Tag Archives: Michigan

Week 4 College Football Takeaways

Let’s overreact to another week of College Football.

It’s Sunday, so here’s my overreaction to week four of the college football season.

The B1G should replace a few of its schools with teams from the MAC, and would become a better overall conference. Northern Illinois got all the headlines for playing the defending National Champion Buckeyes close last week, but several of their conference brethren have given Power 5 schools headaches. Bowling Green has two wins against B1G schools (Purdue & Maryland) and played Tennessee out of the SEC close until succumbing 59-30. The Ohio Bobcats pushed the Minnesota Gophers to the final seconds this week, before losing 27-24. Kent State also only lost to the Golden Gophers by 3 points a week ago.

It’s clear the top teams in the MAC have caught up. My guess is that many of the top recruits from the Midwest who don’t accept or receive scholarships to power 5 schools–where they’ll have to sit for two years, behind upperclassmen who are also former top recruits–are getting on the field sooner at the mid major program’s, and it’s finally paying off for those programs. Illinois, Maryland, Rutgers, Purdue are a few that come to mind that don’t help the B1G case when it comes to football. Check back with those schools later this fall when hoops tips-off.

TCU is not a top 5 team. Look at their defense. They gave up 52 points and 607 total yards, and needed a fluke tip drill to score a touchdown on 4th down in the following seconds to beat Texas Tech. Last week they gave up 37 points and 508 total yards to SMU. Minnesota, a mid level team in the B1G, gave them a scare in week one. The Horned Frog defense will have circles ran around it against their major in conference challenger, Baylor. Who, by the way, just put up 70 points against Rice on Saturday. Number fifteen ranked Oklahoma, number twenty-three ranked West Virginia and number twenty ranked Oklahoma State may dash their playoff hopes soon enough.

Which brings me to this point, if the College Football Playoffs started today, the top 4 teams would be from the B1G Champion (Ohio State or Michigan State), the SEC champion (Georgia or LSU), Notre Dame and Utah. To me those are the four teams playing the best football, even though they aren’t ranked that way in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 Poll.

This means the Big 12 would get left out of the playoffs again. The Big 12 has become Arena Football with their focus on high volume passing offenses. Any champion from that conference would be physically dominated by the top teams in the B1G, SEC and PAC-12. The PAC-12 winner could have two losses because they best teams in conference and beating up on each other. However, the champion from the PAC-12 would still be highly impressive with two losses.

The Heisman Trophy race is a now two-man race between LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Georgia running back Nick Chubbs. I said last week Fournette should win hands down, but Chubbs is making a case while chasing history at Georgia. He just tied 1982 Heisman winner Herschel Walker’s school record for most consecutive 100 yard rushing games. The winner of the 2015 Heisman may be decided the night these two face off in the SEC Championship game. That is, if both teams continue winning.

Michigan just made the B1G a three team race. The “Fighting Khakis” are back in the Associated Press Top 25 at number 22. The FPI gives head coach Jim Harbaugh’s team a 25% chance of entering the bowl season with 10+ wins and a 56% chance to beat in state rival Michigan State. It was only 34% in the preseason. The Spartans and Buckeyes schedule just got a little more difficult. You happy Brett Bielema? I’m going to stay on his case all season.

The Razorbacks are 0-3 since Bielema called out the Buckeyes schedule.

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Top Current NFL Players From Each B1G Program 

The NFL preseason is underway…. thank goodness right? After the initial rush has worn off that football is back, I immediately calm down realizing it is meaningless football. But once the disappointment subsides, I began to enjoy watching the guys fighting to make the roster. I also enjoy listening for what school they hail from.

While the B1G has been much maligned for its lack of success against the likes of the SEC and Pac-12—before last season’s College Football Playoff—you can’t deny that the conference has produced some of the best Sunday players.

Here are the best NFL players from each B1G program.

Illinois – Vonte Davis (CB) Indianapolis Colts. Davis is the younger brother of San Francisco 49ers tight end and Maryland Alum Vernon Davis. The younger has stepped out of his big brother’s shadow and made a name for himself. In six seasons, the lockdown corner has picked off 17 passes and defended 70. He also has 289 tackles (256 solo). Vonte made his first pro bowl in 2014.

Indiana – Tracy Porter (CB) Chicago Bears. Porter was a Super Bowl 44 hero for the New Orleans Saints with a huge pick six on Peyton Manning. In his 8 year career he’s picked off 10 passes and scored on three of them. He adds 4 forced fumbles, recovering two of them, and collected 287 tackles (230 solo).

He’s bounced around the past few seasons. In 2015 he joined the Bears, his fifth team in as many seasons.

Iowa – Chad Greenway (LB) Minnesota Vikings. The former first round pick has 992 tackles (679 solo), 15.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries and 9 interceptions in his nine season since leaving the Hawkeye program.
Greenway has made two Pro Bowls (2011,2012) and was a Second-Team All-Pro in 2012.

Davis was the 6th pick of the ’06 Draft by the 49ers out of Maryland.

Maryland – Vernon Davis (TE) San Francisco 49ers. The older Davis brother on this list has hauled in 423 passes for 5,446 yards and 55 touchdowns in his nine season in the Bay. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler (2009,2013) and Second-Team All-Pro (2012). In 2009, his 13 touchdown catches tied for the NFL lead.

Brady was a backup on a National Champion and in an QB battle while in Ann Arbor.

Michigan – Tom Brady (QB) New England Patriots. Brady probably isn’t in the discussion for greatest quarterback in Wolverines history, which is probably why he was a sixth round pick. But, that’s ancient history now.

Brady’s the most accomplished player on this list. He’s four Super Bowl titles are tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most by a QB in NFL history.

He’s captured three Super Bowl MVPs, two NFL MVP, ten Pro Bowls, two-time First-Team All-Pro (2007,2010), Second-Team All-Pro (2005), and a selection on the NFL 2000s All-Decade team.

Coming into his sixteenth season, he has 53,258 passing yards, 392 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 95.9

Michigan State – Le’Veon Bell (RB) Pittsburgh Steelers. After only two seasons he’s already in the discussion of best running back in the NFL.

The dual threat made his first Pro Bowl and earned his first, First-Team All-Pro selection in 2014 as the key of the Steelers high-powered Killer B’s offense along with Big Ben and Antonio Brown. 2014 saw Bell also collect the AFC Offensive Player of the Year and the FedEx Ground Player of the Year. He finished 2014 second in rushing yards (1,361) and led all running backs in receiving yards (854).

Minnesota – Eric Decker (WR) New York Jets. Decker was a relatively unknown as a Denver Bronco until Peyton Manning showed up in the Mile High City. Before the “Sheriff”, Decker was known as the receiver who caught one of Tim Tebow’s two complete passes in a 17-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2011 season.

With Manning, Decker flourished and earned a five-year 36.25 million dollar contract with the Jets.
He has career totals of 296 catches, for 4,032 yards and 38 touchdowns in five seasons.

Nebraska – Ndamukong Suh (DT) Miami Dolphins. By far the most feared interior defensive player in pro football. Suh disrupts both the passing and running games of opposing offenses.

At Nebraska, Suh terrorized the Big 12 and never played in the B1G. The Huskers came into the conference in 2011.

In his five seasons in the NFL he has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times (2010, 2012-2014), a four-time First-team All-Pro (2010-2011, 2013-2014), once a Second-team All-Pro (2012), the 2010 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and the 2010 NFL Alumni Defensive Lineman of the Year.

Entering his sixth season he has 239 tackles (180 solo), 36 sacks, 1 safety, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and 15 passes defended.

Linebacker LaVonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is a Husker alum who definitely deserves some attention, but he’s hast reached the level yet to bump Suh as best current Nebraska alum in the League.

Northwestern – Let’s be honest, Northwestern is known more for their academics, specifically their journalism program, than their football program. But, they do have fifteen guys representing on Sundays. 8 of them rookies, 2 have only one season of experience
So it’s no surprise they don’t have a notable alum making a name for himself in the NFL.

Mike Kafka (QB) of the Minnesota Vikings is known as a career backup QB. He’s played in only 4 games in his career, throwing only 16 passes, completing 11 of them for 107 yards a two interceptions.

Ohio State – Nick Mangold (OL) New York Jets. Mangold has been a starter in the Big Apple since he entered the NFL in 2006. In his nine seasons, he’s started every game he’s played (141). The center of the O-line is a Six-time Pro Bowler (2008-2011, 2013-2014), two-time First-team All-Pro (2009,2010), one-time Second-team All-Pro (2011)

I could also make a case for Donte Whitner (DB) Cleveland Browns. One of the hardest hitting defensive players in the League, Whitner has 775 tackles (561 solo), 11 interceptions, 2 touchdowns and 10 forced fumbles.

Whiter has also made three Pro Bowls (2012,2013,2014), and was a member of the 2012 NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.

Penn State – Tamba Hali (LB) Kansas City Chiefs. Hali is one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL, much like the man’s who shadow he plays in with the Chiefs, the late Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.

In nine seasons he has 512 tackles (392 solo), 79.5 sacks, 30 forced fumbles and 7 recoveries. Hali has made five Pro Bowls (2010-2014) and been a two-time Second-Team All Pro (2011,2013).

Purdue – Drew Brees (QB) New Orleans Saints. After an up and down start to his 14 year career—which included a nearly career ending shoulder injury—Brees has turned himself into one of premier quarterbacks in the League and a future sure-fire Hall of Famer.

Brees was All-B1G as a Boilermaker, and despite NFL scouts doubts, has become an HOF’er in New Orleans.

Brees has turned the New Orleans franchise from the Ain’ts to Champions winning Super Bowl 44 and the game’s MVP.
He’s made the Pro Bowl nine times, a First-Team All-Pro (2006), three-time Second-Team All-Pro (2008, 2009, 2011), two-time AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2008, 2011), and twice named NFC MVP (2008,2009).

Going into his fifteenth season in 2015, Brees has eight NFL records, passed for 56,033 yards, 396 touchdowns with a 95.4 passer rating.

Rutgers – Devin McCourty (DB) New England Patriots. McCourty was a key member of the Patriots secondary that helped New England win its fourth Lombardi Trophy.

McCourty was overshadowed by Darrell Revis and Brandon Browner last season, but he’s had a steadily productive career before teaming up with them for 2014. He has 388 tackles (296 solo), 17 interceptions, and 8 forced fumbles in his five-year career. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2010, and been a Second-Team All-Pro twice (2010, 2013).

Wisconsin – Joe Thomas (OL) Cleveland Browns. Arguably the best offensive lineman in the NFL Today. Thomas has never missed a game in his eight seasons, and has also played in over 7,100 consecutive snaps. Thomas has been a model of consistency and stability in a franchise that has been anything but.

He has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times (2007-2014), a five time First-Team All-Pro (2009-2011, 2013-2014), and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro (2008,2012).

With all do respect to notable Badger Alums, two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt of the Texans and Super Bowl Champion Russell Wilson—who actually spent most of his collegiate career at NC State—of the Seahawks, Thomas has the most longevity and is the more accomplished Wisconsin alum, at this moment.

Top Ten Big Ten Games to Watch in 2015

  The excitement and anticipation are building. We’re just a little over a month away—34 days at the time of this post—from the start of a new college football season. But, it’s never too early to look ahead. Here’s a look at the key games involving Big Ten teams in 2015. 

September 3rd, Michigan at Utah 

The Jim Harbaugh coaching era begins in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines finally have their “Michigan Man” to lead their program. Going to the Utes is a tough opening act for a guy who in his first two college coaching stops at San Diego State and Stanford went 7-4 and 5-8 respectively in his first seasons. He’ll also be breaking in a new QB, Junior Shane Morris, who completed only 35 percent of his passes with three interceptions on his 40 attempts last season.  Harbaugh needs to get off to a great start in Ann Arbor to build momentum for a desperate fans base, or those khakis are going to be hot. 

September 3rd, TCU at Minnesota  

You have to love that so many power conference teams are facing off against each other to start the season. I don’t know if this is an effect of the college football playoff or not, but it’s going to heavily impact how the final four is selected. TCU and the Big XII feel they got snubbed by the committee in 2014, partially due to the Buckeyes emergence, but mostly because of poor non-conference schedules and no conference title game.  With a win the Golden Gophers can deliver an early knockout blow to the Horn Frogs redemption plans, and as a middle of the pack team in the B1G, make a case its a better conference than the Big XII. 

September 5th, Wisconsin vs. Alabama in Arlington, TX 

The Badgers have a new coaching staff for the second consecutive season, and lost their 2,000 plus running back Melvin Gordon to the NFL. Whisky is trying to defend its Big Ten West division title and get back to Indy to redeem itself in the championship game. 

The ESPN Football Power Index gives the Badgers a 52 percent chance of doing so. Their toughest competition will be Nebraska. 

Can the Badgers, be like the Buckeyes, and send a message to the sports world that the big bad SEC isn’t the bullies on the block anymore? Or, will they embarrass themselves on the national stage like they did the last time they were on it? The Tide have only four starters returning on offense, but eight on defense. They’ll be looking to avenge themselves from their disappointment in the CFP the last time the nation saw them. 

September 5th, BYU at Nebraska 

If the Nebraska Cornhuskers are going to re-establish the program to its past glory in its present conference, the time is now. 

The FPI gives the Cornhuskers a 59% chance of winning this game, but only project them to win 7.6 games on the season. They need to get off to a great start to make sure that prediction is off and over take the Badgers. The FPI has given them a 26.3 percent chance of succeeding making it to Indy. 

September 7th, Ohio State at Virginia Tech 

Who’s going to start at QB? That’s the big question everyone wants the answer to. Coach Meyer is a wise guy, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t show us his hand until the offensive unit runs out for its first drive of the game.  

In case you forgot, the Hokies were the only team to beat the Buckeyes in 2014, and it was ugly. They took advantage of a young offensive line and a quarterback making his second start. And, they did it in “The Shoe.” 

Who doesn’t like a revenge game? Thankfully we don’t have to wait long to see it. The defending champs repeat bid will be tested early and we’ll get to see if they’re hungry or satisfied. 

September 12th, Oregon at Michigan State 

The Spartans got off to a good start in the game at Eugene last season, but the eventual Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota had a few signature moments to lead the Ducks to victory.  He won’t be on the field in East Lansing facing a defense returning seven starters looking for revenge. 

MSU will likely have to be undefeated going into their November 21st showdown at Ohio State to overtake the Buckeyes as Big Ten East division champs. A lost to Oregon will all but derail those hopes. 

October 10th, Wisconsin at Nebraska 

This is the biggest game in the lowly West Division. The FPI gives the edge to the Cornhuskers at 51%. This game could decide who plays for the Big Ten crown at season’s end. 

October 17th, Penn State at Ohio State  

The Nittnany Lions had a chance to dash any hopes the Buckeyes had of making a title run last season. After the loss to Virginia Tech in week two, this was the closest game the Scarlet and Gray played. 

Penn State has seven starters returning to a defense that was ranked number one overall in the B1G and number one against the run. 

November 27th, Iowa at Nebraska 

Regardless of if the Cornhuskers beat the Badgers in October, the Hawkeyes will be their final hurdle to get a ticket to Indianapolis to play for the B1G Championship. 

Iowa is always sneaky and will likely be ramped up to play spoiler. Nebraska can’t overlook them. Luckily for them they won’t have to stare at those ugly pink locker rooms. 

November 28th, Ohio State at Michigan 

Meyer versus Harbaugh Episode 1. I wonder if “The Khakis” will continue to disrespectfully call the Buckeyes “Ohio” a la Brady Hoke. The mind games these two will play in the media all season long, especially the week of “The Game”, will probably be better than the actual game. 

The Buckeyes are 12-2 in the last 14 games against Michigan, which includes a three game winning streak.  

The Buckeyes likely will be undefeated and moving closer to a second national title. Folks in Columbus know all too well how the “The Team Up North” has dashed their championship dreams. If the last couple of seasons are any indication of how Michigan’s 2015 will go, a victory could be their crowning achievement on the season. Being spoiler will definitely guarantee season one in Ann Arbor a success for Harbaugh.

Big Ten Football’s Mount Rushmore

It’s the never-ending argument or debate in sports, who’s the greatest? If you think narrowing it down to one is difficult, try coming up with a top four. It’s especially difficult when you have to factor in players and coaches across different eras, many of which from a time long before you were born. But like most sports fans we try. And, I’m opening myself up to ridicule and badgering by trying to come up with the faces that shape up the Big Ten. So without further or do…..

Woody Hayes, HC, Ohio State (1951-1978). In twenty-eight seasons, Coach Hayes led the Buckeyes to five National Championships, thirteen Big Ten Conference Titles and 205 victories. A Mount Rushmore for Big Ten football would have to start with the legendary Hayes, who is the most accomplished coach in conference history. Three times he won the College Football Coach of the Year Award. On top of being a great leader on the field, Coach Hayes is known for being one of the first to recruit and start African-American players and hire African-American assistant coaches.

His coaching tree has produced several legendary coaches in college football such as Bo Schembechler (Michigan), Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame), Lou Holtz (Notre Dame) and his own successor at Ohio State, Earle Bruce to name a few.


Bo Schembechler, HC, Michigan (1969-1989). In twenty-one seasons at the helm in Ann Arbor, Schembechler’s Wolverines won or shared the Big Ten Title thirteen times and won 194 games. Six times he was awarded the Big Ten Coach of the Year Award. Ten times in his career, Coach Bo led Michigan to the Rose Bowl.

Along with Coach Hayes, these two can largely be credited with helping the Big Ten Conference gain the prominence it has. And, the “Ten Year War” between Ohio State and Michigan is why the annual meeting between the school is largely regarded as one of the greatest rivalries in sports.

Archie Griffin, RB, Ohio State (1972-1975). The only two-time Heisman Trophy winner was, and still is in the conversation for greatest college football player ever. #45 is the only running back to lead the Big Ten Conference in rushing for three straight years. When he graduated from Ohio State in 1975, he was the NCAA record holder in rushing yards (5,589) and carries (924). His 31 games with at least 100 rushing yards from 1973-1975 is still an FBS record. The Buckeyes were 40-5-1 in his four seasons.

In 1990, Griffin was named to the Walter Camp All-Century team, and ESPN named him twenty first out of twenty fifth on the Top Players in College Football History list.


Dick Butkus, LB, Illinois (1962-1964). While he’s mostly remembered and revered for his time as a Chicago Bear,  history shows he was just as dominant as the leader of the defense with the Illini. He finished his career with 374 tackles in three seasons, in an era when freshman weren’t allowed to play varsity. In 1963 he won Big Ten’s Most Valuable Player, and in 1964 he was awarded the American Football Coaches Association Player of the Year. Adding to his accomplishments, Butkus finished sixth in Heisman Trophy balloting in 1963 and third in 1964, a rarity for defensive players.

In 1990 he was named to the Walter Camp All-Century team, and in 2000, College Football News named him the sixth-best ever college football player. ESPN ranked him nineteenth out of twenty-five on their Top Players In College Football History list.

I think it’s safe to say he is the best linebacker ever, I mean, he has his own award given out yearly to the best high school, collegiate and professional player at the position. That’s more than Mount Rushmore worthy.

HONORABLE MENTION:

Charles Woodson, CB/KR/PR, Michigan (1995-1997). The only defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy and leader of the 1997 National Champion Wolverines. He racked up the awards after ’97 season, from the Walter Camp, to the Thorpe, to the Bednarik award and others. But, his final season in Ann Arbor is really the one people only remember, not his entire career.

Joe Paterno, HC, Penn State (1966-2011). Earlier this year, the NCAA restored his 111 wins taken away as punishment in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal to make him once again the winningest coach in college football. My knock against Joe Pa is that a majority of his success came before Penn State joined the conference in 1993, and his team’s were 13-22 against Ohio State and Michigan.

Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin (1996-1999). Dwayne won the 1999 Heisman Trophy and finished his career in Madison as the NCAA’s All-Time Leading Rusher (6,397 yards, 7,125 if you count bowl games). While he was consistent as a thousand yard rusher all four seasons, like Woodson, his last season is the most impactful year when he gained acclaim as the best player in the conference.

Drew Brees, QB, Purdue (1997-2000). Before he donned the black and gold of the New Orleans Saints, he wore the same as a member of the Purdue Boilermakers. Brees finished his career in West Lafayette as the Big Ten’s All-Time leader in passing yards (11,792), touchdown passes (90), total offensive yards (12,693), completions (1,026) and attempts (1,678). In a 2010 Big Ten Network Icons documentary, Brees was ranked forty-eighth out of fifty on the conference’s top student athletes. He was also named the Big Ten’s best quarterback of the 1990s.

His other honors Include, Big Ten Offensive POY 1998 & 2000, Big Ten MVP in 2000, 2000 Maxwell Award Winner, Big Ten Medal of Honor winner in 2001.

Pat Fitzgerald, LB, Northwestern (1993-1996). Before he was leading the Wildcats as head coach, Fitzgerald was the defensive leader on the field helping turn the program around from conference doormat, to conference champions. In 1995 as a consensus All-American, he led Northwestern to the first of consecutive Big Ten titles and a berth in the Rose Bowl, the school’s second ever and first since 1949.

“Fitz” is a two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and is the first two-time winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and Chuck Bednarik Award. In 2008, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.