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Thursday Morning Brews: Keeping Warm

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Hitting the Links Has A Hot Cocoa

Jake Rudock Is Healthy, Practicing

There's a lot of optimism heading into the Florida game, but UF's defense will be tough to handle. The pass defense is better and more athletic than Ohio State, and about on par with Michigan. Rudock will need to have perfect timing with his receivers to have any success.

On the other hand, Michigan has a unique cast in their receiving corps to combat that speed. Darboh could be successful as a possession receiver. Jehu Chesson will probably see his number called on a number of sweeps to bust up Florida's man coverage. And this might be a coming-out party for Michigan's tight ends; Florida's starting linebackers are fast, but they're also 6'1" and 6'2".

Jourdan Lewis Discusses Desmond King's Success, Star Rankings

Jourdan, on the other hand, might not be challenged or even mentioned much against Florida. Take away the season opener against New Mexico State, and Treon Harris's completion percentage is under 50% on the year.

Greg Schiano Has A Plan To Get Rashan Gary

As many Buckeye fans have pointed out, adding Rashan to OSU's current group of commits would make a truly unbelievable amount of D-Line talent. And having a great D-Line seems to be Urban Meyer's secret to getting national championships. So, let's not have that happen.

Greg Mattison Named Fourth-Best Recruiter In The Country

A small downside to promoting Mattison to D.C. - especially while he appears to be content at his current, less stressful position - would be less time on the recruiting trail. But with Lance Anderson turning down Michigan's job opening, Jim Harbaugh is running short on obvious options.

Then again, Harbaugh is like MacGyver. You think he'll promote Mattison, and he somehow steals Bob Shoop or Dave Aranda. One thing is for sure - Michigan will be fine.

Kevin Sumlin to Purdue?

So, Kyle Allen is transferring from Texas A&M. Reportedly, Kyler Murray wants to join him on the trek out of town. Back-up to the back-up, Kylest Ziggenfreud, is nowhere to be found. This has caused people to speculate about how much longer Kevin Sumlin might last in College Station; and that has brought the name Purdue out of the woodworks. Back in the day, Sumlin played his college ball there.

Inside Joe Moorhead's Move To PSU | Where Illinois Stands Now

These are two great behind-the-scenes pieces by ESPN.

Penn State needs to solve its conundrum of getting behind the chains. That's partly on the offensive line, and partly on some bad decision-making by Hack. And until the quarterback - whoever that ends up being in 2016 - is able to run an offense without breakage, the receivers won't be able to reach their potential, either. Penn State is already blessed with one of the best defensive coordinators in the conference. James Franklin is bringing in a glut of talent on both sides. But the sacks and bad plays are in the way of getting a top-fifteen ranking.

Illinois is also slowly headed in a good direction; the defense, the offensive line, the receivers and the running backs all took a step forward this year. The fans weren't pleased with Cubit's retention, but he's doing a pretty good job for an obviously challenging situation. Recruiting needs to pick up; the team also needs to have confidence and a solid vision for how they can win a division title next year. We'll see if Cubit can deliver on those.

Durkin Challenges Maryland's Players To Improve

Another home run piece. Maryland fans will be very happy with Durkin's scrappy, tenacious approach to climbing the B1G East.

B1G Mailbag: Bowl Showing, Minnesota Rebound, MSU vs. UA

A few months ago, I started talking up Michigan State's running game a bit - something along the lines of, "if that line gets healthy, they can run on anybody in the country..." But in the back of my mind, I wondered how a fully healthy MSU offense would do against one team in particular, whether a group led by three All-Conference linemen and a terrific corps of physical young backs could actually handle what was already clearly the best run defense in the entire nation. When I said Michigan State could run on anybody, I was really only pointing at one team. And lo and behold, now Michigan State and Alabama are meeting in the playoff.

Top 10 Rush Defenses
Record Yards Rush TD's YPC YPG
#1 Alabama 12-1 962 6 2.38 74.0
#2 Boston College 3-9 994 6 2.39 82.8
#3 Akron 7-5 1,077 12 2.83 89.8
#4 Wisconsin 9-3 1,175 11 3.19 97.9
#5 San Diego State 10-3 1,445 13 3.21 111.2
#6 Utah 9-3 1,341 9 3.31 111.8
#7 Michigan State 12-1 1,470 14 3.55 113.1
#8 Nebraska 5-7 1,361 17 3.75 113.4
#9 Louisiana Tech 8-4 1,374 11 3.43 114.5
#10 Iowa 12-1 1,494 10 3.43 114.9

Misssissippi State's very good offensive line coach, John Hevesy, had this to say after Alabama beat the Bulldogs by 25: "They’re as good as the front four we had at Florida in 2006. I don’t know who is going to beat them." In thirteen games, Alabama has surrendered less than 1,000 yards. Fournette had 31; Alex Collins had 26; Corey Clement had 16. Only Nick Chubb and Jalen Hurd actually had any real success against the Tide.

So, we'll see. Michigan State's run game has gotten stronger as the year has gone on, capped off by a famous 22-play drive against Iowa (which is featured on the chart above). We'll see if they're ready for Bama. Regardless, this is one of the special treats of the college football season. For all the exploits of the two quarterbacks or the backstory between Saban and Dantonio, the run game will be what fascinates me the most: strength against strength, in more ways than one.

While Rumors Swirl, Appreciating Dave Aranda

To fully appreciate what Dave Aranda has meant to this Wisconsin team, check out this feature by Gerry DiNardo and BTN a few months ago. Aranda would easily be making over $1 million a year as a D.C. for most SEC schools; he'll be able to make even more if he can successfully manage a head coaching position. On a hypothetical list of the best values in the coaching business, Aranda is near the top.

Illinois Fires O-Line Coach

A couple other bits of Illinois-related news: the program has hired a search firm to help with finding a new AD, which is for the best since their previous committee was a little bit underwhelming. And Bill Cubit got a pledge from a 6'3" JuCo cornerback who specializes in press-man coverage. Ahmari Hayes looks like a difference-maker on film.

Maryland Cuts Ties With Chad Wilt

Not the biggest news, but this article updates you on Durkin's ongoing changes with his staff. Speaking of...

Durkin Goes On Recruiting Blitz

Durkin is attacking the South with enthusiasm unknown to mankind. This is exactly what Maryland needed, and it also helps tilt the balance in favor of the Big Ten, rather than the SEC plundering guys like Mark Ingram (from Flint, Michigan), Percy Harvin (from Virginia Beach), Dominique Easley (Staten Island), Sharrif Floyd (Philly), Trey DePriest (Springfield, OH), and many others, all while other players like Todd Gurley and Chance Warmack move south before high school.

Nick VanHoose Out For Tennessee Game

This is shaping up to be a tough match-up for Northwestern. Anthony Walker will be critical in holding down the running game of Jalen Hurd, his electric back-up Alvin Kamara, and quarterback Joshua Dobbs. The other linebackers might get picked on.

Jeff Jones Transfers From Minnesota

Some sad news out of Minneapolis. Jones will be transferring out, hopefully with a chance to compete at the Division-I level in two years' time. Jones has had no stats during his Minnesota career.

Projecting Rutgers' 2016 Depth Chart

Kiy Hester might be the most famous player in Rutgers' secondary; he's a four-star safety who transferred from Miami due to family health problems. However, Rutgers has a couple other guys who showed some flashes of potential in what was essentially a year-long training season - 6'1", 210-pound cornerback Isaiah Wharton, who will be a redshirt sophomore next year, and 6'1", 185-pound Blessuan Austin, who started 10 games as a true freshman.

The Curious Case of Connor Cook

This might not be a popular opinion (with either fan base), but Cook has acted like a kid at times - which is fine. There are worse things than being immature in college; Cook will keep growing and learning.

Michigan State: Alabama Is 'Beatable'

I've briefly mentioned Mel Tucker in the Brews, a 2014 NFL coordinator who came into Tuscaloosa to work exclusively with Saban's DB's. It's been an unmitigated success: Alabama is 16th in pass defense, fourth in pass efficiency defense, and fourteenth in interceptions. He's done it with a group of mostly freshmen and sophomores. Watching film, this group plays with incredible poise and play diagnosis.

Connor Cook will be looking for chunk plays from a veteran cast of receivers, led by Aaron Burbridge. Burbridge has the athleticism to be the fourth receiver to gain 100 yards against Alabama this year, but you can bet Michigan State will throw a lot of other stuff at Alabama - a little bit of Shelton, probably a lot from the tight ends and even Trevon Pendleton, the fullback. The tailbacks have been quiet in the pass game (a combined 15 catches), so you can bet they're working on that, as well. Alabama's young secondary has been coached very well, but Michigan State has been able to out-coach their weak spots all year long. Their job now is to find the right curveballs.