During the first full week of college football, the Big Ten opened non-conference play with ten teams in action. Of these 10, seven came out on top. As I surveyed the results only two games caught my eye as being surprises.
I felt Michigan State should have done much better against Western Michigan, especially with the return of quarterback Jeff Smoker and the new coaching staff under John Smith. But the Spartans did hold Western Michigan to only six yards rushing. However, the Broncos gained 333 yards through the air courtesy of QB Chad Munson. Smoker set a school passing yardage mark when he connected on a 53-yard completion to Aaron Alexander in the second half, which moved him past Dave Yarema's previous mark of 5,809 yards. Michigan State is home again this week as they host Rutgers at Spartan Stadium. This team really needs a big blowout win and it just might come here.
Although I had no intention of laying 24 points and taking Penn State over Temple this past Saturday, I feel the Nittany Lions are much better than their performance indicated. What surprised me the most is the fact that Penn State was out gained, 357 yards to 310. The Nittany Lions completed only 6 of 19 passes for a total of 79 yards. That stat is very misleading because 56 of those yards came on one TD pass. I realize that this is only the first game of the season, but I have to see Penn State put up better numbers before I jump on the bandwagon. The Nittany Lions host Boston College this week. The Eagles just lost a heartbreaker at home to Wake Forest.
The most misleading victory in the Big Ten would have to be Iowa's 21-3 win over Miami(Oh). The Redhawks had more first downs, more passing yards and they controlled the time of possession. However, QB Ben Roethlisberger, one of the top signal callers in the country, had a terrible day in which he was intercepted four times. As one watched the game, you would like to say that was the result of a great defensive effort by Iowa. That wasn't the case. Roethlisberger had some flat-out awful passes. For the Hawkeyes, running back Fred Russell did play well as he gained 161 yards. Iowa is home once again this week as they host Buffalo and are favored by 37. A little steep?
Illinois played a great game but came up a little short, as they were beaten by Missouri 22-15. The Illini out-gained a good Missouri team 422-224. This team could spring a few surprises this year in the Big Ten. They have an excellent QB in Jon Beutjer. The Illini are at home this week against Illinois State.
Michigan wasted no time proving it could be the best team in the Big Ten as it beat Central Michigan, 45-7. The Wolverines had a very balanced attack as they had more than 600 yards, of which 342 came on the ground. Michigan steps up a little this week when they host Houston. The real test for the Wolverines will be next week when they host Notre Dame. We will certainly take a good look at this match-up.
Almost heaven, West Virginia? It didn't start out that way for the Wisconsin Badgers as it took 17 unanswered points for 'Bucky' to pull off the victory. QB Jim Sorgi had his first victory as a starter and looked good. Sorgi completed 20 of 34 passes to six different receivers. As in the past couple of years, the big man was RB Anthony.
Davis, as he gained 167 yards on 30 carries. A big bright spot for the Badgers had to be the return of WR Lee Evans. The All-American sat out last season with an injury he suffered in spring practice. Considering at that time to go pro, there was some doubt he'd ever play football again. However, after 16 months of endless rehabilitation, Evans did return and looked outstanding. His TD catch in the fourth quarter rallied the Badgers to victory. As I look at this Wisconsin team, I think they could be real good and get much better as the season progresses. The weakness of this team is much like last year, that being the kicking department. As I look at the upcoming schedule I see an excellent time to go with them and an excellent time to go against them. Wisconsin returns home this week and hosts Akron as a 26-point favorite.
In other Big Ten action this past week, Indiana was crushed by Connecticut, 34-10. Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo said his staff put a lot into preparation for their opener. Could this mean the Hoosiers are in trouble once again? One would have to think so, although this may also be a team that could get much better as the season progresses. The Hoosiers are on the road this week against Washington. What's with these Huskies? I think this may be one of the most over-rated teams in the country. Keep a close eye on this ball club.
The Buckeyes rolled big over those (over-rated Washington Huskies. I watched the first half and I thought the Bucks looked outstanding. Once again this team will be on top of the standings. How long before a defeat occurs? I rather doubt anyone can touch them in the next four games as all four are at home. The real test could come on Oct 11 when they travel to Wisconsin and Nov 1 when they have to meet up with Penn State on the road. Sooner or later the Buckeyes will hit a buzzsaw. I think it will happen more than once this year.
Many experts think Minnesota may be the most improved team in the Big Ten. Could be, as they helped their cause by crushing Tulsa, 49-10. The Gophers had a balanced attack and led at the half, 35-0. The Gophers are at home again this week against Troy State. Installed as a 24-point favorite, this could be another one that's over by halftime. Good chance!
Northwestern went on the road and pulled off the victory as they beat Kansas, 28-20. RB Jason Wright had a big night as he rushed for 196 yards and four touchdowns. The game was played in heavy rain. The Wildcats return home this week against Air Force. Installed as a 7-point underdog, revenge might be in hand as they were soundly beaten by this team last year, 52-3.
As I look two weeks ahead in the Big Ten, a couple of games catch my eye. One being the Notre Dame-Michigan match-up that I mentioned earlier, and the other being the Wisconsin-UNLV game. Who can forget last year's game. Wisconsin leading 27-7 as a 5½ point favorite and the lights go out. Of course no one got paid. Lights may go out for someone on Sept. 13, however it won't be anything connected with electricity.
The pro's are in their first week of regular season action. As I look at the schedule I was struck by an amazing fact. Only one team is favored by more than six points, that being Miami -13½ over Houston. The past couple of years if one would have bet every underdog from the start of the season, you would have made some nice vacation money. I don't see this year being any different. Someone brought this to my attention a few weeks back... go against any team that's on the road as a favorite and is playing on a surface other than it's own. There was a high percentage of winners last year. This week no game qualifies.
ESPN analyst, Lee Corso, certainly was in rare form for the opening weekend of the college football season. I've always enjoyed Mr. Corso, although he wasn't too successful as a football coach. That misfortune might have carried over as Corso's partner, Kirk Herbstreit, picked Wisconsin to win the Big Ten. Corso remarked, "Michigan will beat Wisconsin." Only one problem with that, they don't play each other!
There's a lot of talk about the NFL preseason being too long (four games). The debate continues that these games cause many needless injuries. One of the players to complain was Baltimore linebacker, Ray Lewis. After all his concern for the health of the players, only a few hours later he was flagged for a late hit. If the number of games is reduced, I'm sure a lot of players will think they won't be given a fair shot. I personally think four is a good number. That's it for this week.
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