Posted on: October 27, 2010 1:13 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:10 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
On Saturday the Iowa Hawkeyes lost at home to the Wisconsin Badgers, meaning that if Iowa is going to win the Big Ten and get to the Rose Bowl this season, it's going to need help. What made the loss sting a bit more, however, were a couple of crucial mistakes the Hawkeyes made in the fourth quarter. The biggest one being deciding to call a timeout with 12 seconds left in the game rather than spiking the ball to stop the clock and give the Hawkeyes the chance to run another play before setting up for a possible game-winning field goal.
Instead Ricky Stanzi was hurried into throwing a shovel pass to Adam Robinson, who was tackled in bounds, and without that timeout available, the clock expired. Just in case you were inclined to blame either Stanzi or Robinson for the mishap, Kirk Ferentz wanted to make it clear on Tuesday that it was his fault, not his players.
"In retrospect, I wish we would've clocked it quite frankly," Ferentz said during his weekly press conference . "I wish I had done it over, could do over. I can't. So, live with it. Cost us one play."
Kind of cost you more than a play, coach. It also cost you a victory.
Of course, that wasn't the only play Ferentz wished he could have back. During the fourth quarter Wisconsin showed some onions when they ran a fake punt on fourth down at its own 26-yard line. Punter Brad Nortman took off for 17 yards and a first down, extending a drive that would lead to the game-winning touchdown. Ferentz also said that could he do it over again, he would have called for punt safe instead of dropping everybody back to block for the return.
I do get the feeling that should Iowa beat Michigan State this Saturday, those regrets will be forgotten.
Posted on: October 26, 2010 5:54 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Probably no team, aside from involved parties, was happier to see Iowa fall to Wisconsin last weekend than the Michigan State Spartans. With that game in the books, Michigan State is now the only undefeated team in Big Ten play, and even if MSU loses to Iowa this weekend, it doesn't need a whole lot of help to get to the Rose Bowl for the first time since the 1987 season. So here's how each team that's plausibly in the Rose Bowl race can make it there this season.
Michigan State can go to the Rose Bowl if...
Wisconsin can go to the Rose Bowl if...
Iowa can go to the Rose Bowl if...
Ohio State can go to the Rose Bowl if...
Purdue can go to the Rose Bowl if...
Posted on: October 25, 2010 6:57 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:11 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Davey O'Brien Award, given annually to the nation's top quarterback, announced its 16 semifinalists for the award today. The list is as follows, in alphabetical order:
All in all, this is a pretty thorough list of the quarterbacks who might end up being the top quarterback in the nation once December rolls around, but it certainly does seem as if there was one glaring omission: Northwestern sophomore Dan Persa . Persa currently leads the nation in completion percentage, is eighth in passing efficiency and is fifth in total offense . Oh, and Persa also leads his team in rushing yards (341) and rushing touchdowns (six) -- each by pretty substantial margins over the nearest teammate.
Of course, it certainly merits mention that Northwestern is currently on a two-game losing streak, and that the Wildcats hadn't really beaten anyone of merit before the streak either. But in the Wildcats' losses to Michigan State and Purdue -- neither of whom have lost a Big Ten game yet, for what it's worth -- Persa was hardly "at fault" for the losses; he averaged 281 yards of total offense in the two games and scored four touchdowns to just one turnover.
It's hard to say who should be bumped for Persa's sake, though; every one of the top 16 semifinalists has a legitimate claim to deserving some sort of accolade. It's also worth pointing out, however, that until Missouri and Oklahoma faced each other this past weekend, Dalton, Gabbert, and Jones were all quarterbacking undefeated teams, and that's probably the only reason they're on the list; Jones and Gabbert, in particular, aren't even close to the top 16 of passing efficiency in the nation (34th and 39th, respectively). None of the three are terribly gifted runners, either, while Persa's been forced to anchor the woeful Northwestern ground game.
Of course, the O'Brien Award probably wants to avoid the embarrassment of not being able to even nominate a title contender's quarterback as a finalist, and with two conference losses, it's extremely unlikely that Northwestern will represent the Big Ten in Pasadena, much less make a run at a spot in the Top 10. Persa and his Wildcats aren't high-profile, and that's enough to leave him off this list. Inclusion's academic either way, since this is clearly Cam Newton's to lose, but it'd be nice to see a quarterback like Persa rewarded for putting together one hell of a season so far even when he doesn't have the supporting cast to win 11 games in a season.
Tags: Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor, Big 12, Big Ten, Blaine Gabbert, Boise State, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick, Dan Persa, Darron, Davey O'Brien Semifinalists, Denard Robinson, Iowa, Kellen Moore, Kirk Cousins, Landry Jones, Matt Barkley, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Mountain West, Nebraska, Nevada, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pac-10, Purdue, Ricky Stanzi, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Mallett, SEC, Stanford, Taylor Martinez, TCU, Terrelle Pryor, USC, WAC
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.
Posted on: October 23, 2010 9:15 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:13 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
This was more than a football game; this was a 12-round heavyweight slugfight, one befitting a spot in the Rocky series. Wisconsin won this fight, 31-30, and the one-point margin only underscores how closely matched Iowa and the Badgers were. But in the end, this was about Wisconsin going that extra inch to get its win -- and the Heartland Trophy.
Just ask J.J. Watt , the Badgers' standout DE, and defensive hero for the second straight week. In the first quarter, Watt swung the momentum of the game by blocking an Iowa extra point and keeping the game at 6-3. After 52 more points scored in the rest of the game, that one single point would prove to be the margin of victory.
"I've always told my defense that to me, the truest test of what a defense is all about is how they play PAT, because any time you're on the field and it's a PAT situation, it means that you were just scored upon, and how are you going to react?" Bret Bielema said. "The reaction was unbelievable and ends up being the difference in the game."
That blocked PAT wouldn't have been of much significance if Montee Ball hadn't stretched across the goal line by three inches with about a minute left, and Ball probably wouldn't have been able to score that touchdown without a crucial fake punt call on fourth and 4 from Wisconsin's own 26. With everyone on Iowa's punt return team playing for the return, Badgers punter Brad Nortman streaked up the middle of the field for 17 yards. Afterwards, Nortman and Bielema confirmed that it was the coaches' call to fake it from the start.
"It was all the coaches, all the coaches," Nortman said. "When I got the snap, I saw the wide-open field, a couple blockers in front of me, and I just ran. Once I got down the field, I knew it was a great call."
Watt also came through in the fourth quarter. With Iowa holding a first down near midfield with 35 seconds left, Watt finally broke through for the Badgers' first sack of the game, dropping quarterback Ricky Stanzi for a loss of 11 yards, running nine seconds off, and forcing the Hawkeyes to burn a timeout. And sure enough, Iowa's drive ended on the Badgers' 35-yard line, running out of time just outside of field-goal range because the Hawkeyes had burned their last timeout.
After the game, Watt wore his battle scars proudly, the bridge of his nose still freshly bleeding, as he reflected happily on what he considers the high point of Wisconsin's season so far.
"I really think it tops last week," Watt told reporters. "We had so many guys banged up, we're here in a tough environment against a tough team; to come here and do what we did is so unbelievable and a testament to our team."
Watt admitted that with a bye week coming up next, he's going to savor this Badger win that puts them in a dominant second-place position behind the still-unbeaten Michigan State Spartans.
"I'm going to take this one in, and I'm going to take [last week's win against] Ohio State in, because we didn't really have much time to take Ohio State in," Watt said. "I'm going to take a day or two here, watch the game films, and just let it sink in, but then after that we're going to come right back and start focusing on the last four games of the season."
Of course, with such a close final margin, the losing team usually has plenty to rue afterwards, and for the Hawkeyes, today will be no exception. Aside from the blocked extra point and fake punt given up, Iowa placeholder Ryan Donahue fumbled the snap on a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter, costing his team a shot at three points.
Further, and perhaps worse, the Iowa endgame clock management will be under close scrutiny from fans and coaches alike. With the Hawkeyes facing a fourth and 1 at Wisconsin's 42-yard line, Stanzi ran a keeper for the first down, then let three seconds run off the clock while signaling a spike before calling Iowa's last timeout with 13 seconds remaining -- a call that, minus the few wasted seconds, Ferentz later said was their plan all along. Alas, the next play was a pass to tailback Adam Robinson in the flat, and when Robinson was tackled inbounds without Iowa being able to stop the clock, well, that was that.
Perhaps it would have been preferable for Iowa and its fans if the Hawkeyes had lost by 10, and if they'd never been so close to attempting a game-winning field goal. But such is the emotional cruelty of college football. If it's any consolation to the Hawkeyes -- and probably scant, at that -- it's that Iowa isn't the first team to lose by the skin of its teeth to the Badgers. Recall that back in September, Wisconsin dispatched Arizona State 20-19 by blocking a tying PAT, and also stopped a potential kick return for a touchdown at the Wisconsin 1-yard line to end the first half in that game.
Again, yes, it's scant consolation for Iowa, but anything would be after such a devastating loss -- one where the Hawkeyes seemed just inches away from victory.
Posted on: October 23, 2010 12:24 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:13 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Here's the weather outlook for all of today's important matchups. You like storms? We got storms. There's a front moving through the nation's heartland, and there's copious amounts of rain all the way from Chicago to Texas. Will this affect Missouri-Oklahoma? All times are Eastern.
Purdue at No. 11 Ohio State, 12:00, Columbus, OH: Upper 50s, clear
Syracuse at No. 20 West Virginia, 12:00, Morgantown, WV: Mid 60s, mostly cloudy
No. 8 Michigan State at Northwestern, 12:00, Evanston, IL: Upper 50s, rain
Ole Miss at No. 21 Arkansas, 12:21, Fayetteville, AR: Upper 60s, cloudy (storms later)
No. 10 Wisconsin at No. 12 Iowa, 3:30, Iowa City, IA: Upper 60s, chance of rain
No. 6 LSU at No. 5 Auburn, 3:30, Auburn, AL: Upper 70s, clear
No. 14 Nebraska at No. 17 Oklahoma State, 3:30, Stillwater, OK: Mid 70s, chance of storms
No. 7 Alabama at Tennessee, 7:00, Knoxville, TN: Mid 60s, partly cloudy
No. 3 Oklahoma at No. 18 Missouri, 8:00, Columbia, MO: Mid 60s, scattered storms
Air Force at No. 4 TCU, 8:00, Fort Worth, TX: Upper 60s, scattered storms
Late night kickoffs
Washington at No. 15 Arizona, 10:15, Tucson, AZ: Upper 60s, partly cloudy
Posted on: October 22, 2010 5:49 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Saturday Meal Plan is a helpful guide put together for you to maximize the results of your college football diet. Just enough to leave you feeling full, but not so much you spend your entire Sunday in the bathroom.
BreakfastMain Course - Northwestern vs. #8 Michigan State - Noon - ESPN
Michigan State leads the way for breakfast for the second straight week, which is what happens when you're the only undefeated team left in the Big Ten. Be forewarned, though, just because this matchup doesn't seem all that appealing, it...ok, it isn't really. It's just that the morning slate is light again because that's just the way things work in this television dominated world.
Still, the Spartans shouldn't take Northwestern all that lightly. First of all, no road game is easy, even if it's being played in a stadium with 35 people in it. Yes, Northwestern inexplicably dropped a game to Purdue last week, but that's Northwestern's style. It has a tendency to play to its opponents. So there's a chance that the Wildcats could hand MSU it's first "Sparty, no!" of the season.
Side Orders: Ohio State hosts Purdue, and this game may be interesting for a few reasons. First of all, it's our first chance to see how the Buckeyes will respond following a loss, and they'll also be looking for revenge for last season's loss in West Lafayette. Speaking of revenge, I'm sure Notre Dame wouldn't mind beating Navy and starting a new trend there as well. Or you can just watch Texas, West Virginia and Virginia Tech romp over some conference foes.
LunchMain Course - #5 Auburn vs. #6 LSU - 3:30pm - CBS
Two undefeated Tigers roll into Jordan-Hare on Saturday, and only one will emerge. Who is it going to be? Well, there are going to be two different games being played in this one. There's the game between each team's strength -- Auburn's offense and LSU's defense -- and their weakness -- Auburn's defense and LSU's offense.
Odds are that whichever team's weakness best resembles a strength is going to emerge victorious, and have a much easier path to the SEC title and possibly a BCS game. If you're wondering which way I'm leaning, well, I'll just say that one team has Cam Newton at quarterback and the other has some indecipherable combination of Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.
Also, I'll be doing a live-chat during this game over at our Facebook page, so stop on by and make fun of Les Miles for four hours with me, won't you?
Side Orders: The afternoon is packed with some big games this week. If for some reason two undefeated teams battling it out isn't good enough for you, you can always go with Iowa and Wisconsin or the also undefeated Oklahoma State taking on previously undefeated Nebraska.
Main Course - #18 Missouri vs. #3 Oklahoma - 8pm - ABC
Personally, I've been waiting to dig in to this one for a while. I've seen Missouri play a few times this season, and as I've said here before, I'm just not sure what to make of them. The Tigers are a good team, but are they really 11th in the BCS good? Is that what a couple of victories over some 3-3 BCS teams and nobody else gets you these days?
Whatever the case, we'll find out on Saturday night. If the Tigers can knock off the team that sits atop the current BCS standings, then I guess we have to take them seriously.
Though, I feel I should point this out as well, just so Missouri fans can hate me a little less, I think Oklahoma is a bit overrated as well. Still, I think the Sooners will prove to be better on Saturday night.
Side Orders: Bit of an light night on the menu this week. There really aren't any other marquee matchups being played on Saturday night. Kentucky and Georgia could be interesting seeing as how both teams are still alive in the SEC East, but other than that the only game that even catches my eye is TCU and Air Force. Though, if you hate yourself, you could always tune in to Texas A&M and Kansas.
Late Night SnackThe Washington Huskies have found a home as a late-night snack here. I've featured them here twice in the last few weeks, and they're undefeated in those games. Can they run the streak to three on the road against an Arizona team that is without Nick Foles?
Tags: Air Force, Arizona, Auburn, Cam Newton, Georgia, Iowa, Jarrett Lee, Jordan Jefferson, Kansas, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Missouri, Navy, Nebraska, Nick Foles, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Purdue, Saturday Meal Plan, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 22, 2010 4:15 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Every season, every month, every week, there are several outcomes and achievements that, frankly, nobody operating within reason would ever predict. Who could have predicted Nebraska would beat Florida for the 1995 title by 38 points, or that Boise State would pull off three late trick plays to knock off Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl, or that South Carolina would fail to score a point in the second half against Kentucky a week after knocking off the Tide? Nobody... until now. We're going to try capture that lightning in a bottle by making similarly absurd predictions every week . Are they at all likely to come true? No. Do we even believe the words we're writing? No. But if we make even one correct call on these, we will never stop gloating. Ever.
Highly UnlikelyThe Tennessee Volunteers shock the world when they pull off an upset of the Alabama Crimson Tide in Knoxville on Saturday night. In his first start, Tyler Bray has far from an outstanding day, throwing for only 78 yards and a touchdown, but the Alabama offense can't stop tripping over its own feet. Greg McElroy fumbles three times, and throws four interceptions. To make matters worse, McElroy, Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Julio Jones all have to leave the game with devastating knee injuries. After the game a shocked Nick Saban points out that "they just don't make ligaments like they used to."
Severly UnlikelyIt's halftime in Miami, and the North Carolina Tar Heels look to be en route to a huge win against the Hurricanes. They have a 24-0 lead thanks to four first half interceptions by Jacory Harris, and spirits in the locker room are high. Then a phone rings. Butch Davis answers it to be told that the NCAA has just suspended everybody on his team, and that he'll have to forfeit the game. Instead Davis recruits the North Carolina band to fill in for his team, and amazingly, they hold on to win the game 27-23. Three weeks later the loss is vacated when it's discovered that the tuba player accepted money from the New York Philharmonic.
Completely LudicrousFollowing Iowa 's narrow 27-24 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday, the two teams meet on the field to shake hands. Bret Bielema goes out of his way to find Ricky Stanzi and congratulate him on his three-touchdown game. Upon finding Stanzi, the quarterback tells Bielema, "Thanks. That's how real Americans play the game." This infuriates Bielema, who views his brand of pounding large young men into the trenches until they drop dead to be the real American football. The two begin fighting, and have to be separated. Though after the dustup, still feeling patriotic, Stanzi pulls the American flag out from under his jersey -- next to his heart, of course -- and puts it on a sharpened flag pole he keeps in his sock. He then hurls the flag forty yards through the air like a javelin where it goes through Bielema's chest and plants into the ground. Stanzi is carried off the field to chants of "USA! USA! USA!"