INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Michigan State shook up the BCS title chase again Saturday night.
The next six years of Big Ten Conference football schedules are in place as the conference released today its 2018 and 2019 schedules.
The Buckeyes’ 2018 Big Ten schedule will run like this: home games vs. Rutgers, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska …
At the halfway point of the season, the Big Ten hasn’t produced many highlights. OK, Michigan beat Notre Dame and Wisconsin’s running game is, again, about as good as it gets. Oh, and Ohio State’s perfect start and No. 4 ranking has given the conference a stake in the national championship chase. But the Big Ten had only four teams win all four nonconference games. Indiana’s convincing victory over Penn State has been the only upset, a mild one at that. Against Notre Dame and the five other major leagues, the Big Ten went 9-8. Six of those wins were over California (1-5), Iowa State (1-4), South Florida (2-4) and Syracuse (3-3), non-contenders in their respective conferences. The second half ought to be better, however. Rivalry games are on deck and the September fluff of FCS and mid-major opponents has passed. Here are five things to know about Big Ten football, reflecting on the first half and looking ahead to the rest of the season: BEST GAME: Penn State’s fourth-quarter comeback for a 43-40 victory in four overtimes last Saturday against Michigan, all the missed field goals aside, will be tough to top. Penn State’s biggest win in two years with coach Bill O’Brien bumped Michigan out of the Top 25 following its first defeat. Rivalry games on Nov. 2 (Michigan at Michigan State) and Nov. 30 (Ohio State at Michigan) will be closely watched, but here are three strong contenders for a second-half winner, all involving the same three teams: Northwestern at Nebraska on Nov. 2, Michigan State at Nebraska on Nov. 16, and Michigan State at Northwestern on Nov. 23. The Legends Division race is tight, and the Spartans, Huskers and Wildcats will be trying to put themselves in position for better bowl games. Nebraska’s offense and Michigan State’s defense are an intriguing contrast. Northwestern needs to make up for humbling losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin with a win or two over teams in the Big Ten’s top tier. WORST WEEKEND: The conference looked weak on Sept. 14, when Michigan barely beat Akron, Minnesota struggled early against Western Illinois and Penn State lost at home to Central Florida. The Big Ten went 1-3 against the Pac-12, with Ohio State’s win over California not enough to counteract Wisconsin’s bizarre loss at Arizona State, a defeat for Illinois against Washington and a 20-point loss by Nebraska at home to UCLA. This Saturday, with Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue on the road and heavyweights Ohio State, Michigan, Northwestern and Michigan State hosting, the slate doesn’t look strong, either. BEST COACHING: Tim Beckman has made Illinois more competitive so far after a rough debut in 2012, and Gary Andersen has made sure Wisconsin hasn’t missed a beat. Considering the wealth of talent Ohio State has, though, Urban Meyer has been an unquestioned success. He was asked Tuesday if he found himself watching Alabama or Oregon this fall and thinking ahead to a potential national title game…
A struggling offense almost made Michigan State an afterthought in the league throughout the first month of the season. Even if those early issues aren’t all entirely solved, there have been enough strides to complement a defense that doesn’t take a backseat to any unit in the country to make sure the Spartans are now front and center in any conversation about Legends Division favorites.
Certainly settling on one quarterback has helped stabilize the attack for Michigan State, and Connor Cook has provided consistent, efficient outings behind center to key a turnaround and lead a couple of critical conference wins over Iowa and Indiana. In all, Cook has completed nearly 58 percent of his passes for 923 yards and 9 touchdowns, and while those numbers don’t exactly turn heads, the fact he’s tossed only 2 interceptions goes a long way for a team that doesn’t need to light up the scoreboard every week.
The Spartans do their heavy lifting with a rugged, ruthless defensive unit that is No. 1 in the nation through six games, giving up just 228 yards per game while also holding opponents to less than 16 points on average.
With 14 different players contributing a tackle for a loss and a group of ball hawks that have nabbed 7 interceptions and scooped up 4 fumbles, the Spartans are deep, talented and capable of making life miserable for any opposing offense. Now that their own offensive nightmare appears to be over, they might be primed for a second-half run that could send them to Indianapolis to play for a conference crown.
Offensive MVP: RB Jeremy Langford. Sorting through the quarterback quandary and settling on Cook has helped, but as long as the Spartans have Langford to hand the football to, they should be able to play the kind of hard-nosed, ball-possession style that moves the chains, protects the defense, and occasionally exposes opponents not ready to match up in the trenches. Langford provided just what the blueprint called for last week against Indiana, scoring 4 touchdowns and rushing for 109 yards to help the Spartans start 2-0 in the league.
Defensive MVP: DE Shilique Calhoun. The Spartans have no shortage of candidates for top honors on the nation’s stingiest total defense, but Calhoun’s ability to stuff almost every column on the stats sheet gives him an edge at the midway point. The sophomore has been credited with 13 quarterback hurries, 3 sacks, 3 fumbles recovered and an interception for good measure. If that wasn’t enough, he’s turned three of those turnovers into touchdowns, tying the school record for defensive scores with half a season still to play.
Ohio State is the last unbeaten team standing in the Big Ten at 6-0 after Michigan suffered its first loss in a 43-40, four-overtime thriller at Penn State on Saturday in the game of the day and possibly the season.…
The toughest two-week stretch on the schedule is in the rearview mirror, and Ohio State remains unbeaten. A rocky nonconference slate made the opening month of the season something of an adventure for Michigan, but the Wolverines survived without a blemish on their record as well.
Both programs point toward arguably the most heated rivalry in the country as the most important matchup all season regardless of rankings or what’s at stake in the Big Ten or nationally, and that won’t change in late November. But so far, everything appears to be lining up for what could be an epic confrontation with far-reaching implications aside from just bragging rights. And if the Buckeyes and Wolverines stay on track heading into the second half of the season, there might even be an encore to The Game one week later in Indianapolis in the Big Ten championship game.
Game: Ohio State-Michigan
What’s at stake: Michigan hasn’t done much to put itself in the national title conversation just yet with some unimpressive victories over Akron and Connecticut, but if the Wolverines keep that record unblemished, they ultimately would have to be in the discussion. Ohio State is already a prominent part of the championship picture now that it has knocked off Wisconsin and Northwestern to push its winning streak to 18 games overall, and the Buckeyes have long circled the trip to Ann Arbor, Mich., as one of the biggest hurdles in “The Chase” for a trophy.
But just in terms of the feud between the rivals, Urban Meyer got a leg up on Brady Hoke by winning the first head-to-head matchup between the coaches last year at the Horseshoe. And in the battle for public perception and in the recruiting wars, no victory means more than one against “Ohio” or “That Team Up North.”
Roadblocks/derailment opportunities: The Wolverines have made life difficult for themselves with costly turnovers, and they spent their first bye week making sure they weren’t tripping over their own feet heading into conference play. Quarterback Devin Gardner showed marked improvement as Michigan opened up Big Ten action with an easy victory over Minnesota, operating the offense with the type of efficiency that was expected during training camp and appearing to right the offensive ship. The Wolverines will have to keep playing with that sharpness during a brutal three-game stretch that starts after its second second bye week, visiting Michigan State on Nov. 2, hosting Nebraska and then going back on the road to take on Northwestern. Ohio State, though, is mostly playing against itself and Meyer’s high standards until it faces Michigan. With a favorable Big Ten draw that didn’t include Nebraska or Michigan State this season, the Buckeyes will be heavy favorites in each of their next five games, particularly now that the offense is starting to look more like Meyer envisions thanks to the return of Braxton Miller from injury and Carlos Hyde from suspension. A visit from Indiana’s high-powered offense Nov. 23, a week before The Game, might be the toughest remaining test.
How it unfolds: With the spread offense clicking, the front seven developing ahead of schedule and a couple of bye weeks to potentially tweak the retooled secondary following Christian Bryant’s injury, everything appears to be in place for Ohio State to hold up its end of the deal to set up a memorable meeting in Michigan
Ohio State is a heavy favorite to run the table this season because of its talent, coaching and schedule. The Buckeyes drop Michigan State and Nebraska from last year’s more difficult slate, replacing them with Northwestern and Iowa. While those two games will both be difficult in their own right, they seem preferable to games against the Spartans and Huskers. Nowhere is Ohio State’s schedule advantage more evident than at quarterback. The list of signal-callers it plays is laden with inexperience or sheer lack of talent. In a quarterback-driven sport, that should make the Buckeyes’ path to Pasadena all the more favorable. There are still a few guys they should watch out for, though. Begin Slideshow
In one of the biggest surprises of college football media days, Ohio State has been picked to win the Big Ten. Yeah, right. The Big Ten media revealed its predictions, and there aren’t many shockers, per Kyle Meinke of Mlive. The Buckeyes received 26 first-place votes—just one away from unanimously winning the Leaders Division. Wisconsin was the only other team in the Leaders Division to earn a first-place vote. The Legends Division was a lot more wide open and a number of teams could earn a bid to the conference title game. Michigan and Nebraska were tied with 14 first-place votes, but the Wolverines edged out the Cornhuskers with an overall score of 135.5. Michigan State also had four first-place votes and is expected to finish third in the division. With the votes tallied, a lot of the Big Ten media expects Michigan and Ohio State to square off for the Big Ten title. Other possible scenarios include Ohio State-Nebraska and Ohio State-Michigan State. A possible…
Not all schedules are created equally. Due to the combination of non-conference games set far in advance and the quirks of conference draws from year to year, some championship contenders have easier paths to Pasadena and the BCS title game than others.
UNION, N.J. — The knock on Ohio State for much of the 2012-2013 season was that they relied far too much on Deshaun Thomas on the offensive end of the floor. They didn’t have a second option, and on the nights when Thomas wasn’t hitting his shots, the Buckeyes weren’t winning games. That changed down the stretch of the season, however. Ohio State won their last five regular season games before taking home the Big Ten tournament title and coming within a game of making the Final Four, a feat that no one thought possible last January. The reason for that surge? The play of point guard Aaron Craft, who became a much more aggressive player on the offensive end of the floor over the last month-and-a-half of the season. He had 21 points and six assists in a regular season win over Michigan State. He went for 15 points, four assists and four steals in a win over Indiana. He had 20 points, nine assists and four steals against Michigan State in the …