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National week in review (Cupcakes? CUPCAKES! SWEET CAKES FOR ALL!!)

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I want to begin this entry with a more serious tone and express Get Well Soon wishes to Indiana University football coach Terry Hoeppner. As it broke this afternoon, Coach Hep is scheduled to undergo emergency surgery tomorrow on a possible recurrent brain tumor. He had successful surgery this past December and has recovered to lead the Hoosiers to a 2-0 start. As a Purdue fan growing up I have been condition to cheer against all things IU, but this transcends my feelings toward the university's sports teams, obviously. Coach Hoeppner is a wonderful coach who had tons of success at Miami of Ohio (some of his players, of which, were still around to nearly topple us on Saturday). When IU hired him I immediately became concerned because I felt that if anyone could make IU football into a winning program, it would be him. It hasn't happened yet, but he has them pointed in the right direction by instilling an attitude and belief that they can compete with anyone. He has already worked wonders by making IU football relevant again in the state of Indiana, at least recruiting-wise, and with their schedule this year they could sneak into bowl contention, which would be huge for them.

So, Coach Hepp, I give you my prayers and best wishes for a speedy recovery from my little corner of Boilermaker Country. Get back on the sidelines soon so we can actually have some competition again for the bucket.

As a prelude to what will probably be one of the most exciting weeks of the season, with tons of big games all over the country, this week was quite a dud. The two biggest games, Notre Dame-Penn State and Ohio State-Texas were both pretty dull affairs in which the winners were comfortably ahead for most of their respective games and were never seriously threatened. I had the Texas-Ohio State game on in my home and I barely noticed Ohio State taking the lead as I worked on some more writing, so riveting is not exactly the word I would give to that game.
For the most part, everyone else feasted on cupcakes of a stronger variety than last week, and a few, like Northwestern, ended up getting poisoned cupcakes. As a Purdue fan, I am obviously very excited at the prospect of playing the Wildcats now. With all due respect to New Hampshire, which is rated #2 in the 1-AA poll, it is flat out embarrassing for a Big Ten program, especially one playing an emotional home opener, to lose to a 1-AA team by 17 points. Every other big ten team, in fact even the remaining non-conference opponents on Northwestern’s schedule, have to be licking their collective chops at the prospect of facing the Wildcats. They are going to have to recover in a hurry, as they have road trip to a respectable Nevada team in two weeks before beginning the Big Ten slate that misses only Indiana and Minnesota.

A second surprising result from the weekend is Iowa needing double overtime to get past lowly Syracuse. I know Drew Tate missed the game, but he can’t mean that much to the Hawkeyes, can he? His return will be critical this week against Iowa State, who has been a thorn in the side of Iowa for several years now. The rest of the Big Ten should take notice and think they have a better chance against Iowa now, although the Hawkeyes deserve credit for their goal line stand in the second overtime to get the win. 7 straight stops are very impressive against anyone.
Both Minnesota and Illinois got drilled on the road for the conference’s other two losses. Minnesota was playing Cal close for a half and let things get away, while Illinois was just dreadful. Minnesota showed that they have to be able to run the ball to be successful, while Illinois couldn’t do much of anything. They did not even convert a third down against the Scarlet Knights. It certainly looks like the Illini will camp out at the bottom of the conference standings for the rest of the season with Northwestern.

All this makes the Minnesota game for the Boilers in two weeks even more critical than before. I think it is critical not for us, but for the Gophers as well. They will likely need a victory over us to help their bowl aspirations, and assuming a win over Ball State (not as easy of an assumption now), it will be huge for us to get a win with games remaining against Illinois, Indiana, and Northwestern. I will say it right now: if we are 3-0 going into the Minnesota game, it will be the most pivotal game of our season. It doesn’t help us that we will have what looks like a tough game over Ball State this week, while they have a home game against 1-AAA Temple, which has to be the worst college football team in the country right now when you consider even Butler won this weekend.

When you look at my picks, my horn is out of tune just a little this week, as I went 9-4, missing big on the Minnesota over Cal upset and the Fresno State over Oregon upset. What is surprising is how close many of the games were, and how the games that were supposed to be close were blowouts.

Those of you who have read George Orwell’s 1984 Know what I mean by the phrase, "Doing our duty to the party." Since it is one of my wife’s favorite books we have adapted the line to our sports viewing. I won’t go into details specifically, but essentially we use it to refer to any Yankees-Red Sox game or any mention of Notre Dame football to refer to the sheer overwhelming media build-up and hype that those respective subjects get. After Notre Dame crushed a Penn State team that I though had a better defense than Georgia Tech, mandatory duty to the party will now increase sevenfold until the Irish are stopped. In typical fashion, they went from "What’s wrong with them! They’re human!" stories after an explainable close call on the road to "Greatest team in the history of the sport and it’s a crime against humanity of our TV’s aren’t tuned to NBC on Saturdays" in the span of a week.

The thing is, they may indeed be that good. I did not see any of their game, but the fact they won that convincingly shocked me a bit. I am honestly not expecting much out of Michigan this week as something just does not feel right about them, and I think that Michigan State and Purdue have way too many holes to mount a serious challenge. Like it or not, they are very, very good this year and if that defense continues to step up, they can play with anyone in the country. It will take someone outside of USC or Michigan playing a perfect game to beat them.
Elsewhere nationally there was not much news. I found Troy State’s near upset of Florida State to be the most shocking event of the weekend. How can the Seminoles go into the Orange Bowl and completely shut down Miami for a half, then struggle at home with Troy State? As a new Cane fan, I am even more upset now over last Monday’s debacle.

Of course, many other teams found plenty of offense in blowouts this week. The Hurricanes themselves had a nice scrimmage against FAMU, getting Javarris James some good work in the process. LSU crushed an Arizona team that keeps doinking its head on the corner it is trying to turn. Stanford proved that it is an embarrassment to the Pac-10 by losing to San Jose State. And several other teams beat up on Directional-U.

One of the more telling victories of the weekend was probably Indiana over Ball State. If you put much stock in come from behind close victories, the Hoosiers have to feel good about coming out of Muncie with a win. The Cardinals were playing their first home game ever against a Big ten squad, and it was a winnable game at that. The Hoosiers recovered nicely and came back for what is a good win for them. They get Southern Illinois next week in a game against a good 1-AA team, but still winnable for them, before a crucial game against Connecticut. Indiana is a team that I think will be much like Purdue this year, one that feasts on a winnable early schedule and sneaks into bowl eligibility by the end of the year.

For the most part, however, college football really shifts into high gear with all the fantastic games coming up this week. As previously noted, for just the fourth time in the Tiller Era I will not be in Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday. I have sold my tickets in order to purchase tickets to see my wife's alma mater, the U, for the first time as they are actually close enough for us to see a game at Louisville. This is my first college football game I will attend that does not involve Purdue, so I am curious to see this "swagger" in person. I will be listening on radio to as much as I can of Ball State-Purdue, but for one Saturday at least, I will be sporting orange and green over my traditional gold and black. So until my preview later in the week, BOILER UP!