Doc's Big Ten News and Notes
by Max Gundlach
The non-conference season concluded last weekend for most Big Ten teams. The majority of these schools are happy to see this part of the schedule over and are ready to concentrate on teams that they are familiar with. The Big Ten is made up of big strong running teams, which like to line up and run the ball straight ahead. Big Ten football is "smashmouth" at its finest. As some teams found this past weekend, when they get out of their comfort level, strange things can and usually do happen. The following will discuss the highlights from the previous week in the Big Ten.
On paper, the game of the week appeared to the Iowa/Arizona State matchup. The contest did not kick off until 10:40 p.m. EST and the game was only televised to the hometown fans of each team. The Sun Devils came in as a one-point favorite. The line held firm through the entire week. We felt in was a perfect situation for our Top Play and the home team certainly did not disappoint us.
Arizona State dominated Iowa in every phase of the game and if it were not for a poor coaching decision late in the game, the Devils would have shutout the Hawkeyes. The final score was 44-7. We have said all along that Iowa is overrated and this result proves it. Sun Devil quarterback Andrew Walter set a school record for career touchdown passes and finished the game with 428 yards and five touchdowns. When he gets time, he has a deadly combination of strength and accuracy.
This was only one side of the story as the ASU defense held its share on that side of the ball. Iowa did not cross midfield at all and finished the game with a paltry 100 yards of total offense. Counter that with going 2-12 on third down made for a long night for the thousands of Hawkeye faithful that made the journey to Tempe. Iowa needs to put this game behind them and focus on Michigan next week. The Wolverines come in as a 13-point favorite and Iowa will be gunning for its third consecutive victory in this series. As for the Sun Devils, you will here from us again once Pac-10 play opens.
The other game in the desert took place in Tucson as the Badgers traveled westward. Wisconsin fans that flew in for the game expected beautiful desert weather and a chance to get out of the cold for a few days. Little did they know that it is monsoon season in the desert and that it rained nearly the whole game. The rain was the least of their problems as vicious storms swept through the area causing a delay midway through the second quarter that lasted 90 minutes. Once play resumed, Arizona scored on a long touchdown pass to Mike Jefferson and took a seven to nothing lead going into halftime.
That score held up until early in the fourth quarter when Booker Stanley ran in the end zone from seven yards out. The Badgers missed the extra point but did manage to make a chip shot field goal late in the game to give them a 9-7 lead.
The Wildcats drove down the field and had the ball on the Badgers' thirty yard line with one minute to play. Then the Wildcats got conservative and let the clock run down and Coach Mike Stoops decided to settle for a forty-seven yards field goal. The kick looked good in the air but then veered to the left of the crossbars. The Badgers downed the ball twice and that was the end of the game. Next up for the Badgers is a home game with Penn State. The oddsmakers have adjusted to Wisconsin's lack of offense and installed them as only a 3 ½ point favorite. I believe this is a solid line.
Michigan needed a game to regroup and San Diego State seemed like the perfect fit for a blowout. The Wolverines marched down the field and took an early 7-0 lead and appeared on the verge of pounding the Aztecs. But a key fumble by QB Chad Henne changed the tide and allowed the San Diego State to stay in the game and have numerous chances to win it. The game went pretty much as we expected it to go. Michigan's offense is not capable to covering many twenty-plus spreads and they were nowhere near that number in this game.
A game they did surprise us took place in Raleigh. The Wolfpack started the week as a slight underdog but by game time Saturday were two-point favorites. That means that nearly all the action was on State. That can be a dangerous wager against a well coached Ohio State team. In the previous News and Notes article, we mentioned that Mike Nugget was the main offensive weapon for the Buckeyes and he did not disappoint of this day kicking five field goals and three of them were over forty-five yards. He is a perfect fit for the style of offense Jim Tressel likes to play and despite managing only 136 yards of total offense, Ohio State won this game comfortably. NC State Quarterback Jay Davis threw three interceptions and of two of the three gave the Buckeyes a short field. We feel we had the right side in this game but turnovers put an end to an otherwise perfect day in college football. The Buckeyes have a bye this week and will open conference play with a road date in Evanston. The Wildcats should be able to stay with them if they do not beat themselves like NC State did last week.
It was a great week for us in college football and we finished the week 6-1. We have built some momentum going into our College Game of the Year, which will be played this Saturday. We feel that one team is overrated and the oddsmakers are still impressed with a season opening performance by this team. This team is beat up and we will take advantage of a favorable line.
Looking outside the Big Ten for next week, one game that jumps out at me early is SMU giving two at home versus San Jose State. The Mustangs are a traditional powerhouse at home and should win this game against a weak Spartan team.