Tag:Iowa
Posted on: October 4, 2011 1:14 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:10 pm
 

Week 6 Picks: Who do you like?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Each week, the CBSSports.com college football staff offer their choice for the week's Expert Picks. But before we make our selections for Week 6, we spin the wheel o' games to select a handful of contests we want your take on. 

Check the poll below to pick an outcome for the 10 games our wheel landed on, including Florida at LSU on CBS, Oklahoma vs. Texas in the Red River Rivalry, and Auburn traveling to Arkansas in a matchup of ranked teams. Also on tap: Southern Miss taking on Navy at 3:30 ET on the CBS Sports Network. To see the results of the poll, tune in to Inside College Football, 8 p.m. ET on CBSSN.



As a sneak peek of this week's Expert Picks, here's this blogger's early impressions of the week's slate:

Southern Miss at Navy: The Golden Eagles have recovered nicely from an early-season loss to Marshall, but still have to prove their defense is at all capable of stopping the Midshipmen triple-option. At home in Annapolis, Navy should have the edge.

Army at Miami (Ohio): It's been an up-and-down season for the Knights, who upset Northwestern but have been clubbed by a total of 50 points in two previous trips to MAC teams Ball State and Northern Illinois. With the Redhawks winless and going nowhere on offense, though, Army should be OK this time.

Missouri at Kansas State: The Wildcats are flying high after upsetting Baylor, but the Tigers promise to be much stingier on defense than the Bears and are coming off a bye. We like the Tigers to bring KSU back to earth a bit.

Iowa at Penn State: Kirk Ferentz has owned Joe Paterno's squad in recent years, and with the Nittany Lions seemingly going backwards on offense as James Vandenberg has woken up the Hawkeye attack, that may not change this season.

Georgia at Tennessee: All bets are off if Tyler Bray catches fire. But Mark Richt has always been an outstanding coach on the road, and until the Vols show some ability to get some push for the running game, we'll take the team with Isaiah Crowell.

Arizona State at Utah: The Utes got a rude welcome to the Pac-12 in their conference home opener against Washington last week, and the Sun Devils are a more complete team than the Huskies. An injury to Jordan Wynn won't help matters, either.

Texas A&M at Texas Tech: There's no more myserious undefeated team in the FBS than the Red Raiders, whose 4-0 record has been complied against an FCS tomato can, hopeless New Mexico, Nevada (in a nail-biter) and Kansas. We're not sure they've been impressive enough to take them over what should be an angry Aggies squad.

Florida at LSU: There's not a college football fan alive who wouldn't tell you the same thing, but it's true: the matchup of true freshman Gator quarterback Jeff Driskel against LSU's defense in Baton Rouge should not be pretty.

Auburn at Arkansas: Last year, Tyler Wilson ripped the Auburn defense for 330-plus yards and four touchdowns in relief of Ryan Mallett, and that was on the road at the defending national champions. At home vs. an even more wobbly Tiger defense, Wilson may make it 1,000 yards in two weeks.

Oklahoma vs. Texas: Ever since Garrett Gilbert went to the sidelines, the Longhorns have been scorching hot, roaring back against BYU and thumping UCLA and Iowa State on the road. The Sooners are still a bridge too far for a team this young, but the Red River Rivalry should me much closer than many expect.
Posted on: October 3, 2011 6:20 pm
Edited on: October 4, 2011 2:48 am
 

Big Ten poll reactions, Week 5

Posted by Adam Jacobi

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big Ten fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.

(AP/Coaches)

4/5. Wisconsin

Wisconsin
jumped back up in the ratings after that legalized manslaughter it put on Nebraska, although the Badgers are still going to need to hope a couple teams lose in front of them before they can start even thinking about a championship. This is about where Wisconsin should be, since they're on a top tier with LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma, Boise State, Stanford, and probably Oklahoma State. The level of quality drops down pretty substantially after those seven, and with the exception of Stanford, all seven have a marquee victory that helps differentiate them from the rest of the pack. It's a shame that none of this top tier is remaining on Wisconsin's schedule, but the Badgers will likely make do with the rest of the Big Ten slate this year.

12/11. Michigan 

Apparently, voters have just been waiting for a reason to hail, hail to Michigan, because this is a meteoric rise in the polls; Michigan was 10 spots lower in both polls two weeks ago, and those two weeks have seen victories against San Diego State and Minnesota. SDSU isn't bad, but that's a game that even a hypothetical 25th-ranked team ought to win at least 90% of the time -- and don't get me started on what a horror show the Gophers are this year. Two straight road contests against Northwestern and Michigan State loom for the Wolverines. If they win both, they'll deserve a ranking this high. If not, well, they won't be rated this high anymore so the problem'll just take care of itself in pretty short order.

14/15. Nebraska

Not nearly low enough. I had them at 16th and anticipated a 10-13 point loss at Wisconsin -- anything closer than that, and I was willing to move Nebraska up, anything worse and the Huskers go down. They're now 21st on my list. The defense is a mess in pass coverage, Taylor Martinez is probably regressing in terms of his football IQ, and there's really only so much Rex Burkhead (whom I have totally come around on this year) can do. At least Ohio State comes to Lincoln this week, though. There's nothing a struggling defense could use more than an opposing offense that can't throw, and boy howdy, OSU cannot throw. If Nebraska wants to act like it deserves its ranking for once, this week is a good time to do it.

19/16. Illinois

It seems like a terrifying proposition to depend on Ron Zook-led teams to produce week after week, which is what being ranked this high entails -- especially this early in the season. But here we are, with Illinois at 5-0 and riding a three-game streak of three-point victories against legitimate competition. Even more terrifying: with Week 7 opponent Ohio State looking outright toothless, Illinois could easily be 8-0 headed into a road date at Penn State on October 29. Illinois. 8-0. It could happen. Strange times we live in.

NR/20. Michigan State

There's a good reason why Michigan State is 20th in the coaches poll and unranked in the AP version: the coaches poll is a joke. Seriously, they barely watch any games, especially considering how quickly their ballots need to be turned around for tabulation. Why are we including their polls in the BCS system again?

Also receiving votes:

Michigan State (154 AP votes), Penn State (9 AP votes, 54 coaches votes), Iowa (5 coaches votes), Ohio State (1 coaches vote)

I don't usually editorialize on the "also receiving votes" portion, but I'd love to know who gave Ohio State a vote so we could demand his immediate ouster from the voting. Sincerely, someone who has actually watched Ohio State play this year.
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 1, 2011 11:10 pm
Edited on: October 1, 2011 11:10 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Texas 37 Iowa State 14

Posted by Tom Fornelli

TEXAS WON. The Longhorns are slowly starting to resemble the Longhorns of old these last few weeks. Texas had a rather easy time with a quality opponent on the road for the second game in a row, this time handing Iowa State its first loss of the season. The Texas offense wasn't fantastic, as it totalled only 400 yards of offense on the night, and went 4-of-14 on third downs, but it protected the ball and took advantage of opportunities it was given. On the other side of the ball, Texas forced three early turnovers to help put Iowa State in a deep hole early, and stymied the Cyclones offense for most of the night.

HOW TEXAS WON. With early help from Iowa State. The Cyclones turned the ball over three times in the first quarter which helped the Longhorns jump out to a 13-0 lead in the first fifteen minutes. The Longhorns would take a 34-0 lead into the locker room at halftime after the Iowa State offense failed to get anything going in the second quarter.

WHEN TEXAS WON. While the Longhorns had to be disappointed that they were only up 13-0 after forcing three turnovers in the first quarter, when David Ash hit Mike Davis for a 48-yard touchdown to put Texas up 20-0 early in the second quarter, Iowa State was on life support. Josh Turner then pulled the plug on the Cyclones when he scooped up a blocked punt and took it 34 yards to the house to make it 27-0 six minutes later.

WHAT TEXAS WON. Texas is getting its confidence back. It had to feel nice to get a bit of revenge against Iowa State after the Cyclones beat the Longhorns in Austin last season. More importantly for Texas, although the team is not fully back to the form we've grown accustomed to seeing over the last decade, this is a team that looks like it's starting to believe in itself again. Ever since Garrett Gilbert was replaced with Ash and Case McCoy, the team has looked a lot smoother, and with a game against Oklahoma looming on the schedule next Saturday, that confidence couldn't have come at a better time.

WHAT IOWA STATE LOST. Iowa State had to be feeling pretty good about itself after picking up wins over Iowa and UConn in its last two games, but it got a bit of a wake up call on Saturday night. This is a team that is improving under Paul Rhoads, but it also showed us on Saturday that it's a team that's not exactly ready to compete for a Big 12 title yet. Of course, that doesn't mean that the Cyclones can't make some noise in the Big 12 this year, and a bowl berth is still in play as long as the Cyclones can shake this loss off.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 7:58 pm
Edited on: September 28, 2011 12:05 pm
 

You can vote on Iowa and Nebraska's new trophy

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Iowa and Nebraska are set to kick off a brand new rivalry this year as part of Nebraska's entry into the Big Ten, and the two teams have announced a Heroes Game theme to the annual contest, which is scheduled for the Friday after Thanksgiving.

When the Heroes Game was announced, one of the things that was conspicuously missing was the trophy itself; athletic directors Tom Osborne of Nebraska and Gary Barta of Iowa merely said that the trophy would be announced at a later date. That date is today -- sort of -- as Nebraska and Iowa have released a website where fans can vote on their favorite design for this November's trophy.

UPDATE: Although the NebraskaIowaTrophy.com website is legitimate and does represent a Nebraska-Iowa trophy, this will not be the official Heroes Game trophy; it is a student body trophy in a joint effort by Nebraska's Innocents Society and Iowa's President's Leadership Society. The website of the trophy has since been updated to more accurately reflect that this is a student body trophy, and we are grateful to have heard from the Innocents Society who provided some much-needed clarification.

Two things: on one hand, it appears the two schools' societies learned a valuable lesson from the failed Iowa-Iowa State trophy by putting the final design in the hands of the fans. On the other, it also appears they learned nothing from the failed Iowa-Iowa State trophy because all of these ideas are agriculture-related too. Observe:

 

 

Obviously, the pitchfork is the right choice here and it's not even close. There are two acceptable ideas for a corn-related trophy, and neither of them are represented here. If you must use a corn theme, the trophy either has to be A: a giant brass kernel of corn, because trophies are meant to be giant, brass, and hoisted, or B: a football opening up with a giant cob of corn inside it. EMBRACE THE THEME.

At the very least, though, there are no children on any of these trophy ideas, so this is a step up in that respect. But corn, guys? Again? Corn's not worth fighting over -- not in a state like Iowa or Nebraska, anyway.
Posted on: September 27, 2011 1:25 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 1:28 pm
 

CBSSports.com Conference Power Rankings: Week 5


Posted by Chip Patterson


We took Week 4 off for the conference power rankings to put together the Future Conference Power Rankings.  With realignment rumors slowing, we made a few projections and broke down how the conference's would rank in 2014 at the BCS automatic qualifying renewal.  I put together a set of power rankings for football, Matt Norlander did college hoops, then we put our brains together for a joint future conference power ranking.  

The exercise was an interesting look into the makeup of building and sustatining a conference, but I was more than excited to turn the attention back to what we know: football in 2011.  

LSU and Alabama have continued to carry the SEC banner as the game's leading conference.  The two juggernauts have overcome every obstacle in their path so far, heading down a collision course to their Nov.5 meeting in Tuscaloosa.  But the Tide should be on upset alert this weekend, as defeating the Gators under the lights in The Swamp will be no easy task.  Oklahoma showed no signs of slowing from their methodical road victory against then-top-ranked Florida State, and the Cowboys' comeback victory against Texas A&M showed the strength of the conference lies in the Bedlam schools.  Mountain West and Conference USA suffered some embarrassing losses, while Big Ten's weak slate left room for the Pac-12 to move up into the No. 3 spot.  

You can give your opinion in the comment section below, but here are the CBSSports.com 2011 Conference Power Rankings heading into Week 5.


1. SEC (LW: 1)- The giants in the SEC West each pass their Week 4 tests with flying colors, and LSU takes over as the No. 1 team in the nation according to the writers.  Mississippi State avoided dropping two in a row barely, but the Bulldogs can pick themselves up before heading back into conference play.  Florida performed their annual slaughter of Kentucky, and their defense and running game could give them a shot to challenge South Carolina in the East.  

2. Big 12 (LW: 2) - The Big 12 is definitely closing the gap on the SEC for top conference in the nation, which is interesting considering the instability off the field.  While Oklahoma and Oklahoma State continue to lead the way in the polls, the depth of the conference has been more impressive as of late.  With Kansas State knocking off Miami in Coral Gables and Baylor continuing to follow Robert Griffin III's lead the league has five teams in the top 20.  That's just as much as the SEC and an argument could be made for the middle of the Big 12 looking better on the field than the middle of the SEC recently.

3. Big Ten (LW: 3) - The Big Ten gets very little credit for their weak non-conference schedule in Week 4.  While Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State all did their part to take care of the inferior competition the rest of the conference did not fly the banner with pride.  Minnesota and Indiana's losses and Illinois' squeaker against Western Michigan put a stain on what could have been a clean sweep for the B1G.  Legends and Leaders will strap it up in Week 5 though, with five conference matchups on the slate.

3. Pac-12 (LW: 4) - With Oregon showing flashes of 2010 in their rushing game, the Ducks sent a warning shot across Stanford's bow with their performance on Saturday.  Arizona State's victory over USC helped justify what may be the Sun Devils' berth to the inagural Pac-12 title game (due to USC's postseason ban).  The conference has plenty of question marks when you look down the entire membership roster, but the heavy-hitters at the top of the standings keep the conference near the top.  

5. ACC (LW: 5) - Florida State's second loss in a row removes the ACC's lone team from the national spotlight.  However with a victory over Virignia Tech, Clemson could find themselves elevated to that elite group of undefeated teams.  The Tigers have never defeated three ranked opponents in a row, and will be trying to do so on Sunday evening in Blacksburg.  The Hokies have played an unimpressive collection of early season non-conference matchups, so Frank Beamer and Co. will be looking for a win to justify their place in the naitonal scene.  Georgia Tech is also on the rise, but Maryland's loss to Temple and Miami's loss to Kansas State the ACC's "middle" took a hit in Week 4.

6. Big East (LW: 7) - West Virginia deserves credit for giving LSU their best shot.  They were able to move the ball on that touted defense and until Mo Claiborne's 99-yard kickoff return TD it looked like the Mountaineers could take it to the wire.  South Florida continues their offensive tear, but that will be put to test in the conference opener at Pittsburgh on Thursday.  Despite only having to vote-getting teams in the polls, the conference moves up a spot in the power rankings thanks to a little bit of hope shown by the league's middle.  Cincinnati looks like they could be headed back to the postseason after their dismantling of N.C. State and while Pittsburgh is still horrendous to watch at times they gave themselves a shot to win at Notre Dame..

7. Mountain West Conference (LW: 6) - Kellen Moore and Boise State will stay on course, and I imagine their revenge victory against Nevada will be quite the offensive output.  TCU is starting to get their footing back as well, but still has not displayed anything on field yet that looks like they could give the Broncos a run for the conference title.  The league takes a one-spot drop in the power rankings after San Diego State looked shellshocked against Michigan in the Big House.  The Aztecs weren't expected to win, but Rocky Long's squad could have definitely put up a better fight against the Wolverines.  

8. MAC (LW: 9) - Nothing quite like some MACtion upsets to make for good conference smack talk.  The fighting Addazio's have lived up to their hype once again, this time picking Maryland apart on their own field.  Temple's strong start, and what should have been a Toledo win against Syracuse have the MAC ranking just below the MWC in terms of non-AQ conferences.  Throw in Ball State's win over Army and it was a blown call away from a MAC sweep in Week 4.

9. Sun Belt (LW: T-10) - The Sun Belt's darling in 2011 was FIU, at least until Wesley Carroll and T.Y. Hilton left Saturday's game with injuries and the Panthers dropped their first contest of the season.  After knocking off Louisville and UCF in back-to-back weeks, it is unfortunate Mario Cristobal's tear came to an end against a conference opponent.  Troy now has second life as they try to pursue at least a share of their seventh straight Sun Belt Confernece title.  North Texas delivered the upset of the weekend for the league, knocking off Indiana 24-21.  

10. Conference USA (LW: 8) - In a weekend that featured several notable non-conference upset opportunities, Conference USA really dropped the ball.  Southern Miss was able to hold on against Virginia, but after the Cavaliers' recent performances even that ACC victory might not be an upset.  UCF lost a very winnable game against BYU on Friday night, and an improved Tulane squad certainly had a fighter's chance against Duke.  As a league, Conference USA went 2-6 in non-conference play during Week 4.  Making their case worse, Memphis continues to make a case for being the worst team in the bowl subdivision.  The jury is still out, but the Tigers are making their case.

11. WAC (LW: T-10) - Lots of "almosts" for the WAC in Week 4.  Utah State almost knocking off Colorado State.  Nevada almost upsetting Texas Tech, and Louisiana Tech almost pulling the upset of the week.  Unfortunately "almost" is only acceptable with horshoes and hand grenards.  Need more W's to move up these rankings. 

Check back in to the Eye On College Football next week for the updated edition of the Conference Power Rankings.

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Posted on: September 26, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: September 26, 2011 3:21 pm
 

College Football Picks: Week 5

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Each week, the CBSSports.com college football staff offer their choice for the week's Expert Picks. But before we make our selections for Week 5, this is your chance to tell us who you think will come out on top in this week's biggest games.

Check the poll below to pick an outcome for seven of the week's biggest games, including Air Force at Navy, Alabama at Florida (both of which you can watch on CBS), Nebraska at Wisconsin, and Arkansas vs. Texas A&M in Dallas. To see the results of the poll, tune in to Inside College Football on the CBS Sports Network, Tuesday night at 8 ET. 



As a sneak peek of this week's Expert Picks, here's this blogger's early impressions of the week's slate:

USF at Pitt (Thursday night): The Panthers struggled badly on defense vs. Iowa, then badly on offense vs. Notre Dame. They're just not clicking well enough right now to beat a Bulls team that's finally learned not to beat itself under Skip Holtz.

Nebraska at Wisconsin: The Badger defense has looked as championship-caliber as their offense so far, but against questionable competition. If they're up to shutting down Taylor Martinez, though, Wisconsin should roll.

Alabama at Florida: If the Tide don't let down from their big win over the Razorbacks, they should be able to corral the Jeff Demps-Chrris Rainey tag team well enough to pull out a win. But that's a decent-sized "if," and the Swamp will no doubt be rocking.

Arkansas at Texas A&M: In a battle of two teams licking their wounds from last Saturday, we like the matchup of Tyler Wilson and his outstanding receivers against the same Aggie secondary that Brandon Weeden so thoroughly torched to tilt things in the Hogs' favor.

Michigan State at Ohio State: The Buckeyes looked revitalized with Braxton Miller under center, but the Spartans should offer a much stiffer challenge than Colorado. Still, at home in Columbus, the Buckeyes should have enough top-to-bottom talent to squeak out a victory.

Baylor at Kansas State: Two surprising unbeatens square off in Manhattan. The Wildcats haven't gotten credit they deserve for winning in Miami, but not sure they have the firepower to hang with new Heisman poll No. 1 Robert Griffin III, even at home.

Air Force at Navy: Both teams have played "up" in competition once, with the Midshipmen taking South Carolina to the wire but the Falcons thumped at home by TCU. With Air Force also traveling cross-country, we're giving the edge to the home team.

Posted on: September 25, 2011 4:19 am
Edited on: September 25, 2011 12:19 pm
 

What I learned from the Big Ten (Sep. 24)



Posted by Adam Jacobi

1. The Big Ten can't even get cheap wins correctly. There's no nice way to put this: this was possibly the worst week in Big Ten history in terms of opponent quality. The total amount of AP and coaches poll votes held by the Big Ten's Week 4 opponents? 22, received by Michigan opponent San Diego State, who will likely see that number fall to zero on Sunday after the Wolverines prevailed 28-7. Handfuls of undeserved votes aside, the best team anybody in the Big Ten faced today was Western Michigan, who took Illinois to the limit in Champaign. Again: Western Michigan, a MAC team with no AP or coaches poll votes, looked like the most talented opponent of Week 4 for anybody in the Big Ten. And being that there were no riots on any of the Big Ten campuses, apparently fans are willing to allow this scheduling practice to continue.

So it would stand to reason that the Big Ten went 10-0 this week (Purdue and Northwestern are on bye weeks) then, correct? Well, no. Indiana couldn't overcome a 24-point deficit in a 24-21 home road loss to North Texas, and Minnesota increased its losing streak against North Dakota State to two games (also lost to Bison in 2007) by dropping Saturday's game, 37-24. As for how such a shocking loss could have possibly happened to a Big Ten team, well, look at the picture above. It's Minnesota. There were blowouts everywhere else in the conference, which is the way it ought to be, but 8-2 against a slate of cupcakes? Shame on the Big Ten for that.

2. Speaking of which, Indiana and Minnesota may be worse than we thought. It was obvious already that Indiana and Minnesota were going to be taking up residence in the basements of their respective divisions, what with the Hoosiers losing to Ball State in Week 1 and Minnesota dropping one to New Mexico State already this year. But both teams' losses to low-level competition this Saturday were even worse, because for most of the game, they weren't even close. North Texas was 0-3 on the year coming into the game, and built a 24-0 lead while moving the ball at will on the Hoosier defense, while NDSU held a 31-14 advantage in the second half before holding on for the win. We're talking about a previously winless Sun Belt team and an FCS school who both looked like they belonged in the Big Ten more than the Hoosiers or Gophers. That? That's not good.

3. Braxton Miller is not on Terrelle Pryor's level... yet. Ohio State cruised to a 37-17 victory over visiting Pac-12 doormat Colorado, but the big story here was Braxton Miller's debut as a starting quarterback for the Buckeyes. Miller was a force on the ground, registering 83 yards on 17 carries, and he also threw for two touchdowns. That's the good part. The bad part is that Miller was just 5-13 for 83 yards through the air, and he just doesn't have a very good read progression at this point. Really, he wasn't even supposed to be playing this year, much less starting, but then Terrelle Pryor's eligibility walked out the door and now here we are with a true freshman under center in Columbus.

Miller's going to improve over the course of the year, one would imagine, and that's good because don't let the touchdowns fool you: he's got a ways to go yet before he's as reliable as Luke Fickell is going to need him to be in conference play. Miller did show flashes of the athleticism and play-making ability that made him such a sought-after prospect on Saturday, but the consistency is going to be the key, and that comes mainly with time -- time that, with Michigan State coming to town next Saturday, Ohio State doesn't really have.

4. Michael Mauti's luck is just wretched. Penn State beat Eastern Michigan 34-6, but the real story for PSU is the injuries suffered on the defensive side of the ball. CB D'Anton Lynn was carted off the field in the second half with an apparent neck injury, but he's expected to be fine. The real problem for the Nittany Lions is the absence of All-American candidate Michael Mauti, who suffered a torn ACL on a non-contact injury in the first quarter and will miss the rest of the year. Mauti was forced to redshirt in 2009, his second year with Penn State, after tearing his right ACL; Saturday's injury happened to Mauti's left. It's early enough in the year that he'll likely be able to apply for a sixth year of eligibility in 2013 if he wants it.

This marks the third season marred by injury for the talented linebacker; in addition to the 2009 ACL injury mentioned earlier, Mauti was plagued by ankle and shoulder issues in 2010 and never seemed to be at 100% during Big Ten play even when he was healthy enough to be on the field (not always the case). Mauti had looked great in early play this season, and although Nate Stupar is no slouch in relief, losing a high-caliber player like Mauti is tough for a team that's going to be leaning heavily on its defense this season with the continuing difficulties at quarterback.

We hope Mauti's recovery is swift and complete, and that he finally gets at least one healthy season to put it all together for Penn State. Anything less, frankly, would be unfair.

5. There are going to be a lot of quarterbacks getting All-Big Ten honorable mention recognition. The best quarterback in the Big Ten is probably Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, and if it's not, it's Mr. MichiganDenard Robinson.(seen at left, rushing for one of his three scores Saturday). Short of injury, there's basically no way these two dynamos cede the All-Big Ten first team and second team honors at the end of this season.

That means honorable mention is going to have to accommodate a lot of Big Ten quarterbacks who are off to great starts this season in their own right. Nathan Scheelhaase is basically a job-saver for Ron Zook at Illinois, epitomizing the "dual threat" label with a high option IQ and an accurate arm. James Vandenberg is probably the best pure passer Kirk Ferentz has ever had at Iowa, and the junior has nearly 1100 yards, 10 TDs, and only one interception in his first four games this year. MSU's Kirk Cousins was my preseason pick as 2011's top QB in the Big Ten, and he still may be so when the dust settles. Nebraska's option man Taylor Martinez would be the most dynamic rushing quarterback in the Big Ten since Antwaan Randle-El if it weren't for that Denard fellow in Ann Arbor. And oh yes, Dan Persa is coming back next week for Northwestern; if he can replicate his pre-Achilles injury form, Northwestern's going to be in great shape. That's a lot of very, very good quarterbacks for just one conference, and the scary part is that only Wilson and Cousins are seniors. Meanwhile, Indiana brings in top prospect Dusty Kiel next season and Braxton Miller will be the unquestioned starter in Columbus with a full year of experience under his belt in 2012. The high-profile quarterback isn't going anywhere soon in the Big Ten. 

One school that's conspicuously absent in this discussion is Penn State, who struggled again with quarterback play in the Rob Bolden/Matt McGloin quarterback platoon that seemed to hit a stride of sorts this week... against EMU, who isn't even good by MAC standards. How the Penn State quarterback situation got so dire is a question that gets beaten past any semblance of sense on a weekly basis in Happy Valley, but it doesn't change the fact that Penn State's in a quarterback-heavy league without a true No. 1 quarterback, and it's probably going to cost the Nittany Lions this year. It would be false to ascribe this to an institutional weakness on the part of Joe Paterno, since his last full-time starting quarterback was Daryll Clark, who was only the Big Ten OPOTY in 2008. It would also be false to think this problem will fix itself, though, because if there were a legitimate, game-ready quarterback on Penn State's roster, well, we would have seen him by now.

6. Well, at least that's all done. There are only two non-conference games left for anybody in the Big Ten; Purdue faces Notre Dame next week, and Northwestern has a date with Rice in November. For everyone else, it's nothing but Big Ten play from here on out. No more FCS patsies, no more MACrifices, and no more cupcakes showing up for a paycheck. It's the way the Big Ten was meant to be played. Let's go. 

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