Michigan State one win from being crowned Legends

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It’s six down, one to go for Michigan State.

Fighting to maintain control of the divisional driver’s seat, the Spartans went into Lincoln and did just that.  With its punishing, nationally-ranked defense turning Nebraska into a turnover-prone offense, the Spartans staked its claim to a 41-28 win.  The name of this game, as is ofttimes the case when MSU is involved, was defense in general and turnovers specifically.  Oh, the turnovers.

The Spartans forced a soul-crushing five Cornhusker turnovers.  The MSU offense was then able to turn the myriad gaffes into 24 of its 41 points.  It was, in essence, the game, set and match.

The Cornhuskers were actually able to move the ball on the Spartans, something that’s been few and far between for every team on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage in 2013.  The country’s top-ranked defense against the run hadn’t given up more than 100 yards on the ground to any team this season; the ‘Huskers were able to pound out 182 yards, including 123 from Ameer Abdullah.  They hadn’t given up more than 300 yards in total offense in a single game; they allowed 392 on the day.

Again, though, the turnovers.  Seemingly every time Nebraska appeared to be gaining momentum, an interception here or a fumble there… and there… and there… and there quashed any headway the ‘Huskers were making.  And, as a result, officially ended any shot Nebraska had at a return trip to Indianapolis.

On the other hand, and with the win, the Spartans are now a perfect 6-0 in Big Ten play.  It also means that, regardless of what the other teams in the division do from here on out, MSU needs to win just one of its two remaining conference games to claim the Legends title and a spot in the Big Ten championship game.

Next Saturday, Michigan State will travel to Evanston to take on Northwestern (0-6 in conference), then return home for the regular-season finale against Minnesota.  The Gophers, on a bye this weekend, are at 4-2 in league play and represent the only team with a shot to catch the Spartans.  It’s an outside shot at best, to be blunt, as the Spartans would have to drop their next two while the Gophers would need to beat Wisconsin and MSU in back-to-back weeks.  Such a scenario would leave Minnesota and Michigan State tied at 6-2, with the former owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Nebraska could also finish at 6-2 by winning out, but would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to both Minnesota and Michigan State and would be knocked out of a three-way tiebreaker per B1G protocol:

b. If three or more teams are tied, steps 1 through 7 will be followed until a determination is made. If only two teams remain tied after any step, the winner of the game between the two tied teams shall be the representative.

  1. The records of the three tied teams will be compared against each other

The two-team tiebreaking procedure also means that, if Minnesota beats Wisconsin… and Michigan State loses to Northwestern… the Nov. 30 meeting between the two would be for all of the, um, whatever snack for which Indianapolis is famous.

In other words, and barring something extraordinarily unexpected, it will be Michigan State vs. Ohio State Dec. 7 for the Big Ten championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.  And, yes, I probably just jinxed one or both of the teams.  You’re welcome.

Father of former Florida State WR Travis Rudolph killed in accidental shooting

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The father of Florida State wide receiver Travis Rudolph was killed Friday in an accidental shooting, the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Monday.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, Darryl Rudolph was working on repairs inside a West Palm Beach, Fla., when a gun accidentally fired in an adjacent room, hitting him in the back/neck area. He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 55 years old.

The younger Rudolph was Florida State’s leading receiver over the past two seasons before becoming an early-entrant into this week’s NFL Draft. He gained viral notoriety after a photo snapped of him sitting at lunch with an autistic elementary school student hit Facebook.

“When I used to coach and help other kids with football, basketball and sports, Travis was small but he used to pay attention to what I was doing,” the elder Rudolph said in an interview with ESPN last year. “I told them get your education. You can be the best athlete in the world, but without an education, you’re not going very far. That’s what Travis followed through on.”

LSU QB Danny Etling undergoes back surgery

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LSU quarterback Danny Etling has undergone surgery to relieve back pain, the program announced Monday.

“Danny had a minor back procedure this morning and everything went alright,” head coach Ed Orgeron said in a statement (and not in an Arrested Development way).

Etling has played through back pain for months, according to Ross Dellenger from The Advocate, and this procedure should remove that pain.

In a possibly related story, Etling went 4-of-11 for 53 yards in LSU’s spring game.

A transfer from Purdue, Etling appeared in 11 games for the Tigers last season, completing 160-of-269 passes (59.5 percent) for 2,123 yards (7.9 yards per attempt) with 11 touchdowns against five interceptions.

Etling’s recovery from Monday’s procedure is expected to be a short one.

Willie Taggart defends Oregon’s offseason workouts in interview

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Things got off to a rocky start for new Oregon head coach Willie Taggart. Among the issues Taggart was forced to deal with soon after accepting the job of head coach at Oregon was players falling ill during and after offseason workouts.

Three Ducks were hospitalized in January to treat symptoms of rhabdomyolysis, a product of overworking leading to soft tissue and possible kidney damage. Oregon suspended strength and conditioning coach Irele Oderinde following the hospital treatments to players, and questions about his certification were thrust under a microscope. Despite the unfortunate situation in Eugene, Taggart has defended his program’s workout routine in an interview with Stewart Mandel of FOXSports.com.

“We know we didn’t do anything to try to hurt our kids. We’d done [the same program] everywhere we’ve been and never had a problem,” Taggart explained in the interview. “I think our guys just overworked themselves and didn’t hydrate. … They were trying to impress the new coaches.”

It seems Taggart has been trying to raise the bar at Oregon and find a way to make his new players tougher overall. That is a common strategy for a new coach in a new program, so Taggart’s mission is not unique in that sense.

Maybe it was just a tough physical transition in the approach to workouts after years of Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich running the show. Will this all pay off in the end? Taggart sure hopes so.

Ohio State claims 2017 national championship… for spring game attendance

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For the third consecutive year, Ohio State is your national champion in the all-important category that is spring game attendance. The Buckeyes once again had the largest attendance for its spring game this month despite stadium renovations cutting out 20,000 seats from Ohio Stadium. After a weekend that saw Alabama and Penn State prove to be the final hurdles necessary to clear, the Buckeyes can once again boast about having the highest attendance this spring, for whatever that is worth.

Alabama (73,426), Penn State (71,000) and Georgia (66,133) made their final push to round-out the top five spring crowds this year over the weekend. The only power conference programs remaining on the spring game schedule are Arkansas, Oregon, Virginia, and UCLA this coming weekend. If you took the combined spring attendance of each of those schools, they would collectively fall shy of Ohio State’s spring crowd total for this season.

Spring Game Attendance Top 10 for 2017 (as of 4/24/2017)

  1. Ohio State – 80,134
  2. Nebraska – 78,312
  3. Alabama – 74,326
  4. Penn State – 71,000
  5. Georgia – 66,133
  6. Clemson – 60,000
  7. Michigan – 57,418
  8. Florida – 48,000
  9. Auburn – 46,331
  10. Oklahoma – 43,723

How valuable the attendance figures for the spring game varies from fanbase to fanbase, and even within each fanbase there is a wide range of opinion on what the significance of the spring game attendance really is. It does help inject some reason to be enthusiastic about the program on the recruiting trail, but it ultimately is open to interpretation just like so many other recruiting tools. Remember, the majority of schools out there hardly make an effort to promote their spring game and make it an event fans look forward to. There may be no conference that demonstrates the wide range of affection for the spring game than the Big Ten.

The Big Ten is led by Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State and, recently, Michigan when it comes to spring game crowds, but then there is the curious case of Wisconsin. The Badgers have a loyal following, but have not cracked the 10,000-fan mark since 2014, when I began tracking spring game attendance figures. Northwestern has never even kept track of its spring scrimmage numbers, and neither has Indiana for the past three years.

You can check the updated spring game attendance numbers and sort them by conference HERE.