Update: Bielema doesn’t want Big Ten ‘to be like the SEC in any way, shape or form’

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In the two months following his hiring by Ohio State, Urban Meyer took what was shaping up to be a middle-of-the-road recruiting class and turned it into a consensus top-five group by the time National Signing Day 2012 had been put to bed.

In getting to as high as No. 3 in the Scout.com rankings, Meyer and his coaching staff flipped several highly-touted recruits, including some who had been verbally committed to other Big Ten schools.  Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State all felt the Meyer Effect in one way or the other on the recruiting trail, and it was the latter two programs that have not been shy about expressing their “displeasure” with the recruiting tactics that have brought to the conference.

Wednesday, Cleveland Heights (Ohio) offensive tackle Kyle Dodson announced that he was signing a Letter of Intent with Ohio State.  The four-star lineman had been a verbal commitment to UW since last June, but began to lean toward OSU after Meyer came on board.

While not specifically addressing the Dodson flip, UW head coach Bret Bielema told reporters that he had prior concerns over what he considered recruiting tactics on the part of the new OSU regime that were — his word — illegal.  As a result, Bielema claims to have spoken to Meyer about the situation and resolved whatever issue there was.

“There’s a few things that happened early on that I made people be aware of, that I didn’t want to see in this league, that I had seen take place in other leagues,” Bielema said during his signing day press conference yesterday. “Other recruiting tactics, other recruiting practices, that are illegal.

“I was very upfront, very pointed to the fact — actually reached out to coach Meyer and shared my thoughts and concerns with him. The situation got rectified.”

One of the issues — albeit not an illegal one — is Meyer “breaking” an unwritten agreement among Big Ten coaches in which, once a prospect commits to a program in the conference, other coaches decline to actively recruit the player.  Meyer “broke” that “gentleman’s agreement” in the case of Dodson, as well as in the recruitment of Se’Von Pittman.

The four-star Canton, Oh., defensive end had long been a Michigan State commit, but flipped to the Buckeyes after Meyer’s hiring.  Like Bielema, the Spartans took issue with Meyer doing something that “Jim Tressel and Mark Dantonio would never” do: “call or talk to each other’s commitments.”

“It sets a tone and starts a recruiting rivalry,” MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said the Monday before signing day. “I guess it’s fair game. You don’t want it to be that way, but that’s how it is.”

Narduzzi went on to add that “you lose friendships over that.”  We’re guessing that Meyer’s not going to be losing a lot of sleep over the loss of conference friends.

At his post-signing day press conference, Meyer explained the process of continuing to recruit a player who’s already given a verbal elsewhere.

“Sometimes they say, ‘How can you go recruit a young guy committed to another school?'” Meyer said. “You ask a question, ‘Are you interested?’ If they say, ‘No,’ you move on. If they say, ‘Yes, very interested,’ then you throw that hook out there. If they’re interested, absolutely [you recruit them], especially from your home state. Is it gratifying to take a guy from another school? Not at all.”

While it may be “pretty unethical” what Meyer is doing, at least in comparison to how business has been conducted in the Big Ten in the past, it is far from illegal and is not going anywhere.  So, if the rest of the conference — Michigan notwithstanding; they’re doing just fine thank you very much — wants to avoid being run roughshod over on an annual basis in the recruiting game, they might want to consider adjusting to the new “recruiting rules” in the conference.

OSU’s hated rival already has; I’d suggest the rest of the conference respond in kind.  For better or worse, Meyer has brought an SEC way to the Big Ten recruiting trail.  Keep up, or future signing day tramplings could very well in the offing.

UPDATED 6:29 p.m. ET: It’s official.  Meyer is in Bielema’s head.

Speaking to Matt Hayes of The Sporting News, Bielema stated that his boss, athletic director Barry Alavarez, will speak to Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany about Meyer’s recruiting tactics during a meeting in Chicago Friday.  Bielema again complained about the recruiting practices utilized by Meyer and his OSU, hinting that whatever it was they were doing — Bielema would not delve into specifics as he seems more secure with blanket accusations made publicly — was illegal.

The biggest issue for Bielema, as well as Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio, is Meyer flipping recruits that had previously been committed to another program.  The gentleman’s agreement that existed prior to Meyer’s arrival in the Big Ten?  It doesn’t exist in Meyer’s old SEC stomping grounds.  And, much to the chagrin of Bielema, it doesn’t exist in Meyer’s recruiting version of the Big Ten either.

“I can tell you this,” Bielema told Hayes. “We at the Big Ten don’t want to be like the SEC—in any way, shape or form.”

As the SEC has won the BcS title each of the past six years, and the Big Ten hasn’t won one since after the 2001 season, consider it mission accomplished, Coach Bielema.

Of course, we’re also talking about a head coach who went for two up by four touchdowns with six minutes left against Minnesota, and whose Badgers hung 83 points on conference foe Indiana, so the angst Bielema’s displaying about “fairness” should be taken with a significantly sized grain of salt.

No. 7 Utah thumping UCLA in all phases at halftime of Pac-12 South showdown

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In the past month or so of Pac-12 play, no team has been quite as dominant as No. 7 Utah has been. In the same span, no team has looked more improved than UCLA.

The two clashed on Saturday night in Salt Lake City and staged a rather interesting battle for the top of the Pac-12 South standings, with the Utes jumping out to a 28-3 halftime lead over the pesky Bruins in what is shaping up to be a defining game for both sides the rest of the month.

UCLA had their chances to make this far more interesting than the score would have indicated, having blown several opportunities inside their opponent’s 35 yard line (grand total of three points on four trips). Worst of all QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson fumbled while taking a sack, which Mika Taufa picked off the turf and rumbled 68 yards the other way. That turned a close game into a bit of a runaway in the final minutes of the second quarter and spoiled a solid initial effort for the Bruins offense that had nearly doubled (62 yards) the amount of yards rushing that the Utes normally allow for an entire game.

It took awhile for Utah’s offense to get warmed up just like their counterparts on the other side of the ball but when things started clicking, it was all coming downhill for the home squad. Tyler Huntley threw for 145 yards on just 11 attempts and scrambled for a touchdown run before the midway mark while tailback Zach Moss was already up 116 yards and two trips into the end zone on a robust 9.7 yards per carry (he also chipped in with two catches for 65 yards too).

This is a huge game for both sides and it will be interesting to see how each responds coming out of the locker room given how both are typically second half teams. UCLA is still fighting to get to a bowl game this season but will have their hands full trying to pull of another miraculous road rally in a chilly environment as Utah hopes to impress the CFP Selection Committee some more and tighten their grip on the division standings at the same time.

Appalachian State scores 28 straight points to lead Georgia State at halftime

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Looking for a game or two to keep on your Group of 5 radar this evening? No. 25 Appalachian State is leading Georgia State 35-21 in Atlanta as the Mountaineers hope to remain in the running for a spot in the New Years Six bowl lineup at the end of the year.

Georgia State got the scoring started after the defense came up tall with two consecutive three-and-outs. After being forced to punt after a three-and-out, Appalachian State recovered a Georgia State fumble on the punt return by Quavian White. But the Panthers forced a second straight three-and-out to force another punt. Dan Ellington completed a short touchdown pass to Devin Gentry at the end of an 84-yard drive for the 7-0 lead.

Appalachian State answered with Zac Thomas completing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Corey Sutton, but big plays by the Panthers later in the first quarter would see Georgia State build a 21-7 lead. A 67-yard run by Destin Coates gave Georgia State the lead right back, and a Chris Bacon interception return for a touchdown off Thomas had the Panthers up two touchdowns. Thomas shrugged off the mistake and led the Mountaineers on a touchdown drive once they stepped back on the field. Another pass to Sutton was good for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 21-14 before the end of the first quarter.

The Mountaineers came back to tie things up at 21-21 with a Thomas touchdown run midway through the second quarter, and the defense gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the game when Shaun Jolley picked off a pass by Ellington and ran 30 yards the other way for the go-ahead touchdown.

We’ll see if Appalachian State can avoid taking its second loss of the season and remain in the driver’s seat for a spot in the first Sun Belt Conference championship game at the end of the year.

No. 13 Baylor takes huge lead over No. 10 Oklahoma to locker room

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Charlie Brewer has out Jalen Hurts-ed Jalen Hurts, making plays with his arm and his feet, while Hurts has committed two turnovers that led to two Baylor touchdowns. As a result, No. 13 Baylor holds a stunning 31-10 lead over No. 10 Oklahoma at the half in Waco.

Oklahoma forced a Baylor punt to open the game and, taking over at their own 47, quickly moved into the red zone, but Jalen Hurts was sacked on a 3rd-and-5 and the Sooners settled for a 39-yard Gabe Brkic field goal.

Charlie Brewer had Denzel Mims streaking wide open for what would have been a 78-yard touchdown on the first play of the ensuing drive, but skipped the ball to him. It didn’t matter. He hit Mims for 11 yards on the next snap, kicking off a 78-yard touchdown drive that Brewer himself capped with a 2-yard keeper.

After forcing one of the rarer sights in college football — an Oklahoma three-and-out — Baylor went up 14-3 on a 30-yard connection that missed earlier, as Mims got about as open as a receiver can get on a 30-yard fade route.

Facing an uncharacteristic 14-3 deficit, Oklahoma added to its own misery with a pair of Hurts turnovers. The first came deep in his own territory, when the quarterback placed the ball on the ground in an attempt to steady himself and simply lost the ball, which Terrel Bernard recovered for Baylor at the OU 27. Brewer kept for 23 yards on the final play of the first quarter, then added the final four on the first snap of the second.

On Oklahoma’s next possession, the Sooners reached the Baylor 36 when Grayland Arnold stepped in front of a Hurts pass and returned it 71 yards to the OU 9, where he was finally tackled by Hurts himself. A second Brewer-to-Mims scoring strike put Baylor up 28-3 at the 11:02 mark of the second quarter, and putting the Sooners on the wrong end of a 48-3 run dating back to the fourth quarter of the Iowa State game.

Oklahoma finally stopped the bleeding with an un-OU like 14-play, 75-yard, near 6-minute drive, one that was extended when a 4th-and-5 incompletion at the Bears’ 33 was wiped away due to defensive holding by Baylor’s Jameson Houston. Hurts’ 5-yard pass to Austin Stogner made the score 28-10 with 5:06 left in the first half. He closed the half 8-of-14 for 80 yards with a touchdown and an interception while rushing 12 times for 26 yards with a fumble.

Baylor answered the Sooners’ prolonged drive with one of its own, moving 61 yards in 13 plays, but stalling at the the OU 11 as the Bears settled for a 28-yard John Mayers field goal with three seconds left before halftime.

Brewer finished the half 13-of-18 for 140 yards and two touchdowns while rushing 14 times for a game-high 77 yards and two more scores.

OU will receive to open the second half.

New Mexico State, Rice win; Akron now lone remaining winless FBS team

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And then there was one.

Heading into Week 12, New Mexico State and Rice were two of three winless teams at the FBS level.  Playing FCS Incarnate Word at home, NMSU cruised to a 41-28ricericrice win to secure its first “W” of the season; heading east to Murfreesboro, Rice hung 31 points on Middle Tennessee State in the first half and then hung on in the second for a tight 31-28 win.

The Aggies’ win snapped an 11-game losing streak — they have still lost 14 straight to FBS teams — while the Owls, who came in as 14-point underdogs, had lost nine in a row prior to today.

So, with those twin wins, it leaves Akron as the lone FBS that has yet to win a game this season — and, based on past performance and future opponents, there’s no win in sight.

Akron has played 10 games this season, and, obviously, lost them all.  The closest they’ve come to a non-defeat?  An eight-point loss to a UMass team that’s 1-10 on the season.  The other nine games, they’ve lost by a combined score of 326-77.

For Week 13, Akron has drawn Miami (OH), which is one win away from winning the MAC East.  The following week, they get a 4-6 Ohio team that has beaten them 10 of the last 11 times they’ve played.

So, yeah, good luck Zips.