Michigan State overpowers Stanford

All year long we had to listen to media experts insist that no Big Ten team could play with a physical Stanford team that won the allegedly far superior PAC 12. Well, Stanford and its vaunted running game ran into a green wall of reality last night as Michigan State out-muscled them over and over again in the trenches.

Say what you want about the Big Ten and its recent troubles, but the better Big Ten teams know how to play physical football, unlike most Pac 12 teams. Watching Stanford run through defenses like Oregon tells you nothing about how they will fare against Michigan State’s top-ranked defense.

Of course, it didn’t help that alleged “genius” David Shaw showed zero immagination with his play calls. Running Tyler Gaffney up the middle on fourth and three against this defense was just silly, as everyone knew what was comming and the Spartans slammed him for a three yard loss.

Meanwhile, Sparty and Mark Dantonio did the best immitation of Tresselball we’ve seen in years. They were tough on defense and resiliant on offense. This team also didn’t give up after a brutal pick-six before the half and responded with a quick touchdown to stay in the game.

It was a great win for Michigan State and the Big Ten, so perhaps we can be spared some of the smack talk about the PAC 12 for at least a year.

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Oklahoma goes down at home against Texas Tech

No. 3 Oklahoma couldn’t overcome an early deficit as they lost to Texas Tech 41-38. The much-hyped Sooners’ defense gave up 572 total yards to the Red Raiders along with the 41 points, pretty much destroying any notion that they belonged in the National Championship game. Meanwhile Landry Jones completed 30 of 55 passes in the shootout for 412 yards and 5 touchdowns against one interception.

This result will shake up the BCS rankings, as No. 4 Wisconsin also lost a heart-breaker to Michigan State. Few people have been talking about No. 8 Stanford, but with Andrew Luck at the helm, they might pose the most interesting challenge to the eventual SEC winner if that’s how things play out. Last night Luck barely had to break a sweat in Stanford’s 65-21 thrashing of No. 25 Washington, as the running game for Stanford exploded for 446 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Of course the entire BCS discussion is ridiculous. Oklahoma is still a very good team, and if we had a sensible 8-team playoff for example, the Sooners would have a chance to redeem themselves and learn from this loss. Unfortunately, that notion doesn’t exist often in college football unless everyone ends up losing a game.

Michigan State stuns Wisconsin

Michigan State can thanks the replay rules for a miraculous victory over Wisconsin in a physical and exciting game tonight. Kirk Cousins threw a 44-yard Hail Mary pass with time running out, and Keith Nichol came up with it after it was tipped by several players. The problem was that it was hard to see whether he actually got into the end zone, and the officials ruled on the field that Nichol didn’t get it. But the replay showed that the ball did barely cross the end zone, and Michigan State won in stunning fashion.

The game had some wild swings, and Wisconsin jumped out to a 14-0 lead after an opening touchdown drive and then another quick touchdown after a Spartan turnover.

But then Russell Wilson got called for intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety, and then he threw an interception and all of a sudden the Spartans were on their way to 23 unanswered points.

In the fourth quarter, Wisconsin was down by 14 points, but Russell Wilson did a great job of bringing the Badgers back to tie the game with 1:26 left. But then Michigan State got its miracle, and Wisconsin’s dream of an undefeated season ended with the replay call.

What a game!

Ohio State redefines offensive ineptitude in loss to Michigan State

Ohio State head coach Luke Fickell (C) runs onto the field prior to their NCAA football game against the University of Akron in Columbus, Ohio September 3, 2011. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

So, about that Ohio State offense. Woof.

The Buckeyes put on a performance for the ages, today against Michigan State. That is, if their ages were 8 or 9. They gained 178 yards in a 10-7 loss to the Spartans, 95 of it coming on their last two drives. The final drive covered 62 yards and ended in a touchdown pass by Joe Bauserman with 10 seconds remaining. Something to build on, I suppose.

But for the majority of the game, the Buckeyes were something worse than atrocious on offense, as true freshman Braxton Miller showed us all what it looks like when a true freshman with limited offensive weaponry around him plays against a legit Big Ten defense. That sight, but the way, is not pretty.

A week ago I wrote that Miller was the Buckeyes answer at quarterback, even though he struggled passing the football. Today he may have proven me wrong. I’m sure Miller, who is supremely talented (or so I hear), will one day be the man for the Buckeyes, and not out of necessity. But with DeVier Posey and Dan Herron coming back next week, it might be a better idea to just go with Bauserman and play boring, classic Big Ten offense. This is not to be confused with the so boring it’s kind of exciting offense that was on display today.

And before you get into the “Michigan State is top-ranked defense” argument, stop. The Spartans numbers are inflated by playing cupcakes and a Notre Dame team that was less interested in moving the ball and more interested in not letting Tommy Rees do Tommy Rees-type things in the second half. Even then, the Irish moved the ball up and down the field without a lot of interference at times.

The point is, this is not the best defense Ohio State is going to see this year, and yes things are going to get better when players return from suspension, but with who the Buckeyes have under center, it’s tough to even see it getting to “watchable.”

The defense is still solid, but it’s not as good as it has been, so I don’t see it being able to pull out games against better foes. It’s going to be a long season in Columbus.

Spartans humanize Denard Robinson, make it three straight against “big brother”

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 26: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Michigan State Spartans looks to pass the ball against the Wisconsin Badgers on September 26, 2009 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Michigan State might be changing the pecking order in Michigan. With its third straight win today against Michigan, the Spartans may be soon taking control of the moniker “big brother.”

In a battle of unbeaten teams that had captured the undivided attention of most of the state, the Spartans put in a fairly dominant performance against Michigan at Big House, winning 34-17. It’s the first three-game winning streak in the series for Sparty since the 1960s, and this one was definitely the sweetest of the three.

Michigan State’s ability to move the ball on Michigan — to the tune of 536 yards of total offense — wasn’t a surprise. What the Spartans defense did to Heisman Trophy front-runner Denard Robinson, however, was.

Robinson had 84 yards rushing on 21 carries, which for him might as well have been negative yardage. It was his performance through the air, though, that put the biggest dent in his Heisman campaign, and — dare I say it — cost Michigan the game. Robinson not only threw three interceptions, but he also missed on a couple of would-be big plays in the passing game. Granted, his receivers didn’t really help him out a ton — Roy Roundtree dropped a perfectly thrown touchdown pass — but it was proven today that Robinson still struggles when he’s forced to make proper reads and deliver a pass in a tight spot.

So how did the Spartans do it? They have great linebackers, but it was some great play up front at times that helped corral Robinson before he could get started — which is always the key with him. They also decided at times that even if they didn’t get him right away, they weren’t going to let him break a big run. This resulted in a few trips to the red zone for the Wolverines, which is apparently their kryptonite. Their offense is predicated on getting athletes in space, winning one-on-one speed battles and breaking the big one. When the defense can collapse on them in a confined space like we saw today, they aren’t nearly as effective.

But back to the Michigan defense, which continues to be an absolute disgrace. It started out strong, but the Spartans ground attack eventually overwhelmed Michigan, gaining 261 yards, including 149 from Edwin Baker.

Going forward, Michigan State has a very manageable schedule. Ohio State is absent, and the biggest hurdle remaining is a road game at Iowa. Granted, that’s a pretty big hurdle, but the Spartans going 12-0 is not at all out of the realm of possibility. How’s that for little brother?

Michigan, meanwhile, has Iowa at home next week, a team that has the defensive front to stop Robinson, and enough offense to put up a lot of points against Michigan. Illinois no longer looks like a gimme for the Wolverines, and the finishing games with Wisconsin and Ohio State will be real tough. Eight wins is a definite possibility — maybe probability — but then again, so is seven. And does 7-5 keep Rich Rodriguez in Ann Arbor for another year?

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