Blog Entry

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

Posted on: October 23, 2010 9:33 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2010 10:43 pm
 
Posted by Jerry Hinnen

1. You're going to have to knock Sparty out. The Michigan State Spartans, even sitting at 7-0 entering this week's trip to Northwestern , weren't exactly strangers to adversity. They trailed Notre Dame in the fourth quarter. They gave away all kinds of points in turnovers against Wisconsin . Their offense sputtered for a half against both Michigan and Illinois . Their head coach had missed time with multiple ailments including a freaking postgame heart attack.

But in football terms, none of that quite matched trailing the Wildcats 17-0 on the road midway through the second quarter this afternoon. The Spartans were lucky it wasn't worse, as Northwestern had fumbled a certain touchdown at the 1 and had both run the ball and stopped the MSU run with impunity. No matter: the Spartans turned to quarterback Kirk Cousins and their excellent receiving corps, and responded with an immediate touchdown. Just a few minutes into the second half, it was 17-14. A fake punt helped keep them within 24-21. And two touchdowns in the game's dying minutes gave them a 35-27 win . They just never stopped coming.

The lesson -- as the lesson has been all season with the Spartans -- is that you'd best put your boot on Sparty's throat when you get the chance. If you let them stay upright, their offense is too balanced and their confidence too high for them not to overtake you eventually. Just ask the Wildcats.

2. Iowa's fourth-quarter mojo is missing. A year ago, Ricky Stanzi was unstoppable in the final period , and the Hawkeyes rode his arm to a perfect 10-0 record in games he started and finished. Four of those wins came by a teeth-skinning total of eight points, with several others blown open by the Hawkeyes in the fourth after three evenly-played quarters. In short: no team in America was more clutch.

In its five wins so far this year, Iowa hasn't needed any of those heroics, winning by an average of 23 points. But twice in 2010 the Hawkeyes have found themselves in fourth-quarter struggles, and in neither case have they come up with the plays that made 2009 so special. Against Arizona , it was a collapse on the offensive line that led to a series of game-ending sacks. Against Wisconsin today , it was the Iowa special teams and defense that allowed the Badgers to drive 80 yards in 7:29 with the game on the line, eventually giving up the winning touchdown to Badger backup Montee Ball . The Badgers converted a pair of fourth downs on the drive, one on a fake punt deep in their own territory.

And this time, with barely more than a minute to work with, Stanzi wasn't able to pull off the miracle drive for the win. As they say: what a difference a year makes .

3. Move along: there's nothing to see in Minneapolis. Playing at home after the embarrassment of having its coach fired midseason, Minnesota allowed the previously moribund Penn State offense -- and "moribund" is being kind -- to rack up 145 rushing yards and 33 points in a comfortable 12-point win , all without injured starting quarterback Robert Bolden . We knew that the next Gopher head coach was by far the biggest question surrounding the program; after a performance like Saturday's, it's fair to call it the only question.

4. The Big Ten is one game away from total chaos. Or total boredom. Wisconsin looked utterly lost in East Lansing in Week 5, but after massive wins against Ohio State at home and now Iowa on the road, it's fair to say the Badgers have their usual ground-pounding attack operating at maximum efficiency. The Buckeyes made clear Saturday they're not going anywhere, obliterating Purdue 49-0 . And as painful as their come-from-ahead loss Saturday may have been, Iowa has just the one conference loss and is all the more dangerous for having been stung by its setbacks to date.

Meaning that if Michigan State falls in Iowa City this coming Saturday, no less than four of the Big Ten's powers could be tied at the top of the conference standings with a single loss, with only one game -- Iowa against Ohio State -- still to play between the four of them. The mind reels at the tiebreakers.

The flip side is that if Michigan State wins in Iowa City, to sit at least a game up on the rest of the field ... with head-to-head tiebreakers over the Hawkeyes and Badgers in hand ...  no game scheduled against Ohio State ... and only dates against Minnesota, Purdue and Penn State remaining ... you might as well go ahead and pencil the Spartans in for Pasadena, or something even greater.

So, Michigan State at Iowa: the game of the Big Ten's season? Yes, Michigan State at Iowa, the game of the Big Ten's season.
Comments

Since: Oct 28, 2010
Posted on: October 28, 2010 7:53 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

awesome dersh



Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: October 25, 2010 12:39 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

its gonna b msu, osu and wis with 1 loss each



Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: October 25, 2010 12:36 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

if msu loses to iowa, its going to come down to 3 teams with 1 loss for the title and fall to bcs standings.  wisky's gonna slide in and take the title



Since: Nov 17, 2007
Posted on: October 24, 2010 8:45 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

Strange. Sorry about that.


"It isn't over. It's just starting."

Go State!



Since: Nov 17, 2007
Posted on: October 24, 2010 8:33 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

"It isn't over. It's just starting."

Go State!"It isn't over. It's just starting."

Go State!



Since: Aug 24, 2006
Posted on: October 24, 2010 12:56 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

Why does it seem that nearly every year it's one of the teams that don't play OSU that are vying for the conference title and Rose Bowl berth?



Since: Jan 9, 2007
Posted on: October 24, 2010 9:36 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

GO WHITE!!!!!



Since: Feb 6, 2008
Posted on: October 24, 2010 12:19 am
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 23)

GO GREEN!!!!!


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