Doc's Big Ten News and Notes
by Max Gundlach
The Big Ten weekend produced numerous upsets last weekend and a few games that went right down to the wire. We hit our top game of the week as Iowa State stayed well below the number against in-state rival Iowa. The Cyclones had won four of the last five meetings straight-up and we were confident that they would make a game of this despite being 24-point underdogs. The following will summarize the highlights of the previous week in the Big Ten and preview next week's games.
The game of the week took place in Columbus Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes were on the ropes throughout this game and were the beneficiaries of a questionable coaching decision by Marshall Head Coach Bob Pruett. With the score tied at 21 and one minute left in the game, Marshall had the ball on their own thirty-yard line. Instead of trying to march down and kick a game-winning field goal, the Herd went conservative and ran the ball three times up the middle. Playing for overtime against the Buckeyes has been a losing proposition under Coach Jim Tressel. But the game did not even get to overtime because Ohio State used their timeouts on defense and got the ball with 30 seconds left in the game. The Buckeyes marched down the field to the Herd 33-yard line and with no timeouts to a strategic penalty in order to stop the clock and bring out kicker Mike Nugent. We had previously mentioned Nugent as an offensive weapon for the Buckeyes and he did not disappoint. He nailed a 55-yard field goal and it had room to spare as the kick landed halfway up the net and it appeared that it would have been good from sixty yards. Back to the point about Marshall's conservative play calls. If you play not to lose, you almost always end up losing. Marshall had a chance for a colossal upset but were afraid to take a chance and it cost them the game.
An upset happened again in South Bend. Michigan was coming off a big win against Miami (OH) and Notre Dame looked terrible in their opener against BYU. But the luck of the Irish developed as Michigan could not muster a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter when the game was already decided. Michigan led 9-0 at halftime but I certainly had the feeling that their lack of touchdowns would catch up with them. It did early in the third quarter when QB Brady Quinn threw a 46-yard pass to Matt Shelton in the corner of the end zone. After that Michigan self-destructed on offense turning the ball over numerous times. My advice to the Wolverines, replace Chad Henne with the original starting Quarterback Matt Gutierrez. Gutierrez had a couple of years in the system and comes from the best high school in the nation, De La Salle, which hails in the Bay Area. Everyone fell in love with Henne after a good performance in his debut at home but he made numerous mistakes in this game leading to turnovers. He struggled in hitting his receivers in stride and because of that, numerous deflections occurred and some led to interceptions. Next up for Michigan is a home game with San Diego State. I expect them to recover nicely and win this game big.
The biggest upset in the conference went largely unnoticed as Indiana went into Eugene and upset the Ducks 30-24. The Hoosiers won this game despite only 198 yards of total offense. It helps when Oregon QB Kellen Clemens throws three interceptions and makes it a short field for the Hoosiers. But still being out gained by 300 yards and going 3-17 on third down means that the lord must have been smiling on Coach Gerry DiNardo. Next up for Indiana is a road game at Kentucky, the spread opened at one and you will hear from us again on this game.
Two contests took place between the PAC-10 and Big Ten in the Midwest and in both games the west coast ended up with surprising wins. My Alma Mater, Arizona State, looked impressive against Northwestern, burning them numerous times with the deep ball and winning the game 30-21. Northwestern just does not have the team speed to compete much on defense and I believe they will finish near the bottom of the conference. QB Brett Basanez looked impressive in the first game but found his old form in this one, completing just 50-percent of his passes and throwing for only 235 yards. Next up for Northwestern is a home date with Kansas. The early line has the Cats as a three-point favorite and I believe they will be able to compete much better in this game because of the Jayhawks lack of team speed.
The Big Ten returns the favor next week as two of their teams travel to the desert to meet up with the Zona teams. The highlight game has to be Iowa going into Tempe to play the Sun Devils. Iowa pounded Arizona State last year 21-2 but I wonder if they will be ready to compete in the high altitude and 100-degree temperatures. The Devils opened as a slight favorite and we will be in contact with our scouts on this one.
The other game takes place in Tucson, with the Badgers traveling to into the desert. Unlike the other game, which takes place at night, the game will kick off at 1:00 p.m. and will be played with the bright sun shining. The Badgers have looked unimpressive in their first two games and without RB Anthony Davis, I have to wonder if they can put up enough points to cover the 10-point spread. Arizona had a disappointing game last week against Utah and really has no offensive fire power whatsoever. I feel this is a pretty solid number and maybe a game to stay away from because of so many unanswered questions.
Looking ahead to next weeks schedule, one game out of conference that really jumps out at me is Cincinnati and Syracuse. This will be the home opener for the Orange and I believe they will win this game big. The early line has them listed as a 1-point favorite and that is because of their season opener in which they were crushed at Purdue. Syracuse Coach Paul Pasqualoni needs this win in order to silence rumors about his job status. Losing to Cincinnati at home would be a major blow to this once powerhouse program. Syracuse always plays well at home and will win this game big!