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Conference Corner: #YouPlayToWinTheGame

Herm Edwards defies expectations against Michigan State, Scott Frost and the Huskers stub toes against Colorado and lots of blowouts define Week 2 in the Big Ten.

Michigan State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Cherry-picking stats is an American pastime.

You’ve seen it time and time again with the national media (and rivals) with Jim Harbaugh.

Sure. There’s barely a difference between Jim Harbaugh and Brady Hoke. Current day Michigan loses one-touchdown games on the road at Notre Dame, while 2014 Michigan loses 31-0. The gap between the two coaches is just razor-thin, right?

Here’s another cherry:

Of course, the two-time Big Ten champion coach is exactly like the defensive line coach for the Carolina Panthers. All of this selective usage of stats just serves to troll fan bases.

Besides, Herm Edwards is better than either Dantonio or Harbaugh. He’s undefeated, fergodsakes, and has just as many wins against the Spartans as Michigan the last three years.



A 2-0 Herm Edwards doesn’t make sense. The former NFL analyst last coached in 2008, helming the Kansas City Chiefs, and last coached in college in 1989 for San Jose State.

When Arizona State hired him last December, the national media started portraying the move as a joke.

Reactions ranged from “Is this for real?” to “Is this the worst coaching move of the offseason?”

Disrespect is a powerful tool, which leads us to Michigan State.

Dantonio’s program feeds off the national media’s lower expectations, but this offseason was different. Athlon selected 11 MSU players for their preseason all-conference team, and yours truly picked several Spartans as the best at their positions on Michigan’s schedule.

Did the offseason of praise in East Lansing (just for the football team) soften them? After the loss in the desert night — coupled with the escape against Utah State — the early returns are yes.

ASU’s Manny Wilkins scorched the secondary for 380 yards, out-dueling Brian Lewerke (314 yards, one touchdown and one pick). Offensively, the green and white failed to get a consistent push for the second straight week, averaging just over two yards a carry.

While Dantonio can always rely on middle linebacker Joe Bachie — 10 tackles and a sack — as well as a stout line between Kenny Willekes, Raequan Williams and Mike Panasiuk, teams with quarterbacks like Trace McSorley or Dwayne Haskins could make that front irrelevant.

While Michigan may have that guy in Shea Patterson, and a defense to make MSU one-dimensional, watch out now for the good ol’ Dantonio chip on the shoulder.

Next game: Sept. 22 at Indiana


I deceptively claimed omnipotence last week in predicting a dud start for Scott Frost in Nebraska. The weather cancellation against Akron doesn’t count.

The last thing Nebraska fans wanted to see out the gates, though, was a last-second loss to former Big 12 rival Colorado.

The football gods undermined his debut, as true freshman starting quarterback Adrian Martinez left the game with a right leg injury with Nebraska leading 28-27 in the fourth quarter. He impressed in his first game, completing 75-percent of his passes for 187 yards and a touchdown, while adding 117 yards rushing with two scores.

Nebraska’s offense already looks dangerous with Martinez at the helm. Frost’s spread attack led to 329 yards rushing on the afternoon, including 104 yards on 13 totes from junior college transfer Greg Bell.

After falling behind 14-0 after two fumbles, the defense forced four straight punts to pave the way for Martinez to retake the lead. While nowhere near the old Blackshirt status, Nebraska allowed less than 400 yards of total offense, including just 44 on the ground.

As far as coaching debuts go this season — hello, Willie Taggart — Frost looks fine. He lost his star quarterback, his offense hummed at times and his defense played well enough to build a lead.

This won’t be the year, but watch out for a fully-weaponized Frost team in 2019.

Next game: Sept. 15 against Troy (noon, BTN)


Penn State eventually blew the doors off its in-state rivals in the rain after some early struggles.

There are two ways to look at this game. One, a talented Penn State team finally clicked, leading to 37 second-half points on the road. Two, Pitt blew every chance to take a lead into halftime, and even muffed a punt snap to give its rivals life.

Both may be true. Pitt gashed a depleted Nittany Lion defense early, bringing the score to 7-6 after a failed two-point conversion. The Panthers followed that by failing to score on three-straight drives deep inside Penn State territory. The results: a goal line interception, a missed field goal and a turnover on downs at the 4-yard line.

The final straw occurred just before hitting the showers, as punter Kirk Christodoulou fumbled a snap to give Penn State the ball on the 35-yard line. Three plays later, Trace McSorley completed a 14-yard touchdown to former Michigan recruit K.J. Hamler.

Christodoulou shanked an early third-quarter punt to give McSorley another short field, eventually boosting the lead to 21-6 on a 4-yard touchdown run. A safety, punt return touchdown and three more offensive scores sealed the game.

To be fair, last week’s opponent Appalachian State might be better than Pitt. Head coach Pat Narduzzi is scheming around a non-existent passing game — 55 yards this weekend — so James Franklin’s young team still has lots to prove.

Two more cupcakes await — Kent State and Illinois — before a white-out against Ohio State Sept. 29.

Next game: Sept. 15 against Kent State (noon, FS1)


Last year, the Cy-Hawk Trophy game was a barn-burning 44-41 overtime win for the Hawkeyes. The law of averages led to a plodding affair Saturday in Iowa City.

Two takeaways. One, Iowa has gone 4-0 against the Cyclones in the last four years. In a rivalry known for weird results, the consistency is impressive.

Two, Kirk Ferentz may have the most underrated defensive line in the conference. A.J. Epenesa and Matt Nelson combined for three sacks Saturday, and 6-foot-7 end Anthony Nelson continues to be an imposing presence.

After one more tuneup, Iowa gets Wisconsin for a chance at the classic Kinnick Stadium upset.

Next game: Sept. 15 against Northern Iowa (7:30 p.m., BTN)


After allowing 31 points to Oregon State last week, the Buckeye defense is reeling after ceding three points to the Scarlet Knights.

After years of dominance under the steady hand of Urban Meyer, the cracks are starting to show with his “absence.”

These were Rutgers first points against Ohio State since 2015.

Next game OSU: Sept. 15 against TCU in Dallas (8 p.m., ABC)

Next game Rutgers: Sept. 15 at Kansas (noon, FSN)*

*Before moving on, yes, Rutgers is playing Kansas in a matchup to determine the worst Power Five program.


Jonathan Taylor fumbled, and the Badgers only led 10-7 at halftime.

Taylor ran for 253 yards, otherwise, and Wisconsin cruised.

Next game: Sept. 15 against BYU (3:30 p.m., ABC)


For the second straight year, the ACC nerds topped the Big Ten ones.

The Wildcats actually out-gained the Blue Devils 381 to 301, but Pat Fitzgerald and offensive coordinator Mick McCall continue to keep a “pitch count” for senior quarterback Clayton Thorson.

After starting 10-of-12 for 56 yards and leading the only scoring drive, Thorson ceded time to junior walk-on T.J. Green. The offense never regained a rhythm, despite 121 yards rushing from Jeremy Larkin.

Between linebacker Paddy Fisher and defensive end Joe Gaziano, Fitzgerald has a reliable defense. However, if the quarterback rotation only produces seven points, that won’t matter.

Between Akron and the bye week, Northwestern needs to make a choice if they stand a chance at returning to 10 wins.

Next game: Sept. 15 against Akron (7:30 p.m., BTN)


Jeff Brohm’s message to the now 0-2 Boilermakers?

A loss to Swoop Eagle may be as dark as it gets.

Next game: Sept. 15 against Missouri (7:30 p.m., BTN)


After the emotionally-charged Terrapins rallied around fallen teammate Jordan McNair to upset Texas, the hangover was inevitable.

Maryland trailed the Falcons 14-10 at halftime on the road in a game where the two teams combined for 24 penalties.

The rushing attack eventually prevailed, as Ty Johnson and Tayon Fleet-Davis both hit the century mark in a 444-yard team effort.

Last year, the early momentum stalled due to injuries and a blowout loss to “national champion” Central Florida. The road back to a bowl game appears easier, should health hold.

Next game: Sept. 15 against Temple (noon, BTN)


Tom Allen continues to field a solid Hoosier defense.

Indiana held quarterback Bryce Perkins to only 106 yards passing, and the entire Virginia offense to under 300 yards.

Only other relevant note for Michigan fans: Mike Hart coaches running backs in Bloomington, and his freshman starter Stevie Scott ran for 204 yards on 31 carries. In a Mike Debord offense, a competent assistant like Hart could be invaluable.

Next game: Sept. 15 against Ball State (noon, BTN)


Don’t be fooled. This was an impressive win for P.J. Fleck’s incredibly young Gophers.

Fresno State ranked No. 22 per S&P in 2017, as Jeff Tedford squeezed a 10-4 record and a Mountain West title-game appearance out of the Bulldogs.

The defense gave up just 299 total yards, and cornerback Antoine Winfield, Jr. sealed the deal.

Fleck undersold this team due to their youth this offseason. With a win next weekend, they would already be halfway to a bowl berth.

Next game: Sept. 15 against Miami (Ohio) (3:30 p.m., BTN)


This may be Illinois’s last win. We will always have bearded Lovie, though.

NCAA Football: Western Illinois at Illinois Mike Granse-USA TODAY Sports

Next game: Sept. 15 against South Florida (3:30 p.m., BTN)