Tag:Northwestern
Posted on: October 3, 2011 2:20 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2011 2:25 pm
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Illinois LB Brown suspended for knee to the groin

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Last Saturday, we lamented the fact that Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown wasn't ejected for a blatant knee to the, shall we say, sensitive region of Northwestern lineman Patrick Ward late in the first half of what would eventually be a thrilling 38-35 victory for the Illini. Brown was at least given a personal foul penalty for that, the most personal of all fouls, and Northwestern would take the lead on the very next snap.

Still, Illinois coach Ron Zook and the Big Ten agreed that merely a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct wasn't quite sufficient, and for that Brown will not be participating in this week's game against Indiana. Here's the announcement from the Big Ten that went out Monday morning:

The Big Ten Conference office announced that it has accepted the one-game suspension of University of Illinois football student-athlete Jonathan Brown for violating the Big Ten Sportslike Conduct Agreement during the Northwestern game on Oct. 1, 2011.

University of Illinois head coach Ron Zook suspended Brown for the Oct. 8 game at Indiana for unsportslike behavior. In accordance with penalties established in Big Ten Conference Agreement 10.01.1.A.1, the conference office also publicly reprimands Brown for his actions.

The Big Ten Sportslike Conduct Agreement states that “It shall be the responsibility of each member university to ensure that all of its students and all individuals employed by or directly associated with it comport themselves in a sportslike manner when representing their university, especially at intercollegiate athletic contests.”

If anything, one game is too light of a suspension; watch the foul again, and you can see that this was a deliberate, unprovoked attack by Brown that took place outside of any in-game competition. The play was over, and Brown had no reason to so much as interact with Ward, much less make any contact with him, much much less knee him straight in the sacred area.

It'd be a two-game suspension and an unholy amount of extra sprints for Brown if I were coaching the Illini, but if the Big Ten accepts Illinois' suspension as it is, there's really not much issue to take with the punishment.

Posted on: October 2, 2011 4:26 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:07 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 1)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Wisconsin should probably go undefeated this year. Seventh-ranked Wisconsin faced its first stiff test of the season, as No. 8 Nebraska came to town for a night game at Camp Randall in the Big Ten opener for both schools. Wisconsin treated Nebraska like just another speed bump, crushing the Huskers 48-17 in a game that saw the Badgers outscore Nebraska 41-3 in the last 33 minutes of play. It was equal parts savage, brilliant, and awe-inspiring -- the type of game that only great teams play.

Wisconsin's slate from here on out is heavy on intriguing road games, but if Nebraska can't even keep the game within 30 points, what hope would Ohio State or Illinois or anybody else left on the schedule have of winning a game against the Badgers? Russell Wilson can basically do whatever he wants on offense, and with a duo of tailbacks like Montee Ball and James White behind him, the Wisconsin attack is basically as complete as offenses can get.

So yes, Wisconsin should go undefeated this year. That would be quite welcome, especially if it ends in a game against whoever takes the SEC between LSU and Alabama. Would the SEC team win? Possibly. Plausibly. Probably. I'd sure like to see that determined on the field of play, and doubtless so would Wisconsin fans.

2. That team that just got wrecked by 31 points is still probably going to win its division. I don't know what's more infuriating -- that Nebraska has underperformed so badly in every game this season that they're probably just plain average as a whole, or that this average Nebraska team is still a favorite to win the Legends Division. Michigan's on a roll but has a nasty back half of the schedule, Michigan State has a brutal schedule and only managed 10 points against the Ohio State defense, Northwestern has major defensive issues to work out, Iowa struggles mightily against mobile quarterbacks while playing in a division full of them, and Minnesota... no.

Of course, the actual most likely result of this traffic jam of mediocrity is five teams tied at 4-4 and Minnesota eating paste at 0-8. This is the result I will be openly rooting for. because nothing would be funnier than Jim Delany taking a look at that situation, taking a look at Wisconsin, and then just canceling the First Ever Big Ten Championship Game and just handing the Rose Bowl to Wisconsin. And nobody would think that was the wrong thing to do.

3. Whatever you thought about the quarterback situation at Ohio State, I assure you, it's actually worse. Joe Bauserman was Ohio State's leading passer on Saturday, and if that doesn't sound troubling, please consider that Bauserman didn't enter the game until early in the fourth quarter, and he threw for all of 87 yards. Starter Braxton Miller, meanwhile, passed for 56 yards (not just on one drive, for the entire game), lost 27 on the ground, and led the OSU offense to all of six first downs in the first three quarters. The Buckeye faithful were booing early and often in this game, and while they generally weren't booing Miller himself, it certainly stands to reason that the mood at the 'Shoe would have been far more jovial if Terrelle Pryor had still been under center.

It didn't help that the Michigan State defensive front was teeing off on Miller, and generally overwhelming the Buckeye offensive line in the process, but it's just shocking that Ohio State could have such a dearth of production at the quarterback position like this. Miller's got talent, but is in no way game-ready, whereas Bauserman looks like someone who just doesn't belong on a two-deep of a BCS-level team. This is a personnel problem for Luke Fickell and Ohio State, and personnel problems like these don't generally solve themselves mid-season.

4. At this rate, Illinois might actually enjoy endgame pressure. Illinois is 5-0 for the first time in 60 years, and it's doing so at the expense of the cardiac health of Ron Zook and all the Illini fans. For the third straight week, Illinois won a game by three points, and for the third straight week, it needed to take the lead late in the fourth quarter and hang on for dear life. This week's victim was Northwestern, who capitalized on a Jason Ford fumble and drove for a go-ahead score with 75 seconds left ... only to see Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins drive the ball down the field with ease and punch the ball in for the game-winning score with 13 seconds left. 

It's too early to start making assumptions about Illinois' postseason fate as yet, because if the Illini keep getting into these 50-50 late-game situations, the odds are pretty low that they'll keep winning them consistently. And with games like home dates with Ohio State and Michigan -- not to mention a road match at Penn State -- still on the schedule, Illinois probably isn't even near done with the close contests yet this season. But perhaps it does, and perhaps the games won't be close, and perhaps Ron Zook -- he of the hottest seat in the Big Ten six weeks ago -- has another 10-win season up his sleeve just yet. Perhaps. We're at least on the right road for that to happen, at least.

5. Pssst... Michigan might be legitimate. Maybe. As long as Minnesota keeps proving itself to be far more MAC-worthy than BCS conference-caliber, it's going to be useless to read much into a team's performance beating the Gophers -- even the final score is 58-0. And yes, Michigan started 5-0 last year too and that season still ended with Rich Rodriguez fired. That's all true. The problem, though, is that Michigan started 5-0 in 1997 and it just so happened to finish 12-0 and win a national championship, and most teams that start 5-0 don't end up giving up the most points in program history and firing their coach.

So while it's easy to just say "But 2010" whenever someone mentions the fact that Michigan is still undefeated, there's one difference that's crucial to point out: the defense is showing up too. Last season, Michigan gave up over 25 points per game in its first five games. This year? 10.2. Yes, it's relevant that 31 points came against Notre Dame in a game the Wolverines had zero business winning and 20 came against tomato cans like Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, but consider that Michigan also spanked Western Michigan 34-10, and that's a Broncos team that came up just shy in a 23-20 loss at Illinois and just took a 38-31 win at Connecticut. So yes, given the context we've got, Michigan is not just pulling a 2010.

I still don't think Michigan survives that brutal November that awaits, and it's possible that with Dan Persa and Kirk Cousins looming as opposing quarterbacks in the next two games, Michigan might take a 5-2 (1-2) record into its bye week. But 6-1 (2-1) is more likely now, and being undefeated through seven games is definitely on the table. That's good news in Ann Arbor, especially when everyone else in the Legends division is staring at major problems that need fixing. But that's a topic best left for November; for now, Michigan would do well to focus on the next game in front of it.
Posted on: October 1, 2011 4:56 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Illinois 38, Northwestern 35

Posted by Adam Jacobi

ILLINOIS WON. After a lackluster first half, then an 18-point deficit, No. 24 Illinois came storming back and won a wild 38-35 slugfest against Northwestern. Nathan Scheelhaase (pictured at right, enjoying a trophy) drove the Illini 69 yards in just six players after Northwestern took a late lead, and Scheelhaase plunged in one a one-yard sneak with 13 seconds left to give Illinois the hard-fought victory.

WHY ILLINOIS WON: A.J. Jenkins was an unstoppable demon force on Saturday, catching 12 throws for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Plain and simple, Northwestern's secondary had no answer for Jenkins, and it might well be the case that some other defenses in the Big Ten won't be able to stop Jenkins either. Miscues almost cost the Illini the game on multiple occasions, though, and if it weren't for that heroic drive starting with 1:19 left in the game (a drive that was started by a 28-yard pass to Jenkins) Northwestern would have taken this game home.

WHEN ILLINOIS WON: This game wasn't settled until Illinois fell on a loose ball at the end of the game as Northwestern tried -- unsuccessfully -- to lateral its way into the end zone. Northwestern came close, as Kain Colter took one of the laterals into Illinois territory on a sprint, but Illinois' defenders prevented Northwestern from getting much further and that was that.

WHAT ILLINOIS WON: Illinois is now 5-0, having won each of its last three games by a three-point margin. This was a major test for the Illini, and they barely -- just barely -- pulled through for the victory. It's clear that A.J. Jenkins is a force to be reckoned with at wideout, and Illinois has now won games both primarily on the ground and through the air. That versatility bodes well for the future. For now, though, Illinois is 5-0 for the first time since its magical 1951 season, and the Illini can shore up bowl eligibility next week when they travel to Indiana.

WHAT NORTHWESTERN LOST: For the Wildcats, it was great to see Dan Persa back at quarterback and working his magic. Persa threw for four touchdowns on just 14 attempts, and more than that he just plain looked good. Unfortunately, Persa had to leave the game in the fourth quarter after he was tripped up on a scramble and came up hobbling. Kain Colter entered the game for Persa and drove the Wildcats to one touchdown, but he's clearly inferior to Persa. Good news for NU, though: Persa will likely be fine, and he was removed for what Pat Fitzgerald called "precautionary reasons." Still, though, this was a 50-50 game for Northwestern, and the loss means that Northwestern's darkhorse division title aspirations are likely at an end.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Nobody was ejected from today's game. That's too bad, because Illinois DB Jonathan Brown certainly deserved to be after he kneed Northwestern lineman Patrick Ward square in the, ahem, "man parts" after a play was over. As it was, Brown earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the act, and Northwestern would score a go-ahead touchdown on the very next snap. There's illegal play, there's dirty play, and then there's hits (or knees) below the belt. 15 yards doesn't seem sufficient for that.

Posted on: September 30, 2011 3:19 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 4:41 pm
 

The Saturday Meal Plan: Week 5

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet.  Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom. 

I respect you all too much to lie to you, so I'll be upfront about the fact that outside of our dinner menu this week, we're a little light on the calories this weekend. Yes, having a matchup between two ranked non-conference opponents to kick things off in the morning is a wonderful way to start you day, but after that, it's kinda thin.

Of course, none of this means you shouldn't eat lunch. Many times the simplest meals turn out to be the best ones of the day. So keep an open eye while perusing this week's Meal Plan.

BREAKFAST

#18 Arkansas vs. #14 Texas A&M (in Dallas) - ESPN 12pm ET

The final meeting between these two schools as non-conference foes, and both teams are coming into the game with a bit of a limp. Texas A&M blew a halftime lead at home against Oklahoma State last weekend, and Arkansas did not enjoy its trip to Tuscaloosa to take on Alabama. What better way to move on from a defeat than by beating one of your oldest rivals? It's not often that we're given a matchup like this so early in the morning, so take advantage of it while you can. - Tom Fornelli

#24 Illinois vs. Northwestern - ESPN2 12pm ET

You want points? You're going to get points. Northwestern finally welcomes 2010 dynamo Dan Persa back from his Achilles injury, and the Illinois pass/option attack led by Nathan Scheelhaase has led the Illini to over 32 points a game -- and a 4-0 record. Both teams are looking to make a darkhorse run at their respective Big Ten division crowns, and each would welcome a hard-fought win to begin the conference slate. I know it's an early kickoff, but don't sleep on this game. - Adam Jacobi

Navy vs. Air Force - CBS 12pm ET

Restaurants of all kinds tend to offer "alternative" meals for customers, so think of this matchup of two of our nation's military branches to be our vegan offering of the week. Just replace animal products with passing game, and that's exactly what this is. When these two teams meet it's like looking through a window back in time as both teams employ option attacks. - TF

LUNCH

#10 South Carolina vs. Auburn - CBS 3:30pm ET

Neither team enters this game feeling particularly good about itself, not after the Tigers wheezed their way past an awful FAU team 30-16 and Carolina watched Stephen Garcia throw four hideous interceptions against Vanderbilt. But given Auburn's persistent tackling issues, even Garcia shouldn't be able to keep Marcus Lattimore from racking up another Heisman-type day on the ground. - Jerry Hinnen

Kansas State vs. #15 Baylor - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

I don't think many people saw this game on the schedule at the beginning of the year and envisioned a battle of unbeatens in Manhattan, but that's exactly what we're getting. Even if that weren't the case, this one would still be worthy of your attention for the prospect of seeing Robert Griffin play football for three hours on its own. It's the first time Griffin and Baylor have had to venture outside of Waco this season, so it'll be interesting to see how he performs in hostile territory. - TF

Ohio State vs. Michigan State - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

The Big Ten's night game is going to get all the attention, but this game could prove to be the most ruinous for whoever loses it. Michigan State is reeling after seeing its vaunted offensive attack shut down by Notre Dame's, um, inconsistent defense. Meanwhile, OSU hasn't looked great since Week 2, and if Braxton Miller can't get the Buckeyes moving against the MSU defense, that QB controversy is firing right back up and we haven't seen the last of Joe Bauserman. - AJ

N.C. State vs. #21 Georgia Tech - ABC/ESPN 3:30pm ET

The days of Paul Johnson's offense being defined as "three yards and a cloud of dust" are long gone in Atlanta.  The Rambling Wreck lead the nation in plays of 30 yards or more, and they passed their first conference test putting up 312 rushing yards against North Carolina's touted front seven. N.C. State did not pass their first conference test, allowing 438 yards of total offense against Wake Forest.  The Wolfpack are banged up on defense, and enter the game with only one of their top three running backs (not good for keeping the opposing offense off the field).  But Tom O'Brien's squad had their number a year ago in Atlanta, forcing some turnovers and blocking a punt on the way to a 45-28 win.  Unfortunately for the struggling Wolfpack, the Yellow Jackets remember that game all too well. - Chip Patterson

DINNER

#11 Virginia Tech vs. #13 Clemson - ESPN2 6pm ET

Two undefeated Top 15 ACC foes face off under the lights in Lane Stadium, and both have a lot to prove in this game.  The Hokies haven't been tested by any kind of noteworthy competition, and the development of sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas has taken a bit longer than some expected.  Clemson, on the other hand, is trying to win their third straight game against a ranked opponent - something an ACC member school has never done.  But the Tigers' undefeated record has all come in the comfy confines of Death Valley.  Before anyone anoints Dabo Swinney's squad as contenders, they need to prove themselves on the road.  Chad Morris' offense against Bud Foster's defense.  The young Dabo Swinney against the winningest active coach in the conference.  It's the premiere game in the conference and should live up to the hype.  Make sure you tune in early for a chance to see "Enter Sandman" in action. - CP

Iowa State vs. #17 Texas - FX 7pm ET

Another battle of unbeatens in the Big 12 takes place in Ames on Saturday night. Normally a matchup between Texas and Iowa State wouldn't seem like something you'd want to try, but remember that Iowa State went into Austin last season and beat the Longhorns. So Texas is going to want to return the favor this season, and if either team wants to have any legitimate chance to win the Big 12 this season, then this is one they'll have to win. - TF

#12 Florida vs. #3 Alabama - CBS 8pm ET

Another week, another serious challenge to Alabama's potential national title campaign. And given the environment (as hostile as you'll see in college football this season, most likely), the weaponry on the opponent's defensive line (Ronald Powell, Jaye Howard, Sharrif Floyd, etc.), and the big-play capability represented by Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey, the Gators should prove an even more substantial challenge than Arkansas did. But it's going to take the performance of John Brantley's life to keep the Tide from collapsing on Demps and Rainey, and something similar from the Gator back seven to keep Trent Richardson from uncorking another 60-plus-yard game-changing run. Are they up to it? - JH

#7 Wisconsin vs. #8 Nebraska - ABC 8pm ET

Saturday is the day of reckoning for one of the Big Ten's two divisional favorites; Nebraska is ranked eighth, but has not looked like a world-beater in any of its non-conference games, whereas No. 7 Wisconsin has rolled in early play, but against clearly inferior competition. Wisconsin's the only team of the two that's been able to run and pass at will, but with Nebraska's defense at its healthiest all year, it remains to be seen whether the Badgers can move the ball reliably this week. What a great way to finish the first week of Big Ten play. - AJ [Video Preview]

LATE NIGHT SNACK

#6 Stanford vs. UCLA - FSN 10:30pm ET

Bruins head coach Rick Neuheisel said earlier in the week that one of the biggest differences between his program and what the Cardinal have been doing is easy: Andrew Luck. No doubt Rick, no doubt. The Heisman front runner should enjoy facing a UCLA defense ranked 98th in the country. This is also Stanford's first game without linebacker Shayne Skov so keep an eye on how they handle UCLA's Pistol offense. - Bryan Fischer [Video Preview]
Posted on: September 29, 2011 2:47 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 12:14 am
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 5


Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

Good news, my fellow containers of the Y chromosome: while we have yet to overtake her, we have crept ever closer to Woman this week in the standings. Woman is reeling from her first losing week of the season, and it has her shaken to the core. She's looking over her shoulder and she sees us drawing nearer. Her confidence is shaken. 

She knows it's only a matter of time before Man rises up and takes his rightful place atop the throne.

And that time is now.

Pitt vs. South Florida (-2 1/2) - Thursday, 8pm (All Times Eastern)

Man - Is there anything more exciting than the beginning of Big East football season? Of course there is, in fact, there are a lot of things more exciting. I'll still watch anyway, and since I had to suffer through 60 minutes of a Pitt game last weekend, I'm picking South Florida on principle. Pick: South Florida

Woman - "Skip Holtz's Bulls smacked Notre Dame around who, in turn, smacked Pitt around.  That should make this pick easy but a short week + travel for South Florida and Heinz Field + two embarrassing losses in a row + points for the Panthers makes me waver.  (By the way, am I the last person to realize the Holtz family are living the song 'SKIP to my LOU'?  Ewwww.)" Pick: Pitt

Machine - The Machine foresees a bad night for B.J. Daniels in Ketchup Stadium on Thursday night, as he throws 3 costly interceptions and the Panthers emerge victorious, 27-20. Pick: Pitt

Michigan (-20 1/2) vs. Minnesota - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This is a tough one to call. Not because I don't think Michigan is going to win, but because I'm not sure I trust Michigan's defense enough to give up nearly three touchdowns in the spread. Though I suppose that if Michigan could beat San Diego State by 21, then it should be able to handle Minnesota. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Ah, yes, that storied rivalry known as the Little Brown Jug Bowl. Word is, next year they're changing it to the 'Little Brown Change Dish You Made for Your Dad at Summer Camp'.Bowl." Pick: Michigan

Machine - It seems the Machine is more committed to making Denard Robinson a pocket passer than Brady Hoke is, as Robinson throws for over 300 yards while rushing for only 27. Michigan wins rather easily, but Minnesota covers the spread, 38-20. Pick: Minnesota

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - The last meeting between these two teams before they're conference rivals once again. I picked Texas A&M to end its losing streak against Oklahoma State last week, and the Aggies let me down. I don't know if I'm ready to make that mistake again. Pick: Arkansas

Woman - "'Welcome to the SEC, Aggies! Please accept these brass knuckles in your nether regions from Bobby Petrino.' 'Why, thank you, Razorbacks! Please enjoy our blood curdling practice cheers outside your hotel window at 3am.'" Pick: Texas A&M

Machine - You may want to reconsider the SEC, Aggies. The Machine tells us of a ritual sacrifice taking place in Dallas on Saturday morning, as Arkansas wins 42-21. Pick: Arkansas

Illinois (-6 1/2) vs. Northwestern - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I was at the meeting between these two teams last season at Wrigley Field and I still remember Mikel LeShoure running wild on the Northwestern defense. I'm not a big fan of trusting Ron Zook with anything, but even if Dan Persa does play this weekend, he's going to have a bit of rust to shake off. Pick: Illinois

Woman - "Oh, Sweet Sioux, here we - yawn - go again.  With or without Persa, the Wildcats are a strong team with the extra bye week to prepare. And give me the points from a Ron Zook-coached team any day." Pick: Northwestern

Machine - The Machine believes in the Fighting Zooks, but it also knows that Pat Fitzgerald's teams always keep things close. Illinois wins 24-21. Pick: Northwestern

South Carolina (-10 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Before last week's game against Vanderbilt, South Carolina had failed to cover in any of its first three games this season. Which makes that spread seem a bit large, because although I know Auburn isn't the same team this season, it's offense has still proved to be pretty potent. I'm going to go with Auburn to at least keep it interesting. Or, more accurately, I'm going with Stephen Garcia allowing Auburn to keep it interesting. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "Seems like a mighty big line for an offense whose quarterback has thrown nearly as many picks as passes, until you realize he's up against a team who would have their hands full defensing this." Pick: South Carolina

Machine - Remember the Georgia Dome! South Carolina gets its revenge for the SEC title game last season, kicking the defending champs while they're down, 34-20. Pick: South Carolina

Kansas State vs. Baylor (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - At some point this year you're likely to see the "Robert Griffin For Heisman" bandwagon rolling through your town, and when you do see it, I'll be the guy driving it. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "I don't care what record Kansas State brings to this contest, until Robert Griffin III does something - anything - to prove otherwise, I'm doubling down on the amazing Baylor QB. A game I will not miss." Pick: Baylor

Machine - Not even the Machine is impervious to RG3, though it sees Griffin only being able to complete 70% of his passes this week. Baylor rolls 38-14. Pick: Baylor

Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) vs. Clemson - Saturday, 6pm

Man - I understand that expecting a Clemson meltdown is the natural thing to do, but at the same time, this Clemson team has already survived contests against Florida State and Auburn. Virginia Tech hasn't played anybody yet, and while I think playing at home gives Tech the edge, I don't think it's going to come easy, either. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "Virginia Tech should be stuffed on cupcakes by now and ready for some real football. Meanwhile, despite tougher opposition, I haven't been overwhelmed by Clemson's play and think the bubble will burst on Saturday. But I'm going to guess they'll cover." Pick: Clemson

Machine - It won't be very high-scoring, but the Machine sees an exciting game in our future. After a touchdown run by Andre Ellington gives Clemson a 21-20 lead with less than two minutes left, Logan Thomas leads a nice drive to set up a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to give the Hokies a 23-21 victory. Pick: Clemson

Florida vs. Alabama (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - I haven't seen much of the Gators this season, but from what I'm told, John Brantley hasn't been completely terrible at all. Which is definitely a bonus for Florida. That being said, Brantley hasn't had to face this Alabama defense yet. I expect a tough, low-scoring battle in this one, but I feel like Trent Richardson will break through at some point, and it may be all Alabama needs. Pick: Alabama

Woman - "Florida under Will Muschamp and his offensive coach Charlie Weis is strong in new, exciting ways, but I just can't seen them holding back Satan Saban and the Crimson juggernaut. Maybe next year." Pick: Alabama

Machine - I hope you like defense, because the Machine says there will be a lot of it in The Swamp on Saturday night. The Tide doesn't exactly roll as much as it drowns. Alabama wins 13-7. Pick: Alabama

Wisconsin (-9 1/2) vs. Nebraska - Saturday, 8pm

Man - This seems like a trap. That spread just feels really big considering this game is between the two teams who are supposed to be the best in the Big Ten. Then you start thinking about how Nebraska has looked so far this season compared to Wisconsin, and it makes a bit more sense. That being said, who exactly has Wisconsin played? It's hard to make this call, but I think Taylor Martinez makes some key mistakes in a hostile environment on Saturday night and the Badgers capitalize. Pick: Wisconsin

Woman - "Welcome to the inaugural Big Ten Championship game, Round One. Of course, this version is going to be played in the cacaphonous craziness that is Camp Randall, led by a Badgers team with a dominant defense and a sterling new QB. By January, Nebraska should have the kinks worked out but this week they will yield to a superior home team." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - The Machine says "If there's one Big Ten game you're going to watch this weekend, make it this one, because it's going to be crazy! Wisconsin holds off Nebraska 35-34." In other news, if your Playstation starts talking to you, it's probably time to turn it off or get some sleep. Pick: Nebraska

Stanford (-20 1/2) vs. UCLA - Saturday, 10:30pm

Man - If Jim Harbuagh were still around, this one would be easy to pick. With David Shaw in charge, I'm just not as sure that Stanford won't slow things down a bit once this game is in hand late, and UCLA has been somewhat bi-polar this season, so I'm not sure which team to expect. Screw it, I'll go with Stanford. Pick: Stanford

Woman - "Through some hard-hitting investigative journalism, I've procured copies of Stanford's playbook and UCLA's. So... yeah. Stanford wins but without star linebacker Shayne Skov, I think they won't quite cover." Pick: UCLA 

Machine - Andrew Luck is an unstoppable killing machine. He throws for 6 touchdowns and runs for another as Stanford obliterates the Bruins, 52-17. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 28-17 (4-6)
2. Man 27-18 (6-4)
3. Machine 23-22 (6-4)
Posted on: September 28, 2011 2:38 pm
Edited on: September 30, 2011 11:47 am
 

PODCAST: College Football Week 5 Preview

Posted by Adam Jacobi

We've got a Big Ten showdown in Wisconsin (where it's basically impossible to beat the Badgers at night), Will Muschamp's introduction to the Alabama-Florida rivalry, an ACC road test for Clemson, a bounce-back opportunity for both Arkansas and Texas A&M and much more. Ohio State faces a tough challenge as Michigan State comes to Columbus. USF looks to prove its legitimacy with a Thursday night game at Pitt. Does Auburn have a chance against South Carolina? Dan Persa returns for Northwestern, but can he beat Illinois? We've got it all covered with this week's Weekend Preview. 

Click here for the pop-out player if you'd like to listen in a new window, otherwise just hit play right below.

The only thing I'll add to the Wisconsin-Nebraska discussion is that Adam and Darin are, in my mind, vastly underestimating Wisconsin's talent advantage here -- especially when the Badgers have the ball. Last year, I wrote that the Iowa defense was the biggest fraud in the Big Ten. This year, so far, Nebraska's defense looks ready to assume that ignominious title unless it starts shutting somebody, anybody down. Adam and Darin mentioned the pedestrian yardage numbers the Husker D has given up, but yardage allowed in double-digit victories can be misleading sometimes; teams scramble in the fourth quarter against defenses more concerned with keeping the clock running and not allowing big plays than with forcing a punt, for example, or maybe the defense has its reserves in with a 27-point lead and three minutes left or what have you.

So I'll just also point out that Nebraska has forced 3-and-outs on 16 of 50 possessions (not including end-of-half kneeldowns). And yeah, Nebraska's non-conference slate has been more challenging than Wisconsin's run of puff pastries, but we're still only talking about Chattanooga, Fresno State, Washington, and Wyoming here -- not exactly a murderer's row of offensive firepower. Nebraska's defense is supposed to be the best in the Big Ten, and instead it's, eh, decent. Guess what: Bret Bielema and Wisconsin's offense eat "decent" for breakfast and they still have room for brunch.

Posted on: September 27, 2011 6:36 pm
 

Dan Persa to start for Northwestern this week

Posted by Adam Jacobi

It's been nearly eleven months, but for Northwestern fans, the wait to see Dan Persa take the field is finally over. Persa, a senior quarterback from Bethlehem, PA, is set to finally return from a ruptured ACL this Saturday as Northwestern opens up its conference schedule against Illinois.

"I fully anticipate that Dan will play," coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "How much and all those things are to be determined in how the week goes. ... He's not only mentally ready, he's chomping at the bit to play."

Persa will be stepping back in for Kain Colter, the sophomore signal-caller who started all three games this season. Colter led the Wildcats to wins against Boston College and Eastern Illinois in Northwestern's first two contests, but the Wildcat offense sputtered in a 21-14 loss to Army in Week 3. Northwestern had a bye week last Saturday.

Persa's return, barring an unforeseen setback between now and Saturday, should have an immediate impact on what has been an inconsistent Northwestern offensive attack. Persa was second only to Wisconsin senior QB Scott Tolzein in passing efficiency among Big Ten quarterbacks last year, ranking ninth nationally, and he led the nation by completing 73.5% of his passes. Persa also led the Wildcats in rushing yards during the 2010 regular season, stepping in to cover for a running game that didn't find a consistent tailback until the emergency of Mike Trumpy late in the year.

Of course, that production all happened when Persa had two healthy legs, and while Persa's recovery has progressed to the point that he's being allowed to play ball again -- like, he's not going to be limping substantially with concerned trainers begging him to get off the field -- he's still going to have to play a different style of ball as he relearns to use and trust that leg in competition. That's not an immediate process, no matter how smart or brave any athlete is, but it's also not forever, so again, barring any major setbacks, we expect Persa to be as dynamic as ever by the end of this season and beyond.
Posted on: September 26, 2011 5:29 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 5:34 pm
 

Big Ten poll reactions, Week 4

Posted by Adam Jacobi

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big Ten fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

7/7. Wisconsin

I've said for the entire year that Wisconsin's closer to fourth or fifth in terms of talent and play quality, and there's nothing the Badgers have done to indicate that they're not one of the five best teams in the nation. Unfortunately, the Badgers have also played noooobody, especially compared to the six teams ranked above the Badgers, so I can't muster up any disapproval of Wisconsin sitting at seventh in both polls. Fortunately, the non-conference slate is over, and Wisconsin's playing a real opponent this week. Finally.

8/8. Nebraska

Hey, there's Wisconsin's conference opener right there, Nebraska! Nebraska's now only one spot behind Wisconsin, which if you've actually seen both teams play this year, is preposterous. The Huskers' trip to Madison is, I suspect, going to push both teams back toward where I think they both belong--mainly, Wisconsin at 5, and Nebraska at 15. So if Wisconsin wins by two scores, like I'm predicting, I don't think Nebraska falls very far in my rankings. That's what the 15th best team ought to do in a road game at the fifth best team, isn't it? Of course, in Win Go Up Lose Go Down Poll World, Nebraska's about to tumble, but that just seems like a correction that I don't need to make on my end. And yes, Sensitive Nebraska Fan, I am totally biased against your team now and forever, even while I still think the Huskers win the division title. Whatever you need to sleep at night.

19/19. Michigan

Michigan as the third-highest ranked team in the Big Ten? Shows you what going 4-0 gets you, I suppose. This is higher than I have Michigan, although not by as much as before, and as long as Denard Robinson remains bulletproof things will continue to improve in Ann Arbor. It's just, jeez, that last half of the schedule might mean a 1-5 finish for the Maize and Blue. I'm letting it affect my voting habits for Michigan. I shouldn't yet. Punish the teams the losses they have and not the ones that loom, right? Right. So I suppose No. 19 is fine -- for now.

24/22. Illinois

This ranking is about right. Illinois continues its unlikely unbeaten spree and will probably do so until at least October 15 when it hosts Ohio State. But honestly, that's going to be like a late-oughts Boise State 6-0: One tough opponent, and the rest a set of cupcakes that all but the worst BCS conference teams could go 5-0 against. And yet no matter how many qualifiers you attach to it, unbeaten is still unbeaten, and that puts Illinois on a higher level than 8 of their conference mates so far. Borderline Top 25 works for Illinois until the Ohio State game; that's when their conference season really kicks off.

NR/25. Michigan State

Sure, the Spartans slaughtered Central Michigan. I still don't trust that rushing attack after how well Notre Dame shut it down, and I won't trust it until MSU runs on a real defense. Sayyy, Michigan State goes to Ohio State this week! Show me something good, Sparty, and I'll be happy to return MSU to my Top 25 at once.

Also receiving votes: Michigan State (51 AP votes), Ohio State (15 AP votes, 61 coaches votes), Penn State (12 AP votes, 34 coaches votes), Northwestern (5 coaches votes) (what seriously oh god why)
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com