By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER
1. Penn State (1) 10-1 W: 34-7 vs. Indiana
It took a while--half of a game to be exact--for Penn State to shake the ill-effects of their disappointing loss last week. Indiana hung around and trailed only 10-7 at half-time, but salvaged only one first down in the second half against the tightened up Nittany Lions’ defense. The offense has been less than impressive two weeks running now, but Deon Butler still managed to break the school record of receptions (167) and Derek Williams added two scores of his own. The Penn State hog mollies up front need to shore up their game if they plan on celebrating a Big Ten championship and trip to the Rose Bowl.
2. Ohio State (2) 9-2 W: 30-20 at Illinois
By far and away the Big Ten’s hottest team put away memories of last year’s upset win by Illinois in Columbus, which dashed the Buckeyes’ undefeated season. As predicted under blustery winter conditions, Ohio State took to the ground and ran through, around, and over Illini defenders. Beanie Wells and Terrelle Pryor cashed in on rushing scores while gaining 143 and 110 yards on the ground, respectively. “The Game” is what’s left for Ohio State to complete their season turnaround and hopes for a share of the Big Ten crown.
3. Michigan State (3) 10-2 BYE
Michigan State is holding strong during the bye week; they cannot afford what teams have grown accustomed to this year – the post-bye week blues--as they head into their “Big Ten Championship Game”, rivalry game, and capstone to a brilliant Spartan season. Onward to Happy Valley.
4. Iowa (4) 7-4 W: 22-17 vs. Purdue
Rushing and defense. That’s the Hawkeye recipe and it continues to work. This week, Shonn Greene did not reach the 100-yard rushing plateau; he eclipsed 200 (211 yards, two touchdowns) en route to Iowa’s 248-yard rushing performance. Defensive tackle Mitch King sacked Curis Painter late, and safety Pat Angerer’s interception help stave off a late Purdue charge. After a three-game skid, Iowa has won four of its last five, including the upset over then third-ranked Penn State. With a win at Minnesota and a Northwestern loss, the Hawkeyes can finish their season on a great upswing and sole possession of fourth place in the conference.
5. Northwestern (5) 8-3 W: 21-14 at Michigan
Snow, wind, cold, the Big House, whatever. Down 14-7 at the half, Northwestern posted touchdowns on their next two possessions to finish off the scoring and the Wolverines. The Wildcats can now celebrate their first eight-win season since 2000, the last time they beat Michigan. If Northwestern holds off Illinois next week, they will take over fourth in the conference with a nine-win season.
6. Wisconsin (7) 6-5 W: 35-32 vs. Minnesota
Surprisingly, Minnesota limited the Badgers’ backfield to only 116 yards, but Wisconsin was still able to punch it in on the ground three times (Hill two, Clay one) in their come from behind victory. The defense clamped down on Minnesota, forcing two safeties and allowing only two scoring drives (one touchdown, one field goal) in the second half. The Badgers can congratulate themselves for becoming bowl eligible and scheduling Cal Poly to end the year for a seven-win season.
7. Minnesota (6) 7-4 L: 35-32 at Wisconsin
After their brilliant 7-1 start, the Gophers have stumbled in their last three. Football is a team sport, but wide receiver Eric Decker’s miss on a Weber pass (returned for a touchdown by Northwestern) followed by getting knocked out of the next two games with an ankle injury has seemed to coincide with Minnesota’s demise. The Gophers (3-4) can redeem themselves by knocking off Iowa (4-3), who sits just above them in the conference standings, pushing up their bowl eligibility.
8. Illinois (8) 5-6 L: 30-20 vs. Ohio State
Illinois mistakes piled up too high against the wrong team. Poor special teams and two costly turnovers from Juice Williams stunted any chances for the underdogs to take down Ohio State. The offense put up 455 total yards (214 rushing, 241 passing), but the defense couldn’t stop the will of the Buckeyes rushing attack. The Illini must now fight to stave off bowl elimination next week against in-state rival Northwestern to finish off the season on a higher note.
9. Purdue (9) 3-8 L:22-17 at Iowa
The upside – Curtis Painter looked like he still has a little fight left in him (24-30, 190 yards, two touchdowns, one interception), throwing for a pair of touchdown passes in a game for the first time since Purdue took on Notre Dame, September 27th. The downside – their defense is what we thought it was – terrible stopping the run (248 yards). Purdue is one more loss away from the cellar of the Big Ten.
10. Michigan (10) 3-8 L: 21-14 vs. Northwestern
A season without back-to-back wins, the bowl and winning record streaks snapped, the game fumbled away in South Bend, the abysmal Toledo game, the lost winning streak against Penn State, a humbling loss to Michigan State and now their first ever eight loss season (thanks to Northwestern) can be redeemed…, maybe. It would be an improbable achievement—one that even a #2 ranked Michigan team could not accomplish–to beat Ohio State. Just win, Richy.
11. Indiana (11) 3-8 L: 34 -7 at Penn State
Simply overpowered by Penn State, Indiana tried their best to make the game interesting. Marcus Thigpen is credited with the Hoosiers’ only score of the game, a 57-yard scamper in the second to tie the game 7-7. But the defense then surrendered 27 straight to the Spread HD, defending a short field for most of the afternoon. On the bright side, the defense sacked Daryll Clark three times and forced three turnovers Indiana will try to o salvage something from the season as they close out at Purdue for their battle for the Old Oaken Bucket, defending it for only the third time this millennium.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
By JOHN SEARS - BIG TEN INSIDER