Big Ten

Senior year will be family journey for Michigan State's Calhoun

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Senior year will be family journey for Michigan State's Calhoun

Six-foot-5. Long arms. Freak athlete. Productive. Squeaky clean off the field.

Shilique Calhoun is the kind of prospect NFL scouts drool over their notebooks for. Yet when the decision came in the winter to decide whether he would make the leap to the NFL and be a potential Day 1 pick, Calhoun didn't flinch.

More than cashing in his first big pay check, Calhoun wanted that slip of paper from Michigan State signifying his completion of his degree.

"Having that opportunity is very special for me," Calhoun said. "Not only for myself but for my family and my mother. She didn’t have the opportunity to finish college so these past four, four and a half years is really for me but walking across that stage was for her, for her to have her moment and live in the moment also."

[RELATED: Spartans' Calhoun believes he is Big Ten's best DL over Buckeyes' Bosa]

A self-proclaimed momma's boy, the massive Spartan defensive end watched his mother, Cynthia Mimes, go through difficult times throughout his life. In 2002, Calhoun's house burned down and his family was forced to move constantly from place to place. Mimes always stressed to her children the importance of an education. Her message wasn't something that always stuck with Calhoun in high school, but when she finally explained to him the connection between academics and athletics, everything started to click.

"The one thing she would say to me is: ‘You can’t play sports if you don’t have good grades,'" Calhoun said. "That right there just said everything to me. I didn’t need anything else. Once she said that, I knew that I need good grades, I need to do better because ultimately if I want to play a sport collegiately, I need to make sure that academically I’m doing what I need to in the classroom.

"Sure enough, when I was able to gain these scholarships, it kind of made her proud because she knew that I had the opportunity to get my degree."

Not only will graduation be a special moment for Calhoun, who will be a first-generation graduate, but on Oct. 10 Michigan State travels to play Rutgers, allowing the New Jersey native a trip back to the Garden State to play in front of his family. He's already (jokingly) demanded all of his teammates' free tickets for the game so he can accommodate everyone in his family for the special occasion. 

"To be able to go back home and make an impact because I know a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to come all the way to Michigan and watch me play," Calhoun said. "So this will be a great opportunity for my grandmother, my older relatives to come out and witness me play, and I think it’ll be very special because I don’t think many people have the opportunity. Not only that, but a chance to play in front of the New Jersey fans, being a New Jersey native it just kind of sparks things up a lot more so you might see a tear shed that game."

[MORE BIG TEN: Ohio State thinks Braxton Miller can be impact player at WR]

While 2015 may be a year he celebrates and honors family members, Calhoun did lose a member of his football family when Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi bolted East Lansing for the head coaching position at Pittsburgh. While the popular defensive coordinator's absence was tough ("That was my guy"), Calhoun knows the green helmets on defense will be still be swarming to the ball and punishing ball carriers on a consistent basis.

"We’ll still be the same Spartan dogs," Calhoun said. "That’s who we are. It was never a point where we felt that Coach Narduzzi was handling everything. Everyone had a hand in everything that we did so there’s going to be no need for picking up the slack. He’s irreplaceable because he’s Coach Narduzzi but at the same time he would have never left us in terrible condition."

The bubbly and fun Calhoun acts like a friendly guy off the field with the media and his teammates but when he puts his hand in the dirt before every snap, he transforms into a fitting green superhero: The Incredible Hulk. Calhoun hopes he will be carrying more than just a diploma in his hand as he leaves East Lansing (College Football Playoff trophy, anyone?) and coach Mark Dantonio knows the Michigan State family got a big boost when Calhoun put his NFL dreams on hold to lead the Spartans defense into battle one last time.

"He brings a guy with great credibility among our players, among our staff and among our opponents," Dantonio said. "He brings a great credibility back to Michigan State. I think that’s the thing he does. He’s an outstanding person."

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

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USA TODAY

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?