by Max - 09/28/2005
The first week of conference action produced numerous exciting games and upsets as some of the preseason favorites went down in a big way. Our conference preseason pick Purdue, fell at the dome by a score of 42-35 in double overtime. The media selected Michigan to win the Big 10 and they also went down in Madison. My personal choice of Ohio State looked good as they handled Iowa in a big revenge game. The following will recap the highlights from week one of conference play and preview a very important week ahead.
The feature game turned out to be a dud, as Iowa did not even show up at the Horseshoe. The Buckeyes dominated this game in every aspect including out gaining the Hawks by 400 yards on offense. Iowa could not run the football whatsoever with minus nine yards for the game. QB Drew Tate was sacked five times and has not found any chemistry with this unit against strong competition.
The result of this game made our eyes light up as we selected Ohio State as our top game of the week. We knew the Bucks would have revenge on their mind after their performance last season and they certainly did not disappoint us. Troy Smith has established himself as the No. 1 starter and he completed 13-of-19 passes for 191 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Justin Zwick will be holding the clipboard all season long as this team marches on toward the championship.
Iowa has major problems and will struggle to make a bowl game this season. The expectations were too high as this team overachieved last season. Despite better talent, this team has lost their edge and has not seen the breaks go their way this season. Kirk Ferentz is still a great coach and I would like for Iowa to cover some games this season playing the underdog role.
Ohio State is off this coming weekend and will have two full weeks to prepare for their first road trip of the season. They will travel to State College to take on the Lions. This sets up a very interesting game with title hopes possibly hanging in the balance for both sides. Iowa gets a home game with Illinois this week and come in as a 17-point favorite. This would be a game that I would stay away from because it has been hard to forecast which Iowa team will show up. The under may be the only play to consider.
The rain did not keep the crowd away Saturday night as the Badgers took on the Wolverines. This was an exciting game from start to finish and the home team came away with a 3-point victory snapping the Wolverines 23 game-winning streak in Big Ten openers. Bucky trailed by four points and seemed to become stagnant on the 5-yard line. On third down and goal, John Stocco took the snap from the gun and run a quarterback draw to score the winning touchdown and propel the Badgers to victory.
This was a game the Wolvernines seemingly had control of late in the game when Chad Henne threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mario Manningham on a flea flicker. But Coach Carr and his conservative style of play could not run out the clock and thus gave Wisconsin one more opportunity, which they took full advantage of. RB Brian Calhoun had another strong effort going for 155 yards via the ground and also caught seven passes for 59 via the air. You can all but pencil him in for first team running back in the conference. RB Michael Hart did not play for the second straight week and without his productivity Chad Henne appears to be lost as he again completed less then 50 percent of his passes. Is Matt Gutierrez still alive? If so, I would see what he can bring to the table because Henne looks lost with Hart or Braylon Edwards.
Michigan enters this week unranked and travels west to take on their in-state rivals. MSU blew a big lead last year before Braylon Edwards went off and single-handily pushed the Wolverines to victory. Revenge will definitely be on the minds of Sparty. Wisconsin will stay at home for the fourth time this season when they welcome in the undefeated Hoosiers. The Badges enter this game as an 18 ½ point favorite. This is a must win for Wisconsin because after this the schedule gets tougher as four of their next five are played away from Camp Randall. The Badgers final seven games are all losable, so I would hold off talks of a Sugar Bowl berth.
The Nittany Lions nearly saw the season go up in smoke with a trip to Evanston. State turned the ball over four times and trailed by nine points when intermission struck. The Cats seemed to have their number of late as they won the two preceding games and appeared to have this game in the bag as well. But then the State defense woke up holding Northwestern to just six points in the second half and allowed State to drive for the winning touchdown. QB Robinson got hot converting a 4th-and-15 from his own 15-yard line. Then, on 3rd-and-6 from the Northwestern 36, Robinson was hit as he threw, but his pass found an open Williams on the left side at about the 10. Williams shook away from safety Reggie McPherson and raced into the end zone.
Anwar Phillips then intercepted a pass by Basanez near midfield to seal the win and snap Northwestern's two-game winning streak against Penn State.
Robinson completed 17-of-36 passes for 271 yards and had three interceptions. He also rushed for 60 yards. With his TD run, he became the first Penn State player to reach 1,000 yards rushing and passing in a career. This was a landmark win for this 2005 team and the schedule is looking very promising, as this could be the year Penn State returns to a New Year's Day bowl. However, I do not think Michael Robinson is that good of a quarterback and I expect this team to stubble four times during the remainder of the season.
They will welcome in Minnesota this week and enter the game as a surprising underdog. The Gophers will not be able to run against State with much success so this may be a game to side with the home squad. The Cats are off this week before hosting the Badgers in two weeks. Wisconsin has not had much success of late in Evanston and it will be interesting to see how much they will be favored by.
An interesting non-conference game takes place in West Lafayette as Purdue plays their annual in-state meeting with Notre Dame. Both teams play a similar style of offense and with the Irish defense much improved; Purdue definitely will have their hands full coming off a disappointing loss last week. I will stay away from the game, but if I were forced to take a side, it would be with the Boilers.
Final Thoughts Around College Football
1) Is there nothing more painful to watch then a Joe Paterno press conference? He cannot understand why the media is so critical of him over the last few years. He does not give good answers to any of the questions he is asked and seems offended when someone questions a decision that he made. Simple answer to solve all of these issues: win football games.
2) How bad was the clipping call in the third quarter of the USC/Oregon game? The Ducks called a great play on fourth down and goal as the receiver took the reverse and walked into the endzone, handed the ball to the official, went to the sideline when a clip occurred. The officials did not allow the touchdown and thus Oregon's chance of covering went by the wayside. Memo to the official: that penalty is called a late hit and thus the touchdown should have counted and the penalty should have been assessed on the extra point.
3) The game I will be most interested in this week in Florida at Alabama. Bama has a favorable schedule and a win here will get their fans talking undefeated season. If they pull off the upset, they will be favored in every game that they play for the remainder of the season. However, Mike Shula is still with a landmark win during his tenure and Urban Meyer is a coach you never want to bet against. Roll Tide!
The schedule looks very promising this week, as we will be going with our, "Revenge Game of the Year." This has always been a big money maker and we are confident we will once again grab the money.
The Free Pick got back on the winning track last week as Tulsa took care of Memphis in overtime. This week I examine the MAC and find that Bowling Green has schedule Temple for their homecoming game. Smart move. Take BGU -28 over Temple. Free Pick record 10-3-1.