So what did we learn this week? We learned that a solid effort (Purdue's) can be undone with key mistakes at the worst possible time. We learned that Ohio State is not as dead as once thought, especially with a tough defense. We learned that Northwestern absolutely cannot play in the fourth quarter. We learned that Michigan State is now the big brother up north. We also learned (most importantly) that Robbie Hummel can survive the first day of basketball practice.
I didn't get to actually watch much of the other Big Ten games on Saturday, but the results painted a fairly clear picture. The Leaders Division is Wisconsin's to lose. The other Division is not so clear-cut with everyone but Michigan State already tagged with a loss.
Wisconsin 59, Indiana 7
The Badgers became the third Big Ten team to clinch bowl eligibility, while the Hoosiers will be eliminated from bowl consideration with one more loss. This wasn't expected to be a game and that's exactly what happened. Russell Wilson Even caught a touchdown pass from Montee Ball. Folks, when Wisconsin's running backs are throwing touchdown passes either the opposition is horrible or the Badgers are really, really good. I think both are true in this case.
Of course, this was largely ignored in Bloomington. There are a few tailgate dates left on the calendar, but Jesus descended from the clouds, dusted the banners off, and touched the sacred floor of Assembly Hall for the first time in front of thousands of practice-hounds Satruday night. In possibly the funniest sentence ever written about college basketball, Crimson Quarry had this to say:
How does Cody look against the veteran players? Does he warrant double-teams, and if so, how does he handle them? I'm particularly interested in his ability to score one-on-one versus Pritchard, as if he can do that... well, it would key a lot of good things for IU's offense.
Seriously? You think it is a good thing if Zeller can score on Tom Freaking Pritchard? Pritchard has been serving as a cardboard cutout for Big Ten post players the past two seasons. I damn near fell off my couch laughing when I read that.
Penn State 23, Purdue 18
You cannot win on the road in the Big Ten when you leave at least five points on the field and hand three back on a turnover. We gave them three more with a special teams coverage breakdown too. That's an 11-point shift in a five point game. Even with the missed extra point and field goal we likely win this game if Robert Marve doesn't throw an interception and we tackle Chaz Powell on the kick return. Black Shoe Diaries was at least complimentary:
Truth be told, Purdue played a pretty good game on offense. They at least had a clear plan against a rather vicious Penn State defense. Despite otherwise anemic offensive numbers, they were able to get an unusual amount of big plays on the Penn State defense: passes for 50, 20, and 20 yards, as well as runs for 39, 21, and 18. Not sure what could've been done about the 50-yarder to Justin Siller, which was a broken play (and a nice job by TerBush and Siller to keep the play alive). Even when Siller caught the pass, he had a beautiful running lane already established for him. Tough break. Purdue also did a nice job using the aggressiveness of Penn State's defensive tackles against them, seeming to invite them into the backfield while sliding the running back through on draw plays. They did what they could.
Saturday is now a must win against Illinois. I think we can still beat Ohio State, Iowa, and Indiana at the end, but if we can't pull off an upset this week it likely means four straight losses before then. We need something to raise morale. At least we found an identity by running well with Akeem Shavers and Ralph Bolden against a good defense. We need to stick with that.
Michigan State 28, Michigan 14
For the first time in 50 years the Spartans have a group of seniors leaving campus that never lost to Michigan. Sure, they can thank RichRod for part of that, but this was an impressive win as someone finally figured out that if you go after Denard Robinson directly on every single play you stop Michigan's offense. It seemed like Michigan State didn't want to just win, but physically kick their ass in the process:
For those who haven't seen it, The U (besides being one of the most entertaining documentaries I've ever seen) chronicles the rise of the Miami Hurricanes. With talent and swagger -- not to mention suspenders -- a nothing program turned into a juggernaut in the '80s and '90s. Successful? Yes. Pissed off the establishment? Of course. Dubious in their sportsmanship? Undoubtedly
For better and worse (MONDAY MORNING EDIT -- Almost all for the better, I should say. The personal fouls stuck in my craw a bit, but the main comparison I wanted to draw to Miami was MSU's swagger, along with the personal fouls. I never meant to imply MSU as an institution was reckless, and should have stated it clearer. Mea culpa - PR), some of those traits were displayed by Michigan State in their convincing 28-14 victory over the Michigan Wolverines.
Ohio State 17, Illinois 7
Dare I call Illinois a little overrated and ripe for an upset? I still think the Fighting Illinois should be the big favorite on Saturday, but they were just completely shut down offensively and couldn't beat a totally one-dimensional Ohio State team. The Buckeyes completely gave up on the forward pass, completing just one of four attempts. They're like my high school team, who will sometimes go 3-4 games without attempting a pass. They didn't get much, but it was enough:
The laundry list of things this team has been getting away with caught up with them Saturday. Illinois out-gained OSU on offense, got more first downs, got more tackles for losses and in other circumstances would have won. The first half more ended with the difference being a simple OSU field goal. What lost the game were the mistakes. Illinois committed more penalties, (at home no less) turned the ball over three times while getting none back, and generally got in its own way constantly.
Nathan Scheelhaase and A.J, Jenkins have done plenty this season to applaud, but this turned on mostly their mistakes. Nathan's interceptions handed the Buckeyes a touchdown and killed a comeback drive in turn, and Jenkins' fumble gave the Buckeyes the scoring cushion that all but ended the game.
The Buckeyes scored both their touchdowns off of very short fields from turnovers. Without them, the Illini likely win the game, even as tough as OSU was playing otherwise on defense.
Iowa 41, Northwestern 31
Our Most Hated Rival Finally beat Northwestern, mostly because the Wildcats kept screwing things up:
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We are halfway through the regular season and the defensive backs don't know what defense they are supposed to be playing? That is perhaps the most stunning admission of coaching incompetence I have ever heard. In the first game of the season with new starters in the secondary, such confusion would be disappointing, but somewhat understandable. But in Week 7, it's unconscionable. Northwestern could have Darrelle Revis at corner and Ed Reed at safety, but if Revis thinks they're playing zone and has deep help but Reed thinks they're playing man to man and goes to cover the tight end, the offense will still have an easy touchdown completion. Embarrassing. I'm not one to call for people to lose their jobs, but if this problem isn't corrected immediately, then some people on the coaching staff need to lose their jobs.
Yet despite the defense's horrifically bad play, Northwestern still could have won this game. The offense moved the ball well, but squandered several long drives, most notably when Dan Persa threw an awful interception on first and goal that was returned for a 98 yard touchdown. NU was also hurt by a couple of odd decisions on 4th down. In the second quarter, Fitzgerald chose to punt on 4th and long from the Iowa 34 rather than attempt a 51 yard field goal with Jeff Budzien. It's unclear if Budzien is capable of making 51 yard field goals, so the decision to punt when considered on its own might not have been that bad. However, in the fourth quarter on 4th and1 from the Iowa 30, Fitzgerald decided to bring out Budzien for a 47 yarder rather than go for the first down. If Budzien is so unlikely to make a 51 yarder that punting to gain 14 yards of field position is a better option, then he sure as hell isn't very likely to make a 47 yarder. The two decisions are completely incongruous. And regardless of how good Budzien is at kicking (after all, he split the uprights from 47 yards), Northwestern's offense was a dominant 16 of 22 on third down in the game, so their chances of picking up the 4th and 1 are certainly better than Budzien making the field goal.
Of course, OMHR is still upset because it wasn't an epic blowout of Just Northwestern (their full name). The Iowa defense wasn't exactly a rock and that could bode well for us in the future.
Notre Dame - Bye
Eastern Kentucky 41, Southeast Missouri State 17 - Danny Hope's old team can roll up a bunch of points on the Redhawks too.
Marshall 24, Rice 20 - Next year's way-too-easy-should-be-win-that-becomes-a-loss beat this year's way-too-easy-should-be-win-that-becomes-a-loss on a touchdown in the final two minutes.
MTSU - Bye