The Big Ten Report - Big Ten Game of the Year Edition
by Max - 10/17/2006
Last Saturday, the Big Ten Conference featured five predictable outcomes and one surprising upset. The top three teams flexed their muscle while winning by a combined 74 points, and Michigan and Ohio State inched closer to a dream match-up of two 12-0 programs doing battle for a berth in the BCS Title Game. The following will recap the highlights from the previous week and preview an important week ahead in the conference for middle-of-the-pack teams:
Iowa appeared to be on cruise control over Indiana when it scored early in the second quarter to take a 21-7 lead. QB Drew Tate had already thrown two touchdown passes and the Hoosiers appeared to be conceding a fourth straight home loss. But someone forgot to tell WR James Hardy about this plan and he took the game over from there. He tallied three touchdowns, the final to give IU a 3-point lead with just under ten minutes to play. His partner in crime was freshman QB Kellen Lewis who completed 76 percent of his passes for 255 yards and he also rushed for a touchdown.
Iowa had one last chance to either tie or take the lead, but QB Tate's pass was deflected and eventually intercepted by Andy Brodell to seal the victory for the Hoosiers. This was an embarrassing loss for the Hawkeyes and has probably doomed their already slim hopes for a BCS bid. As for Indiana, this was a landmark win under Coach Terry Hoeppner and I expect them to play hard for the remainder of the season. The only problem is they just do not have much talent to supplement their enthusiasm.
Next up for the Hawkeyes is a trip to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolvernines. The opening line has Michigan as a 13.5-point favorite and it will be interesting to see how they respond after such a bad beat. Iowa has the talent on offense to put points on the board and the best edge in this game may lie with the total. For the Hoosiers, they will make the short trip to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes, a team that has yet to be challenged on the season. They come in as 31-point dogs and this would be a game I would stay away from.
Homecoming proved to be valuable in the battle for Paul Bunyan's Ax. Wisconsin dominated this game from start to finish, scoring 28 of the first 31 points, while never giving Minnesota an opportunity to make things interesting. P.J. Hill had another big day on the ground going for 165 yards and John Stocco cleaned up in the second half, throwing two touchdown passes. The Gophers continue to struggle running the football and this has been their bread and butter in the Glen Mason Era. Amir Pinnix managed 97 yards on the ground, but most of that came from one long run when the game was already out of hand.
Next up for the Badgers is a trip to West Lafayette to take on the Boilers. This game had the possibility to be our; "Big Ten Game of the Year" but the line did not come in where we had hoped when releasing such a strong play. Bucky will enter the state of Indiana at around a five-point favorite. The schedule looks very promising for this team and a BCS bowl bid is not out of the question. Wisconsin does not play Ohio State and has five winnable games left, the toughest coming of Nov. 11, when they go to Iowa City.
As for Minnesota, a promising start that featured a win in Kent, Ohio, has gone horribly wrong. They are just 2-5 on the season and have yet to beat anybody of significance (Kent State & Temple). They will notch their third win of the season this week against North Dakota State, but the first conference win will have to wait until Nov. 4, when they welcome in Indiana.
Finally, our second five-unit play in college was Purdue (-7) over Northwestern. The game went just as we suspected, with Purdue seizing the edge on both sides of the football. I have been stressing that the Cats have had trouble scoring all season long and could only muster 10 points against a terrible defense in Purdue. The Cats had only 251 yards of total offense with 87 of those coming on the ground. This is the same Purdue defense that allowed 35 points to Notre Dame and 47 points to Iowa in consecutive weeks. QB Curtis Painter outgained Northwestern by himself, throwing for 432 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for a touchdown to put the game out of reach late in the fourth quarter.
Purdue is well on its way to a bowl game and now will play back-to-back games at Ross-Ade Stadium. First up is the Wisconsin Badgers and payback will be on their minds as a Kyle Orton fumble late in the fourth quarter was brought back to the house for a 3-point Wisconsin victory in 2004. That was a turning point in their 2004 season; as Purdue would go on to lose the next three games by a combined seven points. Will they be able to pay back Bucky? Not sure, but the over in this game looks very tempting.
Northwestern will be playing its second straight game at home when they welcome in Michigan State for homecoming. State enters as a touchdown favorite, but can you trust either one of these programs? This answer is most certainly not and you should expect the unexpected in this one.
The other game on next week's slate features Illinois traveling to Happy Valley to take on the Lions. There is no line on this game because of the uncertainty State has at the quarterback position. When a line is posted, expect it to be double digits, as the Illini are really struggling, losing two to the powerhouse programs of Indiana and Ohio. Both were in Champaign and that does not make Coach Ron Zook's resume look very promising.
Final Thoughts from Around College Football
1) Coach Tuberville was right when he said the SEC is too strong of a conference for a team to run the table. After his team took down the last remaining unbeaten in Florida, it appears they are destined for another trip to the Sugar Bowl. That being said, the SEC Championship in Atlanta will be an outstanding match-up.
2) The Boise State Broncos are inching closer to yet another undefeated season and expect them to not receive a BCS Bid. The conference has seen a great decline in talent with the fall of Fresno State and Boise has had trouble winning games on the road this year. I would lean toward the Vandals side when the Battle of Idaho is renewed this week in Moscow.
3) The Big East has finally gotten out of the tank for being the worst of the Big Six conference this season. I would have to give that nod to the ACC, as teams continue to beat up on each other with nobody rising to the top. West Virginia at Louisville certainly looks like a better game then any match-up in the ACC would offer.
Last week was another profitable week on the college slate, as Wyoming won its game with Utah straight up and in blowout fashion. Doc's certainly did his homework on that game and will have now not lost our top college selection in four weeks. This week we will offer the strongest selection of the season with our; "Big Ten Game of the Year." This will be the only eight-unit play we release this season and once featured a 19-year winning streak. This is a must have for any big game hunter.
Free Pick - Take Stanford +23 over Arizona State.