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BIG TEN REPORT: Michigan State offense in a three-fall

Michigan State quarterback Tyler O'Connor (7) throws pass as Blake Treadwell left Jeremy Langford (33) block South Florida's Luke Sager

Michigan State quarterback Tyler O'Connor (7) throws a pass as Blake Treadwell, left, and Jeremy Langford (33) block South Florida's Luke Sager (92) during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)

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Updated: October 10, 2013 6:23AM

As Michigan State continues to figure out who it will start at quarterback, the decision has become less about competition and more about attrition.

And despite an outstanding defense, it appears the lack of a capable quarterback will undo one of the favorites to win the Legends Division.

In the 21-6 victory Saturday over South Florida, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio used three quarterbacks to guide an offense that was so bad it was outscored by its defense.

Connor Cook started, but Dantonio also played Tyler O’Connor and senior Andrew Maxwell, who has started 14 games for Michigan State. They combined to complete 12 of 24 passes for 94 yards and no touchdowns.

The Spartans didn’t score an offensive touchdown until 10:12 remained in the game. Michigan State reached field-goal range once, and that came on a drive the Spartans started on their own 46-yard line.

If all that wasn’t pathetic enough, it came against a South Florida defense that had allowed 53 points to FCS school McNeese State.

Other than Nebraska, every other defense the Spartans face in the Big Ten will be much tougher than the Bulls.

Michigan State could rely on the running of junior Jeremy Langford and its defense, which surprisingly has been able to create turnovers. But being one-dimensional on offense will be too predictable in a conference that has played solid defense as a whole through nonconference play.

And the Spartans’ history says they’re not much of a turnover defense, either.

The two-touchdown game Michigan State’s defense had Saturday would be an aberration for any team. It likely won’t happen again.

In two weeks, Michigan State travels to South Bend, Ind., to play Notre Dame and one of the country’s best defenses. So the clock is ticking for Dantonio to make a decision on a quarterback.

Luckily for the Spartans, they can use this week in practice as an extended training camp. They play FCS school Youngstown State on Saturday, and that should provide an opportunity for someone to step up.

Week 2 STars

RB Corey Clement, Wisconsin: The freshman carried the ball 13 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns against Tennessee Tech. He has 250 yards and three touchdowns this season and is ­averaging 8.6 yards per carry.

RB Mark Weisman, Iowa: The former walk-on and Stevenson High School graduate carried the ball 30 times for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Weisman already has carried the ball 50 times this season.

QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn State: Besting his performance of a week ago, the true freshman completed 23 of 33 passes for 311 yards and one touchdown. Ten Penn State players had receptions.

Three-headed monster

After a highly discussed quarterback competition this offseason, Wisconsin running backs have raised another question about which player should be under center for the Badgers this fall.

Who cares?

For the second consecutive week, Badgers running backs Melvin Gordon, James White and Corey Clement each ran for more than 100 yards. Their dominance has taken pressure off starting quarterback Joel Stave. More importantly, Wisconsin’s trio of running backs has been able to control the clock, which has helped an already outstanding defense.


The entire outlook for the Big Ten nearly changed when Ohio State quarterback and Heisman hopeful Braxton Miller went down with a sprained left knee on the Buckeyes’ first drive of the game. But senior Kenny Guiton proved he’s more than capable of leading the team, completing 19 of 28 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran the ball nine times for 83 yards and a touchdown. Miller might be able to return next week against California.


The challenge for Purdue defensive lineman Bruce Gaston will be to stay healthy. That’s because he’s the only challenge for opponents when they play Purdue. Gaston, who most recently dealt with a hamstring injury, has been arguably the conference’s best defensive lineman. He could carry on the tradition of successful Boilermakers D-linemen in the NFL. Gaston had two sacks against Indiana State.


55 — Years since Wisconsin has opened the season with back-to-back shutouts (1958). Among BCS teams that have played twice, Wisconsin is the only one that hasn’t given up a point.

1 — Third-down conversions Iowa allowed Missouri State. The Hawkeyes were solid in defending the run on first and second down, making those conversions more difficult for the Bears.

18.7 — Yards per reception Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson is averaging through two games.


Twitter: @SethGruen

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