Doc's Big Ten News and Notes
The Big Ten got shaken up this past Saturday and certain teams established themselves as perennial powerhouses while other teams deficiencies crept up. Next week will be the best week of action in the Big Ten with most of the top rated teams squaring off against each other. The following will discuss the highlights of the previous week of action and preview the very important week ahead.
On paper the game of the day appeared that it would take place in South Bend. Purdue came in as a slight favorite and we saw it as a perfect situation to take the Irish for our revenge game of the year. We were pretty confident that Purdue would move the ball but once they reached the end zone the Notre Dame defense would stiffen. This is exactly what happened on the first possession of the game when the Boilers went ten plays and drove 63 yards, yet had to settle for a field goal. The Irish came right back and answered with a field goal of their own and it appeared that this was going to be a low scoring battle and this would play right into the Irish's hands.
However, the turning point came soon after the Irish chip shot field goal when Jerome Brooks returned the next kickoff one hundred yards for a Boilermaker touchdown. After that it was all Purdue and they took a 27-3 lead before the Irish would get on the board again. Notre Dame cannot play in a scoring fest and will need to keep the total down and the ball on the ground to win games. Purdue really showed me something in the game especially on the defensive side of the ball. They combined to force one fumble and chased quarterback Brady Quinn all over the field. Quinn did play well throwing for 432 with one touchdown and no picks but this just is not Notre Dame's style and unfortunately it cost us our top play.
Next up for Purdue is a road contest in Happy Valley. The Boilers come into this game as a double-digit favorite and I wonder if they will be able to put up a similar performance again. We will be in contact with our scouts on the morale of this Penn State team. Next up for the Irish is a home date with Stanford. ND comes in as a slight favorite and this may be a perfect situation to play them.
Speaking of Penn State, their misery continued in a night game at the Dome. Their defense played well yet again, however their offense was only able to muster up seven points. We had the under in this contest and it went exactly as expected. Minnesota had yet to play a physical team like State and it showed as their point production went way down despite running for nearly 300 yards. Gopher QB Bryan Cupito had his worst game of the season going just 8 for 18 with 113 yards. The Lions employed a successful bend-but-do-not-break defense and if their offense could have done something they would have put a big scare into Minnesota's season. Twenty-two yards rushing just will not get it done in the Big Ten and that was the hand that Joe Paterno was dealt. I truly have to wonder if this will be Paterno's last season at the helm.
Next up for Minnesota is a road game in Ann Arbor. The winner of this game could represent the conference in the Rose Bowl. The early tout has Michigan as a 4-point favorite. I feel this is a very solid line. That being said, I will be rooting heavily for the Wolverines!
Michigan received an early scare from the Hoosiers then pulled away late as expected. The final tally had it 35-14 Wolverines, covering the 18-point spread. We were all set to have the Hoosiers as a selection but quickly became turned off because of the numerous injuries on the offensive line. The line is an essential part of a team's success and especially for the Hoosiers, who returned much of their offensive unit from last season. Braylon Edwards had another outstanding game with two touchdowns and 165 yards. He will definitely challenge Orton for Offensive Player of the Year and when those two teams meet later this month, the winner should have a leg-up in the competition.
Next up for Indiana is a trip to Evanston. The Cats come in an 11-point favorite and I would take a serious look at playing the chalk in this game. The Hoosiers seem to be on a downward spiral and they should be big underdogs for the rest of their schedule.
The Game of the Week took place Saturday night in Evanston. The Buckeyes came in as a double-digit favorite and left with their dream of another National Championship gone. The Cats led throughout this game but could not put the Buckeyes away and this game wound up going into overtime. Ohio State rushed for only 97 yards and were out-gained by nearly 200 yards. Yet as the Buckeyes so often do they find a way to stay in the game and usually win it at the end behind kicker Mike Nugent. Their plan seemed to be in full effect until something I never though could happen occurred. Nugent missed a 40-yd field goal in overtime and this gave the Cats the opening they needed for the upset. Noah Herron capped off an impressive drive with a one-yard touchdown and the game was over. I mentioned in the Big Ten preview that I felt Ohio State's luck may run out and it finally did in a close game. This loss is not lights out for the Buckeyes as they are still able to control their own destiny for a trip to Pasadena.
This vision will definitely be in jeopardy next week as the Buckeyes welcome in the Badgers. This will be the featured game on ABC Saturday afternoon and the early line has the Bucks as a four-point favorite. The Badgers have won the last two meetings in Columbus and Coach Alvarez always has a trick up his sleeve. This is the kind of game that we love and we will have a winner on this one.
Free Pick - Take New Mexico State (Pick) over Louisiana Lafayette.