Tag:Ron Zook
Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:48 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 5:25 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 8



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

This could be the week that makes or breaks all of us. After spending a month trying to catch The Woman in this race, she's pulled away the last few weeks and taken a two-game lead once again. I'd be concerned about this in any other week, but this week things are different.

The spreads this week are insane.

When they were first released there were 20+ point spreads everywhere I looked. I trimmed them down to the ten games that were the most, shall we say, sane, but still, there's not a lot of confidence between Woman and I in our picks this week. When the spreads are like this, you may as well be flipping  a coin, but I'm not introducing that aspect until next season.

Syracuse vs. West Virginia (-13 1/2) - Friday, 8pm (All times Eastern)

Man - The thing that drives me insane about the Big East is that every week the team that is supposed to be the best team in the conference loses to somebody they have no business losing to. Thankfully, I'm confident that West Virginia is a team that knows what it should be doing and will do it. Pick: West Virginia

Woman - "No way Syracuse is going to surprise West Virginia two years in a row. Not even a raised eyebrow." Pick: West Virginia

Machine - The Machine must be a big fan of Dana Holgorsen's skullet and Geno Smith, as the Mountaineers blow up the Carrier Dome 51-17. Pick: West Virginia

Missouri vs. Oklahoma State (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - I know that Oklahoma State's defense isn't exactly wonderful, but the Missouri offense has been so inconsistent this season that I just don't see any way that it can keep up with the Cowboys. Even if Missouri's defense can slow the Cowboys down a bit, I just don't think it'll be enough. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "Yes, the Cowboys are playing stellar ball and you'd think this would be another step in their march toward BCS glory.  But Mizzou is 3-0 at Faurot Field and its three losses have been close ones against good teams. Make assumptions about Missouri folk at your own peril." Pick: Missouri 

Machine - The Machine sees a pretty close game for three quarters before Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon have a party in the fourth quarter and pull away late. Cowboys win 40-24. Pick: Oklahoma State

Clemson (-10 1/2) vs. North Carolina - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Considering the way that Clemson has a habit of making things really close for three quarters before finally pulling away, this point spread does scare me a bit. That being said, North Carolina doesn't really inspire a lot of confidence in me, and since Clemson is at home I'll put my faith in the Tigers. Pick: Clemson

Woman - "To be honest, I know virtually nothing about Tar Heel football.  I expect that will still be true on Sunday." Pick: Clemson

Machine - The Machine sees the annual rite of Clemson blowing up taking place this week as North Carolina wins 24-17. Pick: North Carolina

Kansas vs. Kansas State (-12 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - Somewhat odd that Kansas State goes from being an underdog every week against teams it's better than to nearly a two-touchdown favorite, but Kansas has just been that bad. Also, let's not forget that Kansas State beat Kansas 59-7 last season and I don't think last season's Kansas State team is as good as this version. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "I have created (and by created, I mean, found) a very special Sunflower Showdown Emo tribute for the Jayhawks to be played directly following the game. Enjoy." Pick: Kansas State 

Machine - Game recognize game, and The Machine recognizes Bill Snyder's likely stoppable killing machine, but it won't be stopped in Lawrence. Kansas State wins 31-13. Pick: Kansas State

Purdue vs. Illinois (-5 1/2) - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This spread seems a bit too easy to me. In my opinion, gamblers are overreacting to what Illinois did against Ohio State last week and what Purdue did against Penn State. Penn State's offense is terrible enough to keep Purdue in a game, and the Boilermakers have been beaten pretty bad this year by teams that spread it out. In Zook I trust! Pick: Illinois

Woman - "It's hard to shake the memory of the Illini's cringe-worthy outing last week but bottom line, they're a better team than the Boilermakers. Purdue will play the best game of its season and keep it close, but not that close." Pick: Illinois

Machine - The Machine seems to think that Ron Zook is going to have a lot of questions to answer this week as Purdue knocks off the Illini 21-3. Pick: Purdue

LSU (-22 1/2) vs. Auburn - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I don't want to pick against Les Miles. I really, really, really don't. Still, without the Honey Badger and Spencer Ware, I'm just not as confident in LSU's ability to cover that spread. Will the LSU defense smother a quarterback making his first career start for the third straight week? Of course it will, but will the LSU offense cover more than three scores? Probably, because I'm picking against Les and must be punished for it. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "Yeah, LSU will win but given the news that three of its top players have been suspended, I think that line may be a bit stout." Pick: Auburn

Machine - The Machine is not a fan of three touchdown spreads for LSU offenses without its leading rush, as LSU wins 17-10. Pick: Auburn

Miami (-3 1/2) vs. Georgia Tech - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - I had been pretty high on Georgia Tech before last week, but man did the Ramblin' Wreck get exposed by Virginia last weekend. That plus the fact that Jacory Harris is actually playing pretty well for Miami makes me lean toward the home side here. Pick: Miami

Woman - "When I think of the NCAA and scholar athletes, these two schools leap immediately to mind, especially Hurricanes' DL Micanor Regis and his groundbreaking work on the physics of balls - please skip to minute five for Micanor's powerful research.  Unfortunately, Micanor got so deep into his studies last weekend, he'll have to miss this game, which gives the 6-1 Wrecks a leg up." Pick: Georgia Tech

Machine - The Machine sees Miami getting up early, and a Georgia Tech playing from behind is not a very good Georgia Tech to bet on. Hurricanes win 28-17. Pick: Miami

Northwestern vs. Penn State (-4 1/2) - Saturday, 7pm

Man - As I mentioned in the Illinois/Purdue pick, Penn State's offense is terrible. It's defense has been great, but it's also faced mediocre offenses all season save for Alabama, and we all remember how that went. So with Penn State going on the road I have to go with the team that's getting the points. Pick: Northwestern

Woman - "Northwestern stems the bleeding from three straight losses and Dan Persa gets to show his newly bald head around campus again." Pick: Northwestern

Machine - It's a clean sweep as The Machine sees Pat Fitzgerald's team getting its act together this week and beating Penn State 30-17. Pick: Northwestern

Michigan State vs. Wisconsin (-8 1/2) - Saturday, 8pm

Man - We're nearly in November and Wisconsin is leaving Madison to play a football game for the first time all season. Wisconsin will also be facing an offense that I feel can move the ball on a defense that hasn't really faced much of a test this season. I don't know that Michigan State is going to win this game, but I do know that they're going to keep it closer than anybody else has against the Badgers this season. Pick: Michigan State

Woman - "Everyone's talking about how 'emotional' this game will be.  After the third quarter, quietly emotional." Pick: Wisconsin

Machine - Well, we're going to have one less unbeaten to contend with after this weekend. Michigan State wins 24-20. Pick: Michigan State

Stanford (-20 1/2) vs. Washington - Saturday, 8pm

Man - Every week I toy with the idea of picking against Stanford because the spread seems so large, and then every week I end up picking Stanford anyway and the Cardinal cover. So why change up a formula that's working? Pick: Stanford

Woman - "I get all excited about the Huskies impressive 2011 season and then I remember last year's game against the Cardinal.  41-0. 41-0. 41-0. Did I mention 41-0?" Pick: Stanford

Machine - Andrew Luck for President. Stanford destroys Washington 48-10. Pick: Stanford

Standings

Season Record (Last week)

1. Woman 47-28 (6-4)
2. Man 45-30 (5-5)
3. Machine 38-37 (4-6)
Posted on: October 15, 2011 7:04 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Ohio State 17, Illinois 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

OHIO STATE WON. Reports of Ohio State's demise were premature, as the Buckeyes came away with a big win over No. 16 Illinois, 17-7. The Buckeyes took advantage of two Illinois turnovers for short fields and turned them into touchdowns, and a late Illinois interception killed a promising drive.

WHY OHIO STATE WON: Ohio State didn't actually do a whole lot on offense, gaining just 229 yards and 14 first downs, but the Buckeyes made clutch plays when they mattered. Courtney Roby picked Nathan Scheelhaase off on the second play of the 3rd quarter and took the ball back to the Illini 12, and Dan Herron would score on the very next play. On the second play of the fourth quarter, A.J. Jenkins fumbled, and Storm Klein was there for the recovery. Three plays later, touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Jake Stoneburner -- more on that later -- and that was all the offense the Buckeyes would need.

WHEN OHIO STATE WON: With the score 17-7 late in the fourth quarter and Illinois facing a 4th and 2 in the OSU red zone, Ron Zook eschewed the easy three points in front of him and had his charges go for it. The play was botched, OSU took over, and never gave the ball back.

WHAT OHIO STATE WON: If you want to talk about "finding a way to win," this game is a prime example. OSU was struggling on offense even more than Illinois was, but the Buckeyes forced the Illini into multiple mistakes without making many of their own, and that was enough to swing the game. More than that, OSU avoided a three-game losing streak in conference play, though the two losses will likely keep the Buckeyes out of the conference title game unless all hell breaks loose in the Leaders Division.

WHAT ILLINOIS LOST: Gone is the perfect record and the lofty ranking, as the Illini will likely tumble from No. 16 when Sunday rolls around. Nathan Scheelhaase had his worst day of the year, gaining just five yards per pass and 3.1 yards a pop on the ground while giving the ball away twice. Illinois can still salvage a division title by winning out, but that doesn't seem terribly likely.

THAT WAS CRAZY: So, that touchdown pass we mentioned earlier? That was all Braxton Miller did through the air. No, seriously, that was it. Miller's final passing stats: 1-4, 17 yards, 1 TD, and he played the entire game at QB. All in all, OSU rushed on 51 of its plays, and passed on just those four. Hey, we said OSU was going to need to rely on its ground game. 

Posted on: October 13, 2011 1:21 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 6:36 pm
 

Man vs. Woman vs. Machine: Week 7



Posted by Tom Fornelli


Man vs. Woman vs. Machine is a feature that runs every Thursday afternoon. It is here that Tom Fornelli fights against the rising tide of female empowerment and technology to ensure that men everywhere can at least claim that college football is still theirs. He does this by picking a set of games against the spread against his girlfriend, Lynn, and his Playstation 3.

I've made a huge mistake.

The last few weeks, as I was clawing my way back into the race and approaching Woman, ready to pass her, I got overconfident. Sometimes the problem with being Man and being awesome is that it gets hard to control the ego once in a while. I did a terrible job of this last week, and because of it, I'm back in second place. I've now dropped a game behind Woman in the race, but it's okay. All I have to do is spew some cliches and I figure I'll be right back in this.

You know, going to take this competition one game at a time. Give them all 110%. So let's get to it for this week.

Michigan State (-3 1/2) vs Michigan - Saturday, 12pm (All times Eastern)

Man - This is a tough one to call. Michigan has played really well so far this season, but since 2008, Michigan State has had the Wolverines number. Combine that with the fact that the game is being played in East Lansing, and it makes me lean towards Sparty. And as I'm leaning, I remember that the Michigan defense has improved a lot stronger than any of us expected, and I remember how Michigan State's offense looked against Notre Dame. So I'm taking the points and saying that Michigan takes the state back on Saturday. Pick: Michigan

Woman - "Thank goodness, life at Michigan is back to normal, more Bo and Lloyd than Rich and Rod. But that doesn't mean no bumps in the road. Today's game is that bump. Spartans will win. Not as certain they'll cover." Pick: Michigan

Machine - It's a clean sweep as The Machine sees Michigan pulling off what looks to be quite the thriller. Fitzgerald Toussaint scores a touchdown in the final minutes to tie the game, and then scores a couple more touchdowns as Michigan wins 41-37 in double overtime. Pick: Michigan

Texas A&M (-9 1/2) vs. Baylor - Saturday, 12pm

Man - This one seems so simple to me that I'm actually a bit scared of it. Like Vegas knows something that the rest of us don't. Baylor and Robert Griffin have been lighting secondaries up all season long, and Texas A&M's secondary has been lit up all season long. I don't know if Baylor wins, but I have to think it covers that spread. Pick: Baylor

Woman - "Baylor will exact revenge on the field as well as off for the Aggies SEC defection. (Based on this secret video of the last Big 12 meeting between the schools' attorneys, it's gonna get real, y'all.)" Pick: Baylor

Machine - The Machine sees Texas A&M putting together its most complete game of the season as the Aggies take care of Baylor 38-21. Pick: Texas A&M

Mississippi State vs. South Carolina (-3 1/2) - Saturday, 12:21pm

Man - Sure, Connor Shaw isn't playing Kentucky this week, so life may not be as easy for him replacing Stephen Garcia this time around, but he still has Marcus Lattimore to turn around and give the ball to. Combine that with the fact that Mississippi State's offense has looked anything but potent this year, and I have to go with the Gamecocks. Pick: South Carolina

Woman - "Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier dumps his troubled QB mid-season, then bans a reporter for not towing the party line.  What the Gamecocks got is failure to communicate." Pick: Mississippi State 

Machine - Bring back Stephen Garcia! The Bulldogs roll 37-13. Pick: Mississippi State

Tennessee vs. LSU (-15 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Tennessee doesn't have Tyler Bray and it has to face the LSU defense? My prediction here is that Phil Simms is going to be really mad at Gary Danielson on Sunday. Pick: LSU

Woman - "Still riding Miles' Magical Mystery Tour. (Vols' loss at home last week to Georgia makes the ride easier.)" Pick: LSU

Machine - The Machine seems to have more faith in Matt Simms than either Woman and I do, but it's still not enough as LSU wins 28-17. Pick: Tennessee

Texas vs. Oklahoma State (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Texas was a bit exposed against Oklahoma last week, and I'm pretty sure that Oklahoma State noticed how well Landry Jones performed against that Longhorns defense. I see no reason why Brandon Weeden can't do the same this week, and although I feel that Texas will have more success on offense, it won't be able to keep up with the Cowboys. Pick: Oklahoma State

Woman - "Here's a stat from Burnt Orange Nation: In thirteen years at Texas, Mack Brown has never lost the game after the Red River Shootout.  Between that and points..." Pick: Texas 

Machine - The Machine sees a lot of angry Texas fans in the future. Oklahoma State tears Austin apart, winning 48-20. Pick: Oklahoma State

Illinois (-3 1/2) vs. Ohio State - Saturday, 3:30pm

Man - Is there an Option C? I mean, I either have to rely on an Ohio State offense that has looked terrible for most of the season to finally put together a complete game, or I have to give up points with a team that is coached by Ron Zook. Illinois has only beaten Ohio State once under Zook, but that was the year the team ended up in the Rose Bowl. Well, Illinois isn't going to the Rose Bowl this year. Pick: Ohio State

Woman - "Illinois is 6-0 with 2 division wins. Ohio State is .500 with two division losses. So this should be easy.  But I'm just waiting for that fateful day when Illinois pops a Zook. Like, this Saturday." Pick: Ohio State

Machine - Well it looks like Illinois' unbeaten season is coming to an end this weekend, as The Machine has Ohio State winning as well, 31-17. Pick: Ohio State

Wake Forest vs. Virginia Tech (-7 1/2) - Saturday, 6:30pm

Man - I haven't seen a whole lot of Wake Forest this season, but I have seen enough from Virginia Tech to be a bit leery about giving up over a touchdown on the road. I'm not sure if the Deacons knock off another ACC favorite this weekend, but I think they can keep it close. Pick: Wake Forest

Woman - "Wake Forest has quietly laid down four impressive wins in a row, and is 3-0 in the ACC.  Meanwhile, Virginia Tech,1-1 in the ACC, was last seen playing for its life against NFL farm club the Hurricanes.  Upset alert: The Hokies aren't going to see Wake Forest coming. (For the sake of illustration, let's say Virginia Tech is the TV news producer and Wake Forest is the turkey.)" Pick: Wake Forest 

Machine - Sorry, Wake Forest, but The Machine does not believe in Cinderella. Virginia Tech 48-10. Pick: Virginia Tech

Texas Tech (-3 1/2) vs. Kansas State - Saturday, 7pm

Man - As I said last week, I've become a firm believer in Bill Snyder and what the Wildcats are doing. Until they let me down, I'm not picking against them, especially if I'm getting points. Throw in the fact that Texas Tech has lost Eric Stephens for the season, and it only makes me more confident in this pick. Pick: Kansas State

Woman - "Texas Tech's at home and out to avenge a painful loss to the Aggies last week.  Kansas State has yet to experience the agony of defeat this season. You're about to land in a tangled heap at the bottom of a ski slope, Wildcats." Pick: Texas Tech

Machine - The Machine sees Kansas State's unbeaten season coming to an end this weekend, but it has no knowledge of the Kansas State bus being covered in anything. Texas Tech wins 31-17. Pick: Texas Tech

Auburn (-1 1/2) vs. Florida - Saturday, 7pm

Man - I'm not comfortable at all with this pick, as neither team has done much to instill any confidence the last few weeks. Yes, Florida wasn't exactly facing the easiest competition in the world, but I'm not sure either quarterback is capable of taking full advantage of the Auburn secondary. That being said, I don't have much faith in the Auburn offense either. So I guess I'm just going with homefield advantage. Pick: Auburn

Woman - "I looked for something trending in either of these teams and none of it's very good.  The one thing that stands out is how Florida couldn't put more than one touchdown on the board either of the last two weeks.  That doesn't speak too well for its QB-by-committee approach and I can't see how that'll change in a hostile Jordan-Hare." Pick: Auburn

Machine - Chris Rainey saves the day for Florida with a 73-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the Gators a 27-21 win. Pick: Florida

Oregon (-15 1/2) vs. Arizona State - Saturday 10:15pm

Man - This game would normally be easy for me to pick because, aside from Stanford, I just don't think there's anybody else in the Pac-12 that can hang with the Ducks. The problem is that Arizona State kept things close enough against Oregon last season, but that game was played in Tempe, and Autzen Stadium is a different beast entirely. I also worry about the absence of LaMichael James, but the Ducks have enough weapons on offense and know how to use all of them that James' absence may not be a major problem. So I'm going with the Ducks, even if I had to think about it a little. Pick: Oregon

Woman - "Forget football, who's going to win the Style Bowl? Two fashion dynamos go padded shoulder to shoulder this weekend and like everyone knows, in football, as in fashion, one week you're in and the next, you're OUT.  Oregon has shown an ability to transform even basic black into something original, and last week's eye-popping green with the retro duck made everything old seem new again.  ASU, on the other hand, is stuck with a hopelessly dated color palette and when they tried doing something different with black? Well, auf wiedersehen, ASU. But before you air kiss Heidi, I'll take the points." Pick: Arizona State

Machine - There are going to be a lot of points scored in Eugene on Saturday night, but The Machine sees the Ducks getting the majority of them. Oregon wins 55-38. Pick: Oregon

Standings

Season Record (Last Week)

1. Woman 41-24 (7-3)
2. Man 40-25 (6-4)
3. Machine 34-31 (5-5) 
Posted on: October 10, 2011 5:30 pm
Edited on: October 10, 2011 5:41 pm
 

Ron Zook didn't know score when he went for two

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Illinois scored six touchdowns in its 41-20 victory over Indiana last week, and the math majors among us know that typically, six TDs is 42 points. But Illinois didn't biff an extra point; it went for two with a 20-13 lead, and the attempt failed. We predicted at the time that Ron Zook's decision to go for two would be "scrutinized," which is really just code for "elicit swear-word filled Tweets from bewildered Illini fans," and that's what happened.

Zook was asked about the conversion attempt, and his response was certainly honest, because it's never the type of response you'd want to make up: according to the Chicago Sun-Times, Zook plain lost track of the score.

"We were down five, right? Up five, I mean," Zook said. "It was 20-13? Up seven? Maybe I didn’t know what the score was. That’s happened to me before. It’s usually when we’re behind. [This will] give you something to pound us about.’’ 

First of all: WHAT.

Second of all: Okay, the score was 14-13 before Illinois scored its touchdown, so perhaps Zook had a momentary fit of senility and thought his team had been the one with 13 points. That happens, even to very smart people. Except, here's the thing: Zook also has an entire staff of assistant coaches, and unless they were all mistaken about the score, those guys missed two opportunities to tell him the Illini were up by seven, not five.

After Illinois scored its touchdown, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson sent out his kick block team, because, well, duh. So when Zook trotted out his offense, Wilson was forced to call his last timeout of the half. It seemed like a brilliant ploy by Zook to get Indiana out of timeouts before the end of the half even came into play. And yet, on went that two-point team again, after the timeout when everybody on the Illinois sideline could reevaluate the situation -- or, at the very least, glance at the scoreboard.

Anyway, the conversion attempt obviously failed* and Illinois  had only a seven-point lead. That didn't end up affecting the endgame, but if it did, hoo boy; mental errors are a great way for a coach to get right back on the hot seat.


*I'd love to see data on how often two-point conversions succeed in the first three quarters as opposed to the fourth. My hypothesis is that they're wildly unsuccessful early in the game, but that's just a guess. Get on that data right away, SCIENCE.
Posted on: October 9, 2011 5:00 am
 

Big Ten Winners and Losers: Week 6



Posted by Adam Jacobi


A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: Nebraska's season

Ignore the fact that 4-2, all things considered, isn't a terrible record; for No. 14 Nebraska, dropping the Ohio State game would have been a backbreaker for a season that started with realistic Rose Bowl aspirations -- especially with OSU looking like an unusually easy victory coming into Saturday. Instead, the Buckeyes opened up a 27-6 lead and seemed to be putting the final nail in the coffin of Nebraska's reputation as a Big Ten contender before the Huskers pulled off their largest comeback in program history on the back of Rex Burkhead (pictured above, finding plenty of comfort in the middle of OSU's rush defense). Now the Huskers are 5-1, and more importantly, only have one loss on their Big Ten slate instead of starting out 0-2. This season still might not end up in the Rose Bowl -- in fact it probably won't -- but sheerly by dodging the bullet on Saturday, Nebraska was a big, big winner.

LOSER: Joe Bauserman, yet again

It's not entirely fair to pin Ohio State's collapse on Joe Bauserman; the backup QB came into the game in the second half cold, and Nebraska had already begun its fight back at that point. And yet, the score was 27-13 OSU when Bauserman came in for an injured Braxton Miller on a 3rd and 8, and the score was 34-27 Nebraska by the time Bauserman put the finishing touches on his 1-10, 17-yard, 1 INT magnum opus. In the last four weeks -- the only games in which OSU has faced BCS conference competition this season -- Bauserman's stats are a terrifying 12-40, 144 yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. That's a 63.49 passer rating, which is reprehensible. Oh, and not only is Bauserman going to play for as long as Braxton Miller's hurt, he's also the quarterback Luke Fickell tabbed to start the season for the Buckeyes. Enjoy, OSU!

WINNER: Do-everything QBs in the Big Ten

Nathan Scheelhaase, Taylor Martinez, and Denard Robinson may all be vying for the Second Team All-Big Ten role behind Wisconsin dreamboat Russell Wilson, but all three QBs put on an absolute show on Saturday. Scheelhaase had 210 yards passing, 88 yards rushing, and 4 combined TDs for Illinois in a win at Indiana. Martinez had his best passing performance of the year against a tough Ohio State defense, going 16-22 for 192 yards passing and rushing for 102 more yards; he accounted for three of Nebraska's four TDs. Robinson's numbers were the gaudiest: 325 yards passing, 117 yards on 25 rushes, and four total TDs in Michigan's 42-24 win over Northwestern. Even Braxton Miller had 95 yards passing and 91 yards rushing before he was forced to leave the game. Conference play will sort out this hierarchy, but it's fantastic to see such a breadth of dynamic talent at QB.

LOSER: Timid 4th down playcallers

Indiana kicked a field goal on 4th and goal from the 3 with a 4-point deficit. Iowa punted from Penn State's 33-yard line down 6-3. Ohio State punted from Nebraska's 32-yard line with a late 27-20 lead. What do all these decisions have in common? They were all unnecessarily conservative, and they all backfired. Indiana immediately gave up a touchdown drive, Iowa's punt led to a 90-yard Penn State drive that mercifully ended in an end zone interception (but still wore down the Iowa defense), and Ohio State would never see its lead again after Nebraska responded with a touchdown drive. Yes, the field position is important, but the points battle is the real one that matters, and all three of these teams did themselves a disservice by not even attempting to maximize their opportunities.

WINNER: Penn State's defense

In a stat that will undoubtedly become a trivial relic by the end of the season, Iowa came into this week's game against Penn State with the Big Ten's most prolific passing attack, averaging 281 yards a game under QB James Vandenberg. Penn State bottled that attack up beautifully, limiting Vandenberg to 169 yards on 17/34 passing with two interceptions and a lost fumble on a sack. More importantly, the Nittany Lions allowed only a field goal in a 13-3 victory. delighting a partisan PSU crowd that was hungry for a Penn State win over the nemesis Hawkeyes.

LOSER: Rob Bolden Fan Club president Joe Paterno

There is truly no reason for Rob Bolden to be starting anymore, yet start he does, week in and week out. Bolden's passer efficiency is out of the NCAA's top 100; Matt McGloin's was 42nd nationwide coming into the game. McGloin was far better against Iowa, hitting pass after pass in tight windows while Bolden's best gains came on tipped balls -- his biggest completion ricocheted off of an unsuspecting referee's leg, for crying out loud. Nobody at Penn State outside of the coaching staff knows why Bolden plays so much, yet he does, and he's probably going to ride his 3/7, 31 yard performance to another starting week unless Joe Paterno puts an end to this farce of a quarterback battle and just gives the job to McGloin already.

WINNER: Ron Zook's mojo

Imagine, if you will: Team X is ranked and undefeated, and playing at outmatched-but-feisty Team Y. Team Y takes the opening kick to the house, then makes a stop and turns it into a field goal for a 10-0 lead. At this point, one would assume that if Team X had a good coach, he would have his charges weather this storm and not panic, and if Team X's coach was a raving lunatic, then this was an upset in the making. Well, Team X is obviously Illinois, Team Y is obviously Indiana, the Team X head coach is obviously Ron Zook, and his team responded admirably to the adversity by turning the game into a 41-20 rout. Illinois is now 6-0. It could be 9-0 heading into the Michigan game. Ron Zook is doing all this. This is the reality you must accept.

LOSER: Whoever had to watch Minnesota-Purdue

One Husker blogger tabbed this matchup "the game that fun forgot" on Saturday morning, and while that's not a fair assessment of a game that ends up featuing 62 points scored, it's not quite that far off from this game either. Now. Purdue is not good at football. Not even in a young and sneaky and what if they put it all together sense. Just not good. Purdue also opened up a 45-3 lead on Minnesota en route to a 45-17 win, and we're left to wonder just what level of football the Gophers actually belong in (hint: not FBS!). And yet, there were still only 589 total yards combined in this game; even the PSU-Iowa eye-clawer, by comparison, had 648 total yards from scrimmage. Purdue and Minnesota can't even put on a blowout correctly! Just a mess all the way through here, and there are probably plenty more such messes that await fans of both these teams this season.
Posted on: October 8, 2011 6:14 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2011 6:16 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Illinois 41, Indiana 20

Posted by Adam Jacobi

ILLINOIS WON. 19th-ranked Illinois spotted Indiana an early 10-0 lead, then overpowered the Hoosiers en route to an easy 41-20 victory. 

WHY ILLINOIS WON: Indiana has a crippling dearth of talent on the defensive side of the ball, and that was evident today as Illinois racked up 523 yards of offense in a balanced attack, overwhelming the Hoosiers over the course of the game. Nathan Scheelhaase threw for 210 yards and three touchdowns in the winning effort, and he also rushed for 88 yards and another score. Indiana simply had no answer for Scheelhaase on Saturday.

WHEN ILLINOIS WON: On a 4th and goal from the 3 yard line and having just seen its lead turn into a 14-10 deficit, Indiana trotted out kicker Mitch Ewald for the chip shot field goal. It was good, Illinois maintained its lead, and the Hoosiers were never heard from again.

WHAT ILLINOIS WON: The Illini are now bowl eligible, running their record to 6-0 on the season heading into a key matchup with Ohio State next week. It also has a claim on the best QB-WR combo in the conference with the Nathan Scheelhaase-A.J. Jenkins tandem running wild on the competition. And the defense? Not too shabby. Yep, Ron Zook's having a two-thumbs-up season all around, and he's not afraid to tell the world about it.

WHAT INDIANA LOST: This wasn't really a winnable game for Indiana, all things considered; the Hoosiers just don't have that kind of talent yet. At the very least, though, it got to experience life with a lead in Big Ten play -- and to see what kind of effort it takes to maintain that lead against an offensive attack like the Illini's. So this was more of a "teaching moment" than a moral victory -- as if such a thing could exist in a 21-point loss.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Scheelhaase completed 12 passes: six to Jenkins, six to the rest of the team. Jenkins' six catches were for 182 yards and two scores; the rest of the team managed 28 yards and one score. A.J. Jenkins IS the Illinois downfield attack, and he's awfully good at his job.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 2:20 pm
Edited on: October 3, 2011 2:25 pm
 

Illinois LB Brown suspended for knee to the groin

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:

The Big Ten Conference office announced that it has accepted the one-game suspension of University of Illinois football student-athlete Jonathan Brown for violating the Big Ten Sportslike Conduct Agreement during the Northwestern game on Oct. 1, 2011.

University of Illinois head coach Ron Zook suspended Brown for the Oct. 8 game at Indiana for unsportslike behavior. In accordance with penalties established in Big Ten Conference Agreement 10.01.1.A.1, the conference office also publicly reprimands Brown for his actions.

The Big Ten Sportslike Conduct Agreement states that “It shall be the responsibility of each member university to ensure that all of its students and all individuals employed by or directly associated with it comport themselves in a sportslike manner when representing their university, especially at intercollegiate athletic contests.”

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.

It'd be a two-game suspension and an unholy amount of extra sprints for Brown if I were coaching the Illini, but if the Big Ten accepts Illinois' suspension as it is, there's really not much issue to take with the punishment.

Posted on: October 3, 2011 11:59 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 1:04 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 5



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)

The Elite:

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).

Yard-by-yard

- 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.

More on College Football
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Russell Wilson stacks plays like corn at harvest to spoil Nebraska's night and entrench Wisconsin atop the conference.
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Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told his team that if they did 'common things in an uncommon way,' people would notice. Read >
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Russell Wilson and the Badgers -- a match made to contend. The playmaking QB paired with a solid supporting cast may rule the Big Ten. Read >>
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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.

Fisch's Finest

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Wisconsin

6. Stanford

7. Oklahoma State

8. Oregon

9. Clemson

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.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com