by Max - 10/25/2005
The Big Ten held form this week as -- for the most part -- the top half of the conference dominated the bottom half. The surprise team continues to be the Northwestern Wildcats, as they pounded Michigan State by a score of 49-14. They must really be kicking themselves for blowing a late lead against Penn State. Had they held onto that lead they would be sitting atop the conference with everyone looking up at them. Northwestern winning the Big Ten! Is this 1994 all over again? I expect midnight to strike soon, as they will lose two out of their next three games. The following will analyze the previous week's action in Big Ten play and preview a very important week ahead.
For the first time since 2002, Iowa lost a game at Kinnick Stadium as Michigan left with a 3-point overtime victory. Iowa appeared to have a chance to win this game in regulation but got conservative with less than one minute to play. The Hawkeyes did not attempt to find the end zone and settled for a Kyle Schicher 32-yard field goal with no time remaining. This was a surprising move by Coach Kirk Ferentz, as I consider him to best coach in the league. Coach, feel free to take a shot into the end zone when you have first and ten on the 15 yard line. He chose not to do this and settled for overtime, whereas we all know anything can happen.
The Hawks had to settle for another field goal in the extra session and this gave the Wolverines the opening that they needed. Jason Avant caught a Chad Henne pass inside the 10-yard line and Michigan pounded the ball in from there. Jerome Jackson went in from 1-yard out to give Michigan the 3-point victory. We can all get off of Lloyd Carr's back now as he has put together three impressive wins with two of them coming on the road. This is not the guy you would like to be facing in overtime as he has now won his last four OT games. However, I believe the loss to Wisconsin will keep them from receiving the BCS automatic bid.
Next up for Michigan is a trip to Evanston to take on the Wildcats. The early line has the Wolverines as a 3-point favorite. Both teams are in the midst of a brutal schedule but there is a key factor in this game that we plan on exploiting. Iowa has a bye week and then will also travel to Evanston. Could this be our Big Ten Game of the Year? All we can do is wait next Sunday night for the opening line to come out.
Coach Joe Tiller made a bold decision starting redshirt freshman Curtis Painter in a hostile Camp Randall environment and did that move ever backfire. Painter single handily lost this game for Purdue as he threw three interceptions, two of which were returned for Badger touchdowns. One had to figure this move was coming as QB Brandon Kirsch criticized the coach during practice and it appeared that Coach Tiller had seen enough from his junior quarterback. The coach felt he needed to make a statement but unfortunately for the Boilers, this lesson wound up costing them the game.
Purdue dominated the stat sheet, as they outgained Wisconsin by 148 yards and rushed for an amazing 216 yards. However, the Badgers were +3 in the turnover department and two of those lead to a direct touchdowns scored by the defense.
The turning point in this game came when Purdue was driving in Badger territory and had a three-point lead with just less than five minutes to play in the third quarter. Painter threw the ball to the right side and did not see FS Roderick Roger. Rogers made a leaping interception and zigzagged his way downfield for an 84-yard pick-six. The Badgers would not look back after this play and would score two more touchdown to take a convincing 18-point lead. Purdue did score a garbage touchdown with just three seconds remaining but the damage by Curtis Painter had already been done.
Next up for Purdue is a trip to State College, PA. The big question this week is who will be under center for Coach Joe Tiller next week. I would like to provide some advice for the round coach by telling him to start Brand Kirsch. This is the only chance you have to compete in this hostile environment. The early line has Penn State as a 16-point favorite, but the dog is the only side that I would consider. Next up for the Badgers is a road trip to Champaign. Bucky comes in as a 19-point favorite, but I would have to consider the dog in this game as well. The Badgers are really banged up on defense and it is apparent this team can be run on. They have given up 637 yards rushing in their last two games and that must change or it will soon catch up to them in a big way.
Our top selection in the Big Ten went into the books as a loss as Michigan State followed the gameplan of Purdue and turned the ball over four times. When examining the stats in the game, the total yardage was pretty even as Michigan State gained 480 yards on offense but just could not punch the ball into the endzone.
The turning point in this game came early in the second half when Michigan State was driving trailing 14-7. On third and goal, QB Drew Stanton ran a draw play up the middle. This was well defended and when Stanton got hit the ball came loose and went right into the hands of Demetrius Eaton, who took it 86 yards to the house for a touchdown. State never recovered after this play and the Wildcats would score four more touchdowns to take a commanding 49-7 lead.
Stanton came into this game leading the nation in passing efficiency and should have torn apart the 116th ranked defense in the land. But turnovers took their toll on the veteran quarterback and he just laid an egg in this affair. He is still a top-notch quarterback and I expect him to bounce back in a big way next week at Spartan Stadium. It certainly appeared that this team had not gotten over their special teams collapse last week in Columbus.
As for the Wildcats, all I can say is congratulations. This team continues to get it done on the offensive side of the ball. QB Brett Basanez has all but locked up 1st team all-conference. After struggling last year, he has bounced back in a big way to lead his team to three shocking victories. The sad part is this team should be undefeated in the conference, as they let Penn State complete a fourth-and-15 from their own 15-yard line. A stop there would have meant victory and the Wildcats would be playing with house money next week. However, Penn State made some plays down the stretch to win that game and as it stands now, four teams have only one loss in the conference. I still cannot get the Arizona State game Northwestern played out of my head. Being an ASU alum, I enjoyed watching my Sun Devils pick apart a weak defense as they finished with 290 yards rushing and 483 yards passing. Despite these numbers, the Wildcats are atop the Big Ten Standing. Go Figure!
Next up for the Cats is a homecoming date with Michigan. Will their streak come to an end? I believe we have the answer. Michigan State has a get well game against Indiana, as they come in as an 18 ½ point favorite. If the Spartans plan on going bowling, this is a must win game.
In other Big Ten action, Penn State demolished Illinois, scoring 56 points in the opening half. The Illini have certainly asserted themselves at the bottom of the conference and their best chance for a win may come at Purdue. This is a Purdue team many experts believed would win the conference. The final Big Ten game saw the Buckeyes go into Bloomington and come away with an impressive 41-10 victory. The Bucks have now won 13 straight games against the Hoosiers and Ted Ginn Jr. closed out the scoring with an impressive 62-yard punt return touchdown. The Bucks will travel west next week to Minneapolis to take on the Gophers. The early line has OSU as a 5-point favorite. Have to take a good look at the dog in this one since they are coming off of a bye and that could give QB Bryan Cupito enough time to get healthy.
Final Thoughts from around College Football
1) I do not want to brag too much as there is still 1/3 on the season left to play, but I am well on my way to picking the Heisman winner for a second straight year. If you look on page 61 on our 2005 Doc's Sports Journal, you will see my futures predictions. All three are still alive, but the season is certainly not over yet.
2) How did Tennessee lose to Alabama this weekend? They dominated the second half and Coach Phillip Fulmer went conservative on third and goal from the 15-yard line by calling a screen pass. RB Arian Foster made some nice moves to get down to the 5-yard line before he decided to throw away his team's season. Good work Arian. This has certainly been a comeback year for Mike Shula as he did not win a meaningful game in his first two seasons as head coach. I keep saying that Bama's schedule is home heavy and they can run the table.
3) Speaking of my Sun Devils, what has happened to their season? This team had a chance to beat both LSU and USC, but finds themselves down 45-7 to Stanford. This is a Cardinal team that lost to UC-Davis. ASU will be lucky to go bowling now.
For the first time in our 34 years of business, Doc's Sports will be releasing our, "Big Ten Game of the Year" as a 10-unit selection. This is the world famous game that covered the number an amazing 19 years in a row! The game will go on Nov. 5 but all this week we will be offering an early bird rate for the game. Give our sports office a call at (800) 356-9182 or (866) 238-6696 for details. We need this game and will get it in a big way.
The Free Pick went down, as Tulsa just could not pull away from SMU. This week we go big game hunting, as Georgia will hang with Florida. The line is inflated because of the loss of QB D.J. Shockley. Take Georgia +5 over Florida. YTD Record 12-5-2.