Ameer Abdullah

Michigan State one win from being crowned Legends


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.

Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp set to return after two-game absence

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp #1 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers grabs a touchdown pass against linebacker D.J. May #7 of the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Wyoming 52-14. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
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When undefeated and seventh-ranked Nebraska takes the field for its biggest game of the 2016 season thus far, it’ll do so with one of the most experienced and productive pieces of its passing game back in action.

Jordan Westerkamp sustained an injury to his back during the Week 5 win over Illinois, and was briefly hospitalized after being hit by an Illini defender. The wide receiver missed the Week 7 win over Indiana and the Purdue win the following Saturday because of the injury.

This week, however, Westerkamp practiced without any type of restrictions ahead of the Week 9 game against No. 11 Wisconsin in Madison. Westerkamp, who stated his injuries included tiny fractures on the transverse process in his spine as well as what was described as a deep muscle bruise, confirmed the obvious, that he will suit up for the Cornhuskers and play against the Badgers in the huge Big Ten West matchup.

“It’s been good,” Westerkamp said, by way of the Omaha World-Herald, of his return to practice. “My confidence is at an all-time high and we’re ready to go get back with the team and kick butt this Saturday.”

At the time of the injury, Westerkamp led the Cornhuskers in receiving touchdowns (four) and tied for the team lead in receptions (13). His 228 receiving yards were second behind Alonzo Moore‘s 310.
Last season, Westerkamp led the ‘Huskers in all three of those categories.

‘Due to some choices and decisions he’s made,’ Florida RB Mark Thompson won’t play vs. UGA

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Mark Thompson #24 of the Florida Gators in action during the second half of the game against the North Texas Mean Green at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
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Sounding very similar to a disappointed parent, Florida has announced that one of their kids will be in timeout instead of on the field this weekend.

Ahead of Saturday’s annual rivalry game with Georgia, Florida announced via Twitter that running back Mark Thompson not only won’t play this Saturday but won’t even make the trip to Jacksonville for The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  Why? “[D]ue to some choices and decisions he’s made.”

The school, obviously, will not go into any further details as to the issue or issues that will sideline the player.

Thompson, a 6-2, 237-pound redshirt junior, is currently third on the Gators in rushing yards (262) and second in rushing touchdowns (two). This is the back’s first season in Gainesville after transferring in from the junior college ranks earlier this year.

Big 12 eschews two-division setup; instead, top two teams to play in league title game

WVU vs Marshall
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The Big 12 earlier this month eschewed expansion.  A short time later, they’ve done the same for splitting up the conference.

The league announced late Friday morning that, when the conference championship game returns for the 2017 season, there will be no split into two five-team divisions.  Instead, the teams with the best and second-best record in conference play will square off in the conference championship game.

Each conference member will continue to play nine league games every season, one against each other member.

“There are a number of advantages to matching our top two teams,” said commissioner Bob Bowlsby in a statement. “Given our round-robin, nine-game scheduling model, it is expected the Big 12 champion will be uniquely positioned for College Football Playoff consideration. I would argue there will be no path more difficult than our champion’s, where it will have played every team in the Conference, faced at least one Autonomy Conference non-conference opponent, and then plays in our championship game.

“The guaranteed No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup will be a great game for our fans, and it’s hard to imagine a stronger position for a conference champion.”

The release gave no indication as to how three-way ties would be handled, although CFP rankings would likely come into play.  The decision to not split into two divisions likely won’t sit well with the league’s coaches, however, even as it’s arguably the wisest decision the conference has made in years.

The conference also revealed that the site of the 2017 conference championship game “will be announced in the coming weeks.” AT&T Stadium in Arlington, the home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, is widely believed to be the front-runner for at least the first renewal, and is viewed as the far and away favorite if the league opts to “anchor” the game at one site for a period of years.

USC cruised to win over a ‘tired, beat-up’ Cal team as Sonny Dykes chastises scheduling ‘travesty’

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 27:  Running back Ronald Jones II #25 of the USC Trojans scores a touchdown to take a 14-0 lead over the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at Los Angeles Coliseum on October 27, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Pac-12 schedule makers started the final nail in Cal’s Week 9 coffin. USC’s offense proceeded to drive it all the home.

Behind a career night for both Ronald Jones and Sam Darnold, the Trojans jumped out to a 28-10 halftime and ultimately cruised to a 45-24 win. Both Jones and Darnold set career highs on the night, the former with 223 yards rushing and the latter five touchdown passes.

Those two players were part of an offense that rolled up a season-high 629 yards of offense.  It was the schedule, though, that saw a significant amount of the focus on the game, especially in the days leading up to it and the immediate aftermath.

Cal’s last game was Friday, Oct. 21.  USC’s last game?  Oct. 15, meaning the Bears, on five days rest, were facing a team coming off a bye, and facing them on the road no less.

“It’s one of those deals where you go, ‘How in the world could this ever happen? How could somebody let this happen?'” head coach Sonny Dykes said in the middle of the week. “It has been a disaster, it’s been a mess. … It’s incredibly hard on our kids.”


“We looked like a tired, beat-up football team. I think it’s a travesty whoever scheduled this game. I hope the Pac-12 doesn’t do that again to any other school. It’s not right for the kids.

“Everybody talks about student-athlete welfare, but they need to put their money where their mouth is.”

Leave it to the esteemed Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News to sum up what most non-USC fans are thinking about the situation the Bears were placed in.

Hopefully this player safety issue — and that is, ultimately, what this is all about — is rectified by the Pac-12 and, as Dykes alluded, never repeated. For a conference that’s been (rightly) praised for their initiatives in the past, they certainly dropped the scheduling ball on this one.