Doc's Big Ten News and Notes
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Michigan found out this past Saturday that there's more to playing football than just offense and defense. The Wolverines' special teams completely broke down. This collapse gave Iowa all it needed to pull out a 30-27 victory. Michigan out gained the Hawkeyes, 463-295, and Michigan QB John Navarre threw for a career-high 369 yards. However, the only stat that really mattered was the one on the scoreboard. The Wolverines broke out early as RB Chris Perry scored the game's first touchdown on a five-yard run, eight minutes into the contest. On the next possession, Navarre hit WR Braylon Edwards for a 14-yard score. At that point it looked like Michigan might run away with it. After stopping Iowa on the next possession, the Wolverines got the ball back and that series is where the tide turned. Michigan had the ball on the 45-yard line with a second and two situation. They decided to go for two long pass plays, both of which fell incomplete, forcing a Michigan punt. I certainly question the play calling in this situation. From that point on, it seemed like Iowa settled down and started to play the game they wanted. The biggest problem for the Wolverines was their special teams play, as they suffered a blocked punt, a tipped punt and everything in between. For those of you who watched the game, you would probably have to agree. There was awful protection in punting situations. It was one of the craziest things I have seen in football in quite a while. One has to give credit to Iowa for its comeback. However, its victory was more of a case of Michigan giving it to them than them earning it. Iowa has a bye this week and Michigan will be on the road again at Minnesota. This game has been switched and will take place Friday night. The oddsmakers have made this a 'pick'em and right now you would have a hard time convincing me to go against the red-hot Minnesota Golden Gophers, especially at home.
The Wisconsin Badgers once again displayed their punishing running attack in a 30-23 win at Penn State. The Badgers rushed for 234 yards on 51 carries. Booker Stanley, the third-string RB, rushed for 119 yards and a touchdown. Starting RB Anthony Davis injured his ankle and left the game in the first quarter. His backup, Dwayne Smith also left the game with an injury. Both are very questionable for next week. Like Michigan, Penn State had many problems on special teams. A couple of long punt returns and a key fumble by the returning team certainly put Penn State behind the eight ball. The Nittany Lions did have one bright spot as QB Michael Robinson completed 22 of 43 passes for 379 yards. However, Penn State couldn't contain the Badgers' running attack and that was the real difference in the game. Wisconsin returns home this week and is now riding a two-game winning streak. The last time the Badgers started the Big Ten 2-0, with both wins on the road, was 1950. The Badgers will face undefeated Ohio State this week. The Buckeyes had the week off and will certainly be ready to roll. This game will be played at night, which is very unusual. The place will be rocking as the game has already been sold out. I would certainly have to take a strong look at the underdog here. However, Wisconsin suffered multiple injuries last week so you may want to wait before making a play on the Badgers.
The game started off all Northwestern but ended up all Minnesota as the Gophers downed the Wildcats, 42-17. Minnesota had just eight yards on its first four possessions, was trailing 14-0 and was backed up to its four-yard line when QB Asad Abdul-Khaliq hit WR Jared Ellerson for a 96-yard touchdown pass. After that play, the momentum changed and the Gophers dominated for the rest of the game. The Wildcats had trouble moving the ball on the ground as they had only 76 yards on 35 carries. The Gophers had no problems in that area as they racked up 241 ground yards to go with 331 yards through the air. Minnesota will be home this week against Michigan.
Are the Michigan State Spartans for real? Or have their opponents made them look really good? It's probably a little bit of both as the Spartans beat Indiana, 31-3, on Saturday. Michigan State QB Jeff Smoker got his second chance in life and he has made the most of it. Smoker had a big day as he completed 32 of 40 attempts for 351 yards and two touchdowns. He has now increased his team records to 510 for career completions on 858 attempts for 7,044 yards and 50 touchdowns. Indiana, the lowest scoring team in the Big Ten, did not score on five trips into Michigan State territory. They had big problems holding on to the ball. Traditionally, this Spartan team has always had a letdown after a big win. But the last two against Iowa and Notre Dame didn't seem to bother them in this one. This team has stayed focused and could be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten. The Spartans are back on the road this week at Illinois. Michigan State has been installed as a six-point favorite. Of all the Big Ten games this week, this one would be the most difficult one for me to take a side on.
My choice for the surprise team in the Big Ten continues to roll as they beat Illinois, 43-10. Of course that team is the Purdue Boilermakers. What surprised most folks about this win was the ground attack of Purdue. Noted for their complicated passing attack, the Boilers got 324 yards on the ground on 67 carries. The big gun for the Boilers was RB Jerod Void, who gained 119 yards on 25 carries. The passing attack was also good as QB Kyle Orton went 13 of 20 for 209 yards. The coaching staff for Purdue was certainly happy with the offensive explosion. The Boilers played a flawless game on both sides of the ball. For the second-straight week the Illinois defense gave up more than 300 yards. Purdue will be back home this week against Penn State. It's obvious right now that Purdue is balanced on both sides of the ball. It is a pretty steep line going against Penn State, but the favorite is the only one I would consider here.