by Max - 09/07/2005
The Big Ten season got off to a great start last weekend with all 10 teams winning. They went 7-0 against the MAC conference and certainly did not disappoint many experts that believe this is the best conference in the country. However, the results need to be taken with a grain of salt as nine of the teams were playing home games and only one team came in as an underdog. Week two will get a lot tougher for some teams as traditional powerhouses are set to invade the Midwest. The feature game takes place Saturday night as the Longhorns travel north to take on the Buckeyes in Columbus. This game will get national exposure on ABC and the winner will have a leg-up in the BCS to play in the Rose Bowl. The following will examine the highlights from week one and preview the upcoming slate of games for the Big Ten.
The highlight game from week one on paper appeared to be Bowling Green at Wisconsin and this one certainly did not disappoint. Wisconsin entered the game as a four-point chalk but by kickoff the number was down to two points. We had this circled as a selection for the Falcons for months but as kickoff approached we felt this was a game to stay away from. The Falcons jumped out early to a 13-0 lead as Omar Jacobs led two impressive scoring drives of 80 and 75 yards. The Badgers were in deep trouble until QB John Stocco came back from injury for a surprising rescue. The next play back he threw a 21-yard touchdown strike to Jonathon Orr on a slant play over the middle. The Badgers would then go on to score a touchdown on their next seven possessions and Bowling Green was left with only questions, as they could not stop the run whatsoever.
The Badgers did find a new running back in Brian Calhoun, as he rushed for 258 yards on 43 carries. He possessed great moves that reminded Badgers of Anthony Davis when he was healthy. UW finished with 388 yards on the ground and despite being out gained by 27 yards, the old adage that a dominate running game will always beat a dominating passing game certainly held true. This game was over by halftime despite the score being tied at 35 apiece. The Falcons could not stop the run and they will be happy to go back to the MAC and stay away from the Big Ten. Lookout in two weeks as BGU travels to Boise, Idaho. I think the Broncos will take this game in a big way. Next up for UW is a bye, then Temple comes to town. Pencil that in as an easy win with no questions asked.
The Ron Zook era started off a success as Illinois took down Rutgers in overtime to give the coach his first win in Champaign. The Illini came back from a 20-point deficit to take down the Scarlet Knights, who missed four field goal attempts. QB Tim Brasic threw for 233 yards and three touchdowns. Illinois also ran for 204 yards, as this game was also an offensive shootout as the teams combined for 954 total yards.
Those who believed that Rutgers was a much-improved team this season and ready to make a bowl game for the first time since 1978, think again. This is the same old Rutgers team and they will not be bowling this year. I said early this year that it was very important for Illinois to win this game and they did not disappoint as they will now start the season 2-0, before losing the remainder of their games this season. This team has holes on both sides of the ball and will be lucky to reach three wins on the season.
Minnesota was the only team to play on the road this weekend and they came away with an impressive 31-point victory. One half of the dynamic duo is still in the backfield as Laurence Maroney ran for 203 yards and kept the pressure of QB Bryan Cupito as he only had to throw the ball 25 times. This game was over early, as Maroney broke loose for 67 yards on the first play of the game. Minnesota led 24-3 at halftime and took advantage of four costly turnovers by the Golden Hurricanes.
Minnesota should start off the 3-0 and with their next big test coming Sept. 24 when the welcome Purdue to the Metrodome. This may be Purdue's toughest test in Big Ten play and I would not be surprised if they go down inside the Dome. This Gopher team should make a bowl game behind nine returning starters on offense. Hopefully they will not fall apart as in years past.
The remaining seven teams had ho hum victories against mid-major programs. I would not put too much stock in any of these victories and feel once conference play starts; yards on the ground will be hard to come by.
Michigan will host Notre Dame this weekend and this appears to be a better game then what I had anticipated in August. Because of Notre Dame's impressive victory in Pittsburgh, the early line has them as only a seven-point underdog. With Coach Lloyd Carr conservative nature, if the Irish can hang around early, they could be primed for the upset. Personally, I hope Michigan destroys them and puts ND back in its place of mediocre football.
Now onto the real Game of the Year, with Texas coming to Columbus to take on Ohio State. The early line has Ohio State as a one-point favorite and I feel this game could go either way. I have the Buckeyes slated to play in the Rose Bowl, so you know whom I will be cheering for. The Bucks can win this game if they make Vince Young beat them through the air and get Ted Ginn loose in the open field. The game should not disappoint and all of America should be watching it. There is talent of both sidelines and games like this usually come down to a key turnover late in the game. If State can win this game it could be another magical season.
Key Thoughts from Around College Football
1) If the spread does not matter to College Football Coaches why did Dennis Franchione kick an extra point instead of go for two points when up one late in the fourth quarter. Those who had A & M -1 ½ were delighted by the decision only to be heart broken at the end with a game winning field goal by Clemson. Simple math would tell you that being up one or two points does not make much difference when scoring in football comes via the numbers three and seven.
2) My Heisman prediction of Reggie Bush got off to a good start as he scored two touchdowns and had 174 total yards. Numerous experts think USC will go down in the regular season but I am not one of them. Talk to me in December when they are playing in the Rose Bowl.
3) How bad was watching the Miami - Florida State game. This game featured two conservative coaches, terrible play calling inside the five-yard line, and numerous chip shot field goals missed. The Seminoles did win the game for the first time in seven years and I still cannot figure out how. Both of these teams will experience the pains of losing again this season.
The Free pick went 8-2-2 last season and hopefully we can start the year off with an easy win. Take Eastern Michigan -6 over Louisiana Lafayette.