The Big Ten Report - Week Three
by Max - 09/19/2006
The Big Ten Conference flexed its muscle this weekend, going 10-1 straight up and 6-3 against the spread. Now, six teams will begin conference play with undefeated records. The Buckeyes appear to be the clear-cut favorite to repeat as champions as the schedule has many favorable match-ups at the Horseshoe. That being said, they will receive stiff competition from their rivals up North, as Michigan laid a good, old-fashioned ass kicking on the Fighting Irish last weekend. The public was on the side of the Wolverines from the start, moving the line three points, but nobody could have expected such a one-sided result.
The following will recap some of the highlights from last week and preview the opening week of conference play:
- I had the pleasure of attending the Wisconsin/San Diego State game in person and was able to cheer for our Top Game of the Week. I felt this was the right situation to go against the Badgers and if someone would've told me Wisconsin would score just 14 points I would've already spent my winnings.
The Aztecs defense held Wisconsin in check for most of the day but they just could not move the ball at all on offense. SDSU amassed just 124 yards and it has become evident that they really miss starting QB Kevin O'Connell. That being said, we were still in position for the cover until Wisconsin's Paul Hubbard caught a 6-yard touchdown on third down. He nearly dropped the ball despite being wide open in the corner of the endzone. This gave Wisconsin a 14-point led and that was all she wrote for the game.
A key aspect of this game that may not have been widely acknowledged is the poor coaching decisions made by rookie Badgers Coach Bret Bielema. He used no creativity at all on offense and went for it on 4th-and-3 at SDSU's 7-yard line in a tie game. Any coach will tell you that that hardest points to score are the first points and Bielema clearly needed to kick the field goal there. These poor decisions will catch up with him soon and he will have his hands full designing a gameplan for Michigan next weekend.
The early line has the Wolverines a 14.5-point favorite and it will be interesting to see if they can follow-up their impressive win in South Bend with another dominating performance. For Wisconsin to have a chance, they must keep the score in the teens.
- Michigan State notched the second most impressive victory of the day by going into Pennsylvania and coming out with a 15-point victory over Pittsburgh. They trailed early by a score of 10-0 before running off 38 unanswered points to put this game away in the third quarter. State did most of its damage on the ground, running for an astonishing 334 yards.
The loss was embarrassing for the Panthers and they must be longing the day when they let coach Walt Harris go to take a job in Palo Alto. This again reaffirms that Dave Wannstedt is not a good head coach at any level. Once he gets fired from this post and winds up taking a high school job he will probably suck doing that as well. Wanny coached great players when he was with the Dallas Cowboys and has made a coaching career out of that one achievement. Everywhere else he has been, he has certainly underachieved. Tyler Palko is too good of a quarterback for performances like this.
That being said, the Spartans are riding a high note after this performance and will finish their non-conference portion of the season with their annual meeting with Notre Dame. I had felt all season that this would be a stumbling block for the Irish because of the veteran leadership the Spartans have at the skill positions. QB Drew Stanton is the real deal and can beat you with his arm or his legs. He will be able to move the ball against Notre Dame and I expect them to win this game straight up. The oddsmakers must have felt last week's game with Michigan was a fluke and have installed ND as a 4-point favorite. For wagering I would only consider the Green-and-White side.
The Panthers have a week to regroup as they will host the Citadel this week and do not play another conference game until Oct. 7, when they head to east New York. Look for us to be going against Pittsburgh as the season progresses.
- The Game of the Week turned out to be a dud, as Michigan pounded Notre Dame by a score of 47-21. This was Michigan's first victory in a road opener in seven tries and this is exactly what Lloyd Carr needed to get critics off of his back. The Wolverines forced five turnovers, two of which were converted into defensive touchdowns. The Irish abandoned the run early in this game and their one-dimensional style of offense played right into the hands of the Wolverines. Notre Dame finished with just 4 yards rushing on 17 attempts and that 0.2 average will not get it done.
I felt this was a perfect spot to play the Wolverines and many of the experts had bought into Notre Dame as a National Title contender. Penn State is that bad, and that win one week ago did not mean much to me. Michigan still has the best 1-2 punch in the conference at the quarterback and running back positions, and if Mike Hart can stay healthy they have a chance to enter Columbus with an undefeated record. However, I just do not see them beating the Buckeyes this year. Then, in order to represent the conference in the Rose Bowl, Ohio State would have to sufferer two conference losses.
Next up for the Wolverines is a date with the Badgers. After this game, their next challenge awaits them in the Twin Cities. Minnesota is off to another good start this season and always plays them tough in the dome. Notre Dame has to regroup quickly and head to East Lansing to face a team that has beaten them seven of the last nine years. If the Irish continue to throw the ball every play, one must start to look toward the over in their games.
In other action, Indiana followed the lead of Northwestern by losing to a I-AA opponent in Bloomington. These games count toward the six wins needed to secure a bowl opportunity and the Hoosiers gave up their only chance. With the way their schedule sets up, I can see them going 0-8 in the conference.
Iowa also welcomed back its best player in QB Drew Tate and got revenge from last season with a 10-point victory over Iowa State. This team will only go as far as Drew Tate takes them and look for a showdown in two weeks when the Buckeyes head to Iowa City. I have said all along, if OSU were to stumble in conference play it would be in this game. Iowa has experience and, unlike Texas, will be able to move the ball against this young defense. The home team has dominated this game going 7-2 ATS since 1995.
Final Thoughts from Around College Football
1) How bad was it to watch the Clemson kicking game. They have a kicker that was second team all-conference last season and now their coach has no confidence in his entire unit. They've had three blocked kicks over the last two games and this cost us a top totals selection when Tommy Bowden would not settle for a field goal to end the game. Hey coach, if you cannot make an extra point, you do not deserve to win.
2) Florida scored the most impressive victory of the weekend, going into Knoxville and coming away victorious. Chris Leak is still a dark horse to win the Heisman and Florida should be set up to earn a spot in the SEC Championship.
3) Most of us have heard the story about the Northern Colorado kicker who stabbed the first string kicker in the hopes of getting his spot. To show how dumb this guy is, the getaway car he had featured a license plate that read, "8Kicker." At least everyone knew he was behind this plot and hopefully he will spend some time in jail.
This is an exciting week for us and we will be going with our, "College Game of the Year" this Saturday. This play has traditionally been a big moneymaker for us and the game is just too good of an opportunity to pass up. We will get the money and would like to have you onboard. Free Pick - Take Under 48 in Rice @ Florida State.