Posted on: October 25, 2010 10:52 am
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:10 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Watching Ohio State take Purdue behind the woodshed on Saturday afternoon, one thing became clear during the 49-0 shellacking: the Buckeyes were angry about losing to Wisconsin. Unfortunately for Purdue, it was the one who had to deal with the consequences of Ohio State's frustrations.
Which is exactly what you would want to see from a team after suffering a loss and possibly destroying any hopes it had of playing for a national championship. It's nice to see it keeping a chip on its shoulder, and using that chip as motivation for the rest of the year.
Still, I'm not sure Terrelle Pryor should have gone here following the Purdue game.
"Not to take anything away from Wisconsin at all - I really don't want it to come off like this - but they weren't better than us," said Pryor. "Everybody knows that if we play nine out of 10 times, we'd beat Wisconsin."
Actually, Terrelle, I don't know that at all. From what I saw of Wisconsin's win that night, they pretty much dominated the Buckeyes up front. It's not a fluke for an offensive line to continually blow one of the best defensive lines in the country off the ball, and open huge holes for John Clay to thunder through.
Now, maybe things would have been a bit different had the game been played in Columbus, but to me, it seemed obvious that in Madison, Wisconsin was the better team that night.
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 3:27 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
When we last off with Michigan State vs. Northwestern , the homestanding Wildcats were manhandling the favored Spartans on the ground and had opened up a commanding 17-0 second quarter lead. They never really stopped manhandling them, either; until a late, essentially meaningless Edwin Baker touchdown run, Northwestern was outgaining the Spartans 2-to-1 in the rushing game.
Which is why Michigan State went to the air in the second half, changed the game, and won 35-27 . Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins enjoyed a monster second half, finishing with 335 yards on 32-of-45 passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. MSU wideouts B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell each finished with over 100 yards receiving. They were all at their best on the Spartans' critical 11-play, 89-yard fourth-quarter drive to take the lead, as Cousins went 8-of-9 for 96 yards (the Spartans turned 2nd-and-20 and 3rd-and-15 situations into first downs after sacks) and Cunningham added a brilliant touchdown reception after an end-zone deflection.
Sparty also got a boost from another Mark Dantonio fake punt that led to a touchdown and two critical Northwestern turnovers, one on the Spartan 1-yard line in the first half and a Dan Persa interception that helped lead to MSU's first score of the second half. But Cousins was the difference-maker, hitting his routes on perfect timing again and again. Ohio State annihilated Purdue as comprehensively as it's possible to annihilate a Big Ten opponent, but it's not going to matter as long as Cousins and his receivers continue executing at this level and Dantonio's squad continues to show the kind of resilience they did today.
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 20, 2010 11:40 am
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:14 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Wisconsin sent a message last Saturday night when they welcomed the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes to Madison and proceeded to shove a football down their collective throat for 60 minutes, winning the game 31-18. It was an exhibition of what Wisconsin does best, and has always done best. Take a big running back, throw as many blockers as you can in front of him, and then pound the defense into submission. When that defense starts to get tired, hit them with a play-action pass.
Some would call this style of play smashmouth, or three yards and a cloud of dust. Not Bret Bielema, though. No, he has a name for this style of play that's a bit more patriotic.
“We do. We call it American football around here. Two tight ends, two backs, one wide receiver and occasionally get two wide receivers on the field, but it was [a message]. … What we do 365 days a year came through on Saturday. Our kids really imposed their will and it was really fun to watch.”
Yeah, this is American football. It's blue collar. It's not that fancy-pants French football where you spread out five wide receivers and dink and dunk your way to the end zone before retreating to the sideline.
Though, there are some parts of Wisconsin's offense that don't remind me all that much of America to be honest. First of all, David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, so it was 7-0 before Wisconsin's American offense ever took the field. Which means that this American offense never operated with a deficit, and that doesn't sound all that American to me.
Plus, and this one is the most important, last I checked, none of the players on Wisconsin's offense are Chinese. Since when do Americans manufacture their own points?
Posted on: October 19, 2010 11:33 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2010 11:44 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Jim Tressel announced at his news conference today that Ohio State has lost its most important linebacker for a good chunk of the rest of the season. Ross Homan, a senior three-year starter from Coldwater, Ohio, suffered a foot injury in the Buckeyes' game against Wisconsin. According to Tressel, that'll put Homan out for "a couple weeks."
How much this matters to Ohio State depends largely on how long the injury lingers. Assuming "couple" means at least "multiple," Homan's going to miss this week's game against Purdue and next week's trip to Minnesota. Not to assume victory for OSU or anything, but ... yes, OK, we're assuming exactly that. A bye week awaits after that, then the Buckeyes host Penn State. Even if Homan can't go for PSU, that's four weeks to recover, which certainly seems reasonable, and Ohio State shouldn't miss Homan very much in those three games against relatively toothless offenses.
However, if Homan's foot injury lingers (as foot injuries too often do), a fifth week missed might be a problem: that's when the Buckeyes travel to Iowa. Homan was clutch in Ohio State's win over the Hawkeyes last season, when he registered eight tackles and an interception. That was good enough for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, and Ohio State could surely use a similar performance this year.
At the very least, though, if Homan's foot problems leave him out long enough to miss the Iowa game or the Michigan game the week afterwards, the retooled Ohio State linebacking corps should be up to full speed with that amount of time to adjust. If the Wisconsin game is any indication, strongside linebacker Andrew Sweat will move to Homan's spot, while sophomore Jon Newsome will replace Sweat.
So, no: Ohio State's season is not automatically ruined, and it's not terribly likely that the Buckeyes' win-loss record will be adversely affected by the loss of Homan either.