What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 10)
Posted on: September 11, 2011 4:21 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Michigan and Denard Robinson, the night is yours. What could there possibly be to say about the Michigan-Notre Dame contest that would properly suit such a game, such a finish? Then again, as those fake old Adidas uniforms (shown above) proved, "proper suiting" had no place in this game, so let's talk about it at length. Michigan slept through the first three quarters, trailing the Fighting Irish 24-7 at the third intermission in a game that didn't even seem that close, and Denard Robinson looked completely ill-suited to succeed in the Brady Hoke/Al Borges offense.
At that point, naturally, all hell broke loose. Michigan scored on the first play of the fourth quarter when Notre Dame stuffed a Wolverine halfback dive at the goal line and forced a fumble ... only the ball bounced right to Robinson, who ran the recovery in for an easy score before anybody else knew what was happening. Robinson would then engineer three more touchdown drives almost singlehandedly, the last taking all of three plays and 28 seconds before Roy Roundtree came down with the game-winning touchdown pass from Robinson with two ticks left on the clock.
The thing of it was, though, Robinson's passing wasn't even good. His accuracy was way off all day, and two of Robinson's three interceptions were absolutely unconscionable throws (including a screen pass that sailed at least five feet over his nearby receiver's head). Even after Robinson came to life late in the third quarter, his big plays were mostly underthrows and jump balls that so markedly didn't fit the arc and timing of the routes that Notre Dame's secondary struggled to adjust to where the throws ended up being, even while they were ostensibly providing good coverage.
And yet still, football is not about style points, it is about actual points, and those comical throws ended up netting Michigan enough actual points to seal the victory and set off a party at the Big House that didn't stop until the police were forced to tell the student section to go home. May all college football games end so delightfully for the home partisans, right?
2. It was pretty rough everywhere else. Michigan beat Notre Dame. That was a marquee win for the conference, without a doubt. But elsewhere, Big Ten members lost to Alabama (fine), Virginia (um), Iowa State (no), Rice (NO), and New Mexico State (NOOOOOOO). The wins, by and large, weren't really impressive either. Ohio State barely scraped by Toledo, and Nebraska caught four tough quarters from Fresno State. And those are two ranked division crown contenders! In the Big Ten! Elsewhere, Illinois and Northwestern throttled their FCS opponents, while Michigan State and Wisconsin took care of business against two wretched FBS opponents in FAU and Oregon State, respectively. That's, um, not a good week.
Of course, BCS Championships aren't won in Week 2, only lost, and aside from maybe Iowa (though that ISU win didn't look like an upset at all), the teams that lost today by and large weren't serious contenders for division titles to begin with. We've got a lot of football left in the year, and teams turning their seasons around after a rocky opening are hardly rare in college ball. That all said, if it's not time to panic yet for the five Big Ten teams with blemished records, it's certainly time for significant concern.
3. Jerry Kill gets seizures sometimes. The TCF Bank crowd was shocked into silence and play was stopped in the waning seconds of the Minnesota-New Mexico State game on Saturday when Gophers head coach Jerry Kill collapsed and went into a seizure on the sideline. Kill would end up on the ground for about 15 minutes before being carted off and hospitalized. Shortly thereafter, Minnesota medical staff would assure reporters that Kill's life was never in danger, that he has had this seizure disorder for years, and that he will be fine, but still -- that was a terrifying sight.
The interesting aspect of the episode's aftermath is the series of revelations about Kill's disorder, namely that not only will Kill be fine, but he's had similar incidents before and never ended up missing a game of work. That seems unusual to people unfamiliar with seizures -- which would be most people, if we're being honest -- since generally, when someone collapses suddenly, doctors aren't clearing them to work the next week. And yet that's precisely the case with Kill, who has not been given a timetable for a return but will likely do so for Minnesota's next game. Let's hope his seizures don't make a habit of returning, of course, but let's also be thankful that they're generally not life-threatening or even career-altering.
4. Penn State's quarterback situation may be worse than we all imagined. Let's get one thing out of the way right off the bat: Alabama's defense is fantastic this year. Not only is it easily the best Penn State will face this year, it might be one of the ten best defenses Joe Paterno has ever faced. They're going to make a LOT of quarterbacks look bad this year.
That all said, Robert Bolden and Matt McGloin didn't just look bad on Saturday, they looked like they didn't belong on a D-I football field. Bolden finished 11-29 for 144 yards and one interception, and McGloin was an incomprehensible 1-10 for 0 yards. Really. Their wide receivers didn't do them a whole lot of favors, it should be pointed out, and Alabama's coverage was suffocating, but Bolden and McGloin routinely made bad throws regardless of the coverage. It can't have helped that the two QBs were rotated in and out with casual-at-best regard for their on-field performances, and it's likely that JoePa tires somewhat of the platoon situation in the near future, but it was also obvious that neither quarterback is playing at anywhere near a high level, and that's a dire situation without an obvious or effective fix. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this could easily submarine Penn State's season, and Joe Paterno really doesn't have many more seasons to sacrifice to the Bad QB What Are You Gonna Do gods.
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Al Borges, Alabama, Alabama, Big Ten, Brady Hoke, Denard Robinson, FAU, Florida Atlantic, Fresno State, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State, Jerry Kill, Jerry Kill Seizure, Joe Paterno, Matt McGloin, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico State, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon State, Rice, Robert Bolden, Roy Roundtree, Toledo, Virginia, Week 2, What I Learned, Wisconsin