by Max - 10/12/2005
The Big Ten Conference produced numerous upsets this week, as Penn State asserted themselves atop the standings. This surprising win continues a year of redemption as Coach Joe Paterno continues to prove his critics wrong by showing he can still win big games. This was just one of the four upsets of the five games that were played in the conference. Can Penn State run the table and finish 11-0? "No" seems like the only way to answer that question. I do believe they have the ability to play in the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta this season. A win at Michigan this week would certainly prove them the best team in the conference. The following will recap last week's action and preview a very important week ahead.
For the second straight week, Minnesota found themselves on ABC as the featured game in the Big Ten Conference. However, the similarities end there as the Gophers went in a 180-degree different direction than their game at Penn State two week ago. Coach Glen Mason did a great job of keeping his team hungry after such as embarrassing loss and his perseverance was evident in the fourth quarter when his team managed the clock beautifully to set up a game winning field goal with only one second left.
I felt going into this game that if Minnesota was focused, they had the ability to play with Michigan because of the Wolverines conservative, run right at you offense. Minnesota played Michigan tough the two previous years but came away with disappointing three point losses.
The game appeared destined for overtime when Minnesota had a third and 10 from their own 26 with just over a minute left in the game. The Gophers went conservative and gave the ball to second string running back Gary Russell. Russell found a seam and went down the far sideline for a 61-yard scamper. This put the Gophers in field goal range and Jason Giannini nailed the 30-yard kick to propel the Gophers to victory. They finished with 264 yards on the ground and held Michigan to only 94 yards rushing. Chad Henne had another bad game, completing less then 50 percent of his passes and failed to throw for a touchdown. Michigan converted just 3 of the 14 chances on third down.
This is the third damaging loss for Michigan this season as they failed to win a game despite being more than a touchdown favorite. Expect the critics to be on Lloyd Carr this week and his back will be against the wall when the welcome in Penn State on Saturday. The early line has Michigan as a 3 ½ point favorite and I feel this game is to close to call. On a personal note, I will be rooting for Michigan. Minnesota will try and regain the Paul Bunyan Ax when they host the Badgers this Saturday at the Dome. The game is off the board because of the second half injury to QB Bryan Cupito. When his status is determined I expect Sota to enter the game around a six-point favorite.
Wisconsin was riding high after another great start to a season. They went into this game in Evanston with a 5-0 record and appeared to be in complete control of this game, leading 17-10 at halftime. However, their defense failed to come out of the locker room in the second half and allowed Northwestern to score six touchdowns on the first six possessions of the final half. Cat QB Brett Basanez picked the Badger defense apart; completing 26 of his 36 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Tyrell Sutton put Northwestern ahead for good with 5:52 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard touchdown run.
The Badgers trailed 51-34 before they started to wake up on offense and scored two touchdowns within one minute to cut the Cat lead to just three points. The Badgers again failed on their on-side kick attempt and a great punt by Ryan Pederson had them backed up to the three-yard line with 1:23 remaining in the game. Badger QB John Stocco went back into the endzone when Reggie McPherson stepped in front of his pass and intercepted the ball to end the game. This was one of the few poor decisions Stocco made, as he finished the game with 326 yards and four touchdowns. Critics, including myself, cannot place the blame on him as he put up outstanding numbers for the second straight week.
The defense in part can be blamed as they allowed 674 yards to an average Northwestern team. Their tackling was atrocious as numerous times they had Tyrell Sutton stopped only to watch him break tackles and gain extra yardage. Sutton finished with 244 yards rushing and collectively the Wildcats rushed for 313 yards.
The Badgers will have to regroup fast, as next week they are on the road again, taking the four-hour bus trip west to take on the Gophers. No question, Minnesota has the momentum and will be determined to take back the ax. Northwestern travels to West Lafayette and is hitting Purdue at the right time after suffering an embarrassing loss to Iowa. The line comes in with Purdue being a seven-point favorite. Is Purdue that bad that they cannot beat Northwestern at home by at least double-digits? I think the answer will be revealed later in the week.
Penn State reasserted themselves atop the conference with a big win at State College on Saturday night. This was a boring game to watch as just three points were scored in the second half. Lion QB Michael Robinson completed just 11 passes for only 78 yards and thus reminded me a lot of the 2004 team. However, the 2004 Penn State defense also returned as they blanketed Troy Smith and created two turnovers. The game was over when DE Tamba Hall sacked Troy Smith, who then fumbled the ball and DT Scott Paxson recovered it. This was the win Penn State had been waiting for, as they had not beaten a team this highly ranked since 1999, when they knocked off Arizona.
The Buckeyes continue to struggle on offense as Coach Jim Tressel cannot get the ball to his playmakers at the wide receiver position. Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr. combined for just seven receptions and 81 total yards. These are two first round NFL draft picks and if Ohio State is going to represent the Big Ten in the Sugar Bowl, improvement in play calling is definitely needed.
Next up for Ohio State is a game at the Horseshoe against Michigan State. The Spartans have had two weeks to prepare for this game yet enter as a seven-point underdog. The Spartans have the talent to play with the Buckeyes, so I would expect a low scoring affair and I would take a good look at the under. As previously mentioned, the schedule does not get any easier for Penn State as they travel into Ann Arbor next week to take on the Wolverines. I feel there is a strong side play coming, so stay tuned later in the week.
Our top Big Ten selection went down as Purdue with their season riding in the balance suffered a 17-point home loss to Iowa. Purdue and their season went down the drain with this performance. They will be lucky to head to Detroit for the Motor City Bowl in December.
Final Thoughts from Around College Football
1) The best game of the week was California at UCLA. This was a battle of two undefeated teams that came down to the wire. Did it ever occur to the Bears, to let UCLA score, be down only eight and thus still have a chance to win the game?
2) The season is shaping up a lot like last year in which three teams could be undefeated. Right now it appears USC, Texas, and either (Florida State or Virginia) should run the table. If all three run the table, who will be left out? The ACC winner of course.
3) NBC is in heaven right now after the surprising start of Notre Dame. The Irish now have five home games in a row and appear on their way to the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe. A BCS bowl game would be a remarkable accomplishment and prove that coaching can make a difference.
This week's schedule looks very promising and after an outstanding week in College Football we are set to pull the trigger on our, "College Game of the Year." This will be our only seven-unit play on the season and is a must have for all big game hunters.
The free pick went down, as Tennessee could not muster any offense against Georgia despite playing in front of 100,000-plus fans. It goes to show that I should stick to picking mid-majors. Take Nevada -1 over Louisiana Tech. Free pick record 11-4-2.