by Max - 09/13/2005
The Big Ten Conference was shaken up this past Saturday as the top three teams in the preseason poll all went down. Two of the losses came as shockers as both Michigan and Iowa entered their respective games as more-than-a touchdown favorites and came away with devastating losses. Ohio State played a classic with Texas and outplayed them for 56 minutes but could not put the ball in the endzone and that finally caught up with them late in the game. Despite the Buckeyes loss, the game certainly lived up to all of the hype and it did not put them completely out of the National Title picture. The following will recap the highlights from the past week in the Big Ten and preview a very important upcoming week.
The Notre Dame - Michigan game showcased the numerous problems Michigan has. Chad Henne had the worst game of his career completing only 19 of 44 passes for just 223 yards. He fumbled a quarterback sneak, threw an interception in the red zone and threw a three-yard out pass on fourth-and-15. He truly misses Braylon Edwards and, without him, Henne has no game breakers to throw the ball to.
Michael Hart was not effective on the ground as the Irish were determined to not let him beat them. Expect this to be the gameplan for all eight Big Ten teams that the Wolverines will face this season. Hart got injured in this game and Michigan had their weakness exposed.
Going into this game it was believed that the Michigan defense was the weak link on this team. They played surprisingly well holding the Irish to just 10 points after an opening touchdown drive. ND finished with just 244 total yards and converted only 4-of-15 chances on third down. This had to be a surprising performance for Head Coach Lloyd Carr and I do not believe he could have ever imagined this game would play out like it did.
Next up for Michigan is a home game against Eastern Michigan. The Wolverines enter this game as a 30-point favorite, so this has get well written all over it. Michigan may be looking ahead to their conference opener at Camp Randall in two weeks. You will definitely hear from us on that game.
The biggest disappointment came via the Iowa Hawkeyes, who managed only three points against in-state rival Iowa State. This seems to be a bigger game for the Cyclones and they certainly came out with more emotion in this affair. It was not all the Hawkeyes fault as All-Big Ten QB Drew Tate went down in the second quarter with an apparent concussion. Tate threw an interception and got drilled making the tackle on the defender. I have said all season long that Iowa cannot afford to lose this player and it certainly showed as back-up Jason Manson appeared lost, completing just 10-of-31 passes for 117 yards.
All of the Cyclones 23 points came off of Iowa turnovers. The Hawkeyes were very generous giving the ball away five times and State did not beat themselves. The only drawback for State was watching Tony Yelk get his first PAT blocked right back in his face. Yelk is a local kid who played football near our Wisconsin office and he graduated high school the same year as me in 2000. How many years is he allowed to play college football?
Next up for the Hawkeyes is a home date with Northern Iowa. With a trip to Columbus only two weeks away expect the Hawks to not give much away in this one, as they will cruise to victory. Keep an eye out for Iowa State as I expect them to win the Big XII North and you will hear from us again on this team.
With nearly six months of hype to this game in Columbus, those who saw the game certainly did not come away disappointed. The Bucks trailed early 10-0 and it appeared that Texas could move the ball at will. But then the Bucks defense took control and forced three turnovers in Texas territory. However the Bucks could not get the ball into the endzone and after a key drop by the tight end on third-and-goal, Ohio State could only muster a six-point lead throughout the second half.
Josh Houston appeared to be their best weapon as he consistently hit the middle of the net on his first five kicks. But with the Buckeyes up six points and the ball on the Texas 33-yard line, Coach Jim Tressel called up his kicker yet again and he went wide right by inches from 50-yards.
This gave Texas the opening they needed and QB Vince Young made a case for the Heisman Trophy as he lead the Horns 67 yards on seven plays. The drive was capped off by a 24-yard touchdown strike to Limas Sweed. The Longhorns would never look back as they recovered a Justin Zwick fumble to put the game away.
Coach Jim Tressel was criticized for not sticking with Troy Smith after he lead the Buckeyes to scoring drives on five of his first seven series. I felt he should of stayed with Smith as well but think Zwick's statistics were not that bad as he completed nine of his 15 passes. Neither quarterback could muster any points inside the red zone and that proved to be the Buckeyes undoing.
Mack Brown continues to win big games and if he cannot beat Oklahoma this year, I have to question if he ever will be able to. Texas will enter that game in Dallas as a double-digit favorite.
Next up for Ohio State is a home game against San Diego State. It will be interesting to see how much they have left after suffering a devastating loss. The good news is San Diego State is bad and just got blown out in Pasadena last week. Texas should be able to run the table until Thanksgiving when they hook up with Texas A & M. It is a long ways away but I think the Aggies will be ready for that game.
The rest of the Big Ten emerged victorious against lesser opponents. The only close game was NUI and Northwestern, where the Huskies went for a two-point conversion in the closing moments down one. This was a gusty call and a terrible play selection as the play never appeared to get off of the ground. Two of the Big Ten teams will travel to the desert this weekend and we will have a selection on one of those games. This will be the calm before the storm, as the conference will kick off in two weeks with some very intriguing match-ups.
Final Thoughts About College Football
1) Speed up the game by adopting some pro football rules. Keep the clock running on first downs and start it after out of bounds plays. These games take four hours and very few have any pace to the games.
2 Memo to ASU coaches: Stop making dumb decisions in special teams that cost your team a chance to win. A rugby style punt is no good when your team forgets to block the side you will be running to. Just punt the ball like a normal team and win the game by ten points.
3) Don't bet against North Texas in Sun Belt games. They have now won 25 straight games and continue to dominate this weak conference.
The free pick got off to a good start last week as Eastern Michigan destroyed UL Lafayette. This play was actually a member's play. This week I look no further then the above paragraph: Take North Texas -5 ½ over Tulsa.