by Max - 11/01/2005
The road teams in the Big Ten conference came to play, as they took three of the five games. All three teams (Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan) were favored but I doubt many felt that all would emerge victorious. It now appears to be a three-team race for the title and after next week, it will likely be down to two teams. Penn State is certainly in the drivers seat to win the BCS Bowl bid and a win next week against Wisconsin will inch them ever closer to a remarkable season. This would be the opening Joe Pa needs to retire on a high note and I would certainly encourage him to go out this way. The following will recap the highlights from last week's action and preview a very important week ahead.
All the cards seemed to be in place for the Gophers to take down the Buckeyes. Sota was coming off of a bye week and this them gave ample time for QB Bryan Cupito to get healthy. The problem was that the Minnesota defense failed to show up at all and despite nearly 600 yards of offense, Ohio State emerged with a 45-31 victory. The game was not even as close as this score would indicate, as the Bucks were up 21 points with less than one minute to play. State struck early as Troy Smith hit Santonio Holmes on a 41-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead. The Bucks amassed a 10-0 cushion before the Gophers got the ground game working and Laurence Maroney finished off a six-play drive with a one-yard touchdown run.
Minnesota appeared to have the momentum after this drive but that was short lived as Ted Ginn Jr. took the next kickoff 100 yards to the house to put OSU back up by ten. The Gophers fought hard to even up the score at halftime but the second half certainly belonged to the Bucks, as they scored four touchdowns, three of them coming via big plays. This was the most impressive victory by a Big Ten team this week and OSU asserted themselves atop the conference.
RB Antonio Pittman finished with 186 yards on 23 carries. Pittman is probably the fourth most talented skill player on this team and for him to put of these types of numbers; the Gopher defense should be embarrassed. Minnesota is a stat sheet team and one really has to watch the games to see how the can be blown out despite out gaining their opponents by 129 yards and one turning the ball over just one time. To make matters worse, Sota held the Buckeyes to just a 30 percent conversion rate on third down.
Minnesota needs to realize that if they do not beat themselves; they are one of the best teams in the Big Ten. They can move the ball on any team in the conference and already have the most impressive road win this season when they went into Ann Arbor and came away with a three-point victory. Next up for Minny is a road trip to Bloomington to take on the Hoosiers. The early line has them as a 13-point favorite and I would only consider the road team. Ohio State will have a tune-up game next week when the welcome in Illinois. State comes in as a five touchdown favorite and should have no problem holding the Illini under ten points.
Penn State got all they could handle from Purdue for the first 54 minutes of this late afternoon game in State College. QB Curtis Painter got the start again before being replaced by senior Brandon Kirsch. The Boilers put a scare into Penn State late in the first quarter when Painter went 24 yards into the end zone to give them a 7-3 lead. State would dominate the second quarter scoring 13 points capped by a one-yard touchdown run by QB Michael Robinson.
Purdue struck again in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to eight points and seemingly had the game covered in relation to the spread. However, a late turnover by Kirsch gave the Lions the ball inside the red zone. Brandon Snow took it into the endzone from four-yards out with only 1:37 left in the game. This was a disastrous turn of events and for the eighth time this season, Purdue failed to cover a game against the spread. This team cannot seem to catch a break and Coach Joe Tiller has seen this season go down the drain.
Next up for Purdue is a home date with Michigan State. The early tout has State as a 5.5-point favorite. This is a Jeckyl and Hyde Spartan team and no one can be sure which team will show up. Purdue has the talent to win this game at Ross-Ade Stadium and they will come out ready to play after spending the last two weeks on the road.
Penn State will have the featured game in the conference next week when the welcome in the Badgers. The winner of this game will have the inside track to the BCS game since both teams have the tiebreaker over Ohio State. Penn State enters this game as a 10 ½ point favorite and I believe that this game matches up well for Wisconsin. The Badgers are strong on offense and weak on defense and Penn State is strong on defense and struggles at times on offense. We will also be taking a good look at the total of the game when it is established later in the week.
The featured game in the conference took place Saturday night in Evanston, as the Michigan Wolverines established themselves as an elite team in the conference. Michigan followed the blueprint of beating Northwestern by getting the ahead of them by two scores and then running the ball right down their throat.
The turning point in this game came early in the first quarter with the Wildcats threatening to tie up the score at seven apiece. QB Brett Basanez fumbled the ball and Leon Hall picked it up and scampered 83 yards for a touchdown. Michigan would never trail in this game and rushed the ball for 253 yards on the ground. This is the third impressive road victory this year for the Wolverines and they will now be in Ann Arbor for the remainder of the regular season.
Northwestern saw their three-game winning streak come to an end and the difference in the game had to be third down conversions. The Cats were just 2 for 13 and that combined with just 22 minutes of offense made for a long day for their defense. Basanez out played Chad Henne, but did not have his usual running game to go along with his arm. Northwestern managed just 89 yards rushing and could not take advantage of three Henne interceptions.
Next up for Northwestern is a home date with Iowa. The early line has the Hawks as a 2.5- point favorite and it will be interesting to see how Cats will responded. Michigan a bye next week, then has another bye when Indiana comes a calling.
The other two games were blowouts as both Michigan State and Wisconsin took down the 'I's.' Unfortunately a late touchdown by Badger RB Brain Calhoun costs us a win with our top selection of the week. However, the block he received on that 46-yard touchdown run was definitely highlight material.
Final Thoughts from Around College Football
1) Does it ever occur to Tommy Bowden how to properly manage a football game? When Clemson is driving for a go ahead field goal late in the game, he burns two timeouts when the clock was stopped then on fourth and seven calls a four yard pass play. He will be fired after the season ends.
2) Want an incentive to schedule soft opponents in non-conference play? If Wisconsin and Ohio State would tie for first place in the conference, the Badgers would receive the tiebreaker because they had a better non-conference record despite not playing anybody. The Bucks loss to Texas would be the difference.
3) How does UCLA continue to win games despite playing only one half? I expect them to stumble twice down the stretch and hopefully my Sun Devils will be their catch them when their luck runs out.
The free pick went back into the winner's column as Georgia (early line -5) hung with Florida. This week we will head to the MAC as the battle of Michigan takes place. Take Eastern Michigan +4.5 over Central Michigan. YTD Record 13-5-2.
That's it for this week!