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Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Disappointing Week 2 in the Big Ten


I realize that it’s only the second week of the college football season but the Big Ten has been pretty disappointing thus far. Five teams headed into this weekend’s action ranked in the top 25 but only three teams remain entering Week 3.
On Saturday, Michigan was the only team from the conference who dropped in the AP Polls after coming off of an embarrassing 41-14 loss at the hands of Alabama. If you recall, the Crimson Tide dominated the Wolverines in all facets of the game. Bama put this game out of reach after putting up 21 points in the first quarter! They forced Robinson into throwing 2 picks while also limiting his offense to only 269 total yards. Michigan got the redemption win against Air Force yesterday however it didn’t look easy for a team ranked 19th in the country.  The Wolverines only won by 6 points (25-31)! Denard Robinson’s 4 touchdowns and 426 total yards accounted for most of Michigan’s offense. If he hadn’t donned the Superman cape, Air Force could have left Ann Arbor with the upset victory. After all, The Falcons were in this one all the way up until the final 1:28 of the game..


Many people expected Penn State’s program to struggle, but I’m not sure if I expected to see the signs so early. After finishing towards the top of the conference standings in 2011 (6-2), PSU is the lone winless team heading into Week 3. What’s troubling though is that even with all of the distractions and transfers this season, Penn State should be 2-0. After all, the Lions did hold onto a lead in both of these contests but allowed their opponents to creep back into the games late. Sam Ficken’s 4 missed field goals yesterday against Virginia proved to be the deciding factor in a close 16-17 loss to the Cavaliers. At this point I think Penn State will be lucky enough to just get 1-win this season!  

Iowa hasn’t looked good in either of its first two games this season. The Hawkeyes just barely escaped Chicago with a 1-point win over NIU during week 1 action but returned to Iowa City to only be embarrassed by In-State foe, ISU. Iowa’s offense couldn’t get any production going as the Cyclones kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone all afternoon. James Vandenberg had a rough go at it on Saturday only completing 48% of his passes (20/42) and turning the ball over twice. Iowa State limited Iowa to only 68 yards rushing compared to their 101 yards. It always hurts to lose to an in-state rival, but what makes this loss tough to digest is the fact that Iowa hasn’t lost to ISU at home in 10 years.  

Wisconsin headed out West this weekend after surviving a near shocker at home against Northern Iowa during Week 1 action. The Badgers no longer benefit from Russell Wilson’s services so much of the load rests on the shoulders of Montee Ball. If you shut down Ball, you shut down the Badgers’ offense and that’s exactly what the Oregon State defense did on Saturday. The Beavers limited Ball to just 61 yards rushing which were the fewest yards he’s had since becoming the main feature back at Wisconsin. His longest run of the day was for only 14 yards! As a unit, the Badgers offense only put up 35 yards on the ground. What’s worse is that Wisconsin only had 207 yards of total offense and turned the ball over twice. The Badgers are real vulnerable right now and Utah State visits Camp Randall this weekend after coming off of an emotional victory against Utah on Friday. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another close game this weekend against the Aggies.


Don’t let the close 36-30 score mislead you; UCLA dominated the visiting #22 ranked Cornhuskers on Saturday. The Bruins out gained Nebraska 653 to 459 in total offense. Redshirt freshman quarterback Brett Hundley threw for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns. Nebraska couldn’t slow the Bruins down on the ground either as RB Jonathan Franklin posted 217 yards rushing. Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez did his best Denard Robinson impersonation by breaking off a long 92-yard touchdown run but he also only managed to pass for 179 yards (17/31) and threw 1 interception…


Illinois was the third team from the Big Ten to suffer defeat at the hands of a Pac-12 opponent this weekend and this game wasn’t close at all. The Sun Devils embarrassed Illinois with a 45-14 beating. QB Nathan Scheelhaase didn’t see any action in this game due to an ankle injury he suffered in week 1, but Illinois could have certainly benefitted from his services. His replacements turned the ball over to Arizona State three times! The Illini defense didn’t fair much better in this game either though as ASU was able to rack up yards at will. Sun Devils QB Taylor Kelly completed 18 of his 24 passes for 249 yards and a score. His team accounted for 510 yards of total offense in this game.


Those teams were the biggest losers this weekend but I truly believe the time couldn’t be more perfect for Northwestern. The Wildcats looked impressive against Vanderbilt this weekend. And if you recall from Week 1, #9 ranked South Carolina had a difficult time getting any sort of offensive production against this Vandy defense. I underestimated Northwestern but I think they play a pretty favorable schedule, avoiding both Ohio State and Wisconsin this season and will host Nebraska in Week 8. Northwestern will face its toughest challenges on the road though against both Michigan schools during Weeks 11 & 12 respectively. But if the ‘Cats can break even during that road trip, they very well could be playing for the Big Ten championship come December.
   

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