The Big Ten Report - Week Two
by Max - 09/12/2006
Week two of the college football season proved to be a much tougher test for the Big Ten Conference. The teams combined for a 2-7 ATS record and the two teams that played Div. I-AA opponents did not look impressive either. That being said, the conference does possess the top team in the country in the Ohio State Buckeyes. They appear to be the clear-cut favorite and should be able to run the table providing they can get by a trip to Iowa City on Sept. 30. The following will recap a few of the highlights from week two and preview the last week of non-conference play:
- We felt going into the weekend, the Hawkeyes were over-hyped and we figured they would struggle to cover the 19-point spread in east New York. We then received a big edge just before kickoff when QB Drew Tate was scratched with a strained abdominal muscle. Syracuse has a solid defense and played well enough to win the game. However, they currently have a bonehead coach in Greg Robinson who used no creativity in overtime and thus deserved his fate.
Iowa was a completely different team without Tate and I was surprised the line did not move much at all. The game was dominated by the defenses as Iowa amassed just 178 yards through the air. The Hawkeyes were very lucky to get out of the dome with a win and thus cannot be disappointed in their performance. A 7-point win without your franchise quarterback on the road, regardless of the opponent, is all that you can ask for.
Next up for the Hawkeyes is a game against in-state rival Iowa State. State did a number on them last year and you can bet the Hawkeyes will be up for this game. This game is currently off the board because of QB Drew Tate's status, but I would expect Iowa to open up double-digit favorites. As for Syracuse, the season is only two games old and they look dreadful. This administration must be regretting firing longtime coach Paul Pasqualoni, who would consistently get the Orange in a bowl game. Now, they are just hoping to win a game.
- After hearing a week of criticism for how bad they looked on offense against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame was determined to make a statement in South Bend against a nationally ranked Penn State squad. The Irish came out firing, scoring the first 27 points of the game and put the Lions on their heels from the start. I felt this was an overrated Lions team that just lost too much to graduation to be a top team in the nation. They returned just nine starters and very little experience in the trenches.
Brady Quinn, my Heisman-hyped Irish quarterback, was 12-of-16 passing for 150 yards and two touchdowns in the second quarter alone. He has the talent and he will not put up many performances like in did in Atlanta one week ago. State did gain nearly 400 yards of offense, but it was the three turnovers that led to their demise.
I expect Penn State to be just a .500 team this year and it will be interesting to see how long Joe Pa would like to prolong the agony. He had a perfect opportunity to ride out into the sunset after his Orange Bowl victory last season, but declined that offer and instead would like to go off in his coffin. All-American Paul Posluszny will need to be the difference for this team to be successful, but I expect offensive lineman to gang up on him and force someone else on that defense to make plays. Next up for the Lions is a game with Youngstown State. The Penguins went 8-3 last year and should not be taken lightly, just ask Northwestern. There is no line on the game because the Penguins are a Div. I-AA opponent.
The Irish are in the Middle of a Big 10 superfecta and will welcome in Michigan next week. The early line has ND favored by 7, but I feel the revenge of the Wolverines will give them all they can handle. I do expect the Irish to lose one of the four games against Big Ten opponents, just not this one.
- Finally, the Game of the Year turned out to be a dud, as Ohio State's experience paid dividends in Austin against defending champion Texas. I felt Ohio State dominated both games with Texas, but this year they were able to finish drives and Texas could not produce any big plays against them. The Horns hung tough for a while, but with a big play threat, the Buckeyes gradually pulled away to win this game comfortably.
The most critical player in this game was not Troy Smith or Ted Ginn Jr. - it was linebacker James Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis intercepted a pass to start the second half and had the game-changing play when he forced a Billy Pittman fumble at the two-yard line. That fumble led to OSU's first touchdown, and was a 14-point swing. Had Texas punched that in for a 7-0 lead, this may have given young Colt McCoy the confidence needed to make plays down the field.
Texas did tie the game just before the second quarter concluded, but then the defense was victimized by Ginn Jr. for a couple of big plays, including a 29-yard touchdown pass with just 16 seconds remaining in the half. That was all she wrote in this game, as State never looked back and -- unlike the game last season the Horseshoe -- they were able to get up two scores on Texas. The Buckeyes truly are the clear-cut No. 1 team in the land and Troy Smith is the frontrunner for the Heisman trophy, although I have not given up on Brady Quinn just yet.
Next up for the Buckeyes is a game at The Shoe against in-state rival Cincinnati. State easily won this game in 2004 and comes in as a 30-point favorite. The only thing that could allow the Cats to stay close is that their Coach Mark Dantonio was the defensive coordinator in Columbus from 2001-2003. As for Texas, they will make a trip south to Houston to take on Rice. The Horns enter as a 31-point favorite and I would stay away from this game. I don't think Texas is as bad as everyone is saying and they still have a solid chance to win the Big XII South. However, they will not run the table and I expect back-to-back road trips to Lincoln and Lubbock to doom them in for at least one more loss.
In other action, Northwestern followed the lead of Colorado by suffering an embarrassing loss to Div. I-AA New Hampshire. This game was not close and Pat Fitzgerald has to wonder what happened to the offense that was always so explosive under Randy Walker. I feel that loss will keep them out of a bowl game and thus they lose the all-important extra month of practice.
Three Thoughts From Around College Football
1) What is happening to the Ol' Ball Coach? Through two games his South Carolina offensive has looked terrible and produced only one touchdown (on a trick play). They had a perfect opportunity to knock out Georgia, yet failed to put a single point on the board.
2) The Oregon Ducks are for real. Anytime you go into a hostile environment like Fresno and come away with a win, you must be satisfied. They were my surprise team for this season but have three brutal games ahead (Oklahoma, @ ASU, @ California). They will be lucky to only suffer one loss from this trifecta.
3) It will be interesting to see what happens to Direct TV and Dish Network if this gambling ban passes through the Senate. These companies thrive on pay-per-view sports, and without gambling who would subscribe to them? And please don't tell me fantasy players will. Why would an individual pay for a $300 program to join a $50 league. These sports packages cater to gamblers who like to watch their bets live. Maybe we should take a look at the job impact before we pass a law.
Out of the three Free Picks I posted on this site last week, the only one I put with my article ended up being the only loser. Take Jacksonville (Pk) over Pittsburgh on MNF next weekend. That's it for this week and best of luck.