By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER
1. Penn State (2) 5-0
Last week: W: 38-24 vs. Illinois
Red-hot Penn State wins convincingly against #22 Illinois. Star athlete Derrick Williams scores rushing, receiving and on a kick off return. Coach Joe Paterno hasn’t seen that since, well, never. They are first in points scored -- brought to you in “HD” format -- and second in points against in Big Ten.
2. Ohio State (3) 4-1
Last week: W: 34-21 vs. Minnesota
Ohio State’s new rushing attack with quarterback Terrelle Pryor (eight carries, 97 yards, three total touchdowns) and Beanie Wells (14-106 yards) in the same backfield left Minnesota’s defense helpless on their keys. The defense was opportunistic (three turnovers) and stout, preventing the big play (average 4.2 yards/play against). Not to belittle their poor performance against USC, but the Buckeyes with their new look will be a force during the conference schedule.
3. Michigan State (5) 4-1
Last week: W: 42-29 @ Indiana
Energizer Bunny tailback Javon Ringer does it again, amassing 198 yards and a score on 44 carries. More promising is quarterback Brian Hoyer answering the bell, passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns. Less promising, however, is the defense giving up almost 500 yards.
4. Wisconsin (1) 3-1
Last week: L: 27-25 @ Michigan
Tough loss experienced by Wisconsin at the hands of a schizophrenic Michigan team. Up 19-0 at halftime and perhaps looking ahead to Ohio State, the Badgers become victim to the second largest comeback in the history of the Big House. It is gut check time for the Badgers.
5. Northwestern (8) 5-0
Last week: W: 22-17 @ Iowa
The Wildcats preserved their best start in over 45 years with a come from behind win on the road at Kinnick Stadium. Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher was inconsistent at first, but out-classed (28-of-45, 284 yards, three touchdowns) Iowa’s quarterback Ricky Stanzi (21-of-30, 238 yards, one touchdown, two turnovers).
6. Minnesota (7) 4-1
Last week: L: 34-21 @ Ohio State
A tough draw for the Gophers to open up conference play against Ohio State. They hung with the Buckeyes momentarily, lost a key fumble and lost the game. Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber was gutsy and is a star in the making for the Gophers, despite a modest box score (23-of-36, 187 yards, one touchdown, one interception).
7. Illinois (4) 2-2
Last week: L: 38-24 @ Penn State
Maybe a tougher draw was Illinois squaring off against the unstoppable Penn State offense. Illinois was lead by star wideout Arrelious Benn, shredding Penn State’s defense for 110 yards receiving and two touchdowns on only four grabs. Defense seems to be the question mark – in their two losses, the Illini have surrendered 971 yards and 90 points (maybe unfair assessment as their other loss came to the number one offense of Missouri).
8. Michigan (11) 2-2
Last week: W: 27-25 vs. Wisconsin
First half: Build a deficit of 19-0 with 10 possessions netting 17 yards, five punts, three fumbles and two interceptions.
Second half: Within 12:33 of game clock, the Wolverines rattle off four touchdowns, rack up 242 yards, and absolutely steal their conference opener against Wisconsin. The defense finally cashes in and proves its worthiness. The offense and the problems with turnovers have, well, have I mentioned Michigan’s defense?
9. Iowa (6) 3-2
Last week: L: 22-17 vs. Northwestern
The Hawkeyes build up a 17-3 lead with a robust rushing attack lea by Shonn Greene (21-159, one touchdown). Unfortunately, Greene left with an injury and Iowa’s offense looked lost without him after coming out flat from halftime to give up a game-tying touchdown. Greene needs to stay healthy for Iowa to keep moving forward.
10. Purdue (6) 2-2
Last week: L: 38-21 @ Notre Dame
I thought that stat sheet stuffing by running back Kory Sheets (87 yards and a touchdown) and quarterback Curtis Painter (359 yards and two touchdowns) would be enough to overpower a pedestrian Notre Dame squad. Too bad I forgot that team intangibles such as character and overcoming adversity are just as important as statistics. And Purdue, again, doesn’t seem to have the fortitude to put together consistent quarters or games. Yet another Purdue let down.
11. Indiana (10) 2-2
Last week: L: 42-29 vs. Michigan State
Another game demonstrating an insurmountable tipping-point: a nine-point swing on a touchdown pass turned safety due to a holding call proved too much for Indiana to overcome. Quarterback Kellen Lewis and running back Marcus Thigpen carried the load offensively, but the defense yielded almost 500 yards to the Spartans.
Monday, September 29, 2008
By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER