Tag Archives: Indiana

Relax, Ohio State’s Bad Looks Good

Ohio State is 5-0 and ranked No. 2 in the latest AP poll as the Buckeyes travel to Madison for a top-10 matchup with No. 8 Wisconsin. All of a sudden, maybe because the Buckeyes only managed to defeat Indiana by 21 points, the local vibe surrounding Ohio State has taken a significant dip. The Buckeyes did not lose this game and never came even remotely close. In Columbus, sometimes even a shaky performance can be perceived like a loss.

Sure, Curtis Samuel only receiving nine touches is somewhat baffling as is the fact that quarterback J.T. Barrett only completed nine passes. These are things that can and will be fixed, especially with an upgrade in competition on the horizon in a primetime setting.

Ohio State played anything but a perfect game and made plenty of mistakes against Indiana, but if that is the Buckeyes’ version of bad, Ohio State is in great shape. Indiana also deserves a lot of credit. The Hoosiers came into the Horseshoe with their hair on fire, following an emotional last-second victory against Michigan State last week. Teams like Indiana have nothing to lose when playing Ohio State and the Buckeyes are going to have a target on their back week-in and week-out.

We would be naive to think that a subpar performance was not in the cards for Ohio State at some point this season. There will be another game or two where the Buckeyes may come out of the gate a bit flat, especially against an inferior opponent. The Indiana game had “letdown” written all over it and I apologize to any of you who had Ohio State covering the four touchdown spread.

It was a game sandwiched between Rutgers (as close to a bye-week as you can possibly get) and at Wisconsin, the first true road conference game for many of these Buckeyes. Aside from Wisconsin being a top-10 opponent that hung with Michigan for four quarters, Camp Randall can be a beast at night, so it doesn’t surprise me that Ohio State appeared lackluster at times against Indiana, both players and coaches.

I might be worried if the Buckeyes were making a trend of mediocre performances like they did in 2015, but they’re not. The problem last year was that Saturday against Indiana became the norm. Ohio State has already proven that they are one of the most dominant teams in the country, if not the most, and a 21-point victory against at least a semi-decent team isn’t going to change that. This Indiana team doesn’t resemble Bowling Green, Tulsa or Rutgers in any way and Ohio State isn’t going to play a perfect game or win by 50 points every time it takes the field. And that’s okay.

When Ohio State takes the field at Wisconsin on Saturday night, a capacity crowd at Camp Randall will be silenced. Of course, the Badger faithful will “jump around” at the conclusion of the third quarter, but they won’t have much else to be excited about. Wisconsin is an extremely solid team that plays phenomenal defense and is without question, worthy of their current No. 8 ranking based on their resume so far.

The Big Ten has four teams currently ranked in the AP top-10 for the first time since 1960. I understand that the conference appears to be back on the map for the first time in a decade and that Wisconsin is a team that played Michigan tough and even knocked off SEC-power LSU.

However, Wisconsin is still what I would call “Big Ten” good. The Badgers are a top-tier physical team that plays defense, but lacks the necessary speed in order to beat the nation’s elite. Being at home and playing under the lights in the primetime showcase game, Wisconsin will compete with Ohio State for awhile, but ultimately the Buckeyes are just on another level from a talent and speed perspective.

Before the 2016 season began, none of us could have expected Ohio State, a team that lost 16 starters, to be arguably the best team in the country after six weeks. Through four games, Ohio State’s smallest margin of victory is 21 points, which came at Oklahoma, an impressive statement to say the least. Now, the Buckeyes come out with one lackluster performance offensively and all of a sudden we’re worried?

R-E-L-A-X. Ohio State doesn’t need style points against Indiana. Wisconsin will have Ohio State’s undivided attention and Barrett and Co. will jump all over and around the Badgers.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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NASCAR Relationship With Phil Robertson Speaks to Inconsistency on Acceptance

As with just about everything else, it seems that NASCAR just can’t come to a consistent stance on the issue of gay rights and acceptance.

When the new “religious freedom” law in Indiana was announced, people were outraged that a state could pass a law that was so discriminatory against the gay and lesbian community. As the law gained attention, people and companies came out in support of LGBT rights and tolerance, including NASCAR.

NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes said in a statement that NASCAR was disappointed by the decision in Indiana and that the sport would not embrace intolerance or exclusion.

“NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.”

For NASCAR, it was important to put out a statement in a timely fashion since it will be in Indiana in July for the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard. In theory, it was a great statement by NASCAR and one that could be taken as a big step.

Only one problem – the statement isn’t completely accurate.

As long as you have money to spend with NASCAR, the sport will look past your beliefs and even the things you say publicly on just about any subject, including this one. Don’t believe me? Look at the very next race on the NASCAR schedule after that statement was made – that’s right, it is the The Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 12.

Not familiar with Duck Commander? Well, it is the company that was started by Phil Robertson and has morphed into the hit television show “Duck Dynasty.” Members of the Robertson family (and popular characters on the show) are scheduled to take part in some of the pre-race festivities at the track. That includes Phil Robertson waving the green flag to begin The Duck Commander 500.

Why is this problematic for NASCAR? Well, let’s just say that Robertson hasn’t exactly been a pillar of acceptance. In fact, he has been quite the opposite.

In an interview in the January 2014 issue of GQ Magazine, Robertson spoke his mind on all subjects, including his opinion on gay marriage. The statement originally got Robertson suspended by A&E, the network who airs “Duck Dynasty.”

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus.  That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical. Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong. Sin becomes fine. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

That raises a huge issue – a red flag, if you will – for NASCAR. How can the sport preach acceptance one minute and then allow Robertson – who has been very outspoken on the opposite side of the aisle on the issue – to stand on the flag stand and begin the race?

The answer seems pretty simple – it can’t. At the end of the day, NASCAR needs to step in and decide that it is in its best interest to not have Robertson waving the green flag and representing the sport. Of course, the part making that more difficult is that Robertson and his company are lining the pockets of NASCAR and Texas Motor Speedway by sponsoring the race. The three-year deal between Duck Commander and Texas Motor Speedway is estimated at around $5 million – and that just includes the naming rights. Imagine the other money being brought in with ticket and merchandise sales.

If NASCAR wants to save any shred of respect and credibility it has remaining, there needs to be a serious decision on this – does NASCAR stand on the side of acceptance or on the side of money? That’s an interesting conundrum, especially considering the parties involved here. Robertson – a preacher and devout Christian – could easily point to a verse in the Bible that would give NASCAR the answer they need but would also work against him.

“For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil…” 1 Timothy 6:10

For the sake of the sport, let’s hope NASCAR values their integrity over the almighty dollar. But if I had to bet my money on it, I would wager that NASCAR sticks with Phil Robertson. After all, the flag he will be waving isn’t the only green between the patriarch of Duck Commander and NASCAR.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.

SEC: Who Wants It?

SEC

 

Another college football season has lived up to the fun and crazy expectations highlighted with a pinch of criticism, a dash of chaos and a big bowl of excitement. However, these ingredients could either dissolve or overpower the dish in these remaining weeks of the regular season – starting in the SEC.

A little bit of chaos is usually not a bad thing in the conference and that is mostly expected with the talent and coaches this conference possesses, but I will be the first to admit that the overall expectation of the SEC faltered just a little bit in 2014 so far.

To go into detail, the East has been a disaster this season and the storm even trickled into out of conference play with Missouri’s loss to Indiana and Vanderbilt’s loss to Temple. Making the matters worse there hasn’t been much consistency in power with the media favorite South Carolina getting blown out at home by Texas A&M in the first week of the season, Missouri’s random loss to Indiana (many didn’t even know the two were playing until Mizzou lost), South Carolina’s expected “win the big ones lose the small ones” versus Georgia, and then Florida’s revolutionary (not really) win over Georgia with 418 rushing yards.

And yet we still have no idea who will be in Atlanta, but this weekend could clear the air for a better picture of who may reign “supreme”.

The West, on the other hand, followed the mold of recent years with highly competitive games with four to five contenders battling each weekend. One would think that breaking down the 2014 West division is less complicated and has a simpler method in configuring a winner, but weirdly enough there is still a chance for four teams to make a case and win the division.

 

SEC

This weekend is crucial for the SEC.

ESPN’s College Gameday is headed to Tuscaloosa for the marquee game of the week as the Bulldogs roll in to possibly blow their unblemished season or at least that is ALL I am hearing… Alabama’s season is on the line as well. An Alabama loss gives the Tide two losses and therefore playing for “just” state bragging rights on November 29th.

An Auburn-Georgia matchup has become more of a chippy rivalry as of late and has done away with the traditional friendly brother versus brother matchup with countless personal foul penalties, more fan disputes, and crazy and creative shenanigans. Why not add in that the loser is eliminated from SEC postseason play? What more emotions can come from that?

Remember this:

The crunch time moments are here and the special plays await us. Time to sit back and watch some fun SEC football games. Get ready.

Big Ten Power Rankings

The College Football Playoff rankings are officially out for the first time and what was once seen as a potential lifesaver for the Big Ten has done the conference no favors. The playoff was supposed to create three more opportunities at the title but at this juncture in time, not even six spots would be enough for the conference to qualify as MSU checks in at No. 8 in the initial rankings and in a mild but completely understandable surprise, Nebraska is 15th just ahead of Ohio State.
 
It is clear that the Buckeyes massive defeats were overshadowed by their blemishes including a double overtime scare from Penn State and a Week 2 home loss to an unranked 4-4 Virginia Tech team, even though it was before J.T. Barrett truly blossomed. Yes, I know there is a ton of football yet to be played and everything could become gobbledygook near the top but these early rankings are far from encouraging for the Big Ten. And just for argument’s sake even if the Spartans were ranked higher than they are now, they would need other leagues to stumble. Thursday night’s matchup between Florida State and Louisville would’ve been huge for the conference if Louisville hung on to win but the Seminoles came back and it’s hard to fathom them losing again this year, guaranteeing them a spot. And it’s all but certain given the strength of the SEC West, two SEC teams get in, leaving one spot left. The Big Ten would be in a competition with the Big 12 champ, Pac-12 champ, and Notre Dame for that final spot and based on what has transpired this season, I would say the Big Ten will be left out even if MSU, OSU or even Nebraska wins the rest of the way.
If there is any silver lining, last year at this time with the BCS, MSU was No. 22 and six weeks later would’ve qualified for a playoff spot so it remains to be seen what happens but early signs aren’t great for the Big Ten. All the conference can do is continue having its top tier teams win out and hope for the best, which brings us back to an updated power rankings lineup.
1. Michigan State Spartans
Record: 7-1 overall, 4-0 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 1.
The Spartans have now won 14 consecutive Big Ten games but unlike seasons past, their defense has been more vulnerable to the big play. Fortunately, after throttling Michigan again, MSU has earned a nice bye week to recuperate and work out the kinks in preparation for the biggest game of the year.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Record: 7-1 overall, 3-1 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 3
Nebraska set the tone early as Ameer Abdullah continued his dazzling season by churning out a school record for total yardage in a single game with 341 yards in a victory over Rutgers. It was the fourth time this season he has gone over 200 yards.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
Record: 7-1 overall, 3-0 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 2
The Buckeyes barely hung on to defeat Penn State as J.T. Barrett rose to the occasion in overtime and Joey Bosa was a one man wrecking crew. The Buckeyes can let out a collective sigh of relief as they face Illinois in a nice tune-up game before the grand showdown with MSU next weekend.
4. Wisconsin Badgers
Record: 5-2 overall, 2-1 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 9
In their most complete and balanced performance of the season, the Badgers shined with stout defense (held Terps to 175 yards), efficient passing from QB Joel Stave and of course, Melvin Gordon running over everything in his path. Rutgers, who was singlehandedly demolished by Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah could be in for another long day with Gordon hitting his stride.
5. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Record: 6-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 4
The Illinois defense forced three costly turnovers including the game-changing fumble in the fourth quarter and though David Cobb finished with118 yards, he was held to 34 yards for nearly three quarters. If they can’t get passed Illinois, they definitely are in trouble four top-tier teams are coming up in the future: Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
6. Maryland Terrapins
Record: 5-3 overall, 2-2 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 10
A week following a jovial win over Iowa, the Terrapins were decimated by Wisconsin 52-7 in their worst loss of the year and it remains to be seen if they can rebound from such a crushing defeat especially with a tough schedule ahead. The Terps aren’t ready to take on the B1Gs elite.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes
Record: 5-2 overall, 2-1 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 6
The Hawkeyes are still in the thick of the West division title race and control their own destiny even with a troubling loss to Maryland last week. However, if they want to rise to the top, there needs to be much improvement especially on defense and offensive line.
8. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Record: 5-3 overall, 1-3 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 8
Rutgers attempted to drive down the field in the final minute of the second quarter only to have QB Gary Nova suffer a leg injury and it proved to be costly, as the Scarlet Knights were handed their second straight loss after an encouraging six game start.
9. Northwestern Wildcats
Record: 3-4 overall, 2-2 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 5
Even with a 3-4 overall record, there is still plenty to play for in the coming weeks and we have seen spurts of brilliance from this team but if it is going to be a successful season, it has to start this week at Iowa. It also must win three of its final five games to become bowl eligible
10. Penn State Nittany Lions
Record: 4-3 overall, 1-3 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 7
Even in an overtime loss to Ohio State, Penn State delivered a valiant effort to comeback after a 17-0 deficit at halftime against the second best team in the conference. If only their offense was not so stagnant and had an offensive line that could adequately block to compliment a strong defense.
11. Purdue Boilermakers
Record: 3-5 overall, 1-3 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 12
Purdue was off last weekend in their quest for constant improvement following two competitive outings and a breakthrough win against Illinois. Now comes the hardest part of the schedule with Nebraska and Wisconsin next on tap.
12. Illinois Fighting Illini
Record: 4-4 overall, 1-3 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 14
A poised effort from QB Reilly O’Toole coupled with decisive defense and solid coaching helped the Illini put away Minnesota in their first Big Ten win since 2011. They will need their defense to play like it did against Minnesota if they are to win two more games and make a bowl.
13. Michigan Wolverines
Record: 3-5 overall, 1-3 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 13
Even with two weeks to prepare for MSU, the Wolverines looked dazed and confused especially on offense in another lackadaisical outing and need to win out the rest of the season just to finish above .500.
14. Indiana Hoosiers
Record: 3-4 overall, 0-3 Big Ten
Previous ranking: 11
It is hard to imagine how far this team has fallen ever since their signature win over Missouri, arguably the best nonconference victory of the Big Ten. Yet, without injured QB Nate Sudfeld, the Hoosiers are a one-man show with Tevin Coleman and he can’t do everything by himself.

Despite Five Wins, Inconsistencies Continue to Plague Terps

The Maryland Terrapins took down their second Big Ten opponent of the season by defeating the Iowa Hawkeyes this past Saturday, and the win comes as some small form of redemption after getting blown out at home by Ohio State on October 4. The offense as a whole played well aside from continuing inconsistency at the quarterback position. C.J. Brown’s struggles in the passing game continued, which included throwing an interception directly to an Iowa defender on the very first play of the game. The interception set the Hawkeyes up in the red zone which led to Iowa’s first touchdown. Aside from playing too soft too early and allowing Iowa back in the game in the fourth quarter, the Maryland defense performed well, getting big stops when needed and forcing three Iowa turnovers.
Both offense and defense have succeeded at times and significantly underachieved at others so far this season. As far as the offense goes, C.J. Brown’s season-long struggles are well known at this point. His running capabilities stabilize his status as the team’s starting quarterback but still don’t quite cancel out the inaccuracy and some frankly boneheaded mistakes throwing the football. The running backs have been inconsistent as well, which is directly related to their puzzlingly inconsistent usage. The defense has made dazzling individual plays, led by cornerback Will Likely’s Big Ten-leading four interceptions, two of which have been returned for touchdowns including one against Iowa. Cole Farrand has anchored the defense from the linebacker position and continues to rack up tackles. Despite stellar individual performances, the defense has shown serious vulnerability in both pass coverage and run defense at times, and has allowed opposing offenses to gain an average of 516 yards per game over the last five games.
From quarterback controversy (which has quieted since news broke of Caleb Rowe’s ACL tear) to the defensive holes, Maryland’s inconsistency on both sides of the ball has been well documented to this point and will likely continue throughout the season. What is becoming more apparent by the week, however, is that Maryland’s special teams are no exception. Specifically, the disparity in efficiency between Maryland’s kicker and punter is growing by the week.

The Good

Place kicker Brad Craddock has arguably evolved into the best kicker in the entire country, having not yet missed on any of his 12 field goal attempts so far in 2014. Only one kicker in FBS Division I-A is currently ranked above Craddock, that being Roberto Aguayo of Florida State who is 14-for-14 on the season. Craddock is now 8-for-8 on field goal attempts of 40 yards or more, including one knocked through from a career-long 57 yards. If not for a 58-yarder made by Indiana’s Griffin Oakes (against Maryland, ironically), Craddock’s 57-yard make would be the longest in college football this year. The Aussie is also a perfect 30-for-30 on extra point attempts, and has accounted for nearly one-third of Maryland’s offensive production this season (66 points out of 211 total offensive points scored).

Maryland's Brad Craddock has kicked his way into the discussion of the best collegiate kicker for 2014. Photo courtesy washingtonpost.com.
Maryland’s Brad Craddock has kicked his way into the discussion of the best collegiate kicker for 2014. Photo courtesy washingtonpost.com.

Craddock is truly an elite kicker, and seems to be NFL-ready halfway through his junior year. When asked about Craddock’s success this season in the post-game press conference after the win against Iowa, head coach Randy Edsall choked up discussing how the kicker has adjusted to being a collegiate athlete in the United States. His voice quivered as he explained why Craddock’s fellow countrymen in Australia should be proud, mentioning the kicker’s athletic ability as well as his morality, upbringing, and leadership. Craddock has truly come a long way from hitting only 10 of his 16 attempts his freshman season with the Terps.

The Not So Good

Unfortunately, there is another end of the spectrum, and Maryland punter Nathan Renfro slides towards it more and more with each passing week. Out of 128 qualifying punters this season in all of FBS Division I-A college football, Renfro currently ranks 88th in average yards per punt. More alarming are the junior’s struggles in recent weeks, averaging below 40 yards per punt in 19 punts over three games. Renfro had his worst game of the season against the Hawkeyes, punting nine times for an average of just 37.78 yards per punt. His woeful day consisted of short punts when long ones were needed and long punts when short ones were called for. One punt traveled a mere 19 yards. On another occasion the Terps were trying to pin the Iowa offense deep in their own territory late in the game. Renfro crushed a punt 30 yards too far. The ball rocked off the brick of the Gossett Team House, which sits about 15 yards behind the east end zone, on the fly. Granted, on this particular play the snap was low and Renfro had to adjust… but he didn’t.

A growing concern for the Terps is the lack of efficiency punting the ball away. Photo courtesy collegefootball.ap.org.
A growing concern for the Terps is the lack of efficiency punting the ball away. Photo courtesy collegefootball.ap.org.

Adding to the concerns is the fact that statistically Renfro’s ability seems to have capped out at these numbers; the Terrapin punter averaged virtually the exact same yardage per punt in 2013 (40.84 in 2013; 40.88 in 2014). Only four FBS I-A punters have at least as many punts this season as Renfro (43) and have a lower yards per punt average. The Terps have no other viable options at the position, so Renfro’s job appears to be safe despite his struggles.
Even with ongoing issues on both offense and defense and the increasing concerns with the punting unit, the Terps boast a 2-1 conference record and are 5-2 overall. The two conference wins have been quite impressive, particularly the win Saturday over the Hawkeyes. The Terps found themselves in an early 14-0 hole, but rallied to outscore Iowa 38-7 before the Hawkeyes tacked on a quick 10 points in the last five minutes of the game. Accordingly, the 38-31 final score made the game seem closer than it actually was. Maryland continued to put up points despite a third quarter injury to C.J. Brown that forced third-string quarterback Perry Hills into the game. Hills was certainly rusty, as he hadn’t seen live action in over two years, but the offense didn’t fall apart.

Looking Ahead to Wisconsin

The issue that needs to be immediately addressed in anticipation of Saturday’s matchup with Wisconsin is the run defense. Iowa running back Mark Weisman finished with 78 yards on just 10 carries and two rushing touchdowns against Maryland. The Terps defense will have their hands full this Saturday trying to contain Badger running back Melvin Gordon, who is currently second in the nation in total rushing yards behind only Indiana’s Tevin Coleman. Gordon also has 13 rushing touchdowns, two more than Coleman. Maryland was somewhat able to contain Coleman (relatively speaking) in their September 27 meeting with the Hoosiers, and will need a similar defensive game plan against Wisconsin.
A win at Wisconsin this Saturday could potentially propel the Terps into the top-25 discussion for the first time in head coach Randy Edsall’s tenure.

Un-War "The Game of the Century"

Charlie Ward, Jim Flanigan
It is the Game of the Century, right? I’m told to “UnWar” that term, as it’s use or over-use has diluted its value. If we have a Game of the Century every year, then it’s really just the Game of the Year, and it doesn’t always add up to even that.
Anyone who follows College Football has likely heard the Auburn faithful exclaim War Eagle, but it was the Jim Rome radio show that had its callers end their rants with War Other Things. I haven’t listened to the guy’s show in a few years, but I recall that he’d periodically explain to the newbies that would ask, you say “War” and then something you like. Well, the War gimmick begat the UnWar gimmick, you know, for things you don’t like. I hope we’re all clear on this.

 
Back to unWarring the “Game of the Century”. If you’re not a fan of a particular team involved, how much do these games really resonate over time? You put two good teams on the field, watch them kick each other’s asses for about four hours, and then you answer the question, did it live up to the hype? If it didn’t, you don’t give it another thought or drop some sarcastic quip, along the lines of “Game of the Century, my ass!”. Either way, you probably aren’t telling your grandkids about it, fifty years from now. Now, if said game comes close to living up to its billing, you have some things to think about.
Now look, this isn’t about being a wet blanket and ruining the moment. If fans want to maintain the euphoria, that’s fine; take 24 or 48 hours for this game to be the greatest ever, but don’t hold on to that unless you only surround yourself with people who unconditionally agree with you or in that rare case that your game is and will actually remain the best, most meaningful game in a 100-year period. By definition, you can’t have a Game of the Century every year, though these days it seems like someone is trying to sell you on the idea that one gets played every week.

If you subscribe to the theory of our hero Peter from Office Space, where every day is worse than the day before, hence every day is the worst day of your life, then the opposite could also be true. Every Game of the Century is better than the Game of the Century before it, so every Game of the Century is the Game of the Century. I doubt that’s even somewhat true, but levels of epic are in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. It’s probably a damn good thing there’s no official authority on such matter.
It’s the greatest game ever since the last greatest game ever, right? Or, perhaps it’s the greatest one until the next greatest one? What sparked the line of thinking is the rematch, and we really shouldn’t refer to any sequel separated from its original by two decades like that, involving Notre Dame and Florida State this weekend in Tallahassee. Both the Irish and the Seminoles go into Saturday’s tilt with a sweet, juicy zero in the loss column, but this game hasn’t been sold to us at anywhere near the level the 1993 game in South Bend was.

If not that game, then it was that Florida State team that was hyped all summer and autumn as the team to beat. Bobby Bowden had no National Championships to his name, his school was void of representation on the list of Heisman winners. Now, they had a kicker, the since-forgotten then-frosh phenom Scott Bentley was the Sports Illustrated cover boy, needed to beat Miami (FL), the benefactors of woes such as Wide Right and Wide Right II. They had an eventual NBA point guard in Charlie Ward, who was no slouch in quarterbacking Bowden’s offense, with the help of an outstanding supporting cast that included Warrick Dunn, William Floyd, Tamarick Vanover, and Kez McCorvey. On the other side of the ball, they were stacked with a cast of NFL talent, led by Derrick Brooks. They were 9-0 with four wins over ranked opponents when they woke up on that snowy morning in Indiana 21 years ago next month.

Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame team was put together a little different. Though they too sat at 9-0, their road to the game that mattered more than any other in the 20th Century only saw them play #2 ranked Michigan, who finished #19, and no one else in the Top 25. Alas, a win over the only team that stood ahead of them in the AP Poll on November 13th would be all they needed; style points were irrelevant at this point. They were built differently too, if you aren’t a huge Notre Dame fan, the names you’ll know are limited to TV’s Aaron Taylor, long-time Denver Bronco Bertrand Berry, and current Tennessee Titans front-office man Lake Dawson. In other words, the Irish were led by a lot of good College Football players, whereas their opponent ran more of an NFL training program.
There’s hardly anything David and Goliath-ish about 1 playing 2, but the Catholic school 95 miles east of Chicago was decidedly the underdog, Vegas said the ‘Noles were 7 points better, in fact. Notre Dame quarterback Kevin McDougle did a wonderful job running the offense that day, but that day’s heroes had names like Lee Becton and Shawn Wooden, the Notre Dame safety that knocked down Ward’s final pass attempt of the day, which would have given Bowden a chance to walk away with a tie or even a victory in the days before College Football overtime. Instead, it was Notre Dame 31 Florida State 24, giving the Irish the win and the #1 ranking, which they would lose seven days later on that same field.

Notre Dame’s 41-39 loss to Boston College a week later would doom their championship hopes, and Florida State would rebound well enough to get a title shot at Nebraska, which they won, but that didn’t do anything to taint what happened on that Saturday afternoon or the hype machine building up to it. In fact, you know that pre-game show ESPN does on campus every Saturday morning? Well, that was strictly a studio show until they decided to take the show on the road to South Bend that day, starting what has become almost as much of an institution as the games themselves in College Gameday. It was Notre Dame’s first game of that magnitude, and remains the biggest game of all of my 36 years, but the Irish arguably played in other games given a century-long superlative, against Michigan State in 1966, Army in 1946, and Ohio State in 1935.
GameoftheCentury2
Speaking of the Buckeyes, fans of recency so desperate to live in the moment of every “Greatest Ever” might appreciate their 2006 encounter with Michigan, who sat just one slot below #1 Ohio State in the rankings. You don’t need any any circumstances, let alone a really low number next to your name to make an Ohio State-Michigan game something special, but when Michigan’s long-time coach Bo Schembechler passed away 24 hours before kickoff, a “win it for Bo” element came into play for that game in Columbus. Much like Notre Dame 13 Novembers earlier, the home team held serve most of the way and survived a dramatic finish, earning themselves a trip to the National Championship in another 1 vs 2 battle. Like Notre Dame, the winner in this one would not win the title; in fact, this game’s aftermath spoils the game’s lasting effect because it did not yield the sport’s eventual champ. Also, I’m pretty sure most Big Ten purists don’t want a 42-39 game headlining the annals of the league’s rich history of 3 yards and a cloud of dust.

Given the final BCS standings for the 2011 season, it was inevitable that one of the teams competing at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 5th would be crowned a champion, but even with #1 at stake in the regular season, the winner of LSU-Alabama wasn’t guaranteed much beyond an SEC West division title and a berth in the Conference Championship. While this one had the makings of something great, two undefeated teams in the consensus best conference in the land, a close final score in a defensive struggle was not enough for the ends to justify the means. College Football isn’t baseball, where 1-0 games are often considered works of art, so with a 9-6 final in favor of the Tigers, and needing overtime to do it, makes this come up short.
The good news is, there are are a lot of years, hence a lot of games, left in this century. Maybe we’ll get one yet. Until then, WAR the future and the many great seasons of great College Football that inevitably comes with it, WAR the great games of yesteryear, and definitely unWAR trying to make the present into something it isn’t.

Big Ten Week 6 Sampler

Best of the Best
Rutgers QB Gary Nova: Nova threw four touchdowns in the Scarlet Knights’ 31-6 win over Tulane, hitting 9 of 9 throws for 195 yards and three scores in the first half alone. As a result, he became the school leader in passing touchdowns with 61 in 38 games.
Maryland LB Cole Farrand: He recorded 19 tackles, the highest single-game tackle total in the Big Ten this season, including 1.5 tackles for loss, to lead Maryland over Indiana.
Minnesota RB David Cobb: He ran for 183 yards on 32 carries and had three catches for 50 yards as Minnesota retook the Little Brown Jug. Cobb outgained the Wolverines’ entire offense (171 yards) all by himself.
Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett The redshirt freshman is quickly becoming the Buckeyes’ leader. In Ohio State’s 50-28 over Cincinnati, Barrett completed 26-of-36 passes for 330 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions. He also ran for 79 yards on 14 carries.
Worst of the Worst
Michigan QB Shane Morris: He was supposed to jumpstart and energize the offense as he started for the maligned Devin Gardner but was completely ineffective as he was just 7 for 19 for 49 yards and turned the ball over twice including a pick six by De’Vondre Campbell. Minnesota held the Michigan offense to a grand total of 171 yards.
Penn State Offensive Line: The Nittany Lions have problems on their offensive line and, consequently, in the running game. Northwestern exploited that in as Penn State ran for only 50 total yards, and Christian Hackenberg was sacked four times while also throwing a pick six that broke the game wide open in the fourth.
Illinois Rush Defense: The Illinois Fighting Illini were pretty much doomed from the start. By halftime, Heisman Trophy candidate Ameer Abdullah had rushed for 196 of his 208 yards and scored three touchdowns. In fact, Nebraska churned out a staggering 458 rushing yards out of 624 total yards in the game. The Illini have now lost 16 out of their last 17 Big Ten games.
 
Week 6 Game Previews
Wisconsin vs NW
The Badgers have had considerably sluggish starts in two of their victories, leading Western Illinois just 9-3 at halftime before a 37-3 win and being tied with South Florida 3-3 at halftime before a 27-10 win. A similar start could be hard to overcome since Northwestern (2-2, 1-0) has allowed 13 points, forced six turnovers and recorded eight sacks over the past two weeks. Plus, even though Wisconsin leads the nation in rushing yards per game at 359.7, the Wildcats have held opponents to 2.9 yards per carry after holding Penn State to 50 yards on 25 carries.
Fortunately, the Badgers’ defense, which allows a conference-low 14.5 points per game, has helped them overcome their slow starts. Wisconsin has allowed an average of 226.0 yards in its three victories and has let its four opponents convert just 26.9 percent of their third downs. In last seasons game, the Badger defense came up huge as Wildcats QB Trevor Siemian was sacked five times while converting 13 of 34 passes for 163 yards. Wisconsin is the only FBS squad yet to give up a red zone touchdown this season.
Nebraska vs MSU
In a potential preview of the Big Ten title game, Michigan State, widely considered as the best team in the conference, will take on rival Nebraska, the last remaining undefeated team. Both teams have high-octane offenses. The Spartans are No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring (50.2 ppg); the Cornhuskers are No. 2 (45.4 ppg). Nebraska is No. 1 in total offense (572.6 ypg); Michigan State is No. 3 (515.0 ypg). It will come down to who commits less turnovers. Last November in Lincoln, Michigan State beat the Cornhuskers 41-28 as Bo Pelini’s team committed five turnovers, leading to 24 Spartans points. I expect the game plan for Saturday to include a heavy dose of senior Ameer Abdullah. In the last four years, Nebraska is 18-3 when Abdullah runs for at least 100 yards, and Michigan State is 6-5 during that time when allowing a player to rush for 100. If Michigan State wins, there are no more doubts about the Spartans being the best Big Ten team. If Nebraska comes away with the victory, it should vault itself into the College Football Playoff debate.
Michigan vs Rutgers
Unless Michigan somehow wins the rest of its games, it is pretty much set in stone, at least in my opinion, that Brady Hoke is gone – the only question is when – and is almost laughable that he still thinks this team is capable of winning the Big Ten title. Heading into this weekend, Michigan is a four-point underdog to Rutgers and the Scarlet Knights are playing well, their lone loss coming by three points, 40-37 against West Virginia. A Wolverines’ attack that is last in the Big Ten in scoring (22.0 ppg), 11th in total offense (357.6 ypg) and 12th in passing (172.2 ypg) may find it tough to gain any traction going against a solid RU defensive seven in front of an electric crowd at High Point Solutions Stadium. If Rutgers wants to reach a bowl, it likely will need to win this game with a such a hard schedule coming up. The Scarlet Knights are off after this weekend then play at Ohio State and at Nebraska before coming home to play Wisconsin. Absolutely Brutal.
Ohio State vs Maryland Maryland’s offense is firing on all cylinders, displaying explosive playmaking on both sides of the ball and ranking fifth in the conference in scoring (36.8 ppg). And even though its defense stepped up in last week’s win at Indiana by yielding only 332 yards and 15 points (one TD), the Terps are No. 13 in the league in defense (434.8 ypg) The Buckeyes’ attack also is playing well, ranking No. 3 in the Big Ten in scoring (42.8 ppg) and finished with 710 yards and a school record 45 (!) first downs in a victory over Cincy. But like Maryland, the OSU defense remains suspect. The Buckeyes allowed 422 yards overall and 352 in the air vs. Cincinnati. This could turn into a good old shootout. Maryland could have a big say in the East and if they can somehow knock off Ohio State, it instantly goes from a darkhorse in the Big Ten title race to a legitimate contender. Meanwhile, Ohio State has bounced back nicely after struggling early with a new quarterback and revamped offensive line.
Illinois vs. Purdue
In 2013, the only Big Ten win for the Fighting Illini was an ugly 20-16 win with four turnovers at Purdue to make Tim Beckman 1-16 in conference play. Boilermakers coach Darrell Hazell is still searching for his first Big Ten victory, holding an 0-9 mark and still doesn’t know who to start at quarterback. Purdue needs to revv up its offense (last in the league, 312.0 ypg) while Illinois needs to buckle down on defense (last in the league, 468.6 ypg) especially against the run, giving up 229.6 yards per game. They have given up 1,304 yards and 10 TDs on the ground in the first five games. Only Fresno State and Bowling Green are worse. Illinois quarterback Wes Lunt missed last week with an injury, but he is expected to return this week. He has completed two thirds of his passes and is already well over 1,200 yards. Illinois hasn’t won the Cannon trophy in consecutive seasons since 2002 and Purdue leads the series by a 32-27-2 mark. This Saturday’s meeting will be the 90th meeting between the Illini and the Boilermakers.
North Texas vs. Indiana
The 2-2 North Texas Mean Green of the MAC, coached by Dan McCarney could be a formidable challenge for the Hoosiers as they try to get to 3-2 through five games for the first time since 1995. Indiana’s running back Tevin Coleman, who leads the conference in rushing at 172.8 yards per game and has rushed for over 200 yards in every game this year, takes on a defense that has held three consecutive opponents under 100 yards rushing. Indiana will look to key in on redshirt freshman QB Dajon Williams who completed 11 out of 14 passes for 176 yards with three touchdowns and also ran in two scores. In fact, North Texas is one of only seven FBS teams to score on every trip inside the 20 this season, with 11 touchdowns and two field goals. Indiana lost at North Texas in 2011, the only meeting between the schools.
Power Rankings
1. Michigan State Spartans (3-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 1
No change here as the Spartans ate another nonconference cupcake, taking out Wyoming quickly and decisively in another blowout. MSU is in for a big home test against Nebraska in what could be a preview for the Big Ten title game and prove if the Spartans are the cream of the crop.
2. Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-0, 1-0)
Previous Ranking: 2
Ameer Abdullah pummeled the Fighting Illini for 208 total yards and raised his Heisman Trophy campaign while Nebraska remained unbeaten with a blowout over Illinois. If the Huskers can pull off the upset versus MSU, they will not only be the Big Ten’s leading playoff candidate but also a player in the national title hunt.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes (3-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 4
With a 50-28 victory over Cincinatti, the OSU Buckeyes looked like an Urban Meyer team as redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett played like a seasoned veteran and Ezekial Elliott gained 182 yards on the ground. The pass defense is still highly susceptible and needs to be fixed but everything else is running fairly smoothly.
4. Wisconsin Badgers (3-1, 0-0)
Previous Ranking: 5
It remains to be seen who the Badgers really are. Their defense has played solid and kept them in games and while their offense is one of the best running attacks, it has also been inconsistent and lost for periods of time. Fortunately, Wisconsin heads into Saturday with some momentum as Melvin Gordon scored two touchdowns and racked up 131 yards in the second half.
5. Maryland Terrapins (4-1, 1-0)
Previous Ranking: 6
Many scoffed when Maryland was invited to come to the Big Ten saying they would be a doormat but low and behold, this team is showing it is definitely worthy and is achieving more than what might have been expected. Maryland is poised to become an undisputed contender in the East Division with a signature victory over Ohio State this weekend.
6. Minnesota (4-1, 1-0)
Previous Ranking: 10
The Gophers could be – no check that – are a team that will have an impact on the West Division if they continue to play relentless, solid defense and utilize their reliable rushing attack that has stymied opponents. Minnesota definitely earned the Little Brown Jug, holding Michigan to just 171 total yards offensively and pounding the rock with David Cobb for 183 yards.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes (4-1, 1-0)
Previous Ranking:8
The Hawkeyes are fortunate they head into a bye week after a sloppy, forgettable performance against Purdue, where they were down 10-0 before rallying for a 24 point turnaround. This team likes to live on the edge as that was the third come-from-behind victory of the young season and one of these times, being down late in the fourth quarter will come back to haunt them.
8. Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-1)
Previous Ranking: 3
Even though they won their first four games, Christian Hackenberg has struggled at times and their offensive line has been exploited by opposing defenses. In fact, Northwestern held PSU to just 50 yards on 25 carries Saturday. The Lions are just two victories away from being bowl eligible, something almost inconceivable before the season began yet need more consistency for that to be a reality.
9. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-1, 0-1)
Previous Ranking: 7
Even without their starting running back Paul James, backups Desmon Peoples and Justin Goodwin played just fine, combining for 165 yards, while Gary Nova had his best outing of the season, throwing for four touchdowns. Now more than ever, Rutgers has a chance to claim its first conference victory over a disjointed, struggling Michigan team.
10. Indiana Hoosiers (2-2, 0-1)
Previous Ranking: 9
Just when the Hoosiers appeared to turn the page with an upset over Missouri, they reverted back to their old selves, getting humiliated by the Terrapins at home. The defense didnt even show up and cant be trusted while the high-octane, high-scoring offense was held in check to only a single touchdown.
11. Northwestern Wildcats (2-2, 1-0)
Previous Ranking: 14
The Wildcats were all but written off at 1-2 and stuck in the basement of the Big Ten until they decided to actually play against Penn State, which resulted in a stunning upset on the road. They completely shut down the Nittany Lion’s run game and if they can do that this weekend against Wisconsin, things could get really interesting down in Evanston.
12. Illinois Fighting Illini (3-2, 0-1)
Previous Ranking: 12
In spite of the shortcomings of the porous Illini defense, Wes Lunt’s arm has made them an offensive threat and an intriguing team to watch. However, Illinois had no shot at beating the Cornhuskers on the road with him on the sideline. Fortunately, they should get back on track this weekend when they take on a reeling Purdue team.
13. Michigan Wolverines (2-3, 0-1)
Previous Ranking: 11
It continues to blow my mind how low Michigan continues to plummet week after week and just when you think it couldn’t get possibly any worse, it does. Starting Shane Morris at quarterback did nothing to jumpstart and energize an offense but was completely ineffective as he was just 7 for 19 for 49 yards and turned the ball over twice including a pick six by De’Vondre Campbell.
14. Purdue (2-3, 0-1)
Previous Ranking: 13
Another weekend, same result. The Purdue Boilermakers came out strong against the Hawkeyes and the defense played ok for several stretches but in the end, they predictably fell apart as they accumulated just 72 yards in the air. It remains to be seen who will be the quarterback this weekend as both Danny Etling and Austin Appleby threw interceptions.

Maryland Defense Steps Up B1G in First Conference Win

The Terps made their presence in the Big Ten felt this past weekend by crushing the Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington. Maryland dominated in almost every facet, and it was the closest the team has come this season to playing an all-around complete game. Two Maryland quarterbacks accounted for two touchdowns each, and Stefon Diggs and Deon Long both had big days. But the story of the Terrapins’ success in this game was their defense.
Indiana entered the game with one of the nation’s leading rushers in running back Tevin Coleman. Prior to Saturday’s contest, Coleman had averaged an astonishing 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns per game. Backup running back D’Angelo Roberts was adding 71 rushing yards and another touchdown per game. The Terrapin defense expectedly couldn’t entirely quiet the talented duo, but it contained them enough to force the Hoosiers to rely more on the arm of quarterback Nate Sudfeld. Coleman still finished the game with 122 rushing yards (a chunk of this coming on a 43-yard scamper with the game well out of hand) and a touchdown, but considering his status as one of the most dynamic backs in the country the Terps understandably had their hands full.
The win at Indiana came as a surprise to much of the college football world, including the four hosts of ESPN’s College Gameday who unanimously picked Indiana to prevail over the Terps. But who could blame them? Indiana had just upset then-No. 18 Missouri. Maryland’s defense had allowed opponents to rush for an average of 200 yards per game entering Saturday’s matchup, including giving up 370 rushing yards to Syracuse the week prior. Indiana’s Tevin Coleman is virtually unstoppable with the ball in his hands. The recipe would seem to spell disaster for the Terps. But the defense played admirably, led by linebacker Cole Farrand.
Farrand finished the game with an eye-popping 19 tackles, which unsurprisingly led the Big Ten in Week 5. His presence in the middle of the field was unmistakably felt by the Hoosier offense, and he was a prominent reason the Terps were able to limit (relatively speaking) the Hoosier running backs to 165 combined rushing yards and just one touchdown. Farrand earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance. The senior linebacker is the second Terrapin defender to be awarded the honor in as many weeks; last week cornerback Will Likely earned the recognition.

The Maryland defense shined in the Terps' Big Ten debut, led by LB Cole Farrand. Photo courtesy elkharttruth.com.
The Maryland defense shined in the Terps’ Big Ten debut, led by linebacker Cole Farrand’s 19 tackles. Photo courtesy elkharttruth.com.

In addition to stymying the Hoosier’s rushing attack, Maryland’s pass defense was impenetrable. After averaging 237 passing yards per game this season, Hoosier quarterback Nate Sudfeld was held to just 126 yards with one interception. Will Likely was the culprit yet again, recording his Big Ten-leading third pick of the year.
Starting quarterback C.J. Brown played well in the first half, completing 10 of 15 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown. Brown added 22 yards and another touchdown on the ground, but was forced out of the game after an injury to his left wrist. The injury was to his non-throwing hand and will hopefully not prevent him from taking the field against Ohio State this Saturday. Backup Caleb Rowe played the entire second half and performed well, throwing for 198 yards on 12/18 passing with two touchdowns. Social media erupted during the second half with fans calling for Rowe to be named the Terps’ starter going forward. Barring injury or a serious setback in performance, C.J. Brown has shown he can be relied upon as an efficient quarterback and will maintain his starting position under center.
Maryland receivers had success against the Indiana secondary, as two Terps finished the game with over 100 yards receiving. Predictably, Stefon Diggs was one of the two, as he caught six passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. Deon Long was the other, and it was reassuring to see the senior wideout finally have the opportunity to put up the numbers he is capable of. After catching a total of 11 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown through the first four games of the season, Long nearly matched those numbers Saturday by grabbing 10 passes for 108 yards. True freshman receiver Juwann Winfree also recorded his first catch as a Terp, a 30-yard touchdown pass from Rowe.
Kicker Brad Craddock also deserves some recognition, not just in this article but nationally. He is the only kicker in the conference (with more than one field goal attempt) to have a perfect field goal percentage. He’s 10 for 10 on the year, and most of these haven’t been chip-shots. Craddock is 6 for 6 on attempts of 40-49 yards and 3 for 3 from 30-39 yards. He knocked in two from 48 yards and another from 30 against the Hoosiers, and is also 22/22 on PATs for the year. Following Saturday’s win at Indiana Craddock was selected as the Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Top Star of the Week. He is one of only eight kickers in the nation to remain perfect on the season.
The win was Maryland’s first against a Big Ten opponent as members of the conference and their fifth consecutive road win dating back to last season. A win in their first Big Ten game is forever etched in Maryland football history. The offense shredded the Indiana defense but Maryland’s defense won this game, despite being without several key defensive starters. Cornerback Alvin Hill and defensive end Quinton Jefferson have been lost for the year with knee injuries, and linebackers Matt Robinson and Alex Twine missed the game with upper body injuries. In spite of the mounting injuries, the Terps held the potent Indiana offense to just 332 total yards and one touchdown.
The Buckeyes of Ohio State make the trip to College Park to face the Terrapins at Byrd Stadium this Saturday in what will be a true test of how good this Maryland team really is. But for now, the Terps are 1-0 in the conference and sit atop the Big Ten East standings.

Maryland vs. Indiana: Key Stats You Need to Know

The Maryland Terrapins are in Indiana to take on the Hoosiers for their first Big Ten matchup as members of the conference. Maryland is coming off an overall impressive road victory against Syracuse, and Indiana upset then-#18 Missouri with a late touchdown last Saturday. It should be a close, fairly high-scoring game between the two teams, and it will be interesting to see how Maryland comes out of the gate for their second road game in as many weeks. Here are the key statistics you need to know before the game:
Maryland’s Rushing Attack vs. Indiana’s Defense

  • Terps: Maryland running backs are averaging only 62 yards rushing over the last three games. No rusher other than quarterback C.J. Brown has run for more than 86 yards in a single game so far this season, and the Terps have had a different leading rusher in each game this year. The role of the “workhorse” running back does not seem up for grabs any longer; it seems unattainable.
  • Hoosiers: After giving up a mere 30 rushing yards to Indiana State, the Hoosier run defense has allowed their opponents to rush for over 170 yards in consecutive weeks.
  • Advantage: Indiana. The Hoosier defense can be run on but Maryland has significantly struggled running the ball, even against teams that aren’t the hardest to do so against. The offense will rely on the dual-threat ability of quarterback C.J. Brown yet again. Hopefully one of the Terrapin running backs gets a hot hand and Edsall sticks with him, but this is highly unlikely based on the four-running-back-by-committee approach the Terps have confusingly utilized thus far.

Special Teams

  • Terps: Maryland is off to a hot start this year on special teams and currently ranks 2nd in the entire nation in that category. Brad “Automatic” Craddock is 7/7 in field goal attempts. The Terps have also blocked a field goal attempt, blocked a punt which was recovered for a touchdown, and returned a punt for a touchdown so far this season. With Stefon Diggs returning kickoffs and reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week William Likely returning punts, the Terrapins are a threat to score every time they receive the ball.
  • Hoosiers: The Hoosiers’ Shane Wynn is a talented receiver who could be dangerous on kickoff returns if he’s able to find some space. Kicker Aaron Del Grosso has made only one of his four field goal attempts this season.
  • Advantage: Maryland.

C.J. Brown vs. Nate Sudfeld

  • Brown: After growing debate over whether he or backup Caleb Rowe should be the team’s starting quarterback, Brown played well in last week’s victory over Syracuse, throwing for 280 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns while not turning the ball over once. This season Brown has had issues with accuracy and turnovers, but has still accounted for 10 Terrapin touchdowns in four games (six passing, four rushing).
  • Sudfeld: The opposite player of Brown, Sudfeld is more the traditional passing quarterback and is no running threat whatsoever. In three games he is averaging 237 passing yards and has thrown for two touchdowns and one interception on the year.
  • Advantage: C.J. Brown. Ok, this could go either way really. If Brown is on his game, i.e. last week against Syracuse, he gets the edge over Sudfeld. His arm is serviceable and his legs make him a serious weapon in the offense. If he reverts back to the quarterback that misses open targets and commits turnovers, Sudfeld and the Indiana offense will easily take advantage of those mistakes.

Receiving Corps

  • Terps: Maryland boasts nationally recognized talent at the receiver position. Stefon Diggs has eclipsed 100 receiving yards in a game just once this year and no more than 56 yards in any other game, but is still one of the country’s most dynamic talents at the position. Marcus Leak leads the team in receiving touchdowns (3), and Deon Long is a great compliment to Diggs on the outside.
  • Hoosiers: Quarterback Nate Sudfeld will spread the ball around in the passing game and get different receivers involved. His favorite target is Shane Wynn, who leads the team in receptions and receiving yards, but Wynn has not been the recipient of either Sudfeld’s two touchdown passes on the year. The story of the Hoosier offense is undoubtedly the rushing game.
  • Advantage: Maryland.

Maryland’s Run Defense vs. Indiana’s Running Backs:

  • Terps: In four games this season, Maryland’s defense has allowed an average of 200 rushing yards per game. This includes last week’s win at Syracuse, when the Terps gave up a total of 370 yards on the ground and two different Syracuse players eclipsed the 100-yard rushing plateau.
  • Hoosiers: Indiana’s ground game is downright ridiculous. In three games, Hoosier running back Tevin Coleman is averaging 190 rushing yards and two touchdowns per game. He is an absolute monster with the ball in his hands and will find success against a porous Terrapin run defense. As if that weren’t enough, fellow back D’Angelo Roberts is contributing an additional 71 rushing yards and another touchdown per game.
  • Advantage: Indiana, no doubt about it. This one is the kicker.

Prediction: The Maryland rushing game won’t be established for the fifth consecutive week. C.J. Brown will do his best to keep Maryland in the game, but the Terrapin offense won’t keep pace with the efficiency and scoring ability of the talented Hoosier backfield. Indiana’s rushing attack will simply be too much for the Terps defense to contain. Indiana wins by the same score that they beat Missouri by a week ago: Indiana 31 Maryland 27.

Michigan State's Statement

Michigan State went out to send a message last Saturday.  They put the Big Ten on notice that the Spartans weren’t about to fold after their dispiriting loss against Oregon in Week 2.  Unfortunately, they chose to do this against my alma mater so needless to say, I didn’t watch the entire thing.  Probably only the most diehard fans actually watched the whole thing but even they probably had to change the channel at some point.
But back to that message Michigan State sent.  Mark Dantonio let the Big Ten and really the nation know that they’re going to run the ball.  And they’re going to run it around, over and through you whether they have their starting running back in Jeremy Langford fully healthy or not.  Delton Williams rolled up 103 yards on 10 carries for three scores.  Langford also chipped in with 60 yards on 9 runs.  That’s still a pretty healthy 6.7 yards per carry for Langford.  Nick Hill got the bulk of the carries with 14 for 58.  Nick Hill already saw regular action with Langford but now expect Williams to start getting a share of the carries to combine for a rather fearsome three-headed monster.
The importance of this?
Michigan State’s first Big Ten opponent is Nebraska.  The Cornhuskers are giving up an average of 116 yards on the ground despite having a relatively soft schedule so far.  Outside of Duke Johnson of Miami(Fl), Nebraska hasn’t really faced what anyone would dub a quality run game.  Johnson put up 93 yards on 18 carries.  The final numbers looked better for Nebraska but only because they sacked Miami’s quarterback to the tune of a loss of 25 yards.
The first divisional opponent for Michigan State is Purdue.  They’re bad.  Let’s leave it at that.  They’re allowing almost 150 yards a game and recently got stomped by Central Michigan.  Let’s move on.
The only opponent coming up recently that has had any modicrum of success against the run has been struggling Michigan.  However, this isn’t the Michigan of old.  They have been woefully poor on offense.  The pass defense has been suspect.  They haven’t been good on the road since Brady Hoke took over.  Maybe Michigan will rise to the task, who knows?
If the Wolverines do, oh well.  Quarterback Connor Cook is pretty good at throwing that pigskin too.  With Tony Lippett emerging as a real stud receiver, Cook is really able to open it up and chuck the ball around.  He showed this against Oregon when the run game sputtered and Cook went to the air 47 times to collect almost 350 yards.  This may make Michigan State the most balanced offensive team in the Big Ten.
Given the recent struggles of both the Buckeyes and Wolverines, the only thing that looms between Michigan State and Big Ten East dominance is more than likely an overlooked game against Indiana.  Indiana just knocked off Missouri in what was a shocker to pretty much everyone.  Having been a doormat to the Big Ten in recent memory it would be easy to just look right past the Hoosiers.  The Spartans can’t get caught thinking about its two biggest rivals in the following week and not devote enough attention to Indiana.
The Big Ten is practically begging the Spartans to win it.  They just need to stay focused and they will.  Possibly with ease.