The Biggest Games of 2013
Sometimes it happens to the champions, and sometimes to the forgottens. But greatness can occur on a football field at any time, and 2013 was another interesting chapter of Big Ten football. Here were the highlights.
Nebraska over Northwestern, 27-24
Nebraska put up more yards, had more first downs, and controlled the clock more than the Wildcats, but penalties and a turnover margin of minus-three made this closer than it should have been (the second straight year all this was the case, with a similar 29-28 win for Nebraska the year before). For the Cats, this was the third of four losses in a row by eight points or less, sandwiched in between blowouts to Wisconsin (35-6) and Michigan State (30-6). This, though, was the most heart-breaking.
Minnesota def. Indiana, 42-39
A game that saw Minnesota build a dominating lead with 6 minutes left to go in the third ended dramatically after Indiana scored four consecutive touchdowns to take the lead, then surrender a late touchdown to Maxx Williams with three minutes left. On the Hoosiers' final drive, they got to the 9-yard line, ready to tie or take the lead, when a mistake on a lateral pass ruined that chance. It was a mistake that ultimately froze Indiana out of a bowl bid.
Michigan over Notre Dame, 41-30
Notre Dame would go 9-4. Michigan would go 7-6. No, for another year this wasn't a battle of goliaths in any sense other than historical. In fact, it's been a little painful to see teams with such great history feeling their way back. But on the field, there's no denying that Notre Dame and Michigan have played some fantastic football against each other - two old enemies with a grudge, under the lights. At the time this win hinted at a resurgence for Michigan's program, but that was not to be. It was one of only two wins against teams with a winning record; the other was a 42-13 win over Minnesota.
Iowa over Nebraska, 38-17
This game meant a lot to both programs. For Iowa, it clinched an 8th win and a winning Big Ten record, the seventh time for either under Kirk Ferentz, but the first since 2010 and '09. For Nebraska, it was a meltdown game, which saw Bo Pelini get flagged for conduct with an official and ended with a very Bo Pelini press conference, in which he talked about his players being able to look themselves in the mirror with pride, and the now-famous, "If they want to fire me, go ahead." Nebraska won the yardage game and got more first downs, but three turnovers and five penalties killed the Cornhuskers. It did not, however, end Bo Pelini's career at Nebraska.
Ohio State over Michigan, 42-41
This would have been a legendary win for Michigan. But that's painful to think about, and we were a flawed team, anyway. The benefit of a loss is it magnifies the amount needed to improve, rather than masks it. At any rate, it was an exciting, dramatic game, and we gave all the fight that we had. That's a good enough game for now.
Michigan State over Ohio State, 34-24
This game similarly helped Ohio State look at its deficiencies, and also had a key role in the exit of a coordinator (in this case, the departed DC Mike Vrabel). For State, this was a program-affirming win against a team Denicos Allen and a few others had hoped to be a part of. Those under-recruited players made sure the Buckeyes remembered them.
And the best performances, too...
This started off with a lot of big numbers, but that just turned it into a 'how did everyone do against Indiana and Illinois' list, so I re-emphasized the size of the moment and the magnitude the game had on the season. And it's still mostly an Indiana and Illinois list.
1. Devin Gardner, 461 yards vs. Ohio State
The best game of his career, and the best performance by a Michigan Man in the Game in at least a decade, surpassing Denard's 337 yards, 5 touchdowns and no picks in 2011. This game will be remembered for quite a while, and it will also be painful for quite a while. But Gardner was amazing.
2. Darqueze Dennard, 3 tackles, 2 PBUs and 1 forced fumble vs. Ohio State
Yes, the Georgia native would follow this up by shutting down Ty Montgomery - the most explosive player on the Cardinal - but his real masterpiece came against Ohio State. Outside of a 36-yard pass to Jeff Heuerman, the passing offense looked like this: 7/22, 65 yards. Obviously that falls on everybody, including the line and any blitzing linebackers, but main credit goes to Dennard.
3. Jeremy Gallon, 364 yards vs. Indiana
Gallon was often too elusive for the Hoosiers' defense to tackle, and Gardner also called his number on some long throws when Gallon got open deep. He scored twice and averaged 26.4 yards a catch, and his 369 yards receiving is a Big Ten record and second all-time.
4. Connor Cook, 317 yards vs. Stanford
Langford was consistent in Big Ten play, never rushing for more than 151 yards and only once rushing below 104. His teammate, on the other hand, struggled against Purdue and Nebraska but finished with a bang, pulling in 621 yards against top-five teams. His 332 yards passing against Stanford were critical to one of the best wins in Sparty history and of the Big Ten in 2013.
5. Chris Borland, 16 tackles vs. Ohio State
The Badgers held Ohio State to 4.5 yards per rush, and Borland was instrumental in matching Hyde's physicality in the hole. The Buckeyes still won, 31-24, but it was their lowest points total on the season until Michigan State.
6. Carlos Hyde, 229 yards vs. Michigan
Yes, he had more yards (246) on fewer carries (24) against Illinois, but this was on the biggest stage and saved Ohio State's season. The 226 yards earned him a touchdown and set up scores by Braxton Miller on three other occasions. Also, this came against a top run defense that wouldn't falter like that to another opponent.
7. Devin Gardner, 584 yards vs. Indiana
A bit repetitive but this list was incomplete without the all-time yardage record from a Michigan player. DG broke Denard's record (502) against Notre Dame with just his passing, and sprinkled on 81 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground.
8. Ryan Shazier, 20 tackles, 5 TFL's, 1 sack, 1 pass defensed vs. Indiana
The game wasn't very close, despite the Hoosiers getting more first downs and almost as many yards, and winning the turnover battle, and the clock. No, it was a 42-14 beatdown despite all of that. Shazier was a big reason why, with a stat sheet out of this world for a defensive player.
9. Randy Gregory, 4 tackles, 3 TFL's, 3 sacks vs. Michigan
This is also a bit of picking on a weak unit, but Gregory was the biggest reason for Michigan's 36 carries for -21 yards. Nebraska had more first downs and yards, but had more penalties and lost the turnover battle by two (yeah, a trend). It all resulted in a 17-13 win in Ann Arbor.
10. Nathan Scheelhaase, 495 yards vs. Indiana
Both offenses accumulated 600 yards, but Indiana won by 17 and delivered the Illini their 19th consecutive conference loss (which would hit 20 before they faced Purdue). That wasn't Scheelhaase's fault, though, as the Illini could not stop Tevin Coleman (215 yards on 15 carries) or Cody Latimer (189 yards on 11 catches).
11. Jeremy Langford, 149 yards vs. Ohio State
Langford's gutty performance against the strength of OSU's defense opened things up for Cook to get his 304 yards and 3 touchdowns. Then, he broke through in the 57th minute to deliver a knock-out blow with his 26-yard run up the middle. When the Spartans needed him, he delivered: half his yards came in the fourth, as the Spartans roared back and won.
12. Danny Etling, 487 yards vs. Indiana
Etling played the last eight games for Purdue, averaging 172 yards a game, with a 6/7 touchdown ratio. The quarterback's numbers for this game (which included 4 touchdown passes, and no turnovers) were elevated for two reasons: one, obviously, it was against the Hoosiers, but second, the team couldn't run at all. Sixteen carries to 49 pass attempts, and four rush attempts in the second half. Indiana outrushed them 401-31.
13. Ryan Shazier, 16 tackles, 3.5 TFL's, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble vs. Illinois
Illinois did a pretty good job of getting first downs against Ohio State's defense and limiting Braxton Miller through the air, and though the 60-35 score underlies the dominance of Ohio State's rushing attack, it also belies a weak effort on D. Shazier was the glue holding everything together, and he made a few tackles that might otherwise have made a more interesting game.
14. Christian Hackenberg, 343 yards vs. Wisconsin
Christian's 343 yards in this game changed the narrative a little bit for Penn State going into the off-season. Wisconsin is still being lauded as an upper-echelon Big Ten team despite back-to-back losses going into 2014, but Penn State getting a seventh win has validated what they've done and what Bill O'Brien did in the two seasons he coached there. It also stopped a late slide by Hackenberg, who averaged 189 yards in five games leading up the finale.
15. Trevor Siemian, 433 yards vs. Illinois
It was the last game of the year, and the Cats were snake-bitten and reeling from a season gone terribly wrong. They beat the Illini, though, 37-34 before the start of a very long off-season. Scheelhaase returned the favor with 362 yards of his own, but it wasn't enough to stop the fifth team of the season from putting up 500 yards on the Illini defense.
Honorable Mentions: Braxton Miller, 334 yards vs. Illinois; Ryan Shazier, 14 tackles, 1.5 TFL's, 0.5 sacks vs. Michigan; Kenny Guiton, 368 yards vs. Cal; Carlos Hyde, 246 yards vs. Illinois; Ameer Abdullah, 240 yards vs. Illinois; Tre Roberson, 427 yards vs. Purdue; Darqueze Dennard, 3 tackles vs. Stanford; Braxton Miller, 324 yards vs. Iowa; David Cobb, 236 yards vs. Indiana; Jake Duzey, 138 yards vs. Ohio State.
Hitting the Links Has a Prototype
Hubbard is a 2014 linebacker recruit for Ohio State, but he's been moved to tight end before he will even hit the field. There are a couple of interesting themes here: Urban Meyer playing B1G ball better than the B1G, in finding explosive, talented and physically imposing players, and the difficulty for recruiting services as outlined in the article.
There are fifteen four-stars in Ohio for 2015. Eleven of them have committed. Three are going to the Buckeyes. Scott, who had offers from Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn, is a bigger, physical back with good agility, in the mold of LeVeon Bell - and really, that's been the mold of a Spartan back for a while. Michigan, MSU, and OSU all feature very physical ground games, by the way.
Gary Danielson makes a good point about Bama's prototype, but they do seem to be slowly changing and getting lighter and less bulky. There's Derrick Henry, for sure, but T.J. Yeldon is under 220 lbs. and Altee Tenpenny might be one of the next Alabama running backs, and he's 207. Still no slot receivers, though - they're changing a little but they're still all about tight ends, size and brute strength. It's something they can get away with when they recruit five-star players who can be bulky but still explosive.
The Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon on July 28th will feature speeches from Jim Delany, Tournament of Roses president Rich Chinen, and Abdullah. Congrats to Ameer, obviously.
There were some good questions in here - one regarding Michigan. Another was about Iowa being underrated in the West, which I would agree with. Every team in the West has flaws, but the ones the Hawkeyes have (speed at wide receiver, linebacker experience) impact their game the least. They'll still be able to run, stop the run, and they have a fairly talented, stable QB. I'll go out there and say 10-2 this year, even though the schedule is tougher than some are implying.
A list like this is a pretty good way to see how deep and talented a conference is at a particular spot, and it's a bad sign when the paragraph for the team just over halfway down starts off with, "To be quite honest, Mike Gundy doesn't seem to have any great options at quarterback." Further down, Iowa State's name comes up. Iowa State's Mark Mangino is an interesting character; he was the OC for a championship-winning Oklahoma team in 2000, and led the Kansas Jayhawks for eight years, the highlight of which was a 12-1 season in 2007 and the lowlight of which was his quiet resignation because of a littany of issues, including but not limited to verbal abuse of players and university employees. They will be the first real test for Iowa, who beat them 27-21 last year.
We're quietly becoming a very fast team, between Breezy, Fleet, Freddy Canteen, DG, Jehu, and Drake Johnson. We're hoarding football players who are also track athletes.
A.J. Ricker will make at least $100,000 more at Missouri than he was at Illinois. There is no reason, monetarily, we should lose coaches to the SEC. Scheelhaase tweeted that Ricker was the best he'd seen in his time at Illinois, and the Illini will be searching for their fourth coach in four years.
One of the more important truisms about football that's been said a lot but bears repeating: you want to play with and against the great competition, or else you're not going to be ready. The Big Ten will be renewing its grudge match with the SEC a little more often over the next several years: Michigan vs. Florida in 2017 and then Arkansas in 2018-19, Penn State vs. LSU in 2020 (tentative), Wisconsin vs. LSU (2014), Alabama (2015) and then LSU (2016), and Nebraska against Tennesee (2026-27). More. Get comfortable in the fight.
Some other tantalizing non-conference games: Sparty against Miami in 2020-21, Ohio State against Oklahoma (2016-17), Oregon (2020-21), and then Texas (2022-23), and Rutgers against Washington (2016-17), Miami (2018-19), and UCLA (2020-21). Northwestern will be starting a war with Stanford (2015-16, 2019-22), and Nebraska is renewing their rivalry with Oklahoma (2021-22) and also facing Miami (2014-15) and Oregon (2016-17). Maryland will play Texas (2017-18). A few teams seem to be making the rounds against the Big Ten.
Also, seriously, Iowa? Here's their almost complete non-conference slate to 2020: Northern Iowa, Ball State, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Illinois State, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, North Texas, Miami of Ohio, Iowa State, North Dakota State, Wyoming, Iowa State, North Texas, Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, Miami of Ohio, Iowa State, Northern Illinois, and Iowa State. Whew, glad they got that Ball State game in there to spice it up a little.
I highlighted this game a little while ago, but they do a better job and go into more depth.
This happened this past weekend in Louisiana. There's also a cool picture of DG and Peyton Manning.
Carr is notably less than enthused about the future Hall of Famer. Henson would eventually take over in 2000, even put in a year in the Yankees minor league system, and become a quarterback in the NFL. He had 98 career yards in the NFL; Brady has 49,149 so far, which is 7th all-time. He can realistically join the top five this season, a group which includes his peers Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
The 2000 Orange Bowl against a #5 Alabama team marked the twelfth game against a ranked opponent for Brady. From 1994-2003, the Wolverines faced 60 ranked teams, and also got 9.4 wins a season. From 2004-2013, they faced 40, and got just 7.7 wins.
No sponsor was immediately identified.
Some have called Auburn's defensive line the best in the SEC; this is a big blow, though, and increases the likelihood of a step back for Ellis Johnson's defense.
Good front-four pressure, and a whole lot of athleticism. Regarding the theme of prototypes, it's something that you often see coaches use, is good for stability, and is something you can sell to recruits. Michigan is updating our prototypes - I think fans have decided they want to see a physical running game, but some athleticism in the quarterback and speedier wideouts wouldn't hurt.
Another good prototype would be a dominant, physically imposing corner, even if none really matches Woodson. I've said before that I think the Big Ten needs to put more emphasis on developing its cornerbacks if they want to catch up to and surpass some other football conferences, and that would set the league up well to extend their physical, defensive-minded identity in a new era and prepare them for games with high-flying athletes and offenses. All of this would unfold over several seasons, though, of course.