Posted on: November 10, 2010 9:33 am
Edited on: November 10, 2010 9:35 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
After narrowly escaping Indiana for the second-straight year with an 18-13 victory in Bloomington, head coach Kirk Ferentz and the Iowa Hawkeyes gladly welcome leading rusher Adam Robinson back to the field this week after missing time due to an injury. Several media outlets reported the injury as a concussion, but Ferentz did not confirm that on Tuesday. He did, however, inform the media that Robinson should be good to go against Northwestern on Saturday.
"As far as I know, he's practicing today and he's training; ran on Sunday, lifted and all that stuff," Ferentz told the media on Tuesday. "So he's fine to go."
Having Ferentz offer a "denial/non-denial" to the concussion rumors was a little odd, though other reports do confirm that Robinson has returned and appears healthy. He was replaced by backup Marcus Coker against Indiana, who rushed 22 times for 129 yards in the win. While Coker held his own against the Hoosiers, Robinson's importance to the Hawkeyes' offense cannot be easily dismissed. He leads the conference in rushing attempts per game and his 10 rushing touchdowns on the season are good for 5th in the Big Ten.
This Saturday has all the makings of a trap game for the Hawkeyes, with a season-determining matchup in Columbus just a week away. Iowa must keep their focus on Northwestern in order to stay in the hunt for the Big Ten title. No game was more important for the race than the 37-6 victory over Michigan State giving them a tie-breaker edge against the one-loss Spartans. But in order to capture the Big Ten conference crown, the Hawkeyes need to win out and get some serious help from one of Wisconsin's final opponents. But with that out of their hands, head coach Kirk Ferentz knows they need to win each game left on the schedule, and it starts with Northwestern on Saturday.
Posted on: November 9, 2010 1:10 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In college football's grand scheme of things, who's serving as captain at Indiana as the Hoosiers prepare to take on Wisconsin Saturday isn't much of a story. But it's still tough to ignore once you see who coach Bill Lynch said the Hoosier players nominated this particular week :
Yes, that's the same Damarlo Belcher who held the winning fourth-down touchdown pass in his hands last week against Iowa and simply dropped it, costing his team what would have been their biggest win of the year and, potentially, bowl eligibility.
That his Hoosier teammates are willing to not only forgive him but rally around him is worth a hearty round of applause, as well as a testament to the fact that even at 0-5 in the Big Ten (and 1-12 in league play over the last two years), Lynch has done an excellent job of keeping his beleagured bunch from splintering. Winning in Camp Randall Stadium Saturday won't be easy, but it won't be for a lack of team unity or character.
Posted on: November 7, 2010 2:32 am
Edited on: November 7, 2010 2:58 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
1. Michigan doesn't do "boring." The game of the week, beyond any doubt, was Michigan's 67-65 squeaker over Illinois. The game featured 132 points scored, 1237 yards from scrimmage, 58 first downs, and 60:00 total time of possession. Okay, so the last one is normal.
Down the stretch, Michigan was led by Tate Forcier under center, as Denard Robinson was knocked out of a game once again. Forcier effectively reprised his role of "4th quarter dynamo" from 2009, proving yet again the rare value of an experienced backup quarterback. Forcier is clearly not Denard, but the fact remains that Forcier is good enough that he should be spelling Robinson periodically throughout Michigan's game regardless of Robinson's health. Michigan has two starting-quality quarterbacks, and as Robinson's accumulation of minor injuries demonstrates, they clearly need to use them! It's just up to Rich Rodriguez to use both on his own terms, rather than waiting for Robinson to get knocked out of the game first.
Thus, the only game that Michigan has participated in that didn't result in at least 50 total points was its season-opening 30-10 win over Connecticut; since then, whenever Michigan takes the gridiron, the points fly; on average, a Michigan game features almost 73 points per game. In fact, after today's circus act, Michigan leads the Big Ten in both points per game and points allowed per game. Is it "good football"? Lord, no. Is it exciting? Of course. If that's the role Michigan is destined to play under Rich Rodriguez, it's certainly a step down for the Wolverines, but it's not necessarily worse for the conference as a whole.
2. The road is awful hard. It don't take no guff. No. 9 Wisconsin went on the road to Purdue and trailed until the second half. No. 16 Iowa went to Indiana and needed a horrific dropped touchdown on 4th down (more on this later) to escape with an 18-13 win. Northwestern blew a 21-0 lead at Happy Valley, Minnesota got smacked by Michigan State, and Illinois couldn't win in Ann Arbor even after scoring 65 points.
All of which is to say, winning on the road in the Big Ten is still really difficult. It's something to keep in mind when prognosticating the Rose Bowl berth endgame. Regardless of how good the four teams at the top of the conference are, odds are that at least one (and probably more) will go down on the road yet this season, and we shouldn't be surprised when it happens.
3. Nothing's really changed at the top. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Iowa all won, and we're still waiting on a score from Ohio State and Brigham Young East (we assume that's what BYE stands for). The tiebreakers remain exactly the same, then, with the only difference being that there is now one fewer game for the first three teams mentioned to lose. With a finite -- and indeed, extremely limited -- amount of games to play, the passage of one week without a dropoff from the top four is in and of itself important, even if the stipulations and situations themselves don't change. Perhaps this isn't something to "have learned," per se , but for the top of the conference, the maintenance of the status quo is still meaningful.
4. Penn State's offense might actually exist. When Northwestern went up 21-0 on a sensational Drake Dunsmore* touchdown late in the first half, it would have been perfectly logical to assume that the Penn State offensive attack, led by former walk-on Matt McGloin, didn't have much of a shot to make up the deficit. After all, it would have tied the largest deficit a Joe Paterno-coached Penn State team had ever made up in his previous 399 victories, and that's a lot of victories.
But of course, Penn State did exactly that, scoring the final 35 points of the game to win 35-21. McGloin poured in four touchdown passes, but the real heroes were on PSU's oft-maligned offensive line; the front five paved enough holes to let both Evan Royster and Silas Redd top 100 rushing yards on the day, and McGloin's 225 passing yards simply wouldn't have happened if he had faced the pressure that regular starter Rob Bolden has become used to in this, his freshman season. Imagine that: when given time and space to operate, a previous all-conference honoree once again looked like an all-conference player, and a walk-on quarterback was able to execute to the best of his ability.
5. One quiet moment for Damario Belcher. We mentioned this play in passing earlier, but it's worth mentioning in more detail; with less than 30 seconds on the clock and the Hoosiers facing a 4th and 10 at the Iowa 18, Indiana QB Ben Chappell found wideout Damario Belcher open in the middle of the end zone. Belcher, already the team's leading receiver on the game with seven catches for 50 yards, made an athletic move to catch the ball with nobody on him and got both hands on it, leading most in the stadium to assume Indiana had scored the putative winning touchdown.
Alas, as an eagle-eyed referee (and several optimistic Iowa players) noticed, Belcher bobbled the pass and never controlled it before the ball hit the ground and rolled away ineffectually, making the play nothing more than a drive-killing incomplete pass. Indiana challenged, but it was an easy confirmation for replay officials; it clearly was not a catch. Iowa knelt on the ball, and just like that, Indiana lost on a play Belcher makes probably 90-95% of the time.
Again, this isn't strictly something to learn, but it's something important to remember: Belcher's a human being, and he doesn't need anybody to remind him that he screwed the game-winning play up. There's likely nobody in the world -- like, at all -- who feels worse about the loss than he does. So to anybody who finds it necessary to complain that Belcher "sucks" or is "stupid" or "needs to get his damn head in the game" or whatever arbitrary derogatory remark they think applies to Belcher, one piece of advice: save it. Just don't add to the crapfest that guy's season already became, and strike a note for civility instead. Granted, Indiana football fans aren't generally known to be nasty or otherwise unreasonable to begin with or anything, but still: let's all keep our heads screwed on about this game and this 20-year-old kid playing it.
*Did you know: Drake Dunsmore is a second-generation college football player. His father is Pat Dunsmore, a star tight end who was drafted in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears in 1983 and played two seasons with the team. And where did Pat Dunsmore go to school? Yep: Drake University.
Tags: Ben Chappell, Big Ten, Chicago Bears, Damario Belcher, Denard Robinson, Drake, Drake Dunsmore, Drake Dunsmore Catch, Drake Dunsmore Video, Evan Royster, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Joe Paterno, Joe Paterno 400 Wins, Matt McGloin, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Pat Dunsmore, Penn State, Purdue, Rich Rodriguez, Silas Redd, Tate Forcier, What I Learned, Wisconsin
Posted on: November 6, 2010 1:48 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2010 1:56 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Something is rotten in the state of Indiana, and it's the play of conference leaders on the road. Wisconsin currently trails Purdue 10-6 at the half, and Iowa is tied with Indiana at 6-6.
Purdue has been completely unconcerned with testing Wisconsin's defense deep in the first half, using quick, short throws to move the chains and relying on Dan Dierking to get key first downs. Quarterback Sean Robinson has been surprisingly competent, and he's got a great rapport with Antavian Edison at wideout. Edison caught the only touchdown of the game thus far on a 23-yard catch-and-run, and has five catches for 54 yards on the day; he's the game's leading receiver after two quarters.
[UPDATE, 1:55 p.m.: Wisconsin intercepted Robinson and returned it deep into Purdue territory on the first drive of the second half. After converting a 4th and 1, Wisconsin scored a touchdown and now leads 13-10.]
Meanwhile, the Iowa-Indiana game has been marked by long drives, but no touchdowns; most of the field goals in this game have come in the red zone. In fact, Iowa would be leading 9-6, but kicker Michael Meyer missed a chip shot from 21 yards out late in the first half. Ben Chappell and Ricky Stanzi have each thrown costly interceptions, and each team should feel like it should be leading here in Bloomington.
Posted on: November 2, 2010 12:35 pm
Edited on: November 13, 2010 6:08 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa has done just about everything for the Wildcats this season. Not only does Persa rank second in the country in completion percentage (74.4%) and ninth in pass efficiency (162.7) but he also leads Northwestern in rushing with 360 yards. Without Persa, the Wildcats aren't 6-2 and on their way back to another bowl game under Pat Fitzgerald.
There was some concern that Northwestern would have to take on Penn State this weekend without its lynchpin on offense, as Persa suffered a concussion during a win against Indiana last week. According to Fitzgerald, though, there's no reason to worry as he "fully expects him to play" this weekend. Still, before it can be made official, Persa will have to pass Northwestern's "post-concussion protocol" which is a series of tests he'll need to pass before being cleared.
The team plans on having him participate in non-contact drills on Tuesday and hopes to have him cleared to play on Thursday.
Persa may have some extra motivation to play this weekend as well, as he grew up a fan of Penn State only a few hours away from campus, and his mom graduated from the school. When he was in high school the Nittany Lions didn't show much attention to him, so he may want to give them a hint on what they missed out on.
Posted on: October 31, 2010 3:45 am
Edited on: October 31, 2010 1:28 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Michigan State isn't exactly BCS Championship material after all: Not even in our Insane Predictions did we ever see a 31-point Iowa throttling of Michigan State coming; the Hawkeyes dominated from the get-go and harassed Kirk Cousins into irrelevance, forcing three interceptions and keeping the Spartans off the scoreboard until the game was well out of hand. The vaunted Michigan State rushing was even more forcefully debilitated; the Spartans managed only 31 yards on 20 carries, and even that might overstate the Spartans' effectiveness rushing the football, as only one of their 13 first downs came on the ground: an 11-yard end-around by WR Bennie Fowler. The MSU tailbacks? No-shows. That, plus a harried performance by the quarterback, equals disaster, and that's what rained down on the Spartans in Iowa City on Saturday.
This makes four one-loss teams in the Big Ten, and with tiebreaker rules being what they are, there are essentially no teams left in the Big Ten that can win the conference crown "without help"; each of the four teams' Rose Bowl hopes depends directly on another team winning or losing. Might we see some eyes casting furtive glances at scoreboards from here on out? Don't be surprised.
Quietly, Ohio State marches on. Don't look now, but Ohio State is back to 8-1 (4-1) on the season, tied for first with Michigan State in the standings. The Buckeyes' latest act of aggression against the rest of the conference was a 52-10 spanking of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, OSU's sixth victory of 28 points or more on the season. Terrelle Pryor's still really good, and the defense is tightening up after that 31-18 horror show in Madison two weeks ago. A 12-1 mark to finish the year isn't exactly out of the question for the Buckeyes, whose only real tests are a visit to Iowa and whatever high-level bowl game they're awarded.
Now, even if the Buckeyes win out and even if they're ranked ahead of Michigan State in the BCS ratings (which they would be), they're not guaranteed a Rose Bowl bid; like everyone else crowded at the top, OSU needs one little bit of help. Again, more on that later. But rest assured that at the very least, an 11-1 Ohio State gets an at-large BCS bowl bid.
Sorry, but Michigan's not legitimate. The Michigan defense's ability to breathe life into a moribund opposing offense is truly a sight to behold, and its 41-point performance against Penn State and former walk-on QB Matt McGloin (making his first start ever) might have been its magnum opus. Evan Royster, who basically hasn't found rushing lanes all season long, gashed the Wolverines for 150 yards and two scores. McGloin threw for 250 yards and another touchdown, and the Nittany Lions converted on 10 of 16 third downs (and went 2-2 on fourth downs, so really, 12 of those 16 third downs ended up getting converted). Again, this is the same Nittany Lion offense that scored three points against Iowa and Alabama, scored 13 against Illinois, and "racked up" 24 on Kent State. Throw in the backup quarterback, and Michigan still gives up 41 points -- and that's not even counting PSU kneeling at Michigan's 2-yard line to end the game. It could have been worse.
What this means is that even for Denard Robinson's heroic 380 yards of total offense in the loss, Michigan's overall ineptitude makes him more the next Antwaan Randle-El than a potential conference-winning quarterback at this point. And don't get it twisted, Randle-El was truly great, but there's no doubt that he'd have traded his first-team All-American designation for so much as a bowl bid in his four years of play. Didn't happen. Now, Michigan's not there yet, but the Wolverines are at least on their way; under Rich Rodriguez, the Wolverines are now an astonishing 4-16 in Big Ten play with Saturday's loss. They're not exactly "program-defining" wins, either (or they could be, perhaps, but certainly not in any positive sense): at Indiana this year, vs. Indiana in 2009, vs. Wisconsin in 2008, and vs. Minnesota in 2008. That's all. No teams with over seven wins on the season, one win by over seven points. At Michigan. In fact, only Indiana has fared worse in Big Ten play since RichRod showed up; for those keeping track at home, that's the second unflattering comparison to Indiana in this paragraph alone.
Stanzi for Heisman? Let's start with Stanzi for New York: Ricky Stanzi had his third straight game of three passing touchdowns and no turnovers, pushing his season totals to 19 TDs and two picks in eight games. That's usually not a Heisman-winning pace, and especially not this season, but the efficiency (second in the nation and gaining on Boise State's Kellen Moore) is awfully reminiscent of another QB in Iowa City just eight years ago: Brad Banks, who threw 26 TDs and four interceptions en route to a runner-up spot for the Heisman to Carson Palmer in 2002. If Stanzi keeps this up and if Iowa upends Ohio State in Iowa City (big ifs), might we see Stanzi at the Downtown Athletic Club? With Denard Robinson's (or more accurately Michigan's) season fading and Taylor Martinez dinged up, don't rule it out quite yet.
Wisconsin's biggest fans are the Spartans, and its biggest enemies are its victims. How badly does Michigan State need Wisconsin to win out? If the Badgers lose while either Iowa or OSU finish at 7-1, the Spartans' grasp on the conference title evaporates; Iowa has beaten MSU head-to-head, while it's extremely unlikely that MSU can overtake the Buckeyes in the BCS standings after its jarring defeat in Iowa City on Saturday. Meanwhile, the fact that Ohio State and Michigan State don't play each other has suddenly swung heavily in OSU's favor; more on that later this week. As for Wisconsin itself, its Rose Bowl chances hinge entirely on either Michigan State or the Iowa-OSU winner losing another game. But again, more later; trust us, that stuff gets complicated, especially now that "Just win, baby" isn't automatically enough for anybody in the conference anymore.
Tags: Alabama, Antwaan Randle-El, Bennie Fowler, Big Ten, Big Ten Rose Bowl, Boise State, Brad Banks, Carson Palmer, Denard Robinson, Evan Royster, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kellen Moore, Kent State, Kirk Cousins, Matt McGloin, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Rich Rodriguez, Ricky Stanzi, Rose Bowl, Rose Bowl Big Ten, Rose Bowl Predictions, Rose Bowl Projections, Rose Bowl Tiebreakers, Taylor Martinez, What I Learned, Wisconsin
Posted on: October 29, 2010 1:33 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Every week there's plenty of interesting matchups -- no, really -- that don't feature ranked teams and don't make anyone's "must-watch" list other than the team's fans. Here's three of them you should keep an eye on regardless (all times Eastern) :
East Carolina (5-2, 4-0) at UCF (5-2, 3-0) , 3:30 p.m. It's a straight-up, head-to-head battle for first place in Conference USA 's East division, but there's plenty of other reasons to pay attention to what ought to be the C-USA game of the year. With Houston 's Case Keenum out for the season and Southern Miss having already lost to ECU at home, these appear to be the best two teams in the conference; the Pirates have the league's best nonconference win, over Florida State conquerors N.C. State , but UCF boasts C-USA's stingiest defense by a mile. Both teams have brand-name playmakers in elusive ECU quarterback Dominque Davis and explosive UCF defensie end Darius Nall. Thus far this season ECU has specialized in winning barnburners (51-49 over Tulsa , 44-43 over Southenr Miss) and this should be another tight contest on the road in Orlando, but with starting quarterback Rob Calabrese out, expect the Golden Knights to play things as close to the vest as possible.
Cal (4-3, 2-2) at Oregon State (3-3, 2-1), 3:30 p.m. His brother may be lost for the season, but any time Jacquizz Rodgers suits up for the Beavers, it's worth paying attention to. Beyond that, despite their nonconference losses at TCU and Boise State , the Beavers can still have a major say in the Pac-10 race with a win here; they'll play host to both USC and Oregon and must still travel to take on Stanford . Cal, meanwhile, has been more up-and-down than a yo-yo taken for a bungee-jump. After destroying Arizona State a week ago (a week after being destroyed at USC), they'll be expected to fold at Corvallis. But if you look past the margin of defeat, there's no particular shame in losing in Los Angeles, or at Arizona or Nevada . Both teams will still feel like their season to-date is a success with a win ... but both might also start to feel like the year might be a lost cause with a loss. The game promises to be a turning point for both.
Michigan (5-2, 1-2) at Penn State (4-3, 1-2), 8 p.m. It's pretty simple: at some point, Rich Rodriguez must start winning Big Ten games that aren't against Indiana to keep his job. (Against all other Big Ten teams, he's lost his last 11 in a row.) There's no time like the present, what with the Nittany Lions giving a sophomore walk-on his first start and their banged-up front seven looking like an excellent matchup for a fully-armed and operational Denard Robinson . On the other sideline, last week's win at Minnesota stopped the bleeding for Joe Paterno and Co., but a second straight home defeat to one of the conference's middle-of-the-pack teams -- particularly one with a Swiss cheese defense like the Wolverines' -- is not going to sit well with the Happy Valley faithful. Both teams will feel like they have reason to win this game, and as with the matchup above, the victor will wind up with plenty of reason to feel good about itself going forward. But the loser is going to have some very, very difficult questions to answer.
Tags: Arizona, Arizona State, Big Ten, Boise State, Cal, Case Keenum, Conference USA, Darius Nall, Denard Robinson, Dominique Davis, East Carolina, Florida State, Indiana, Jacquizz Rodgers, Joe Paterno, Michigan, Minnesota, N.C. State, Nevada, Oregon State, Pac-10, Penn State, Rich Rodriguez, Rob Calabrese, Southern Miss, Stanford, TCU, UCF, USC
Posted on: October 9, 2010 12:32 pm
Posted by Adam Jacobi
Here's the weather outlook for all of today's important matchups. Short version: warm and clear. It's beautiful everywhere today. This is Mother Nature's way of apologizing in advance, so plan on seeing it snow bloodflakes by Thursday. Anyway, as usual, all times are Eastern.
Indiana at No. 2 Ohio State, 12:00, Columbus, OH: Mid 70s, clear
Minnesota at No. 20 Wisconsin, 12:00, Madison, WI: Mid 70s, clear
No. 1 Alabama at No. 19 South Carolina, 3:30, Columbia, SC: Mid 80s, clear
No. 17 Michigan at No. 18 Michigan State, 3:30, East Lansing, MI: Low 70s, clear
No. 11 Arkansas at Texas A&M, 3:30, College Station, TX: Upper 80s, clear
Oregon State at No. 9 Arizona, 6:00, Tucson, AZ: Upper 80s, clear
No. 10 Utah at Iowa State, 7:00, Ames, IA: Mid 70s, clear
No. 12 LSU at No. 14 Florida, 7:30, Gainesville, FL: Low 70s, clear
No. 8 Auburn at Kentucky, 7:30, Lexington, KY: Upper 60s, clear
Late night kickoffsNo. 23 Florida State at No. 13 Miami, 8:00, Coral Gables, FL: Upper 70s, clear
Southern California at No. 16 Stanford, 8:00, Palo Alto, CA: Lower 70s, clear