by Max - 10/18/2005
A great weekend in College Football was highlighted by two outstanding finishes in Big Ten play as both Wisconsin and Michigan came away with amazing, last second victories. The conference is still up in the air, as the only undefeated team suffered their first loss of the season. Other teams continue to struggle, as Purdue suffered another loss in West Lafayette and saw their dreams of a bowl game deteriorate. The following will recap the highlights from last week's action and preview the upcoming week of Big Ten action.
The weekend started of with excitement early as the Badgers traveled west to Minneapolis to take on the Gophers. This game featured the longest running rivalry in college football and the winner gets Paul Bunyan's Ax. The line was not posted on this game until late Friday afternoon because of the questionable status of QB Bryan Cupito and RB Laurence Maroney. Both were listed as probable on Friday and not until kickoff did we learn that Cupito was inactive for the game.
Without their star quarterback, Minnesota figured to make a living on the ground and they certainly followed that logic to a 'T.' The Gophers took control of this game in the third quarter, as they scored 17 points. This included a remarkable 93-yard touchdown run by Laurence Maroney right in front of the Wisconsin bench. He finished the day with 258 yards on 43 carries and the Gophers as a team rushed for 411 yards. The Wisconsin defense did not show up at all as this is the first year in well over a decade that a Badger defense cannot consistently stop a running attack.
With this type of dominating rushing attack, one would figure that the Gophers would have cruised to victory but a poor prevent style of defense gave Wisconsin a slight opening. With 2:10 left, QB John Stocco hit Brandon Williams down the middle of the field for a 21-yard touchdown pass. This cut the lead to just three points and the Badgers tried a long onsides kick that nearly worked but Minnesota recovered and was just one first down away from sealing the game. But for the first time all day, the Badger defense stepped up and made a stand. Minnesota ran the clock as far as they could and then sent in the punt team on fourth down.
Punter Justin Kucek lined up at the Minnesota five-yard line, received a good snap and just dropped the ball. He then moved to the right trying to get the kick away but Jonathan Casillas was there to block it. The ball flew backwards where three Badgers piled on top of the ball a yard from the back on the endzone. Ben Strickland came away with the ball and the Badgers emerged with a 38-34 victory, despite being out rushed by 280 yards. Coach Barry Alvarez called this as good of win as he has ever had as a head coach.
Next up for Wisconsin is a homecoming date with Purdue. Earlier in the season, Purdue would have been a slight favorite in this game. But with the complete collapse in Big Ten play by the Boilermakers, Purdue enters the game as a 7 ½ point underdog. Minnesota has a bye week before hosting Ohio State at the Dome. By then QB Bryan Cupito should be back in the line-up and I believe Minnesota will give the Buckeyes all that they can handle.
Michigan State has the talent to compete with any team in the Conference and for 29 minutes and 50 seconds they dominated the first half of play. Leading 17-7, QB Drew Stanton centered the ball for a field goal and then wanted to spike the ball with only a few ticks remaining. For some reason the field goal unit came rushing onto the field and chaos broke loose. The offense left the field leaving only 10 players for the kick and with not enough blockers, Ohio State blocked it and Aston Youboty took it 72 yards for a touchdown as time expired. This was a ten-point turnaround and Michigan State could not recover from the disaster. "This loss goes to the coaches," Coach John L. Smith said. "It should say Ohio State won the game but the loss goes to the coaches."
The Buckeyes scored three touchdowns in the second half and for the first time in a couple of weeks, there was a Ted Ginn Jr. sighting. Ginn took a slant pass and then went to the house for a 57-yard touchdown pass. The Buckeyes recovered a fumble late in the game to go up by double digits and secure the victory. However, as we all know, the game was decide right before the half on the botched special teams play.
Next up for the Spartans is a homecoming date with Northwestern. The Cats have notched back-to-back impressive wins and will be going bowling this year. State comes in as a 12-point favorite and I feel the home team is the only side to consider. Ohio State will travel to Indiana next week and enters that game as a 15 ½ point favorite. A key stat about this game is that State is just 1-4 on artificial turf the last three years.
Our College Game of the Year went into the books as a loss as a late turnover by QB Chad Henne cost us a chance of covering the 3 ½ point spread. Michigan dominated the game in the first half but could only muster a field goal and went into the locker room with a 3-0 lead. They game went back and forth in the second half as Michael Robinson started to make some plays through the air and engineered a outstanding 13 play drive that spanned 81 yards, leaving only 53 seconds on the clock. Penn State had a four-point lead but allowed Steve Breaston to take the kickoff to midfield giving the Wolverines a sliver of a hope. QB Henne nickel and dimed his way down the field and had the ball on the ten-yard line with just one second left. Henne dropped back and found Mario Manningham right between the goal posts for the game-winning touchdown.
For those of you who had Michigan -3, you experienced heartbreak because with no time left, the point after touchdown was not attempted. This was an outstanding football game that could have gone either way and I must admit I was a little disappointed for Coach Joe Paterno. Penn State had a realistic shot of running the table and to lose a game like this has got to be very devastating for the old coach. That being said, Penn State still controls their own future and if the can run the table they will be playing in the Sugar Bowl.
This was a balanced game, as just 55 total yards separated the two teams. Both teams converted critical fourth downs and only 11 combined penalties were called in the game. Even though I felt bad for Joe Pa, Lloyd Carr needed this game more as Michigan had not been below the .500 mark since 1967. Losing three games at home may have been too much for the Ann Arbor faithful to continue their support for their head coach. Next up for Michigan is a trip to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes. Iowa enters as a 3-point favorite and I have to wonder what Michigan will have left after such an emotional victory. Penn State will also be on the road as they are set to invade Champaign and first year head coach Ron Zook. State enters the game as a 16 ½ point favorite and you will be hearing from us with a strong side selection on Thursday.
As previously mentioned, Purdue should no longer be a member in the Big Ten and should ask permission to join the MAC. They now sit at 2-4 and have yet to record a win in the conference. Quite frankly, this team is bad. In the other Big Ten game, Iowa recorded a sloppy 17-point victory at home against Indiana. The Hawkeyes have now won 22 games in a row at Kinnick Stadium, but will receive a stern test next week when Michigan comes calling. The schedule looks very promising next week, so be sure to take advantage of one of our many packages that we are currently offering.
Final Thoughts from Around College Football
1) How fortunate was USC, that Coach Pete Carroll refused the instant replay device in the game last Saturday? When QB Matt Leinhart fumbled the ball and did not get into the endzone, why did the clock stop?
2) Florida State had another pathetic performance on offense last Saturday in Charlottesville. It still puzzles me how this team was able to beat Miami.
3) Congratulations goes out to Temple for an outstanding cover this week against Miami (FL). This team shutout the Hurricanes in the second half to keep the deficit at 31 points, which was well below the 41 point spread. Way to go Owls!
The free pick went into books as a win, and for the first time all year I was smart enough to play the game. The Wolf Pack scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to come away with a 10-point victory. This week we will stick with the WAC Conference, as we like Tulsa -15 over SMU. Free Pick record 12-4-2.