The Big Ten Report - Opening Weekend
by Max - 09/06/2006
The 2006 football season kicked off with a bang last weekend and all 11 Big Ten teams came to play. The conference notched 11 wins for the week - and only one game was competitive. This is a fantastic start for the Big Ten in a season where they should have no problem finding teams for their seven allotted bowl bids.
That being said, the majority of the 11 wins came against the mid-major Mid-American Conference and each of the Big Ten teams were favored. In essence, they were supposed to win 11 games last weekend. But the competition is about to become a bit stiffer in week two and certain teams vying for the BCS Championship Game in Glendale will need to find an extra gear to keep those title hopes alive.
Here is a recap of some of the highlights from last weekend, as well as a look ahead for what's in store for the Big Ten Conference:
- Wisconsin Coach Bret Bielema had a successful debut as his team took down Bowling Green by a score of 35-14 in Cleveland. He has some big shoes to fill following the legendary Barry Alvarez, but he proved up to the task in week one. This was the second game of a home-and-home series over the last two seasons between the two schools. But Wisconsin did receive a bit of a break when the game was moved to Cleveland, two hours away from the campus of Bowling Green. For those of you that watched the game on ESPN GamePlan, you could see that the stands were only about one-third full, depriving the Falcons of any home-field advantage.
Bowling Green started off hot with a 10-play drive that led to a touchdown after QB Freddie Barnes ran a draw play up the middle from 21 yards out. That had to put a scare into the Badgers, but they responded immediately when their own 10-play drive was capped by a 7-yard run by Dywon Rowan. The Badgers didn't look back and would win the game comfortably by a score of 35-14. As for the Falcons, they may want to reconsider their spread punt formation as this led to problems all night, including a blocked punt that Jonathon Casillas picked up for a touchdown. They need to just punt the ball like a normal team and not worry about trying to be creative.
Next up for Wisconsin is a home date with Western Illinois. There is no line on this game due to the fact that the Fighting Leathernecks are a 1-AA team from the Gateway Conference. The Badgers host San Diego State the following week, and should be 3-0 when they head into Ann Arbor on Sept. 23.
- For years Northern Illinois has hung tough with the big boys from the Midwest. With Texas on the horizon, we saw this as a perfect situation to go against Ohio State with a 5-unit selection. Since the Huskies did not have the edge in talent, it was important that they got off to a good start at the Horseshoe. Obviously they didn't. The Buckeyes jumped out to a 21-0 lead after one quarter of play. QB Troy Smith tossed touchdown passes of 5 and 58 yards to Ted Ginn Jr. on the first two possessions as the Buckeyes geared up for next week's showdown at Texas with a 35-12 victory.
We almost had a chance for a backdoor cover when Coach Jim Tressel switched quarterbacks inside the 10-yard line and the Huskies recovered a Justin Zwick fumble on the next play. Hopefully the coach has learned from this, and last year's game with Texas, that Zwick has trouble holding onto the football and should not play at all this season. The Huskies do have a star in the making with RB Garrett Wolfe, who rushed for 171 yards a caught a touchdown pass. This is a good football team that will win a lot of games in 2006. You can expect to see them as a selection again in the near future. On a personal note, it is interesting to see the defensive backs for NUI are Adreil and Alvah Hansbro. These brothers went to high school in Madison, Wisconsin, and I played high school basketball against both them.
Next up for the Buckeyes is a trip to Austin to take on the Horns and complete this home-and-home series. This was a great game last year and I would expect a similar result in 2006. The early line has the Horns favored by 2.5. I would say that this is a game that we will stay away from in making a selection. We do feel that this is a situation where one team has a clear advantage, but we don't feel confident enough that we consider it a strong advantage play. Let's just say there may be a new No. 1 next week.
- Finally, it was an emotional night in Oxford, Ohio, as former Miami, OH and Northwestern coach Randy Walker was honored before kickoff. As we all know, Walker passed away tragically, leaving former standout Pat Fitzgerald as the new coach of the Wildcats. We used Northwestern as a selection and they did not disappoint, allowing just three points in the game. However, the offense was not in sync and thus achieved only 299 total yards. In fact, Northwestern's offense didn't put points on the board until a blocked punt early in the third quarter. Quarterback Mike Kafka got some rhythm after this play and just did enough to put this game out of reach.
The most surprising thing in this game was the defensive display by the Wildcats. The credit must be given to Fitzgerald (a defensive guy) for this turnaround. Under Walker, this team could score at-will but had trouble stopping teams. It will be interesting to see if this new mindset will bring about change in the win/loss column.
Next up for the Wildcats is a game against New Hampshire. I did not know the NH Wildcats played football, but a closer look into the program shows that they finished 11-2 in I-AA and may give the Chicago boys a game. There is no line on this game, either, but remember what Montana State did to Colorado a week ago.
- The other big game next week features Jo Pa and Penn State heading to South Bend to take on Notre Dame. The Lions lost most of their offensive firepower from a year ago and it will be interesting to see if they will be able to move the football against this improved Irish defense. The early line has the Irish favored by more than a touchdown and I expect Coach Weiss to make a statement in this game.
Three Thoughts From Around College Football
1) We need to stop putting the FSU/Miami game on in primetime by itself. The last two seasons, they have set college football back 30 years and neither one of them will contend for a National Title this year. Where have Charlie Ward, Ken Dorsey and all the offense gone?
2) After years of scheduling games against schools you can't even pronounce, Minnesota is actually playing a tough non-conference schedule this season. The Gophers opened with a victory at Kent State and now head to Berkeley to take on an angry Bears team that was embarrassed at Tennessee last Saturday. You will hear from us on this game next weekend.
3) Congrats to the college football panel that came up with the idea to shorten the game by starting the clock on change of possessions. Many games took about three hours on Saturday and stations could actually keep their games on schedule. This is a rule that needs to stay in place.
Remember our early bird package is still in place and would encourage you to sign-up and let 35 years of experience work for you. Free Pick - Take Arkansas State +14 ½ over Oklahoma State - 18-6-2 record the last 2 years.