Tag:Montee Ball
Posted on: October 15, 2011 3:49 pm
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QUICK HITS: Wisconsin 59, Indiana 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WON. The fourth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers rolled to an easy 59-7 win over hapless Indiana on Saturday. Montee Ball rushed for 142 yards and three touchdowns on just 10 carries, and the Badgers as a whole rushed for 332 yards on the day. Oh, and Ball also threw a 25-yard touchdown... to Russell Wilson. It was that kind of a day.

WHY WISCONSIN WON: Wisconsin is hands-down the best team in the Big Ten, and Indiana is arguably the worst team in the Big Ten. Put the two together, and a blowout is sure to ensue. Indiana just couldn't do anything to stop Wisconsin, and the Badgers knew it. Russell Wilson was 12-17 through the air for 166 yards and one score, and between that and the aforementioned TD catch, he looked like a front-runner for the Big Ten offensive MVP yet again.

WHEN WISCONSIN WON: When they took the field. There's just no way Indiana was ever going to keep this game close, much less even think about a victory.

WHAT WISCONSIN WON: Another week, another victory, another step closer to the Big Ten Championship for the Badgers. Wisconsin just needed nothing to go heinously wrong during this game, and that's exactly what it got. The Russell Wilson Heisman Train keeps chugging along.

WHAT INDIANA LOST: It's hard to come off a 52-point loss with heads held high, but considering the Badgers hung 83 points on the Hoosiers just last year, this result is downright palatable. At least Indiana coach Kevin Wilson can look his players in the eye and tell them, "we will never face a team that good for the rest of the year."

THAT WAS CRAZY: In a perfect summation of the challenges facing the Hoosiers, Indiana punter Adam Pines had his punt blocked... by the back of one of his teammates. Seriously. The punt would net exactly one yard, with Wisconsin taking over at the Indiana 26, and the Badgers turned the play into a touchdown two snaps later.

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
Analysis
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
Russell Wilson stacks plays like corn at harvest to spoil Nebraska's night and entrench Wisconsin atop the conference.
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Read >>
Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told his team that if they did 'common things in an uncommon way,' people would notice. Read >
Bruce Feldman Bruce Feldman
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.



Posted on: October 2, 2011 4:26 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:07 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Oct. 1)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. Wisconsin should probably go undefeated this year. Seventh-ranked Wisconsin faced its first stiff test of the season, as No. 8 Nebraska came to town for a night game at Camp Randall in the Big Ten opener for both schools. Wisconsin treated Nebraska like just another speed bump, crushing the Huskers 48-17 in a game that saw the Badgers outscore Nebraska 41-3 in the last 33 minutes of play. It was equal parts savage, brilliant, and awe-inspiring -- the type of game that only great teams play.

Wisconsin's slate from here on out is heavy on intriguing road games, but if Nebraska can't even keep the game within 30 points, what hope would Ohio State or Illinois or anybody else left on the schedule have of winning a game against the Badgers? Russell Wilson can basically do whatever he wants on offense, and with a duo of tailbacks like Montee Ball and James White behind him, the Wisconsin attack is basically as complete as offenses can get.

So yes, Wisconsin should go undefeated this year. That would be quite welcome, especially if it ends in a game against whoever takes the SEC between LSU and Alabama. Would the SEC team win? Possibly. Plausibly. Probably. I'd sure like to see that determined on the field of play, and doubtless so would Wisconsin fans.

2. That team that just got wrecked by 31 points is still probably going to win its division. I don't know what's more infuriating -- that Nebraska has underperformed so badly in every game this season that they're probably just plain average as a whole, or that this average Nebraska team is still a favorite to win the Legends Division. Michigan's on a roll but has a nasty back half of the schedule, Michigan State has a brutal schedule and only managed 10 points against the Ohio State defense, Northwestern has major defensive issues to work out, Iowa struggles mightily against mobile quarterbacks while playing in a division full of them, and Minnesota... no.

Of course, the actual most likely result of this traffic jam of mediocrity is five teams tied at 4-4 and Minnesota eating paste at 0-8. This is the result I will be openly rooting for. because nothing would be funnier than Jim Delany taking a look at that situation, taking a look at Wisconsin, and then just canceling the First Ever Big Ten Championship Game and just handing the Rose Bowl to Wisconsin. And nobody would think that was the wrong thing to do.

3. Whatever you thought about the quarterback situation at Ohio State, I assure you, it's actually worse. Joe Bauserman was Ohio State's leading passer on Saturday, and if that doesn't sound troubling, please consider that Bauserman didn't enter the game until early in the fourth quarter, and he threw for all of 87 yards. Starter Braxton Miller, meanwhile, passed for 56 yards (not just on one drive, for the entire game), lost 27 on the ground, and led the OSU offense to all of six first downs in the first three quarters. The Buckeye faithful were booing early and often in this game, and while they generally weren't booing Miller himself, it certainly stands to reason that the mood at the 'Shoe would have been far more jovial if Terrelle Pryor had still been under center.

It didn't help that the Michigan State defensive front was teeing off on Miller, and generally overwhelming the Buckeye offensive line in the process, but it's just shocking that Ohio State could have such a dearth of production at the quarterback position like this. Miller's got talent, but is in no way game-ready, whereas Bauserman looks like someone who just doesn't belong on a two-deep of a BCS-level team. This is a personnel problem for Luke Fickell and Ohio State, and personnel problems like these don't generally solve themselves mid-season.

4. At this rate, Illinois might actually enjoy endgame pressure. Illinois is 5-0 for the first time in 60 years, and it's doing so at the expense of the cardiac health of Ron Zook and all the Illini fans. For the third straight week, Illinois won a game by three points, and for the third straight week, it needed to take the lead late in the fourth quarter and hang on for dear life. This week's victim was Northwestern, who capitalized on a Jason Ford fumble and drove for a go-ahead score with 75 seconds left ... only to see Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J. Jenkins drive the ball down the field with ease and punch the ball in for the game-winning score with 13 seconds left. 

It's too early to start making assumptions about Illinois' postseason fate as yet, because if the Illini keep getting into these 50-50 late-game situations, the odds are pretty low that they'll keep winning them consistently. And with games like home dates with Ohio State and Michigan -- not to mention a road match at Penn State -- still on the schedule, Illinois probably isn't even near done with the close contests yet this season. But perhaps it does, and perhaps the games won't be close, and perhaps Ron Zook -- he of the hottest seat in the Big Ten six weeks ago -- has another 10-win season up his sleeve just yet. Perhaps. We're at least on the right road for that to happen, at least.

5. Pssst... Michigan might be legitimate. Maybe. As long as Minnesota keeps proving itself to be far more MAC-worthy than BCS conference-caliber, it's going to be useless to read much into a team's performance beating the Gophers -- even the final score is 58-0. And yes, Michigan started 5-0 last year too and that season still ended with Rich Rodriguez fired. That's all true. The problem, though, is that Michigan started 5-0 in 1997 and it just so happened to finish 12-0 and win a national championship, and most teams that start 5-0 don't end up giving up the most points in program history and firing their coach.

So while it's easy to just say "But 2010" whenever someone mentions the fact that Michigan is still undefeated, there's one difference that's crucial to point out: the defense is showing up too. Last season, Michigan gave up over 25 points per game in its first five games. This year? 10.2. Yes, it's relevant that 31 points came against Notre Dame in a game the Wolverines had zero business winning and 20 came against tomato cans like Eastern Michigan and Minnesota, but consider that Michigan also spanked Western Michigan 34-10, and that's a Broncos team that came up just shy in a 23-20 loss at Illinois and just took a 38-31 win at Connecticut. So yes, given the context we've got, Michigan is not just pulling a 2010.

I still don't think Michigan survives that brutal November that awaits, and it's possible that with Dan Persa and Kirk Cousins looming as opposing quarterbacks in the next two games, Michigan might take a 5-2 (1-2) record into its bye week. But 6-1 (2-1) is more likely now, and being undefeated through seven games is definitely on the table. That's good news in Ann Arbor, especially when everyone else in the Legends division is staring at major problems that need fixing. But that's a topic best left for November; for now, Michigan would do well to focus on the next game in front of it.
Posted on: October 2, 2011 12:16 am
Edited on: October 2, 2011 12:14 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Wisconsin 48, Nebraska 17



Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WON. What looked like a clash of the titans quickly turned into a blowout, as No. 7 Wisconsin welcomed No. 8 Nebraska to the Big Ten with a 48-17 whipping. Russell Wilson was lethal leading the Wisconsin attack with 255 yards and two touchdowns on 14-20 passing, while adding six rushes for 32 yards and another score. Rex Burkhead was valiant in defeat for Nebraska, leading the Huskers in rushing with 18 carries for 96 yards and a score, but it was an exercise in futility since Wisconsin could do whatever it wanted on offense.

WHY WISCONSIN WON: It's simple why Wisconsin won: the Badgers have a great quarterback, and the Huskers plainly don't. Russell Wilson rejuvenated his Heisman campaign with a truly stellar showing today, while Taylor Martinez put together a 12-play stretch that wrecked Nebraska's chances at keeping this game competitive; in those 12 plays, Martinez threw three interceptions, and Wisconsin converted all three into sustained touchdown drives. Just like last year, when Wisconsin was on, it was unstoppable -- and it spent a whole lot of time being "on" tonight. And oh yes, Montee Ball's line tonight: 30 rushes, 151 yards, four touchdowns. The chains just about never stopped moving for the Badgers.

WHEN WISCONSIN WON: This actually looked like a balanced contest for most of the first half; Wisconsin was the first team to commit a turnover after Jared Abbrederis fumbled at the end of a punt return, and Nebraska held leads at 7-0 and 14-7. Taylor Martinez began throwing his interceptions at that point, though, and when Martinez threw his third pick of the evening early in the third quarter, Wisconsin responded with a 47-yard touchdown drive (capped by a Russell Wilson 10-yard score on a bootleg) that put the score at 34-14 and served notice that there would be no comeback.

WHAT WISCONSIN WON: Just about the only valid criticism of Wisconsin's season to this point had been the fact that the Badgers' schedule was pure cake, especially compared to the six teams ranked ahead of the Badgers at this point in the season. So while it's now obvious that Nebraska is simply not a great team, Wisconsin still has a Top 10 win on its resume now, and it's getting awfully hard to find anything wrong with this team anymore. The rushing, the passing, and the defense were all working, and as a whole Wisconsin looked like the kind of team that can run the table this year. Who's going to stop them if Nebraska can't even come close?

WHAT NEBRASKA LOST: This was a tough, tough way for Nebraska to begin its Big Ten Era; Wisconsin manhandled the Huskers in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and Taylor Martinez looked maddeningly inconsistent yet again. Now, Nebraska's had problems with its defensive intensity and passing game all season long, but up to this point, it had stayed undefeated, and let's face it: there are some things you can look past after a win that aren't so easily ignored with a 31-point loss on the books. Look for a lot of reevaluation in Lincoln as the team licks its wounds and prepares for Ohio State.

THAT WAS CRAZY: With Wisconsin leading 41-14 in the second half and generally having its way with the Nebraska defense, the Wisconsin student section couldn't resist the opportunity to mark the occasion. And lo, up went a "BIG TEN FOOT-BALL (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)" chant that the rest of the stadium couldn't help but join. Now, Nebraska isn't going to absorb 31-point losses every week in this new conference, but it's also not going to have many weeks of easy victories from here on out, either.

Posted on: September 17, 2011 6:42 pm
Edited on: September 17, 2011 6:48 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Wisconsin 49, Northern Illinois 7

Posted by Adam Jacobi

WISCONSIN WON. Russell Wilson ripped the Northern Illinois defense for 347 yards and three touchdowns on 23-32 passing, and Wisconsin rushed for 274 more yards in its 49-7 demolition of the Huskies on Saturday.

WHY WISCONSIN WON: Northern Illinois was simply no match for the physical Wisconsin offensive front, and the Huskies' attack on offense never really got into gear. It looked like just another MACrifice, really. Montee Ball got most of the carries (18 for 91 yards and 2 TDs) for Wisconsin's backfield today, but James White was a beast during his snaps (8 carries, 91 yards, 1 TD). No issues for Wisconsin here.

WHEN WISCONSIN WON: This game wasn't a foregone conclusion from the start, and NIU had played the game to a 7-7 tie late in the first quarter. But Wisconsin scored on a three-play, 51-yard drive to answer NIU's score, and then the Badgers engineered an easy 10-play, 97-yard drive on its next possession to remove all doubt about how this game would end.

WHAT WISCONSIN WON: For Wisconsin, this game was a de facto road test, as the Badgers met NIU at Chicago's Soldier Field with a decidedly mixed crowd on hand. The Badgers passed the test with flying colors, and Russell Wilson's ascension to the top of the Big Ten's hierarchy of quarterbacks continues unabated.

WHAT NORTHERN ILLINOIS LOST: For Northern Illinois, there's not a lot to feel bad about with this loss. Yes, it wasn't nearly as close as the 18-point line would have indicated, but NIU wasn't going to have a chance if Wisconsin was on its game, and there's no doubt the Badgers were rolling today. If nothing else, the NIU coaching staff can find the plays that worked, note that they came against the best team Northern Illinois is going to face all year, and build off that.

THAT WAS CRAZY: After NIU's first quarter score to tie the game at 7-7, the Huskies tried a surprise onside kick that caught Wisconsin slightly off-guard. Two Huskies appeared to get their hands on the ball after the kick, but the ball came loose and eventually Wisconsin recovered. That short field led to the aforementioned 51-yard drive and the pounding was on.

As a strategy, it's not entirely insane -- NIU head coach Dave Doeren had to figure that the difference between Wisconsin getting the ball at midfield and at its own 20 or 30 was small enough that shooting for an extra possession on the onside kick was worth it -- but if that's his thinking, he needed to employ the strategy more than once instead of giving up on it as a failed ploy. Of course, NIU only had one more opportunity to try it, thanks to the Wisconsin defense, but that was just a harmless kickoff to open the second half (one that led to, what else, a Wisconsin touchdown drive).

Posted on: September 10, 2011 3:31 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Wisconsin 35, Oregon State 0

Posted by Bryan Fischer

WISCONSIN WON.
The Badgers looked every bit of a top 10 team against an overmatched Oregon State team. Quarterback Russell Wilson was sharp and efficient leading the offense, going 17-21 for 189 yards and three touchdowns. As good as he was though, the ground game really looked good as the team rushed for 208 yards and were paced by Montee Ball who had 118 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns. The Beavers struggled from the start and Mike Riley surprisingly took out starting QB Ryan Katz for Sean Mannion in the middle of the first series of the game. The redshirt freshman was solid, going 25-38 for 244 yards but that didn't result in any points.

WHY WISCONSIN WON: The defense did a great job of keeping Oregon State from running the ball, holding them to just 21 yards on the ground. In fact, the boys in red allowed only two drives longer than 30 yards all game and forced the Beavers to turn the ball over on downs both times. The ground game kept the clock moving and the offensive line protected Wilson so he had all day to throw down the field.

WHEN WISCONSIN WON: It's hard to point to one particular play that changed momentum in favor of the Badgers but they took firm control of the game after Oregon State punter Johnny Hekker booted the ball for negative four yards. Yes, it was -4 yards in the box score but it looked even worse live when you consider the wind wasn't much of a factor.

WHAT WISCONSIN WON: Brett Bielema's squad moves to 2-0 on the year and have looked the part of a Big Ten title contender. With Russell at the helm and running back's Ball and James White, the offense is clearly the strength of the team. There's still a few things to work on with the defense as they were picked apart at times on third down. They have two more cupcakes to get ready for the big showdown against Nebraska at Camp Randall on October 1.

WHAT OREGON STATE LOST: After losing to an FCS team the week before, it's not like things could get worse for Mike Riley. They were pushed around on the road and now they have a significant quarterback controversy. Yes they lost another game and look like the worst team in the Pac-12 but help could be on the way. All-purpose threat James Rodgers and tight end Joe Halahuni should be back after the bye week so that should provide a boost. Still, no momentum and plenty of things to work on in Corvallis.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Four yard punts are pretty shocking to see. Negative four yard punts are, well, jaw dropping. Despite all that, Johnny Hekker still managed to average a decent 31 yard average on the day.
Posted on: September 3, 2011 11:37 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 3)

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.

Posted on: September 2, 2011 5:12 pm
Edited on: September 2, 2011 5:15 pm
 

PODCAST: Three studs, three duds from Thursday

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Here's the podcast I recorded with Adam Aizer earlier today, looking at the three studs and three duds of Thursday. I picked four studs. I can't do anything right.

Click here to listen in a new window, or listen in the embedded player below.

I should have given extra kudos to Vick Ballard, by the way, mainly because of his name. One, it sounds like the name of a 265-pound running back, the type of guy who really has no business trying to run a 40-yard dash or wearing a form-fitting uniform. It's almost a disappointment that he's an average-sized tailback. And two, because I feel like America needs more young men named Vic, or Vick, or Victor. That's the kind of man that ends up owning an auto care shop -- or at the very least a non-ironic, grease-stained mechanic shirt with that name stitched onto the breast. Vic won't screw you over on that muffler repair. Vic does an honest day's work.

I digress.

Past all that, we talk Wisconsin and Russell Wilson a little more, and also Jordan Jefferson and LSU. I suppose I'm more on Adam Aizer's side than is evident in our answers to the question, in that I never thought this was LSU's year to begin with, but the odds of a win over Oregon are sufficiently lower now with Jarrett Lee under center than with Jefferson that it's fair to say that Jefferson's suspension is costing LSU the shot at the title (rather than, say, costing them the title outright).

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