Posted on: October 3, 2011 6:22 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2011 6:30 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
The latest college football polls are out and now it's time to rip them to shreds. Senior college basketball writer Gary Parrish has been calling out voters in the major hoops polls for thinking a little bit too far outside of the box when it comes to their AP ballots every week.
With the football season starting, I thought I'd steal take the baton on the idea from my colleague and keep all of the writers across the country who vote honest. I've come to know a good number of these people through time and twitter but relationships do not matter, bad votes do.
AP Poll Coaches Poll
(Details of AP ballots courtesy of PollSpeak.com)
Poll reactions: ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC
Rodney Dangerfield "No respect" team of the week: West Virginia
Everybody saw West Virginia up close two weeks ago when LSU came rolling into town for a big primetime match up. They also saw quarterback Geno Smith set a school record with 429 yards passing on 34 completions against one of the best defenses in the country. Sure, turnovers doomed the Mountaineers against the Tigers but they were still able to move the ball and made it a game before Morris Claiborne's kick return. This is an explosive offense and a solid enough defense that should be the leading contender to win the Big East. Yet they sit behind fellow one-loss teams Arkansas, Nebraska and Auburn. Considering that neither of those three lost to the highest ranked team in the land, WVU fans are right to be upset that they're behind them.
Top 10 teams generally don't fall into 18 point halftime deficits. One could argue that top 10 teams come back from 18 down but I think that's counterintuitive because, of course, good teams should be up by that much, not have to come back from it. The offensive and defensive lines are a mess, partly due to injury. Tyler Wilson has shown the offense hasn't really lost a step at the quarterback position and Ronnie Wingo/Broderick Green are a nice one-two punch but none of that matters. We knew the offense was going to be good. Before the season Bobby Petrino said this was his best defense he's had since becoming head coach of the Razorbacks but the Texas A&M game proved they weren't that great after allowing five touchdowns in the first half. They're a good team but ranked too high to be in the top 10 right now.
A trio of voters from California (CSN Bay Area/CBSSports.com's Ray Ratto, San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner, LA Daily News' Scott Wolf) are an interesting voting block. Some would call them progressive, others would call them extreme and just about everybody else will call them crazy given their fluctuations in their ballots each week. All three are consistently in Pollspeak's group of "extreme voters" so we'll highlight the most baffling decision(s) out of each.
For the second week in a row, Wolf occupies this spot with his ballot. He's the only one to give Boise State a number one vote and has Oklahoma ranked lower than anyone as a result. Wisconsin is the lowest out of anybody too, they're 8th despite beating Nebraska 48-17. By the way, he had ranked the Cornhuskers 5th the week before so not sure how that works; beat a team you ranked in the top five by 31 and then put them behind Oklahoma State and Clemson? One loss Baylor is ahead of Texas and even 3-2 Notre Dame is in the top 25. All told he ranked five teams higher than anybody, had undefeated Illinois behind 10+ teams with a loss, included SMU in the poll but not Texas A&M and, oh yeah, had Florida State in the top 12.
What were you thinking? One vote teams
Dear coaches: I understand why you don't reveal your ballots for the poll from week-to-week. I know because one of you gave Ohio State a top 25 vote. You obviously have not watched the Buckeyes recently, since they're 108th in total offense, 91st in scoring and 104th in sacks allowed. They had 35 yards rushing against Michigan State last week. For the AP voters, there are plenty of one-vote rebels but at least we know their names. Here they are: Joe Giglio (Tennessee), Desmond Conner (Pitt), Ira Schoffel (Cincinnati). Three people also gave Penn State votes and four gave USC votes, proving they haven't seen the Nittany Lions on offense or the Trojans on defense.
Our tech team at CBSSports.com is pretty awesome and came up with this neat tool to take a look at team and region bias in the AP Poll. Check it out below, it's a fun thing to play around with.
Tags: ACC, AP poll, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Boise State, Broderick Green, Bryan Fischer, Cincinnati, Clemson, Coaches Poll, Desmond Conner, Florida State, Garry Parrish, Geno Smith, Illinois, Ira Schoffel, Joe Giglio, Jon Wilner, LSU, Michigan State, Morris Claiborne, Nebraska, Nebraska, Non-BCS, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Pac-12, Penn State, Pitt, Poll Attacks, poll reactions, Ray Ratto, Ronnie Wingo, Scott Wolf, SEC, SMU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, The Poll Attacks, Tyler Wilson, USC, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 3, 2011 6:20 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:48 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big Ten fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.
Wisconsin jumped back up in the ratings after that legalized manslaughter it put on Nebraska, although the Badgers are still going to need to hope a couple teams lose in front of them before they can start even thinking about a championship. This is about where Wisconsin should be, since they're on a top tier with LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Boise State, Stanford, and probably Oklahoma State. The level of quality drops down pretty substantially after those seven, and with the exception of Stanford, all seven have a marquee victory that helps differentiate them from the rest of the pack. It's a shame that none of this top tier is remaining on Wisconsin's schedule, but the Badgers will likely make do with the rest of the Big Ten slate this year.
Apparently, voters have just been waiting for a reason to hail, hail to Michigan, because this is a meteoric rise in the polls; Michigan was 10 spots lower in both polls two weeks ago, and those two weeks have seen victories against San Diego State and Minnesota. SDSU isn't bad, but that's a game that even a hypothetical 25th-ranked team ought to win at least 90% of the time -- and don't get me started on what a horror show the Gophers are this year. Two straight road contests against Northwestern and Michigan State loom for the Wolverines. If they win both, they'll deserve a ranking this high. If not, well, they won't be rated this high anymore so the problem'll just take care of itself in pretty short order.
Not nearly low enough. I had them at 16th and anticipated a 10-13 point loss at Wisconsin -- anything closer than that, and I was willing to move Nebraska up, anything worse and the Huskers go down. They're now 21st on my list. The defense is a mess in pass coverage, Taylor Martinez is probably regressing in terms of his football IQ, and there's really only so much Rex Burkhead (whom I have totally come around on this year) can do. At least Ohio State comes to Lincoln this week, though. There's nothing a struggling defense could use more than an opposing offense that can't throw, and boy howdy, OSU cannot throw. If Nebraska wants to act like it deserves its ranking for once, this week is a good time to do it.
It seems like a terrifying proposition to depend on Ron Zook-led teams to produce week after week, which is what being ranked this high entails -- especially this early in the season. But here we are, with Illinois at 5-0 and riding a three-game streak of three-point victories against legitimate competition. Even more terrifying: with Week 7 opponent Ohio State looking outright toothless, Illinois could easily be 8-0 headed into a road date at Penn State on October 29. Illinois. 8-0. It could happen. Strange times we live in.
NR/20. Michigan State
There's a good reason why Michigan State is 20th in the coaches poll and unranked in the AP version: the coaches poll is a joke. Seriously, they barely watch any games, especially considering how quickly their ballots need to be turned around for tabulation. Why are we including their polls in the BCS system again?
Also receiving votes:
Michigan State (154 AP votes), Penn State (9 AP votes, 54 coaches votes), Iowa (5 coaches votes), Ohio State (1 coaches vote)
I don't usually editorialize on the "also receiving votes" portion, but I'd love to know who gave Ohio State a vote so we could demand his immediate ouster from the voting. Sincerely, someone who has actually watched Ohio State play this year.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 3:44 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 4:30 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
To listen in a pop-out player, click here. Otherwise, hit play below.
Personally, I'd love to see Wisconsin and Oklahoma have it out on the field -- as would I with the Badgers and Boise State, Alabama, LSU, Stanford, you name it. The fact is that Nebraska has not been a very good team at any point this season, and Wisconsin is sufficiently good that it needs a legitimate Top 5 opponent to play before we can accurately figure out where the Badgers stand in the pecking order. They're likely to go undefeated, but then so is whoever wins between Alabama and LSU on November 5, and it wouldn't surprise me if at least two teams out of the trio of Boise State, Oklahoma, and Stanford did too.
Now would be as good a time as any to remind fans that college football has always aggressively opposed the type of playoff system that could help more accurately solve this dilemma, because that's not really what the powers that be have ever been interested in.
If you enjoyed this podcast -- and let's be honest, you did -- be sure to subscribe to the CBSSports.com College Football Podcast on iTunes.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 2:20 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2011 2:25 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Last Saturday, we lamented the fact that Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown wasn't ejected for a blatant knee to the, shall we say, sensitive region of Northwestern lineman Patrick Ward late in the first half of what would eventually be a thrilling 38-35 victory for the Illini. Brown was at least given a personal foul penalty for that, the most personal of all fouls, and Northwestern would take the lead on the very next snap.
Still, Illinois coach Ron Zook and the Big Ten agreed that merely a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct wasn't quite sufficient, and for that Brown will not be participating in this week's game against Indiana. Here's the announcement from the Big Ten that went out Monday morning:
If anything, one game is too light of a suspension; watch the foul again, and you can see that this was a deliberate, unprovoked attack by Brown that took place outside of any in-game competition. The play was over, and Brown had no reason to so much as interact with Ward, much less make any contact with him, much much less knee him straight in the sacred area.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:04 pm
Posted by Bryan Fischer
A buddy of mine was talking about how college football right now has a few elite teams and a bunch of others that could be grouped into a couple of classes. After a lengthy discussion, I decided to run with that after week five to see how everyone shapes up. Feel free to get angry at me in the comments.
(In no particular order)
Wisconsin: It's all Russell Wilson for the frontrunners in the Big Ten title race but this is a very good squad that has balance on offense and a very well coached defense.
Alabama: Best defense Nick Saban's ever had plus two great running backs and an efficient offense. The Tide will continue to roll this year.
Oklahoma: Another win, another week they lose some ground in the polls despite being the best team not playing in the SEC.
LSU: They have a Honey Badger so who cares how mediocre the offense has been?
Boise State: Kellen Moore and the offense get all the press but the defensive line is among the best in college football.
We're still not sure how good they are:
Stanford: They have the best quarterback in the country but haven't played anyone of note and lost their best linebacker to a knee injury.
Oregon: Still the class of the conference, they might be better on offense then they were last year.
Oklahoma State: Questions still remain about the defense but Brandon Weeden and company are legit.
Florida: They're a top 25 team but haven't played anyone besides Alabama and will trot out a true freshman in their first road trip against LSU. Yikes.
Notre Dame: The Irish have rolled up 500 yard games like they're no big deal but turnovers are the difference between 5-0 and 3-2.
Nebraska: The defense should be better than what they've shown so far but their struggles are reflective in the team as a whole.
Texas: Undefeated heading into the Red River Shootout, this young team will have their hands full this week but have come along nicely under their two young coordinators.
Clemson: An impressive victory on the road against Virginia Tech but there's no denying that everyone thinks Clemson will be Clemson at some point this year.
Virginia Tech: Many had pegged them as a national title dark horse but that is no more after losing to Clemson at home.
Kansas State: Bill Snyder is a miracle worker but the Wildcats haven't faced a big time opponent until this week.
South Carolina: They have a great running back, a great defense, a great wide receiver but the team itself is a giant question mark week-to-week.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have an explosive offense that's difficult to prepare for but the defense remains questionable at best.
Arkansas: The stunning comeback this week proved one thing: the defense is average but the offense can carry this team.
Illinois: Ron Zook is their head coach so there is that but both the offense and the defense have responded when needed to keep the Illini undefeated.
Michigan: The defense does look better but they haven't really been tested by a good team and have yet to play a game outside the Big House.
Good not great group:
Arizona State: Injuries have hurt on defense but they're the class of the Pac-12 South.
North Carolina: Perhaps a little surprising at 4-1 but they've played solid football and bonded as a team with all that has gone on around the program.
Southern Miss: They've lost to Marshall which hurts them in conference play but this is an ok football team that could breakthrough.
Hawaii: Their offense gives everyone fits but it's really hard to comprehend how they lost to UNLV.
Washington: Perhaps the surprise of the Pac-12 North division, the defense isn't super but Keith Price and the offense are very dangerous.
SMU: A big win over a ranked TCU is a huge sign of progress under June Jones.
West Virginia: The loss to LSU was a setback but this is a very good football team that can score some points.
Baylor: They have a quarterback who's among the best at his position this year in Robert Griffin III but the defense has issues.
Auburn: They're winners, that's for sure, but the defense struggles every game and the offense has been inconsistent.
Michigan State: They've got the defense but the offense hasn't clicked like it should under Kirk Cousins.
Cincinnati: There's plenty of questions about this team but they're solid and can beat any Big East team.
Tennessee: They can't run the ball at all but they sure can throw it.
Texas Tech: Undefeated but have struggled in the first half just about every game they've played.
Georgia: SEC East is wide open and the Bulldogs are fighting hard each game so don't be surprised if they make a run for it.
Florida State: Injuries have made them thin but Jimbo Fisher should regroup them and turn them into a good team by the end of the year.
Houston: Best offense to watch in college football is good because the defense will allow points galore.
Looking forward to 2012:
UCLA, Oregon State, New Mexico State, East Carolina, Rice, Louisiana Tech, Utah, North Texas, Tulsa, Ball State, Ole Miss, Purdue, New Mexico, UAB, Troy, FAU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, Duke, FIU, Iowa State, Colorado State, TCU, USC, Arizona, Washington State, Colorado, Bowling Green, Virginia, Idaho, N.C. State, Ohio State, Maryland, Miami, UConn, Western Michigan, Louisville, Marshall, Nevada, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan, Miami (Ohio), Ohio, Akron, Eastern Michigan, Buffalo, Wake Forest, Boston College, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Navy, Air Force, Army, Tulane, Kansas, Northwestern, Temple, Toledo, Minnesota, Rutgers, Syracuse, Penn State, Indiana, Mississippi State, BYU, Utah State, USF, Pitt, UTEP.
Stat of the week
Via the blog Hustle Belt, the last time Michigan, Michigan State, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Central Michigan all won on the same day: November 5, 1994. Add in the fact that the Detroit Lions won on Sunday and it's a pretty good weekend for football in the state of Michigan.
Stats of the week
- With four touchdowns against Nebraska, Wisconsin's Montee Ball now has 13 on the ground this season. That's halfway to the Big 10 record of 26 (by week 5) and his 14 total touchdowns leads the country. Ball has scored 14 points more than the next person on the scoring list.
- Oklahoma had the ball 15 times against Ball State and scored seven touchdowns. Wisconsin had the ball 10 times against Nebraska and scored seven touchdowns (via Brian Fremeau)
- USC has allowed 40 points in consecutive games for the first time in 119 seasons. Matt Barkley did set a school record for passing yards and total offense against Arizona however.
- Arkansas had nine plays of 20 or more yards against Texas A&M. At one point, receiver Jarius Wright had more yards of total offense than Penn State, Indiana, Minnesota and Kentucky as well as 80% of the Razorbacks' offense at halftime.
- Tyrann Mathieu has the LSU record for career forced fumbles with eight in 18 games (via Scott Rabalais).
- RussellMania is indeed here. Wilson's masterful performance against Nebraska really was something to behold as he made play after play. The knock on Wisconsin was that they haven't played anyone (they still haven't on the road). That question seems to have been answered with their resounding victory against Nebraska on Saturday however. Wilson was efficient once again, going 14-20 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. He had some beautiful throws, placing the ball perfectly into the hands of his receivers on a few big gains. Though Wilson doesn't look to run like other quarterbacks, he can and will if need be. That added dimension is what separates this Badgers team from previous iterations. On the other side, Nebraska's B1G moment - their first ever conference game - very much exposed them as a team with serious issues.
- Coming into their primetime game, both Florida and Alabama featured top 10 defenses and plenty of future NFL draft picks. Yet, you just got the feeling as Trent Richardson was running through players like a battering ram that the Gators were boys among men. There's plenty of talented four- and five-star recruits but they're still young and almost seemed overwhelmed by the big stage. The swarming Tide defense, meanwhile, was punishing Florida players left and right - including quarterback John Brantley. With a true freshman seeing his first significant game action, plenty of people on Twitter were calling for Charlie Weis to call plays that simply didn't get Jeff Driskel killed by an Alabama defender. Richardson ran for a career-high 181 yards and two touchdowns and was pretty much the offense. Good defense, good running game and a big, big road victory for Nick Saban's squad.
- Poor, poor Utah State. The team has been minutes from being 4-0 and likely ranked in the top 25 but instead they're 1-3 thanks to a last second loss to BYU on Friday. They lost to a backup quarterback who threw a pass that was deflected by an Aggie defensive back right into the hands of Marcus Matthews for the game-winning touchdown; which pretty much sums up what Utah State has gone through, coming close to a win before tipping it into the hands of the opponent. They nearly upset Auburn before a perfect onside kick and subsequent score and lost to Colorado State on a failed two-point conversion in OT last week. The Aggies might be the best, unluckiest team in college football.
- I'm still not sure how Arkansas pulled off that comeback other than to say Texas A&M allowed them to. Mike Sherman seemed to deflect some blame for the loss but one has to put this one (and last week's) solely on his shoulders. His first half play-calling has been great but it's like the Aggies go into the locker room and fail to make a single adjustment. They had great success rushing the ball but failed to go for it on a key 4th down in Arkansas territory and punted the ball instead. At that point, the momentum had fully shifted to the Razorbacks, who made play after play to rally from 18 down. A&M looked like they'd be fine in the SEC if you watched that first half but if you watched the second... they looked more like Ole Miss.
- Melvin Ingram had 11 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception but that just wasn't enough for South Carolina, who lost to Auburn thanks to an anemic offense that was actually playing one of the worst defenses in the SEC. I listened to part of the game on radio and I'm glad I did because it saved me having to see some terrible quarterback play on both sides. The Gamecocks' defense is good but the offense has been puzzling - not something one would expect with Marcus Lattimore and Alshon Jeffrey. But then again, they do have Stephen Garcia at quarterback.
- Michigan State's defense is well coached and the best in the Big Ten so far this year but that doesn't explain the offensive ineptitude of Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes had negative yardage for most of the game before getting a 4th quarter touchdown in the final 10 seconds to avoid the program's first shutout in nearly 18 years. As much as people mocked Tresselball, Buckeyes fans would welcome a return to those days in a heartbeat.
- Notre Dame's win over Purdue is best summed up by two words: Michael Floyd. After grabbing just four catches against Pitt, Floyd grabbed 12 for 137 yards and a touchdown against the Boilermakers. As one would expect given the competition, the Irish were rolling on offense and racked up 551 yards with Cierre Wood running for a career-high 191 yards on 20 carries. Most importantly, there were no turnovers after 15 in Notre Dame's first four games.
- It's rare for an SEC team to leave the South so props to Ole Miss for traveling to Fresno State to play. Randall Mackey had an ok day but made the big play when needed, including an 88 yard drive to seal the win. This is the Rebels' first win over and FBS team and, with more SEC West play ahead of them, could be their last for a while.
- Playing so late, it's doubtful that many in the Eastern or Central time zones stayed up to catch Stanford crush UCLA 45-19 so here's a quick recap: Andrew Luck is really, really good. He had a Heisman highlight moment with a spectacular one-handed catch and somehow managed to stay in bounds. Just as impressive as Luck (23-27, 227 yards, 3 TDs), the Cardinal played before a sellout crowd and looked solid on defense against the Bruins' Pistol offense that looked like it had some life. Still, the story in this game was Luck, who surprisingly called his own plays on a couple of drives Peyton Manning-style. "He called better plays than me," head coach David Shaw said after the game.
Quote of the week
"I apologize to the fans of Nebraska because that was a joke."
- Huskers head coach Bo Pelini on his team's embarrassing loss to Wisconsin and the state of the defense.
4. Boise State
7. Oklahoma State
10. Georgia Tech
Where we'll be this week
Senior writer Dennis Dodd will head to Dallas for one of the best events you can go to, the Red River Shootout (or, if being politically correct, Rivalry) between undefeated Texas and Oklahoma. While he's trying the fried beer, Tony Barnhart will be in Baton Rouge for a LSU night game against Florida. Brett McMurphy will pack his bags for Manhattan (Kansas) to see Missouri play undefeated Kansas State and see first hand how good a coaching job Bill Snyder has been doing.
Leaning this way
Oklahoma vs. Texas
I have to imagine that Dan Beebe, from his comfortable Dallas home, will have this game on his television set rooting for both teams to end this in a tie. Texas offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin has done some very good things with some young talent and without a doubt has some surprises up his sleeve for OU. That said, the Sooners are the top team in the country and will be scoring enough points to keep the fans singing 'Boomer Sooner' well into the afternoon.
Florida at LSU
This will be the coming out party for true freshman quarterback Jeff Driskel with the injury to Jeff Brantley. And by coming out, I mean just that he'll come out. Having seen his film and him throw in person, I think Driskel will be a good quarterback but he's just going to be overwhelmed by the scenery in Death Valley. LSU makes several plays on defense to blow this one open and let the Tigers push the Gators around.
Ohio State at Nebraska
After both teams lost, I didn't really consider this game in this spot until I remembered this was a B1G game not only in terms of conference standings, but the fact that the Tattoo Four will make their return to the Buckeyes. Nebraska was embarrassed on the road but I don't think they'll allow that at home as the Ohio State returns several much-needed starters. In the end though, there's just been such a lack of execution by the Buckeyes as a whole to pick anyone but Nebraska by more than a touchdown.
Tags: Alabama, Alshon Jeffrey, Andrew Luck, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, Ball State, Baylor, Bill Snyder, Bo Pelini, Boise State, Brandon Weeden, Bryan Fischer, Bryan Harsin, Central Michigan, Charlie Weis, Cincinnati, Clemson, Dan Beebe, David Shaw, Detroit Lions, Eastern Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Heisman Trophy, Houston, Illinois, Jarius Wright, Jeff Driskel, Jimbo Fisher, John Brantley, June Jones, Kansas State, Keith Price, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, LSU, Marcus Lattimore, Marcus Matthews, Marshall, Matt Barkley, Melvin Ingram, Michael Floyd, Michigan, Michigan State, Mike Sherman, Montee Ball, Nebraska, NFL, Nick Saban, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Peyton Manning, Randall Mackey, RGIII, Robert Griffin III, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, SMU, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Stanford, Stehpen Garcia, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, Texas Tech, Trent Richardson, Tyrann Mathieu, UNLV, USC, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 2, 2011 4:26 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:07 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Wisconsin should probably go undefeated this year. Seventh-ranked Wisconsin faced its first stiff test of the season, as No. 8 Nebraska came to town for a night game at Camp Randall in the Big Ten opener for both schools. Wisconsin treated Nebraska like just another speed bump, crushing the Huskers 48-17 in a game that saw the Badgers outscore Nebraska 41-3 in the last 33 minutes of play. It was equal parts savage, brilliant, and awe-inspiring -- the type of game that only great teams play.
Wisconsin's slate from here on out is heavy on intriguing road games, but if Nebraska can't even keep the game within 30 points, what hope would Ohio State or Illinois or anybody else left on the schedule have of winning a game against the Badgers? Russell Wilson can basically do whatever he wants on offense, and with a duo of tailbacks like Montee Ball and James White behind him, the Wisconsin attack is basically as complete as offenses can get.
So yes, Wisconsin should go undefeated this year. That would be quite welcome, especially if it ends in a game against whoever takes the SEC between LSU and Alabama. Would the SEC team win? Possibly. Plausibly. Probably. I'd sure like to see that determined on the field of play, and doubtless so would Wisconsin fans.
2. That team that just got wrecked by 31 points is still probably going to win its division. I don't know what's more infuriating -- that Nebraska has underperformed so badly in every game this season that they're probably just plain average as a whole, or that this average Nebraska team is still a favorite to win the Legends Division. Michigan's on a roll but has a nasty back half of the schedule, Michigan State has a brutal schedule and only managed 10 points against the Ohio State defense, Northwestern has major defensive issues to work out, Iowa struggles mightily against mobile quarterbacks while playing in a division full of them, and Minnesota... no.
Of course, the actual most likely result of this traffic jam of mediocrity is five teams tied at 4-4 and Minnesota eating paste at 0-8. This is the result I will be openly rooting for. because nothing would be funnier than Jim Delany taking a look at that situation, taking a look at Wisconsin, and then just canceling the First Ever Big Ten Championship Game and just handing the Rose Bowl to Wisconsin. And nobody would think that was the wrong thing to do.
3. Whatever you thought about the quarterback situation at Ohio State, I assure you, it's actually worse. Joe Bauserman was Ohio State's leading passer on Saturday, and if that doesn't sound troubling, please consider that Bauserman didn't enter the game until early in the fourth quarter, and he threw for all of 87 yards. Starter Braxton Miller, meanwhile, passed for 56 yards (not just on one drive, for the entire game), lost 27 on the ground, and led the OSU offense to all of six first downs in the first three quarters. The Buckeye faithful were booing early and often in this game, and while they generally weren't booing Miller himself, it certainly stands to reason that the mood at the 'Shoe would have been far more jovial if Terrelle Pryor had still been under center.
It didn't help that the Michigan State defensive front was teeing off on Miller, and generally overwhelming the Buckeye offensive line in the process, but it's just shocking that Ohio State could have such a dearth of production at the quarterback position like this. Miller's got talent, but is in no way game-ready, whereas Bauserman looks like someone who just doesn't belong on a two-deep of a BCS-level team. This is a personnel problem for Luke Fickell and Ohio State, and personnel problems like these don't generally solve themselves mid-season.
4. At this rate, Illinois might actually enjoy endgame pressure. Illinois is 5-0 for the first time in 60 years, and it's doing so at the expense of the cardiac health of Ron Zook and all the Illini fans. For the third straight week, Illinois won a game by three points, and for the third straight week, it needed to take the lead late in the fourth quarter and hang on for dear life. This week's victim was Northwestern, who capitalized on a Jason Ford fumble and drove for a go-ahead score with 75 seconds left ... only to see Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins drive the ball down the field with ease and punch the ball in for the game-winning score with 13 seconds left.
It's too early to start making assumptions about Illinois' postseason fate as yet, because if the Illini keep getting into these 50-50 late-game situations, the odds are pretty low that they'll keep winning them consistently. And with games like home dates with Ohio State and Michigan -- not to mention a road match at Penn State -- still on the schedule, Illinois probably isn't even near done with the close contests yet this season. But perhaps it does, and perhaps the games won't be close, and perhaps Ron Zook -- he of the hottest seat in the Big Ten six weeks ago -- has another 10-win season up his sleeve just yet. Perhaps. We're at least on the right road for that to happen, at least.
5. Pssst... Michigan might be legitimate. Maybe. As long as Minnesota keeps proving itself to be far more MAC-worthy than BCS conference-caliber, it's going to be useless to read much into a team's performance beating the Gophers -- even the final score is 58-0. And yes, Michigan started 5-0 last year too and that season still ended with Rich Rodriguez fired. That's all true. The problem, though, is that Michigan started 5-0 in 1997 and it just so happened to finish 12-0 and win a national championship, and most teams that start 5-0 don't end up giving up the most points in program history and firing their coach.
So while it's easy to just say "But 2010" whenever someone mentions the fact that Michigan is still undefeated, there's one difference that's crucial to point out: the defense is showing up too. Last season, Michigan gave up over 25 points per game in its first five games. This year? 10.2. Yes, it's relevant that 31 points came against Notre Dame in a game the Wolverines had zero business winning and 20 came against tomato cans like Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, but consider that Michigan also spanked Western Michigan 34-10, and that's a Broncos team that came up just shy in a 23-20 loss at Illinois and just took a 38-31 win at Connecticut. So yes, given the context we've got, Michigan is not just pulling a 2010.
I still don't think Michigan survives that brutal November that awaits, and it's possible that with Dan Persa and Kirk Cousins looming as opposing quarterbacks in the next two games, Michigan might take a 5-2 (1-2) record into its bye week. But 6-1 (2-1) is more likely now, and being undefeated through seven games is definitely on the table. That's good news in Ann Arbor, especially when everyone else in the Legends division is staring at major problems that need fixing. But that's a topic best left for November; for now, Michigan would do well to focus on the next game in front of it.
Tags: A.J. Jenkins, Adam Jacobi, Alabama, Big Ten, Braxton Miller, Eastern Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, James White, Jason Ford, Joe Bauserman, LSU, Luke Fickell, MAC, MIchigan, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Montee Ball, Nathan Scheelhaase, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Rich Rodriguez, Ron Zook, Russell Wilson, SEC, Terrelle Pryor, Week 5, Western Michigan, What I Learned
Posted on: October 2, 2011 4:22 am
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Posted on: October 1, 2011 4:56 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
WHY ILLINOIS WON: A.J. Jenkins was an unstoppable demon force on Saturday, catching 12 throws for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Plain and simple, Northwestern's secondary had no answer for Jenkins, and it might well be the case that some other defenses in the Big Ten won't be able to stop Jenkins either. Miscues almost cost the Illini the game on multiple occasions, though, and if it weren't for that heroic drive starting with 1:19 left in the game (a drive that was started by a 28-yard pass to Jenkins) Northwestern would have taken this game home.
WHEN ILLINOIS WON: This game wasn't settled until Illinois fell on a loose ball at the end of the game as Northwestern tried -- unsuccessfully -- to lateral its way into the end zone. Northwestern came close, as Kain Colter took one of the laterals into Illinois territory on a sprint, but Illinois' defenders prevented Northwestern from getting much further and that was that.
WHAT ILLINOIS WON: Illinois is now 5-0, having won each of its last three games by a three-point margin. This was a major test for the Illini, and they barely -- just barely -- pulled through for the victory. It's clear that A.J. Jenkins is a force to be reckoned with at wideout, and Illinois has now won games both primarily on the ground and through the air. That versatility bodes well for the future. For now, though, Illinois is 5-0 for the first time since its magical 1951 season, and the Illini can shore up bowl eligibility next week when they travel to Indiana.
WHAT NORTHWESTERN LOST: For the Wildcats, it was great to see Dan Persa back at quarterback and working his magic. Persa threw for four touchdowns on just 14 attempts, and more than that he just plain looked good. Unfortunately, Persa had to leave the game in the fourth quarter after he was tripped up on a scramble and came up hobbling. Kain Colter entered the game for Persa and drove the Wildcats to one touchdown, but he's clearly inferior to Persa. Good news for NU, though: Persa will likely be fine, and he was removed for what Pat Fitzgerald called "precautionary reasons." Still, though, this was a 50-50 game for Northwestern, and the loss means that Northwestern's darkhorse division title aspirations are likely at an end.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Nobody was ejected from today's game. That's too bad, because Illinois DB Jonathan Brown certainly deserved to be after he kneed Northwestern lineman Patrick Ward square in the, ahem, "man parts" after a play was over. As it was, Brown earned an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for the act, and Northwestern would score a go-ahead touchdown on the very next snap. There's illegal play, there's dirty play, and then there's hits (or knees) below the belt. 15 yards doesn't seem sufficient for that.