The Big Ten Report – Week Four

Conference play opened strongly last week as the Chalk emerged victorious in three of four Big Ten games. The only upset occurred at West Lafayette, where Purdue emerged victorious over Minnesota despite trailing a slight underdog. The conference looks to be a three-team race and next week will go a long way in separating the field. Here’s a recap of the highlights from the past week and a preview of a very important week ahead:

– Our “College Game of the Year” went into the books as a push, even though 20 percent of our customers won the game. Michigan gave up an early score when they turned the ball over near midfield and set up a short touchdown drive for Wisconsin. Quarterback John Stocco converted it into a 29-yard touchdown pass to give the Badgers a 7–0 lead. Michigan couldn’t muster much offense in the first half and thus only put 10 points on the board, three of which were aided by a missed punt by UW’s Zach Hampton. Wisconsin should have taken the lead at halftime; instead, the score was tied at 10 each.

The second half was a different story, as the Badgers were unable to muster any offense and Michigan’s defense took over the game. It was just a race against time to see if Michigan could score enough on offense to cover the two-touchdown difference. We seemed to be in great shape when Garrett Rivas kicked a 32-yard field goal with less than six minutes remaining to give Michigan a 27-10 lead.

But then something miraculous happened; the Badgers not only made their first starting try of the second half, but actually kept up momentum that led to a first-and-goal. Michigan stuffed Wisconsin on the next three plays and Coach Bielema faced a fourth-down decision at the nine-yard line.

Most coaches would have gone for the touchdown, but instead he chose to kick the field goal to cut the deficit to 14 points. The shot went over the middle of the posts and that was how the game ended, 27-13. Personally, I would have preferred to see them go for the touchdown and lose by 17 points or by 10 points, so our pick would have had action. Michigan’s defense was strong throughout and QB Stocco would have been blitzed and forced to throw the ball away from the end zone.

But that’s not what happened and therefore most of us got a nudge in the game. That early touchdown drive for Wisconsin is the only thing that stood in the way of a complete loss. Taking a 7-0 lead gave the Badgers some confidence and allowed them to stay tied with Michigan for two quarters. Had the Wolverines won 7-0, I have no doubt this would have been a 40-point thrashing.

Next up for Wisconsin is a road trip to Bloomington to take on the struggling Hoosiers. The Badgers enter this game as 10.5-point favorites and it will be interesting to see how they respond by playing back-to-back road games. Indiana is coming off two devastating losses at home and their confidence needs to be shattered. Michigan is also on its way to the Twin Cities to take on the Gophers. If Michigan is going to have trouble before Columbus, I expect it to come here. Bettors are calling on a Minnesota pick as they’re beating a touchdown at The Dome.

– The Buckeyes got revenge on 2005 co-champion Penn State, but it wasn’t as easy as many pundits thought it would be. Penn State dominated the first half and took a 3-0 lead when Kevin Kelly was given a second chance to make a field goal. The Buckeyes finally got on the board in the third quarter when RB Antonio Pittman drove it home from 12 yards out. The second half was also dominated by defenses, as the Buckeyes returned two interceptions for touchdowns for a 28-3 lead. The result was as expected. However, the in-game stats certainly weren’t.

Quarterback Troy Smith took a step back from his Heisman Trophy quest. He completed just 12 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown. He threw two interceptions in this game and Ted Ginn Jr. didn’t exist with just two receptions. One has to suspect that State was expecting a matchup with the Hawkeyes next week. One similar performance like this and they will see their National Championship hopes go down the drain. Penn State put in a good effort on this one, but it’s apparent their offense has dwindled in the early 2000s, when they can’t throw the ball at all.

Next up for Penn State is a home game with Northwestern. The first row has State as a favorite by 16.5 points. The Wildcats have struggled outside of the conference and I can see this game getting ugly. Ohio State will head to Iowa City for ABC’s Saturday night game of the week. The Buckeyes enter as a touchdown favorite, but I think the pink locker rooms could doom them. Iowa has had this game going in circles for quite some time.

Finally, the game of the night took place in a rainy East Lansing. Michigan State once again demonstrated why it would never be considered a top-tier program, blowing a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter at Spartan Stadium to allow the No. 12 Irish to escape with a three-point victory. This was a season-saving win for Notre Dame as it kept their BCS Bowl chances alive and now they can still afford a loss to USC.

The Irish are still unable to run the ball effectively and are left shooting the ball at every attempt. I mentioned last week that one should consider playing the over in all their games and this one certainly validated that point. They accumulated a total of 77 points between the programs and 754 yards of total offense. The teams combined to convert just 4 of 25 attempts on third down, but the big plays easily made up for this stat.

Two late turnovers made the difference, the last being returned for a 27-yard touchdown run by Terrail Lambert to give Notre Dame the lead for good. Michigan State moved the ball to midfield with less than a minute to play, but a chance interception occurred as the ball bounced off three people and Lambert caught it for his second pick of the game.

Next up for the Irish is their final game against the Big Ten, when they host in-state rival Purdue. The first row has ND as a favorite by 16.5 points. I expect the Irish to play a complete game in this one like they did earlier this year with Penn State. Michigan State has another home game against Illinois to open conference play and I hope they don’t have a problem with the Illini. This is a team that can beat anyone on any given day and I wouldn’t be surprised if they pull off a straight win against Michigan or Ohio State. The talent is there; it is only the mind games that continue to haunt them.

In other action, Purdue earned a nice win at home against Minnesota coming back from an early deficit. This is typical of Minnesota getting off to a good start before collapsing as the season progresses. Looks like another trip to Nashville awaits them.

Final Thoughts on College Football

1) The Big East deserves a bowl bid this year and can challenge for a National Championship if West Virginia can topple Louisville on Nov. 2. That Thursday night thing should be a must see on TV.

2) What happened to ASU last week? They took a 7-0 lead before letting the Bears get the next 35 points. They have a must win game against Oregon in Tempe and this will make or break the season for my alma mater.

3) Congratulations to Clemson Kicker Jan Dean who scored all seven of his extra points against UNC last week. It’s good to see that he’s found his way after blocking three kicks in the past two weeks.

We’ll be coming in strong this week with a Big Ten winner and we’ll encourage you to get on board with one of our many packages. Free selection. Take Over 54 at Stanford at UCLA. That’s all for this week!

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