By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER
1. Penn State (1) 9-0 BYE
Penn State was in standby mode with the week off, awaiting a hard-nosed defense in Iowa. A walk in the park for the Lions? Hardly – the Hawkeyes are 36/44 (.818) when hosting teams at Kinnick stadium since 2002. And, Penn State has lost its last five to Iowa. The tester awaits.
2. Ohio State (2) 7-2 BYE
Week off for the Buckeyes so they can brush up on their geometric angles of pursuit at Northwestern. Ohio State has owned this rivalry, shutting down the Wildcats in their last three meetings by a combined 160-24 margin. But, Northwestern is coming off an improbable victory at Minnesota. The Buckeyes are 1-4 coming off bye weeks under Coach Jim Tressel, but are also 15-2 after coming off a loss.
3. Michigan State (4) 8-2 W: 25-24 vs. Wisconsin
A big come from behind win for the Spartans, proving they belong in the conversation when it comes to the elite in the Big Ten. A last second 44-yard field goal by Brett Swenson sealed the comeback over the Badgers. Blair White stepped up his game (seven catches, 164 yards) and Javon Ringer added in two touchdowns. OK, OK, I will finally give the Spartans some street cred. Purdue and Penn State are what’s left for at least a share of the Big Ten title.
4. Northwestern (7) 7-2 W: 24-17 at Minnesota
I get the feeling that Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka is to Minnesota what Bucky Dent was to the Boston Red Sox. Mike *Bleeping* Kafka torched the stout Gophers defense for 214 on the ground (NWU school record). Brendan Smith sealed the game with an interception returned for six; the Wildcats had a most unorthodox victory (injuries, rushing, tough opponent), but they keep clawing through the season.
5. Minnesota (3) 8-2 L: 24-17 vs. Northwestern
I previewed this game by saying the team with the most turnovers + sacks would win the game: they both finished with two sacks and two turnovers; but, Northwestern’s interception with seconds left on the clock was returned for the game-winning score. With the loss, the Gophers are essentially eliminated from the Big Ten title, but can still fight for a January bowl.
6. Illinois (8) 5-4) W: 27-24 vs. Iowa
A tough, hard-nosed football game, yet again coming down to last second heroics by the kicker. This time around, Illinois’ Matt Eller sent the crowd and the Illinois sideline into a frenzy with his game-winning 46-yard field goal. Coach Ron Zook says there’s still plenty to fight for and his team is looking to finish strong down the stretch. They have the opponents to prove themselves with (Ohio State, at Northwestern).
7. Iowa (5) 5-4 L: 27-24 at Illinois
Iowa showed plenty of heart in their last second loss to Illinois. Shonn Greene posted his ninth consecutive 100-yard rushing performance (21, 103, one touchdown) and helped set-up successful play-action passes (at least in the first half). After the Illini responded with half-time adjustments, Iowa’s offensive passing attack was stunted. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi kept the Hawkeyes alive until their final drive, and defensive tackle Mitch King was a stud, putting pressure on Juice Williams and the Illinois offense all afternoon. It was tough to see one team have to lose in this one.
8. Wisconsin (6) 4-5 L: 25-24 at Michigan State
The Badgers had this game in their fingertips (11-point lead in the fourth quarter) but let it slip away in a tough loss in East Lansing. Penalties killed Wisconsin down the stretch (12 penalties for 121 yards), and allowed the Spartans to triumph via a game-winning field goal.
9. Purdue (10) 3-6 W: 48-42 vs. Michigan
Justin Siller, in a gutsy performance (21-34, 266 yards, three touchdowns), notched his first career win as quarterback. The pressure on Siller was deflated by the impressive running by Kory Sheets (30 carries, 118 yards, three touchdowns). Hats off to Coach Joe Tiller for pulling out all the stops to punch in the game winner on a trick play and to bring that losing streak to a halt.
10. Indiana (9) 3-6 L: 37-34 vs. Central Michigan
Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour put up huge numbers (35-53, 485 yards, four touchdowns), as expected, en route to a fourth quarter comeback victory. When he gets hot, it’s tough for any team to keep up, let alone Indiana. Oh wait, it was the Chips’ backup signal-caller, Brain Brunner? Oh boy…
11. Michigan (11) 2-7 L: 48-42 at Purdue
It’s all over. The winning record streak, the consecutive bowls streak, beating Purdue streak (since 2000). In retrospect, it was probably a bad time to bring in the stack (3-3-5) as the defense looked unprepared and ill-equipped to stop Kory Sheets from running wild all afternoon. Who knows if they would have given up 48 points if they had stayed with the 4-3? Hats off to frosh Martavious Odoms, frosh Darryl Stonum, and senior LaTerryal Savoy for posting their first career touchdowns.
Monday, November 3, 2008
By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER