuffed at the goal line on his attempt to break the all-time FBS touchdowns record. You had the Badgers scoring to tie the game with eight seconds left. You had Ohio State's quest for perfection hanging over it all. These two teams have become division rivals, and Saturday's game provided more fuel to that fire.

Best call: Northwestern was clinging to a 23-20 lead when it took possession at its 12-yard line with 2:46 left at Michigan State. Wildcats fans must have been thinking: Here we go again. They have lamented how their team has gone conservative late in games with leads, only to end up with a loss. Not so Saturday, as Northwestern came out firing. A pass interference call on Johnny Adams resulted in a first down, and the Cats picked up a second first down with another pass. They eventually punted, but not before flipping field position and making the Spartans burn their timeouts. Perhaps not coincidentally, Northwestern held on for the win.

"I had our FBI guys to give me all those complaints from of our fans, so I changed," head coach Pat Fitzgerald cracked after the game.

Actually, the decision to pass had less to do with a philosophy shift then it did personnel. Kain Colter and Venric Mark were out with injuries, so there wasn't much running game to speak of. Still, many times you see teams do little to try to pick up a first down there, especially from that spot of the field. It was good -- and refreshing -- to see Northwestern stay aggressive.

[+] EnlargeTom Osborne
AP Photo/Dave WeaverRetiring Nebraska AD Tom Osborne joined Bo Pelini in leading the Cornhuskers out of the tunnel and on to the field one last time.
Best moment: Nebraska found the perfect way to honor outgoing athletic director and all-around legend Tom Osborne in his 500th -- yes, 500th -- home game as a Husker at Memorial Stadium. Osborne led the team out of the locker room and through the famous tunnel walk, wearing a red Huskers jacket and hat. (You can watch it here). Bo Pelini, who has been doing just about everything right the past several weeks, came up with the idea. "He was reluctant to do it," Pelini said. "But it's the way it should be. It meant a lot to me and the football team. I think the fans wanted to see him walk out there one more time."

Worst moment: Football just isn't fair sometimes. That's all you could say after watching Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti go down with another apparently serious knee injury early in the team's win over Indiana. Mauti had battled back from two ACL tears and had given everything he had to the program. It's wildly unfair that he won't get to play on Senior Day, and that his pro career could be in jeopardy. "If I could give him one of my knees, I would, man,'' fellow linebacker Gerald Hodges said. "He's the heart and soul of this team. I hate the fact that I had to see that.'' The only good to come of the injury was the outpouring of support for Mauti at the game and around the country on Twitter afterward. But it still seems wildly unfair.

Best attempt: Speaking of unfair, Purdue's Ralph Bolden has gone through three ACL injuries to make it back on the field. He ran for 100 yards in Week 11 and was about to go over 100 on Saturday on what looked like an easy, 78-yard touchdown run at Illinois. But Bolden felt his hamstring give out along the way. He ran as far as he could on one leg, getting 63 yards before hobbling out of bounds. Bolden tore his ACL in the finale last year against Indiana and couldn't play in a bowl. Hopefully, he'll make it back this year if the Boilermakers reach the postseason. Danny Hope awarded him the game ball Saturday.

"We are so proud of him," Hope said. "He had one leg left and he was giving all he had, and I think that exemplifies what being a Boilermaker is and what college football is all about."

Big Men on Campus (Offense): Three players had spectacular offensive performances Saturday. Michigan's Devin Gardner piled up six touchdowns while throwing for 314 yards in a 42-17 scorching of Indiana. At Penn State, quarterback Matt McGloin (395 passing yards, four touchdowns) and wide receiver Allen Robinson (10 catches, 197 yards, three touchdowns) each had career days against Indiana, setting school records in the process.

Big Men on Campus (Defense): Ohio State turned in a vintage Silver Bullets defensive performance for maybe the first time all season in holding Wisconsin to two touchdowns. Linebacker Ryan Shazier (12 tackles, three tackles for loss, forced fumble) and defensive end John Simon (four sacks) stood out the most on that defense. After some early-season mistakes, Shazier has been so good in the second half of the season that he's a legitimate defensive player of the year candidate. Simon now leads the league in sacks (nine), while he and Shazier are tied for the most tackles for loss in the Big Ten (14.5).

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Northwestern scored only one offensive touchdown in its win over Michigan State, but luckily it has Jeff Budzien. He made all three of his field goal attempts and is now 15-of-16 on the year, with his only miss a 53-yard attempt against Nebraska. The Spartans would like to have a kicker with Budzien's accuracy, as they have missed a field goal in four of their narrow losses.

Worst hangover: No one really expected Iowa to win at Michigan. But the Hawkeyes got embarrassed by a 42-17 score, losing for the fifth straight time. For much of the season, their defense played well while the offense struggled to score. Now, nothing is working. Iowa will miss a bowl for the first time since 2007 and will finish with fewer than six wins for the first time since 2000. A 4-8 record is likely with Nebraska coming to Iowa City next week, followed by a long offseason of questions for Kirk Ferentz.

Strangest moment: In terms of strangeness, little can top news breaking on a football Saturday that the Big Ten is about to add Maryland and Rutgers. But as far as on-the-field moments go, Denard Robinson opening the game at tailback for Michigan was a surprise. Even the Wolverines' official Twitter feed was momentarily confused, announcing Robinson as the starting quarterback as he jogged onto the field for his team's first possession. Instead, he lined up behind Gardner, took a pitch and began a new chapter of his Michigan career while saying goodbye to the Big House.

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