by Max - 10/04/2005
The Big Ten Conference got shaken up for the second straight week as two of the undefeated teams went down in surprising upsets. Michigan State was on a roll and had a perfect opportunity to take out the Wolverines. We stepped in and used this game as our Revenge Game of the Year, as Michigan State has superior team this season. However, one cannot predict turnovers as the Spartans got down big early and just could not overcome this early hurdle. This is a disappointing loss and I am confident if these two teams met ten times, the Spartans would win this eight of them. The following will recap the highlights from last week's action and preview the upcoming week.
The feature game involving a Big Ten team turned out to be a dud as Purdue failed to show up against in-state rival Notre Dame. The Irish got up big on Purdue and led by a score of 28-0 at the half. Brady Quinn picked them apart in the fist half completing 20-of-23 passes for 283 yards and one touchdown. These are great statistics to have for a complete game but Quinn did this in only 30 minutes. Brady finished the game with 440 yards and three touchdowns, and a career high 80.5 percent completion rate. He also set a school record, tying Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte, by throwing a touchdown pass in 10 straight games. This Irish team is for real and should finished the season with a 9-2 record and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl in January.
The same cannot be said for Purdue, as this team still has tough road games ahead. They are taking a page out of how they finished the season in 2004 and picked right off where they are losing games despite being favored. However, Notre Dame is certainly a better team then Purdue. Purdue will return to conference play next week when they welcome in Iowa. The early tout has them as a 4 ½ point favorite and this is hard to get a read on as both teams are really floundering at the moment. That being said; the Boilers have the better team on paper. One has to wonder, however, what their mindset will be going into this contest.
Another game that appeared to be a match-up of two dominating running teams that play good defense turned into a blowout as Minnesota failed to show up in Happy Valley. The statistics in this game tell the complete story as State outgained the Gophers by 252 yards. Minnesota was held to a season low 113 rushing yards and turned the ball over two times. The Lions had 22 more first downs then the Gophers and rushed for an amazing 364 yards on the ground.
This was a wake-up call for Minnesota and it proved that the teams that they played in the non-conference where no indication of the strength of this team. If Minnesota would like to compete for a Big Ten title, they will need to step-up their opponents in non-conference action. Playing Florida Atlantic and running over them does not give one an indication of the areas where improvement is needed. This team felt they could just show up in Pennsylvania and run right over Penn State. That was certainly not the case and when the pressure fell on QB Bryan Cupito to make plays through the air, he was certainly not up to the challenge. If you think you can just show up and run the ball in the Big Ten, you might not be going bowling once the regular season concludes. Passing the ball is essential to open up the run and someone needed to inform Coach Glen Mason about this.
Next up for Minnesota is a trip to Ann Arbor to take on the Wolverines. The Gophers have outplayed Michigan the past two years only to suffer heartbreaking losses by three points. These teams play similar styles, which would benefit the Gophers as a 7 ½ point underdog, but with the return of Michael Hart, the Wolverines are at full strength and ready to do damage.
Penn State will be involved in the featured game next week as they will welcome in the Buckeyes. Ohio State enters this game as a 3-point favorite and it is hard for me to get a grasp on how this game will be played out. I feel the only edge in this game may come via the total. Personally, I will be rooting for Ohio State since I predicted them to win the Big Ten back in May.
The Battle for Michigan turned out to be another classic as the Wolverines came away with a three-point victory in overtime as Garrett Rivas kicked a 35-yard field goal in overtime. This game was highlighted by the return of Michael Hart to the line-up rushing for 218 yards and one touchdown. Wisconsin needs to be thankful that he did not play last week as the outcome would had been different had he been in the line-up. He got the Wolverines going early moving them down the field before Chad Henne hooked up with Jason Avant in the corner of the endzone for a two-yard touchdown strike. Michigan would score two more touchdowns and seemed to have a comfortable lead before Michigan State woke up and started to move the ball.
Drew Stanton got hot and hit Kerry Reed on a 61-yard touchdown on the middle to tie the score at 21. The Spartans could not get over the hump and take a lead against the Wolverines. If they were able to, I think this would have been a big psychological boost and they would have covered the 5-½ point spread. State had a golden opportunity to achieve both goals late in the fourth quarter when they had a first and goal on the seven-yard line with the score tied at 31. They failed to move the ball at all and settled for a John Gross field goal from a bad angle on the field. His kick went wide left and this gave Michigan the opening they needed.
QB Chad Henne led the team on an impressive drive that started on their own 20-yard line and with 48 seconds left Garrett Rivas came on for a 27-yard field goal. Rivas has been clutch throughout his career but returned the favor by missing the kick and sending the game into overtime. Michigan State could not move the ball at all on offense and missed another field goal. This was the opening Michigan needed as they went conservative and trotted out the reliable kicker on third down to attempt the game winner from 35 yards. The kick went right down the middle and the Wolverines avoided a three game losing streak. This was a devastating loss for MSU as they can't afford home losses in the hunt for the conference title. State will have a week off before traveling to Columbus on Oct. 15. This will be a game that you will be hearing from us about. The Bucks will be coming off of a tough road game in State College next week and it will be interesting to see how much they have left for MSU.
The remaining two games were ho-hum victories by Wisconsin and Iowa against the two bottom feeder teams in the Big Ten. These two teams will both be on the road next week and should face tougher challenges, as I predict one of these two teams will go down straight up.
Final Thoughts from Around College Football
1) Maryland seems to have turned the corner with a big home win against Virginia. I had a chance to watch that complete game and it seems Maryland will once again make a second half surge. The Fridge can still coach'em up.
2) What happened to Trev Alberts from ESPN? Turns out he was tired of playing second fiddle to the Game Day Crew (Fowler, Corso and Herbstreit). He failed to show up for work on the first weekend and was fired.
3) The MAC has not been as explosive this season compared to the preseason hype that it was given. The Big Ten pounded them in week one and they have been beating up on each other ever since.
The free pick returned to form last week as Bowling Green destroyed Temple by a score 70-7. How was this team only a 28-point favorite? This week we will go big game hunting as I like Tennessee -3 over Georgia. Free pick record 11-3-2.