Doc's Big Ten News and Notes
The Big Ten season opened with a bang this weekend as every team was in action. Most teams scheduled cupcakes for their opener but a few teams bravely ventured out of conference and played some tough road games in some hostile environments. The following will highlight the previous week and look ahead to the upcoming games.
Ohio State's dominance of Cincinnati was one turn of events that we were not expecting. The Bearcats could not put together any drives whatsoever and the Buckeyes offense gradually wore down the defense. The game started out as we expected -- a low scoring defensive struggle. The score was tied at three until late in the second half when Ohio State threw a long touchdown pass down the middle to take a 10-3 lead. This was a game changing play that the Bearcats never recovered from. It was all Buckeyes after this and the final score tallied 27-6. Ohio State Quarterback Justin Zwick played poorly as I expected throwing two interceptions, but the Bearcats were not able to take advantage of those turnovers.
Next up for the Buckeyes is a home game vs. Marshall. This game may be one the Buckeyes look past since they travel to Raleigh the next week. BoDog.com has Ohio State listed as a 16 ½-point favorite as of this writing. We may have to keep a close eye on this number as the week progresses.
The two most impressive teams this week were Minnesota and Purdue. Both came into their respective games as 12-point favorites and both destroyed their opposition. Minnesota got our season total play (OVER 7 1/2 games) off on the right foot as the Gophers pounded Toledo 63-21. What impressed me the most about the Minnesota offense was not its much-hyped running game, but new Quarterback Bryan Cupito. He looked impressive throwing for nearly 300 yards on just ten completions.
Purdue looked just as impressive in a big home win against traditional power Syracuse. Kyle Orton validated his preseason hype and threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns. He is well on his way to becoming the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. Next up for both teams are two mid-majors at home. Both teams will likely move to 2-0 but I wonder if they can be as effective as they were last week. It may be worth playing one of these big underdogs this week. Purdue will host Ball State and they have been pegged as 30-point favorites at most books. Since Minnesota is playing lowly Illinois State, the line will likely be posted later in the week and one thing is for certain - the number will be huge.
Wisconsin looked well in their home opener against Central Florida. One player that still needs improvement is Quarterback John Stocco. He completed less than fifty percent of his passes and will need to play better in order to allow the vaunted Wisconsin running game to take effect. One thing to look at closely this week will be the status of RB Anthony Davis, who suffered an eye injury against CFU. Next up for Wisconsin is UNLV, who are coming off a pounding against Tennessee. Las Vegas beat Wisconsin last season and I expect them to be ready to play in this game as well. If Davis is forced to miss the game, that could be a huge blow to the Badgers. It seems as if the bookies are not sure about this number. Some have it at 15 and some are as high as 16 ½. We will have to see about Davis' status before we load up on either side.
The game of the week on Saturday had to be Michigan State at Rutgers. Rutgers dominated the game yet they trailed at the half, 7-6. This was solely because of their red zone offense, which produced zero touchdowns and three missed field goals. The Scarlet Knights did not punt at all in the first half and had the Spartan defense gasping for air the whole time. Yet Michigan State had to be delighted to be ahead at the half despite mounting only one successful drive.
The second half started out just like the first half with Rutgers driving the length of the field, yet they were only able to get another field goal. The teams traded punts until the Rutgers defense made the play of the game. Rutgers only touchdown came via the defense as Ryan Neil intercepted a Damon Dowdell pass and took it 31 yards for a score. This gave Rutgers a two score lead and Michigan State could not muster enough offense to overtake the Knights.
Late in the forth quarter, down by five, Michigan State did take the ball deep into Rutgers territory but turned the ball over on downs, as Dowdell's pass on fourth down fell incomplete. This was a landmark win for Rutgers and we were all over the game. The spread started out with Michigan State being favored by a touchdown but due to heavy action on Rutgers, the line closed at 3 ½. Therefore, we will once again stress to all of you the importance of betting early and shopping around for the best line. This was a huge win for Rutgers and I give them an outside chance to make a bowl game for the first time in nearly thirty years. The Knights went an amazing 10-1-1 against the spread last season and started this season off on the right foot.
As I look ahead to next week the key game has to be Michigan at Notre Dame. The Irish are staring down the barrel of an 0-2 start. Michigan looked impressive in the home opener against Miami (OH). The Wolverines will be coming in as two touchdown favorites and on paper should destroy the Irish as they did last year. But in this game, the unexpected usually happens and Notre Dame has pulled off this upset numerous times in the past when it appeared they had no chance. This game will come down to Michigan QB Chad Henne. He looked impressive in the first game but I wonder if a freshman can continue to make plays. If he plays well then we would expect Michigan to exceed the expected number. If not this game could go right down to the wire and with the luck of the Irish, Michigan could once again see its dream of a National Championship ruined before the conference even opens up.
We will be going with another top game this week and will get the books for our loss last week. We ended up plus three units for the week and as the saying goes, "Show a profit and never be broke."