Posted on: September 7, 2011 10:01 am
Posted by Eye On College Football
Greetings football fans! With one week of college football in the bag and NFL kicking off their season on Thursday, we thought we would bring you a full dose of pigskin to consume during your lunch break on Wednesday. First check in HERE from Noon to 1 p.m. to ask your college football questions to the Eye on College Football Bloggers. Then take it over to the Eye on Football at 1 p.m. for all your NFL questions, they'll be chatting until 2 p.m..
(NOTE: all times eastern)
Posted on: September 6, 2011 10:30 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
It wasn't a terribly eventful week in the Big Ten. The most notable opponent anybody in the conference played in Week 1 was Boston College, who was felled by Northwestern in a 24-17 thriller. Other than that, Indiana lost to Ball State in a game that had precisely zero effect on the polls, and everybody else not named Purdue more or less rolled to victory.
[MORE: View full AP rankings here, and Coaches rankings here.]
Accordingly, there wasn't much movement in the polls this week, since wins over cupcakes don't often stand out as reasons for voters to bump teams up a notch or two, and well, there were a lot of cupcakes in Big Ten play in Week 1. Onward!
For as much as I grouse about the "win go up lose go down" mentality of voters, I have to hand it to the AP for pushing Wisconsin not just past Oregon, but above fellow winners Nebraska and Oklahoma State after Week 1; both teams led the Badgers in the preseason poll. Unfortunately, no such push happened in the Coaches Poll, where Wisconsin only passed up Oregon. Objectively, this ranking is a sham, because Wisconsin would definitely beat Texas A&M (one spot above Wisconsin in both polls) on a neutral field, and they would give Boise State and Stanford mountains of hell. This is a bad ranking. Let's fix it already.
The Huskers didn't look quite on Wisconsin's level, or much better than any number of high-major programs that smacked their cupcake opponents around, but polling entropy being what it is they stay more or less put. That's fine, I guess, but it's terribly boring. We have small sample sizes! Let's abuse them!
15/15. Ohio State
Ohio State looked like a team that belonged a lot higher in the polls in its opening week performance against Akron, and the voters responded; OSU went up three spots in the AP and one in the Coaches. The upcoming battle with Miami doesn't exactly have the teeth it used to, but the likely OSU romp in that game ought to improve the Buckeyes' standing in voters' minds anyway. The real fun begins in October, though, when Luke Fickell's boys host the next team in the rankings in the conference opener.
17/16. Michigan State
That next team in the rankings is Michigan State, who didn't put together a very sharp performance in Week 1 as it beat Youngstown State 28-6. The Spartans' road to glory is already fraught with peril (though the road date with Notre Dame doesn't look quite as daunting as it did a week ago), so a quick start to this weekend's matchup with woeful Florida Atlantic should help convince voters that the MSU offense does actually match the hype.
23/20. Penn State
The Nittany Lions made a big splash with their easy dismantling of Indiana State in season-opening action. Splashes don't have much effect on the ocean, though, and wouldn't you know it -- the Tide's coming in to Happy Valley this week. Suffice it to say, PSU's either going way up or way down in the rankings after facing Alabama.
Others receiving votes:
Northwestern (40 AP votes, 30 Coaches votes), Iowa (29 AP votes, 44 Coaches votes), Michigan (17 AP votes, 15 Coaches votes).
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Akron, Alabama, AP Poll, Ball State, Big Ten, Boise State, Boston College, Coaches Poll, Florida Atlantic, Indiana, Iowa, Luke Fickell, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Poll Reactions, Stanford, Texas A&M, Week 1 Poll, Week 2 Poll, Wisconsin, Youngstown State
Posted on: September 6, 2011 5:25 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Yesterday, my colleague Bryan Fischer posted the last time each of the SEC teams had made a trip to Big Ten country for a road game. The results, while not surprising, were still pretty brutal: six had never faced a Big Ten team as an active member of the SEC, and of the three programs that had made the trip in the last 30 years, two are perennial doormats Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and the last is LSU -- a 36-33 loser to Ohio State in 1988. Not a good look for the mighty SEC powerhouses, but such is their strategy, and it's hard to argue with results: avoiding the Big Ten hasn't stopped the SEC from winning championship after championship, so who's the real sucker here?
Still, some fans wanted to know the other side of the story, namely, whether the Big Ten was also filled with scaredy-cats who are afraid to face the SEC on its own turf. Clearly, this hypothesis is false, as the Big Ten plays multiple bowl games a year against the SEC in the SEC footprint, and has done so for decades. On the other hand, the SEC does not go to any bowl games within the Big Ten footprint, though I've lived in the Midwest for 30 winters now, and I do not blame the SEC for staying down there come December and January. It sucks up here.
However, there is still the question of regular season scheduling and whether the Big Ten does any of that, since we're talking about true road games in the regular season. So here's the breakdown, and while it's more ambitious than the SEC's m.o., that's not saying a whole lot.
at Florida, September 23, 1967, lost 14-0
at Kentucky, September 18, 2004, lost 32-51
Never played at an SEC school.
Never played at an SEC school (did play at Kentucky, Vanderbilt and South Carolina prior to each's SEC affiliation).
at Kentucky, November 2, 1946, lost 14-39 (Michigan State did not join the Big Ten until 1953)
Never played at an SEC school.
at Auburn, October 2, 1982, won 41-7 (Nebraska did not join the Big Ten until this year, obviously)
at Vanderbilt, September 4, 2010, won 23-21
at LSU, September 26, 1987, tied 13-13
at Alabama, September 11, 2010, lost 3-24
at Vanderbilt, October 3, 1942, lost 26-0
at LSU, September 30, 1972, lost 27-7
Obviously Iowa and Minnesota have some 'splainin' to do, but by and large we see a somewhat greater -- or at least more recent -- willingness from the Big Ten to travel down south for a non-conference game. The average year of the SEC's last games at Big Ten schools is 1963 (not including Tennessee), while the Big Ten's is 1980 (again, not including nonparticipants Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota). That's still an average layoff of 31 years, which is way too long -- or at least it would be without the several bowl games between the two conferences -- but the SEC is the clear conference of wimps and shrinking violets when it comes to scheduling.
But again, that all said, it doesn't matter. the SEC doesn't need road games with the Big Ten to win championships; if anything, the elite of the conference have figured out that it's not worth their time to risk early losses in the non-conference schedule. Voters don't really care about strength of schedule next to good old wins and losses -- if they did, LSU wouldn't still be ranked behind Alabama (victors over Kent State) and Oklahoma (who really took it to Tulsa, which, yeah) even after pantsing Oregon as badly as it did. See? Huge win, barely made a difference. Win go up, lose go down. That's all polling boils down to, the SEC knows it, and the SEC gets its wins however it can. They know the system. You can't blame them for that.
Of course, it's nothing to be really proud of either, you wimps, but as long as the SEC keeps winning championships, the means are secondary to the ends.
Posted on: September 3, 2011 11:37 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Ohio State isn't back, because they never went anywhere to begin with. Let's get one thing out of the way: Ohio State was only playing Akron. Beating Akron proves nothing. The Buckeyes probably aren't going to be the last team to beat Akron by 42 points this season. And yet, that sure looked like Jim Tressel's Ohio State, didn't it?
It makes sense that OSU still looks mostly the same, to an extent; Luke Fickell is a Jim Tressel disciple, and the rest of the Tressel staff is still in place. Further, the vast majority of OSU's superior talent is back. Terrelle Pryor is gone, obviously, and there are a handful of starters who are suspended for the early going. But OSU's real strength didn't lie in its starters' talent, it was having second- and third-stringers who could start for pretty much any other team, and those guys are all still around. So Fickell's got some institutional advantages in place.
But keeping those players focused in the middle of what's arguably OSU's largest scandal is much easier said than done, and Fickell deserves a ton of credit for maintaining control of the program when it looked like all hell would break loose. Nobody's talking about Terrelle Pryor in Columbus today, they're talking about the Buckeyes. That's the way it ought to be.
2. It's like thunder! And lightning! On its face, it seems silly to discuss non-catastrophic weather in a column called "what I learned"; everyone's got that sort of thing figured out by, oh, third grade. But I did learn that even in the legendary, leaderish Big Ten, they will flat-out cancel the rest of a football game on account of lightning if it persists long enough.
That's precisely what happened Saturday, when Michigan and Western Michigan officials decided to call off a 34-10 contest with over a full quarter remaining in the game. The weather report looked grim at that point, and it was unlikely that the game could be finished before at least 10:00. Still, even though it's admirable that there are rules with the protection of fans and players in mind like this, it also seems decidedly un-football to do so. Oh, if it weren't for that pesky liability. Alas.
3. The Leaders Division is Wisconsin's to lose right now. Sure, Wisconsin's defense struggled at times with the UNLV rushing attack, but not disastrously so, and the second unit of the Badger offense was pretty pedestrian. That's all true. What Wisconsin showed on offense on Thursday rendered that all moot. Russell Wilson made the best reads of anybody in the Big Ten in Week 1, and he's only been in Madison for a few months. He also showed the best rushing acumen of any Big Ten quarterback not named Taylor Martinez or Denard Robinson. And oh yes, the Wisconsin rushing attack is as mansome as ever. The Badgers don't have a bruiser anymore, and mountain man Gabe Carimi is off starting in the NFL, but the mashing will continue apace for another year as long as James White and Montee Ball are healthy.
If Wisconsin had a decent second quarterback (or if presumptive backup Jon Budmayr's arm were healthy), or if this game were in November, it might have hung 70 or 80 on UNLV. The offense scored touchdowns on seven of its first eight possessions, and the only reason it didn't get eight was because it got the ball in its own territory with only 47 seconds left (that ended up being a field goal). It was 51-3 early in the second half. Yes, it's only UNLV, but the Badgers are probably going to score at least 31 points in every game in the Big Ten. Do you really see any team that's going to outscore them?
4. Being a running back at Iowa is still a catastrophic idea. Iowa tailback Marcus Coker was expected to be the workhorse of the Iowa offense in 2011, so it was jarring to say the least to see him put two fumbles on the turf early in the first quarter of Iowa's opener against Tennessee Tech. In came true freshman Mika'il McCall, who wowed fans with 61 yards on nine carries in the first quarter. For a backfield that's short on experience, that kind of firepower would be crucial over the course of the Big Ten season.
So naturally, McCall suffered a broken ankle on his ninth carry, and he is gone for the year, according to Kirk Ferentz. McCall is just the latest in a series of Iowa runing backs who have been stricken with serious injuries, missed seasons, or other early exits over the last few years, a list that includes former starters Jewel Hampton (ACLs, transfer), Adam Robinson (concussions, dismissal), Brandon Wegher (personal issues, transfer), Paki O'Meara (concussions), and even in a sense Shonn Greene (academics, early NFL entry). Former starting fullback Brad Rogers is also sidelined with a heart issue, although he's still working to rejoin the Hawkeyes at some point. It's a legacy of disaster that some have semi-jokingly blamed on the "Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God." The evidence seems to be overwhelmingly in the favor of such a god existing. At any rate, here's hoping McCall recovers well from his broken ankle and the Big Ten sees him again in 2012.
Tags: Adam Jacobi, Adam Robinson, AIRBHG, Akron, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, Big Ten, Brad Rogers, Brandon Wegher, Denard Robinson, Gabe Carimi, Iowa, James White, Jewel Hampton, Jim Tressel, Jon Budmayr, Luke Fickell, MAC, Marcus Coker, Michigan, Mika'il McCall, Montee Ball, Mountain West, Non-BCS, Ohio State, Paki O'Meara, Russell Wilson, Shonn Greene, Taylor Martinez, Tennessee Tech, Tennessee Tech, Terrelle Pryor, UNLV, Week 1, Western Michigan, What I Learned, Wisconsin
Posted on: September 3, 2011 7:34 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
The rest of the Michigan-Western Michigan game has been canceled. With 1:27 left in the third quarter, game officials called their second lightning-related suspension of the day, and it now appears that there will not be a reasonable opportunity to resume and finish the game today. With that, both teams agreed to call the game where it was, and Michigan has prevailed, 34-10.
The cancellation comes nearly two hours after the original suspension of play, which occurred at halftime of the contest with Michigan holding a 20-7 lead. That delay lasted for the NCAA-mandated minimum of 30 minutes, but there was a respite of less than half an hour after play was resumed before lightning moved back into the area, prompting the cancellation.
Lightning also caused a major delay at Iowa Saturday afternoon, and similar delays continue at Notre Dame and Tennessee this evening.
Information from Michigan RapidReporter Jeff Arnold contributed to this story.
Posted on: September 3, 2011 7:14 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
NEBRASKA WON. That's quite the start for Nebraska. The No. 11 Cornhuskers dispatched Chattanooga by a score of 40-7 on Saturday. The man of the match was undoubtedly Taylor Martinez, who racked up 135 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. Martinez also threw for 116 yards on 11-22 passing -- rather pedestrian numbers, especially considering the competition -- but his throws were generally accurate, even if some of the reads weren't ideal.
WHY NEBRASKA WON: Nebraska is a borderline Top 10 FBS team and a darkhorse national championship contender; Chattanooga's barely in the Top 25 of FCS. This was a mismatch from the start, and even a slew of Husker fumbles wouldn't be enough to keep this game even remotely close.
WHEN NEBRASKA WON: This game was never really in doubt, but it was still just 13-0 Cornhuskers late in the second half with Nebraska facing a 4th and 2 on the Chattanooga 46. Nebraska elected to go for it. Before the snap, Taylor Martinez obviously saw something he liked, and he called an audible before running an easy option around the left corner for the score. Martinez's escort down the corner was his pitch man, also unaccounted for. 20-0, ballgame.
WHAT NEBRASKA WON: Nebraska's off on the right foot for its inaugural Big Ten season, to be sure, but it would have been nice to see Brion Carnes (1-1, 19 yards) get more than a half-quarter of garbage time in at quarterback for the Huskers. Taylor Martinez may not suffer the same complications this year that plagued him down the stretch in 2010, but given his role in Nebraska's offense it's definitely a possibility, so it would behoove Bo Pelini to have as much experience as possible waiting behind Martinez in case bad luck strikes in a key game.
WHAT CHATTANOOGA LOST: Other than a game, not too much. The Mocs stayed healthy, and although there was some chippiness near halftime, they generally kept their composure and sportsmanship intact throughout the course of the game. This was a paycheck game, pure and simple, and there probably won't be much time spent on game film for 'Nooga before it moves on to its home opener against Jacksonville State next week.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Nebraska's Jared Crick got the ball into teammate Cameron Meredith's hands twice. Crick is a defensive tackle. Meredith is a defensive end. On one play in the third quarter, Crick deflected a screen pass high into the air, and Meredith came down with the interception at the Moccasin 3-yard line. Rex Burkhead would score on the next play. Later, in the first play of the fourth quarter, Crick blocked a Nick Pollard field goal attempt so easily that the ball hit somewhere around his armpit. The ball bounced away, right into the hands of Meredith, who returned it 13 yards (though a penalty nullified Meredith's return).
Posted on: September 3, 2011 5:42 pm
Edited on: September 3, 2011 6:35 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
In early Saturday action, lightning strikes forced a prolonged delay in Iowa's game against Tennessee Tech. That game ended up being delayed for about an hour and a half as the inclement weather passed through before Iowa finished its 34-7 victory.
The state of Iowa's not the only place with stormy weather in the Midwest today, and separate storms are forcing delays at two other storied stadiums. At approximately 5:20 ET, lightning forced a delay in South Bend as Notre Dame and South Florida were at halftime. South Florida led that game 16-0 at the break. A few minutes later, in Ann Arbor, officials suspended the Western Michigan-Michigan game as well, with Michigan ahead 20-7 at the half.
Action resumed at Michigan after the mandated 30 minutes, but that game would be suspended again after less than half an hour, when stronger storms moved into the area, and lightning began striking again. Officially, the Michigan game was re-suspended at 6:19, and it might not resume until well after 7:00.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame continues to be suspended, and that delay may be the longest of the day. At 6:10 local time, Notre Dame RapidReporter Mike Hutton reported that a stronger storm was due to hit the area in 15-30 minutes, and that a determination about the future of the game would be made during the storm. In other words, calling the game for the rest of the day is on the table, though obviously game officials want to avoid that fate at all reasonable costs. The Notre Dame delay should be considered indefinite.
Down in Knoxville, there's bad weather there too; Tennessee was set to face Montana at 7:07 eastern (6:07 local), but as of 6:24, there were storms with high winds and lightning in the area, and Neyland is currently under evacuation. There's no determination yet as to when that game will start, but "on time" is not an option here.
NCAA rules mandate that such suspensions last for half an hour after the last observed lightning strike in the area, so the time of a delay can rack up pretty quickly if the storms aren't moving fast or if multiple cells hit the area within a half-hour of each other.
All in all, that's four weather delays in four different states -- two of which (Iowa, Tennessee) don't even touch any of the other three states. Also, none of the delays are related to Tropical Storm Lee, which is making landfall in Louisiana today. Quite a day of weather.
Posted on: September 3, 2011 3:48 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
OHIO STATE WON. 18th-ranked Ohio State throttled hapless Akron, 42-0, in both teams' season opener. Fans at "The 'Shoe" were treated to 517 total yards of offense by the Buckeyes, including a four-touchdown effort from senior quarterback Joe Bauserman. Akron, meanwhile, managed only five first downs on the entire game; OSU racked up 27.
WHEN OHIO STATE WON: As soon as the national anthem finished. Ohio State is just vastly more talented than Akron from players 1-85, even with the myriad suspensions, and this game proved the impossibility of Akron pulling an upset.
WHY OHIO STATE WON: The real story for Ohio State is the solid play of Joe Bauserman, who led the team for all but one series until the game was out of hand at 28-0 midway through the third quarter. Bauserman's final stats were gaudy: 12-16, 163 yards, 3 TDs, no INTs, plus six rushes for 32 yards and another score. Yes, it's Akron we're talking about here, and yes, Braxton Miller was effective after coming in for good (8-12, 130, 1 TD), but Bauserman looked like Ohio State's best option at this point in the season. Expect him to continue starting for at least another few weeks, barring injury.
WHAT OHIO STATE WON: The Buckeyes didn't look like they'd lost a step from Jim Tressel's regime, which is welcome news for anybody with lingering reservations about newcomer head coach Luke Fickell. That all stands to reason, as Fickell basically inherited Tressel's coaching staff and all the institutional knowledge therein, but still: head coaching changes matter, and it wasn't necessarily a given that OSU would roll so easily. Between Bauserman looking like a winner and Fickell looking like a major league head coach, it's fair to say that reports of Ohio State's demise were greatly exaggerated.
WHAT AKRON LOST: Akron doesn't have a whole lot going for it, so a 42-0 loss to a powerhouse like Ohio State isn't going to have much of an effect on the rest of the season. Back in 2007, the Zips gave an eventual 11-win OSU team fits in an ugly 20-2 Buckeye win, and then Akron went on to go just 4-8, so again: just one game here.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Joe Bauserman brings a lot to the table, but few would argue that one of his greatest strengths is pure athleticism -- especially with speedsters like Braxton Miller and Kenny Guiton also in OSU's QB corps. Yet there was Bauserman on a busted play, tucking the ball and running through the Akron defense for a 15-yard score in the second quarter. Bauserman didn't have to dive into the end zone, but he did it anyway, and it was delightfully graceless.