SEC reporter Edward Aschoff, Big Ten reporter Austin Ward and Pac-12 reporter Kevin Gemmell join host Chantel Jennings to discuss the biggest and most storied rivalries taking place this weekend.
There's no drama in the Big Ten division races as Ohio State and Michigan State have secured spots in the league championship game next week. But the season-long predictions race is all square entering Week 14. The winner buys dinner in Indy before the title game. It's white-knuckle time.
Here we go …
IOWA (7-4, 4-3) at NEBRASKA (8-3, 5-2)
Brian Bennett: This could be a black-and-blue Friday as two teams that love to run could make this a physical, low-scoring game. I think Nebraska has a bit too much speed for the Hawkeyes, and it's hard to bet against the Huskers, given how they keep pulling out victories in tight games. Nebraska grabs the lead early on an Ameer Abdullah run and holds on late when Stanley Jean-Baptiste picks off Jake Rudock. … Nebraska 21, Iowa 17
Adam Rittenberg: Our first game might be the toughest to predict. Both defenses perform well and turn this into a field-goal fest. Iowa takes the lead in the third quarter on a Rudock touchdown pass, but Abdullah won't be denied in what could be his final game as a Husker. Abdullah rushes for 130 yards and a score, mostly in the second half, as Nebraska rallies once again for a win. … Nebraska 19, Iowa 16
MINNESOTA (8-3, 4-3) at MICHIGAN STATE (10-1, 7-0)
Rittenberg: Minnesota's offense failed to score last week and will have another tough game against the nation's No. 1 defense. Spartans running back Jeremy Langford rushes for two more touchdowns as Michigan State uses another big fourth quarter to strengthen its chances for a BCS bowl bid, no matter how things turn out in Indy. … Michigan State 24, Minnesota 10
Bennett: Minnesota really has trouble throwing the ball. That will equal problems against the nation's No. 1 defense. The Gophers' defense gums things up enough to keep the score within reach, but Connor Cook connects on a pair of touchdown passes and the Spartans' defense does the rest. … Michigan State 17, Minnesota 6
OHIO STATE (11-0, 7-0) at MICHIGAN (7-4, 2-4)
Bennett: The Game isn't much of one this year. Even at home, Michigan just doesn't have enough offensive ability to hang with Ohio State. The Wolverines' defense puts up a valiant effort and slows down Carlos Hyde, but Braxton Miller converts several key third downs and throws three touchdown passes. … Ohio State 35, Michigan 14
Rittenberg: Rivalry games can spark surprises at times, but Ohio State is so much better than Michigan and has much more on the line. Plus, the Buckeyes' defensive line is rapidly improving and will become the latest group to infiltrate Michigan's backfield. Miller puts himself back on the Heisman radar with three touchdowns (two pass, one rush), and the Buckeyes record a second-half pick-six against Devin Gardner and rout Michigan. … Ohio State 42, Michigan 13
PURDUE (1-10, 0-7) at INDIANA (4-7, 2-5)
Rittenberg: Ah, the Bucket game. I thought Indiana would be playing for a bowl berth, but it's not to be. The Hoosiers still should have little trouble putting up points against Purdue. Wide receivers Cody Latimer and Shane Wynn combine for three touchdowns as Indiana holds off a nice rally led by Danny Etling (250 pass yards, 2 TDs). … Indiana 38, Purdue 28
Bennett: The Hoosiers are much better than the Boilermakers, but both will be staying home for the holidays. With nothing but pride at stake, Indiana lets it fly on offense and works out some frustration on its rivals by putting up 550 yards. … Indiana 51, Purdue 24
PENN STATE (6-5, 3-4) at WISCONSIN (9-2, 6-1)
Bennett: A wildly accomplished group of Wisconsin seniors will go out on a high note and give BCS bowls one more thing to think about. The Badgers smash the school record for rushing early and keep piling it up as both James White and Melvin Gordon gain more than 100 yards together again. Allen Robinson has a nice Penn State sendoff, but Sojourn Shelton comes up with an interception in the second half. … Wisconsin 38, Penn State 14
Rittenberg: Wisconsin is inching closer to a BCS at-large berth, and Penn State has been really bad on the road. This one gets ugly, folks, as White rushes for 200 yards and two scores on senior day and Gordon breaks off a 65-yard touchdown run. The Lions move the ball decently early before Wisconsin's defense adjusts and buckles down. … Wisconsin 45, Penn State 17
NORTHWESTERN (4-7, 0-7) at ILLINOIS (4-7, 1-6)
Rittenberg: There's only one way for this miserable Northwestern season to end. If the Wildcats had a healthy Kain Colter and some explosiveness at running back, I might pick the Purple. But Illinois' offense has it rolling right now, and the Illini will strike with big plays to Steve Hull (!) and Josh Ferguson, rallying in the second half. Northwestern will have one final chance to win but falls when a fourth-down option to Mike Trumpy falls a yard short. … Illinois 24, Northwestern 20
Bennett: Fitting that the season picks contest should come down to a game involving Northwestern, a team that has cost both of us some wins this season. It makes perfect sense to pick Illinois, which shed the Big Ten losing streak monkey off its back last week and has to be feeling better about itself than the Wildcats, who just want the season to end. But I can't reconcile that this Northwestern team will (A) actually finish 0-8 in league play or (B) lose to a team it beat 50-14 last year. So to the likely detriment of my wallet, I'll side with the purple here and say Trevor Siemian helps the Wildcats exploit the Illini defense, and Jeff Budzien wins it at the end. … Northwestern 27, Illinois 24
Those are our picks. Now it's time to hear from one of you. As a reminder, throughout the season, we'll choose one fan/loyal blog reader each week to try his or her hand at outsmarting us. There's nothing but pride and some extremely limited fame at stake. We have one game left to pick -- the Big Ten championship -- before the bowls, so if you're interested in participating, contact us here and here. Include your full name (real names, please), hometown and a brief description of why you should be that week's guest picker. Please also include "GUEST PICKS" in all caps somewhere in your email so we can find it easily.
This week's guest is Jarrod Reese from Sioux City, Iowa. Jarrod, the floor is yours. …
I live in Sioux City, right on the border of Nebraska and South Dakota. I'm a lifelong Hawkeyes fan and have had to endure the taunts from the Huskers faithful the last two years. I think we can finally do it this year (I need the bragging rights). As a bonus, I just got engaged last Thursday. How about a nice engagement gift from my favorite B1G Blog?
You got it, Jarrod, and congrats on the engagement. We're sending you a gift.
Here are Jarrod's Week 14 picks:
Iowa 23, Nebraska 17
Michigan State 28, Minnesota 6
Ohio State 52, Michigan 17
Wisconsin 35, Penn State 13
Indiana 45, Purdue 17
Northwestern 17, Illinois 14
Brian Bennett: 76-14
Adam Rittenberg: 76-14
Guest pickers: 70-20
Braxton Miller had spent hours in the offseason working on his footwork. Based on the dramatic increase in his completion percentage, that time has clearly paid off for the Ohio State junior. An extra year with the playbook has provided much more familiarity with the scheme and where to deliver the football, and missteps have been fewer and further between with his reads in the passing game. And while he might never be the most vocal leader, there's been little to question about his impact in the huddle and on the field for the highest-scoring offense in the Big Ten and a team that hasn't lost a game in two years.
"I don't know that he played one of his best games, but he made a throw on third-and-17 -- it was his best play at quarterback since we've been here," Meyer said. "That is his best, and he knows it, I know it, [offensive coordinator] Tom Herman knows it. So his best play as a quarterback, I'm not saying the athlete that jumps around and lands on his head, those are just gifted, very gifted young men. But his best play at college football quarterback was third-and-17 on the right hash in snowy conditions where he completed a bender to Jeff Heuerman with pressure bearing down on him.
"He didn't panic out of the pocket. He stepped up, delivered the ball, and that's worth going back to watch. It was a fantastic play."
Miller has no shortage of those on his personal highlight reel, including some truly jaw-dropping passes into tight windows, clutch throws with the game on the line and certainly plenty of attempts that have turned into touchdowns.
And while Meyer has certainly pointed out some of those previous plays as part of the steps forward Miller has taken in his third season as a starter, many of them have come in much more ideal situations.
He still needs proper footwork and arm angles when the blocking is perfect, and he still must break down the defense and know the playbook to make the right decision with the football even when he has plenty of time to do it. But making the leap to meet Meyer's standard at the position requires using those fundamentals and that knowledge to deliver under pressure when not everything is set up perfectly for him.
And he's seen Miller do exactly that now, which puts him in an exclusive club.
"Josh Harris is a great quarterback we had at Bowling Green, we had the moment where he became a quarterback," Meyer said. "Alex Smith had a couple moments where it was like, 'We've got one.' Then same with Chris Leak and Tim Tebow and this guy. He's had a couple moments, but this is the best play I think he's had as a quarterback.
"That was his moment."
Miller had been building to it for a while now. All he needed was one more play to finally reach Meyer's loftiest standard.
AKRON, Ohio -- Inside the cover of Jim Tressel's class binder, on the heading of the first page, are three words in bold type: Coaching Is Teaching.
The terms are synonymous to Tressel. A successful coach must be a successful teacher. The link between the two is the starting point for the "General Principles of Coaching" course Tressel is teaching this semester at the University of Akron alongside Jim Dennison, the former Akron coach who gave Tressel his first job in the business back in 1975.
Tressel is no longer coaching, at least not directly, after a 36-year career. Nearly three full seasons have passed since he last led the Ohio State Buckeyes onto the field. The Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, which Tressel dominated during a decade as Buckeyes coach, resumes Saturday at Michigan Stadium, but Tressel won't be there.
His coaching career, which featured national championships at two levels of college football, ended on a sour note on Memorial Day of 2011, when he resigned at Ohio State amid an NCAA investigation. His career is at least on pause and perhaps over for good. But Tressel, Akron's vice president for student success, is still teaching and impacting young people, perhaps now more than ever.
"Coaching is teaching," he said. "My division of student success is just the effort for us to be successful with 26, 27 thousand students, as opposed to student success for 100 [players]. Recruiting is recruiting; it's just a larger group of prospects. Advising is advising. Financial aid, not much different than where are we going to spend our scholarships when we had X number in football.
Michigan’s top ranked commitment in 2014, Jabrill Peppers (Paramus, N.J./Paramus Catholic), tweeted on Tuesday about a change of plans.
Imma take a couple Officials after the season myself— Breezy (@JabrillPeppers) November 26, 2013
The No. 2-ranked prospect committed to the Wolverines on ESPN back in May. At the time LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers were among the schools he was considering. It now seems Peppers will be reevaluating schools.
This is significant because Michigan coach Brady Hoke and his staff have a no-visit policy for their commitments. Any prospect who commits to Michigan is not allowed to take other visits.
If a prospect does take a visit to a different program then they are no longer considered a Michigan commit. That doesn’t preclude the Michigan staff from still recruiting that prospect, it just means they are no longer committed to Michigan.
Peppers is a five-star prospect and badly needed in Ann Arbor, Mich., so this proves to be a bad situation for Hoke if these visits do come to fruition. Peppers, however, did state he is still committed to the Wolverines.
"I am still 100% committed to the University of Michigan and that is the place where I want to go to college," Peppers said. "With the rumors about Coach Hoke possibly not being there I need to make sure that I have options and have seen other places in case the University of Michigan decides to go in a different direction. For the sake of my future I need to make sure I have other options. No need to look into it any further! Go Blue and beat TDS."
Peppers’ high school coach, Chris Partridge, said he had not heard anything about the potential visits from his star athlete.
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezKeenan Reynolds ran all over the field for Navy this weekend.
With the help of ESPN’s new college football metrics (see explanations here), ESPN Stats & Information takes a look back at the best performances of Week 13 and ahead to the chances of Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State remaining undefeated.
Best Individual Performances
In the past, this article has used opponent-adjusted QBR to rank the best individual performances of the week. Total QBR is a rate stat that measures efficiency. In Week 13, Kevin Hogan (98.0), Clint Chelf (97.8) and Braxton Miller (97.1) had the top three opponent-adjusted QBRs of Week 13.
Points above average (PAA) is another stat that can be used measure the top individual performances. PAA totals the number of points that a player contributes to his team’s net scoring margin above what an average quarterback would have.
PAA is a counting stat (rather than a rate stat) that accounts for both efficiency and the number of plays. If a quarterback has a high PAA, he was likely efficient and involved in a lot of plays. Week 13 featured four of the top 10 single-game PAAs of the season:
Keenan Reynolds (19.0 PAA) rushed for seven touchdowns in Navy’s 58-52 triple-OT win over San Jose State on Friday night. Reynolds set an FBS record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a game, a mark previously held by Dee Dowis (Air Force, 1989) and Craig Candeto (Navy, 2002).
Brett Smith (18.6 PAA) threw for a single-game school-record seven touchdowns and 498 yards while leading Wyoming to a 59-56 overtime win against Hawaii on Saturday. Smith also ran for 142 yards and a touchdown. Smith’s 640 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns are the most by an FBS player in a game this season.
Marquise Williams (16.4 PAA) tied the school record for passing touchdowns (five) and was third in single-game total offense (469 yards) by halftime in North Carolina’s 80-20 rout of Old Dominion. He helped the Tar Heels rack up a school-record 721 total yards of offense in a game that did not even last 60 minutes.
Derek Carr (15.8 PAA) threw for 522 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns in Fresno State’s 69-28 win against New Mexico. He had the third-most passing yards and tied Brett Smith for the most passing touchdowns in a game this season.
Best Teams Performances
Offense – Fresno State added 48.7 expected points to its net scoring margin on offense in its 69-28 win against New Mexico, the highest offensive EPA in a game this season. The Bulldogs racked up a school and league record 822 yards of total offense and averaged 9.9 yards per play.
Defense– Oklahoma State contributed 17.5 expected points to its net scoring margin on defense in its 49-17 win against Baylor. The Bears were averaging 61.2 points and 684.8 yards per game entering the game, but were held to 17 points and 453 yards by the Cowboys. Oklahoma State is the first team to hold Baylor to a below-average offensive efficiency rating in a game in the last three seasons.
Special Teams – Nebraska added 12.5 expected points on special teams in its 23-20 win against Penn State. The Cornhuskers blocked a punt and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. They were also the beneficiaries of a missed extra point in the first quarter and missed field goal in overtime.
Looking ahead to rest of the season
After Baylor lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday, there are three remaining undefeated teams from BCS AQ conferences vying for a spot in the BCS National Championship. Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State are all deserving of a spot in the title game, but at least one will be left out.
What are the chances that all three teams will be undefeated entering bowl season? According to projections run by Analytics Specialist Alok Pattani, there is a 29 percent chance that all three teams will be undefeated after their conference championships.
Alabama has the toughest remaining schedule. The Tide have to play on the road at Auburn on Saturday, and if they win, against either Missouri or South Carolina in the SEC Championship. There is a 46 percent chance that the Tide win both of those games.
Florida State has the easiest remaining schedule, and there is an 87 percent chance that it wins its remaining two games.
So, while Ohio State appears to be on the outside looking in, there is a 60 percent chance that either Alabama or Florida State does not win out. Keep these projections in mind as Alabama heads to Auburn, Florida State travels to Florida (Noon ET, ESPN) and Ohio State goes to Michigan (Noon ET, ABC) on Saturday.
- Zach Meisel looks back at Ohio State's turnaround since reaching a low point two years ago in Ann Arbor. Urban Meyer gears up for a "brutal" two weeks.
- Penn State coach Bill O'Brien wants to see the playoff expand to eight teams.
- Michigan finds itself in the worst-possible scenario as both Ohio State and Michigan State are surging, Bob Wojnowski writes. The Wolverines don't care that no one believes in them.
- Nebraska coach Bo Pelini doesn't believe he's coaching for his job Friday against Iowa.
- Not surprisingly, Wisconsin believes it is worthy of a BCS at-large berth.
- Michigan State looks at Saturday's game as a chance to clinch a spot in the BCS bowls.
- Northwestern QB Kain Colter hasn't been ruled out -- not yet at least -- for Saturday's finale at Illinois.
- Illini WR Steve Hull continues to leave his mark as his career winds down.
- Indiana coach Kevin Wilson sees progress in Year 3 despite no bowl appearance.
- Purdue CB Ricardo Allen has taken the losses hard this season but has no regrets.
- Maryland doesn't look Big Ten-ready as its league move nears.
Graham–George Offensive Player of the Year
1. Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah: He added another 147 rushing yards last week against Penn State and would have had more if his potential game-winning touchdown run hadn't been called back on a highly questionable penalty. If Abdullah gets close to his average this week against Iowa, he'll finish the regular season with 1,600 rushing yards.
2. Ohio State QB Braxton Miller: Given the way other Heisman candidates have fallen off, Miller would have been a virtual lock to get to New York had he not missed three games in September. During conference play, he leads the Big Ten in total offense with more than 296 yards per game and is responsible for 22 touchdowns in seven league games.
4. Wisconsin RB James White: A 125-yard day at Minnesota gave White his sixth consecutive game with at least 98 yards rushing. He's third behind Abdullah and Hyde in rushing during conference play.
5. Penn State WR Allen Robinson: He put up his seventh 100-yard receiving game of the season with 106 vs. Nebraska. But Robinson has been held without a touchdown in his last four contests.
Nagurski–Woodson Defensive Player of the Year
1. Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier: He followed up a 16-tackle performance against Illinois with 20 tackles and five tackles for loss against Indiana. He also was named a Butkus Award finalist and now leads the league in both total tackles (108) and tackles for loss (19.5). Shazier sure looks headed toward hoisting this trophy next.
2. Wisconsin LB Chris Borland: Borland was snubbed as a Butkus Award finalist and might finish second to Shazier for both defensive player and linebacker of the year. But as his 12-tackle, two fumble recovery day at Minnesota reminded us, he's every bit as good as any linebacker in the country.
3. Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard: He grabbed his fourth interception of the season at Northwestern, adding another chapter in what has been an incredible and All-America-worthy season.
4. Nebraska DE Randy Gregory: He didn't get to the quarterback on Saturday, but leads the Big Ten in sacks with 8.5 and is second with 14.5 tackles for loss.
5. Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun: He was quiet last week with just one tackle, but he still has a league-best four fumble recoveries and 6.5 sacks.
Rimington–Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year
1. Ohio State OT Jack Mewhort: To the victors go the spoils, and Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring, total offense and rushing yards while giving up the fourth-fewest sacks. Urban Meyer has said that Mewhort is the "absolute leader" of the offense, and it was apparent how much the league's best offensive line missed him when he came out of the Illinois game.
2. Michigan OT Taylor Lewan: The Wolverines say Lewan is grading out an even higher rate than last season, when he was an All-American and he won this award. We'll take their word on that, but the overall struggles of the offense and the line in general can't be overlooked, which is why we'd vote for Mewhort over Lewan.
3. Iowa OT Brandon Scherff: The junior has had a terrific year in helping the Hawkeyes re-establish the run game -- they're averaging 191 rushing yards per game. Iowa has only given up 10 sacks and a league-low 40 yards from sacks in 11 games.
Jim Tressel's tenure at Ohio State began to unravel when it was revealed some of his players received cash and tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Things turned for the worse when Tressel didn't bring the infractions to light when the NCAA questioned the allegations.
Ohio State received a one-year bowl ban and had its scholarship total trimmed from 85 to 82 for three seasons. The Buckeyes also voluntarily vacated their 2010 Sugar Bowl season. This year is the last in which current coach Urban Meyer and Co. have to deal with those sanctions.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The latest rival needed no introduction.
Urban Meyer didn’t need a history lesson when he arrived at his fourth coaching stop. He grew up around The Ten Year War.
The importance of The Game above all else wasn’t news to somebody who drove around campus as a graduate assistant at Ohio State taking notice of the massive signs hanging from dorm-room windows artfully expressing distaste for its hated neighbor to the north.
The bad blood in the latest feud in Meyer’s coaching career might have started boiling a bit easier than it did at Utah or Florida. But once he’s gotten up to speed, familiarity quickly breeding the contempt needed to hunt the biggest target at whatever program he was leading, Meyer has treated them all the same no matter where he’s been.
BYU and Florida State have had their turns. Now Michigan is locked in the laser sights that Meyer saves for a rival, which traditionally hasn't been a comfortable place to be.
“Do we make a big deal out of this game? Absolutely,” Meyer said. “Do we make a huge deal over the top about rivalry games? Yes, we do.
“That's the way I was brought up. We kind of go over the top here, and we always have.”
That has brought results that ensure bragging rights and keep his fan base happy, and there have been few seasons where Meyer’s intense focus on a rival has left him disappointed.
He dropped a game at Toledo during his last year with Bowling Green. Florida State got the best of him during his final campaign at Florida, and he also came up short once against Georgia in another series of importance for the Gators.
But even throwing in secondary rivals like Utah State with the Utes or Tennessee for the Gators, those are the only losses in Meyer’s career against teams that help label a season a success or failure, collectively giving him a 21-3 mark in matchups where the records are proverbially supposed to be thrown out.
“You can tell he’s a little bit different because this is a rivalry week,” linebacker Ryan Shazier said. “You can’t act the same as you act every week. This is the biggest game we’re going to play all year and the biggest game we’ll probably play in the next few years because they’re always going to try to spoil our season.
“You can just tell when you walk into the hallways, all you hear is ‘It’s Time for War.’ You can just tell through practice, the players are way more intense when we go through drills and everything. And you can just see the look in his eyes, this rage that he wants to win so bad in this game.”
Meyer has already done it once, improving that vaunted rivalry record by capping a perfect season with a 26-21 victory over the Wolverines a year ago. And considering all the Buckeyes have to play for this season -- they sit third in the BCS standings and have an appearance in the Big Ten title game to look forward to next week -- it might be somewhat understandable if the passion wasn’t running as high for Saturday’s trip to the Big House as it was at this time a year ago.
But Meyer has stressed the importance of beating “That Team Up North” since taking over the Buckeyes, refusing to acknowledge any other program as even a potential rival. Any ‘M’ on a sign around the practice facility was once again crossed out with scarlet tape over the weekend. Even the season schedule hanging in the team meeting room had been redecorated on Monday, with white paper covering up every other opponent -- along with the spots where the conference title game, Rose Bowl and BCS National Championship Game have been visible all year long.
For Meyer, that makes this week quite literally a one-game season.
“When I went out to Utah, I had to be introduced to that,” Meyer said. “But I dove into it, made our staff learn everything about it, made our staff take a test to figure out what the rivalry meant, because I don't want coaches to be phony. I don't want somebody from Ohio stepping into Salt Lake City and making them act like [BYU] is a big deal, but deep down you don't believe it is. Players see right through that. ... That’s the good thing about hiring a guy that's lived the rivalry.
“I learned to dislike Michigan at a very young age.”
Those feelings came later in life for the Cougars and Seminoles than they did for the Wolverines. Throughout his career so far, though, Meyer has eventually done the same thing to all of them.
Curtis Grant missed the past two games, wins against Illinois and Indiana, with lingering ankle and back problems.
"We didn't feel like he was quite ready, and we've got to get him back," Meyer told the newspaper. "I think Curtis Grant will be good to go, which we'll need him in this game."
Doran Grant suffered an unspecified injury in the first half of Saturday's 42-14 win over Indiana and did not return. However, Meyer told the Plain Dealer that he held the cornerback out of the second half primarily as a precaution and that he is expected to play at Michigan.
Meyer also said No. 3 cornerback Armani Reeves is expected to return from injury.
"The positive is I think Armani's going to be fine for this week," Meyer said.
A very easy decision for Five Star Player of the Week -- Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier.
It was a performance that helped punch Shazier's ticket as one of the best linebackers in the country. On Monday, two days after piling up a school record-tying 16 solo stops, he became one of five finalists for the Butkus Award.
"He's playing at a very high level," Urban Meyer said after Saturday's 42-14 victory. "A very emotional guy, he has the heart the -- his heart is everything."
Shazier finished with a mark in nearly every statistical category on Saturday. He ended up with a forced fumble, a pass breakup, a sack and, as one reporter joked after the game, a partridge in a pear tree.
He finished with twice as many tackles as the game's No. 2 player in that category, Bradley Roby (10), and he single-handedly finished with more than twice as many stops in the backfield (5) than Indiana's entire defense (2).
It was the first time a Buckeye finished with 20 tackles since A.J. Hawk in 2004. And it was the first time since Tom Cousineau in 1978 that an Ohio State player wound up with 16 solo stops.
But it wasn't just on the stat sheet where Shazier made his presence felt. He's been this defense's leader, and he certainly led by example -- making sure that an opponent that averages more than five touchdowns a game (36.8 ppg) didn't score at all for 54 minutes.
It was one of the most dominant performances of Shazier's dominant career.
The theory was spawned sometime after the 2011 season, as Michigan celebrated Brady Hoke's successful debut and new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had Columbus buzzing with optimism.
Both programs signed top-10 recruiting classes in February 2012. Both coaches had clear visions and lofty goals and standards. The rest of the Big Ten, the theory held, was in serious trouble.
The Big Ten was headed back to the Big Two and everybody else. Some college football observers said it publicly; many others said it privately. They pointed mainly to recruiting, but also to other factors.
At the very least, the gap separating Ohio State and Michigan from 2008 to 2010 -- and also from 2005 to 2009 -- would narrow as both programs were poised to take up residence in college football's penthouse.
Ohio State and Michigan seemingly are worlds apart as they gather this week for The Game at Michigan Stadium. The Buckeyes, headed for the league championship, lead a group of Big Ten elites that includes No. 11 Michigan State and No. 15 Wisconsin. Michigan is a rung or two below.
The last time the longtime rivals met at the Big House, Michigan ended its seven-game losing streak against Ohio State. The Wolverines went on to win the Sugar Bowl and finish 11-2, but the victory over Ohio State, from an emotional and symbolic standpoint, arguably meant more to Hoke, his players and Michigan fans sick of hearing about The Streak.
Two days after the Michigan loss, Ohio State named Meyer head coach. The Buckeyes went on to lose their bowl game under Luke Fickell before Meyer took full control. They have yet to lose under Meyer, setting a team record Saturday against Indiana with their 23rd consecutive win.
Ohio State is No. 3 in the BCS standings, and with two more wins could make the trip to Pasadena, Calif., for the national championship game on Jan. 6. The Buckeyes rank third nationally in scoring (48.7 ppg) and boast arguably the nation's most dynamic offensive backfield: quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde.
Michigan is fortunate to be bowl-eligible, is unable to run the ball and, barring a major surprise Saturday, is headed for its worst stretch under Hoke (losses in four of its final five games). Hoke, along with his offensive staff, is feeling the heat. While Ohio State has reached historic milestones under Meyer, Michigan has endured historic lows in recent weeks, from the lowest net rushing total in team history (minus-48 against Michigan State) to becoming the only FBS team in the past 10 seasons with consecutive games of minus-20 rush yards or fewer (minus-48 against MSU, minus-21 against Nebraska).
The win over Ohio State in 2011, followed by the Sugar Bowl triumph, have been high points in the Hoke era. Since the bowl win, Michigan is just 15-9, including a 2-5 mark against teams ranked in the AP Top 25.
Even after a 2012 season filled with close losses to good teams, Michigan seemed ready to join Ohio State in the elite when it thumped Notre Dame, the 2012 national runner-up, in Week 2 this season. Quarterback Devin Gardner and the offense were rolling, star linebacker Jake Ryan would soon return from injury, and a favorable schedule put Michigan in great position to meet Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.
Then the turnovers started. Michigan nearly lost to Akron at home and Connecticut on the road. Defensive woes surfaced in an overtime loss to Penn State and a shootout win against Indiana. The offense then fizzled against Michigan State and Nebraska. Michigan's lone win since Oct. 19 -- an overtime triumph at Northwestern -- wouldn't have happened if officials had called illegal motion on a tying field goal at the end of regulation.
Sure, the Wolverines are young at some spots, namely offensive line, but the clear vision that seemed to be in place two years ago is cloudier now.
"Is the goal always to win the Big Ten championship? No question about it," Hoke said Monday. "We won't make excuses nor back down from it. Have we played and coached as well as we needed to? Obviously not."
Both Meyer and Hoke are taking the correct approach to the week and have put the rivalry on a pedestal. Ohio State began its Michigan prep a day early, while Michigan, typically off on Mondays, went to work today.
There's plenty at stake for both teams, as Ohio State can keep its national title hopes alive and Michigan can lessen the disappointment of the season by beating its rival on senior day and handing the Buckeyes their first loss under Meyer. On paper, The Game looks like a mismatch, but rivalry games can spark surprises, especially when the underdog is playing at home on senior day.
"This game has always been different in some ways," Hoke said. "Are they a good football team? Yeah. They're a very good football team. Do we have to play better than we've played? I don't think there's any doubt about that."
Meyer doesn't put much stock in the Wolverines' record and expects "their best game."
When national signing day rolls around in February, Ohio State and Michigan will be in the same category, both likely signing top-10 recruiting classes (possibly top-five). It might refuel the Big Two theory in the Big Ten. After all, the original argument was heavily rooted in recruiting success.
But the real gauge comes this week on the field. Michigan must close the gap.
Otherwise, it's just another Big Ten program looking up at the Buckeyes.