Big Ten

Michigan stays unbeaten, reclaims Paul Bunyan Trophy with win over Spartans


Michigan stays unbeaten, reclaims Paul Bunyan Trophy with win over Spartans

Perhaps no team accomplished as much offensively against Michigan this season as Michigan State did on Saturday. But don't let the final score fool you, the undefeated Wolverines owned the vast majority of this one.

The Spartans amassed 401 total yards and hit the end zone three times, but that didn't stop the Wolverines from staying unbeaten and reclaiming the Paul Bunyan Trophy with a 32-23 win in East Lansing.

Michigan State was a 25-point underdog but wowed on its opening drive, rolling over the Michigan defense behind a tremendous effort from running back LJ Scott, who touched the ball 12 times on the drives including the five-yard touchdown run to finish it off. Of course, Michigan did an equal amount of impressing with a heck of an answer, making things look real easy on an 80-yard scoring drive that ended with Jabrill Peppers diving for the pylon on a direct-snap carry to even the score at 7.

From there, the Spartans made a habit of reaching deep into Wolverines territory but couldn't cash in with any points. Peppers made a big stop of Gerald Holmes on the drive after his touchdown run, allowing the Michigan offense to take over and get two huge plays — a 33-yard rush from Eddie McDoom and Wilton Speight's 26-yard completion to Jake Butt — before De'Veon Smith found pay dirt to cap another easy-looking drive.

Each team added a field goal, and Smith scored his second touchdown of the game later in the second quarter to make it 21-10. Tyler O'Connor — getting the start at quarterback for Michigan State — made an ill-advised throw that was intercepted by Jourdan Lewis, and Michigan added a field goal as time ran out on the first half.

It was Michigan State on the positive end of an interception to open the third quarter, Darian Hicks picking off Speight and taking it back inside the 35-yard line, but again penetration deep into Michigan territory couldn't yield any points. The Spartans got in a goal-to-go situation and got bailed out on a pass-interference penalty on Peppers on third down, giving them a fresh set of downs. But the Wolverines’ defensive front proved just too good, stopping Scott on four straight rushes, forcing a turnover on downs and erasing any momentum that interception gave the Spartans.

Michigan countered with a lengthy, seven-minute drive that ended in another field goal, and again Michigan State took the ball deep, only to attempt a field goal on fourth and goal from the 17-yard line, a kick Michael Geiger missed and a decision that raised more than a few eyebrows with Mark Dantonio's team trailing by 20 in the fourth quarter.

The Spartans added two touchdowns late with the game seemingly already out of reach, Brian Lewerke and O'Connor each making scoring throws. On the second — which came with just one second left on the clock — Michigan State fumbled a pitch on the two-point conversion attempt. Peppers picked it up and dashed all the way down the field to add two late points for the Wolverines.

Michigan State finished with more than double the amount of points opponents were averaging against this out-of-this-world Michigan defense and racked up more than 400 total yards, 217 of them coming on the ground. Scott finished with 139 rushing yards, while Lewerke and O'Connor combined for 13 completions, 184 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Michigan put up far fewer points than it had been averaging — a weekly number close to 50 — but still piled up 436 total yards. Speight had 244 passing yards despite no touchdowns and an interception. McDoom, Karan Higdon, Smith and Peppers combined for 159 rushing yards. But the biggest day for a Wolverine on offense belonged to receiver Amara Darboh, who hauled in eight catches, some in spectacular fashion, for 165 yards.

The win helped Michigan stay unbeaten, improving the perfect record to 8-0 and 5-0 in the driver's seat of the Big Ten East Division. Next up is a date with Maryland.

The loss was Michigan State's sixth straight and plummeted its record to 2-6 and a stunning 0-5 in conference play, meaning it will have to win out to become bowl eligible. A trip to Illinois is next.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.

See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings


See how they stack up: Week 12 college football top 25 rankings

With Week 12 in the books, here’s my top 25:

1. Oklahoma (10-1)

Still the team with the best resume in the country, no one can compete with OU’s wins over TCU, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the latter two coming away from Norman. Baker Mayfield might not be a choir boy, but he’s the best player in the nation.

2. Miami (10-0)

You might think that being down 28-14 to Virginia in the second half was cringe-worthy, but the Canes made up for things by storming back with 30 unanswered points. Now they finally have to go away from South Florida for the first time since almost losing to North Carolina last month.

3. Alabama (11-0)

Tide gonna roll. But this Cupcake Weekend in the SEC has got to stop. While teams in other conferences are slugging it out against rivals, Bama gets to take a day off against Mercer? It’s just not fair. Also, Bama’s schedule is so soft, there’s no way it deserves to be the No. 1 team in the country.

4. Georgia (10-1)

The Dawgs should wrap an 11-1 regular season this weekend against Georgia Tech. But the SEC title game presents a kind of no-win scenario: undefeated Alabama or Auburn, who throttled Georgia earlier this month.

5. Wisconsin (11-0)

You didn’t need Wisconsin to do what it did to Iowa and Michigan to prove it had one of the best defenses in the country — but that sure didn’t help. Stockpiling national love with those two wins, a win in the Big Ten title game figures to make the Badgers a Playoff lock.

6. Clemson (10-1)

Why’d Kelly Bryant have to go and get hurt for that Syracuse game? The Tigers would be No. 1 and the undisputed best team in the country. Still, though, a win over Miami in the ACC title game ought to get the champs back into the Playoff.

7. Auburn (9-2)

Great job pounding Louisiana-Monroe, Tigers. You shall not escape the wrath over Cupcake Weekend in the SEC. That dumb game aside, Auburn and Alabama will meet in a titanic Iron Bowl this weekend with a trip to the SEC title game on the line — and perhaps a Playoff spot, as well.

8. Ohio State (9-2)

Not that pummeling Illinois is any big deal, but the Buckeyes are still alive in this thing and look like a team capable of making some Playoff noise. First, Ohio State has to win The Game and then the Big Ten title game to knock out undefeated Wisconsin.

9. Notre Dame (9-2)

Out of the Playoff chase thanks to that loss at Miami, Notre Dame squeaked by Navy this past weekend. Hope a New Year’s Six bowl game is enough for the Irish. We know it’s not enough for those ND fans. So maybe join a conference? Just saying.

10. TCU (9-2)

The Frogs can still make their mark on the Playoff race, even if they can’t get in themselves. The Big 12 title game will almost surely be TCU’s attempt at revenge on Oklahoma. Unfortunately, if revenge does come, it will probably cannibalize the conference’s Playoff hopes, too.

11. Penn State (9-2)

Why Penn State gave up 44 points to Nebraska, I do not know. What I do know is that probably no one cared because Penn State is going to go down as the most inconsequential 10-2 team of all-time. Such a bummer considering the preseason expectations for both the team and Saquon Barkley.

12. USC (10-2)

Yeah, I guess there’s still a way for USC to make the Playoff, but it’s hard to imagine that madness unfolding, even in the oft-mad college football. The Trojans get the winner of the Apple Cup in the Pac-12 title game.

13. UCF (10-0)

Finally we get our much-anticipated UCF-USF showdown this weekend. Make it count, Knights. This is probably gonna be Scott Frost’s last regular-season game in Orlando.

14. Washington (9-2)

It’s hard to say who has the edge in the Apple Cup, but certainly the stakes are high, with the winner going off to play USC in the Pac-12 title game. Can either team make the Playoff? Well, probably not, no.

15. Washington State (9-2)

Is this it for Mike Leach on The Palouse? He could be a hot candidate this offseason and leave for perceived greener pastures. Winning the Apple Cup would go a long way toward making that happen.

16. Mississippi State (8-3)

A win in the Egg Bowl means a 9-3 regular season for the Bulldogs with their three losses coming against three top-10 teams.

17. Oklahoma State (8-3)

Poor Okie State has been so good all year and had two losses to the two best teams in its conference, and then it went and lost to K-State for some ridiculous reason. The Mullet deserved better in 2017.

18. Northwestern (8-3)

The Cats are the fourth-best team in the Big Ten, simple as that, with wins over Michigan State and Iowa and conference losses to Wisconsin and Penn State. As commendable an effort as you’ll find in a highly competitive league. Plus, Fitz’s team is on a six-game win streak that could end up extending to eight.

19. Stanford (8-3)

Already with a win over Washington, Stanford could close the regular season with two wins over top-10 teams in its final three games. Also Bryce Love is back in the groove after back-to-back 100-yard games.

20. Memphis (9-1)

The Tigers have lost just one game all season, to the best Group of Five team out there. Heck of a season by Memphis.

21. Michigan State (8-3)

A 17-7 win over Maryland couldn't have been the most exciting way for anyone to spend their weekend. Sparty's had a mighty fine season, though, considering how badly things went in 2016.

22. LSU (8-3)

The SEC has seemingly gotten increasingly better as the year has progressed, with LSU and Mississippi State making for a solid-enough middle tier. But remember when LSU lost to Troy? That wasn’t good.

23. South Florida (9-1)

If not for that loss to Houston, USF’s showdown with UCF this weekend would be for Group of Five supremacy. Even without that, though, this should be a highly entertaining affair.

24. Virginia Tech (8-3)

The Hokies have a chance to salvage their tumble at the close of the season with a win at Virginia. But given how well the Cavs played at Miami this past weekend, a VT win is no sure thing.

25. Iowa State (7-4)

I understand the math and all, but can't the Big 12 just suspend its rules and send Iowa State to the title game? We all want to see the OU-ISU rematch. Why are you preventing us from being happy, Big 12?