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| Doc’s Big Ten News and Notes |
Upsets were commonplace during the past week of action in theBig Ten Conference. The last unbeaten team fell and that putsthe Michigan Wolverines in the drivers seat. Other teams finishedtheir season up in disastrous fashion and will be left to waitand see if a postseason berth awaits them. Yes, I am talking aboutthe Minnesota Golden Gophers.
There were bright spots in the conference as PennState ended their six game losing streak and picked up their firstconference win of the season. Will the ‘Fire Joe Pa’ chants settledown for a week? I doubt it! The following will recap the actionand look ahead to next week, where numerous rivals will squareoff against one another.
Michigan remains the only undefeated team in theconference and after an early struggle, it pulled away to winthis game convincingly. Michael Hart dominated on the ground,rushing for 151 yards and a season high three touchdowns. He gotthe Wolverines on the board early in the second quarter with abreakaway 34-yard run. Michigan could not put the Cats away asNorthwestern quickly answered with a 68-yard touchdown run byNoah Herron. This cut the deficit to one point and then Northwesternwould go in the tank giving up 28 unanswered points. This includedtwo touchdown passes and a Steve Breaston 67-yard punt returnfor six. With this victory Michigan clinched a share of the BigTen Title and is one game away from a birth in the Rose Bowl.Northwestern needs to win the remaining two games on the scheduleto be bowl eligible and that will be a tough task.
Next up for the Wolverines is their annual battlewith the Buckeyes. The early tout has them as a seven-point favoriteand on paper that does not appear to be enough points becauseof the difference in talent. But anything can happen in a rivalrygame and expect the Bucks to be ready for the contest. Northwesternwill host Illinois and come in as a ten-point favorite. I mayconsider playing the over in this contest since both teams canthrow the ball.
The Badgers saw their perfect season blow up rightin front of their faces as they went down to the Spartans, 49-14.The Badgers had numerous chances in the first half but failedto capitalize on two important occasions. The first was executinga punt with the score tied. Travis Key recovered the blocked kickin the end zone for a Spartan touchdown and a 14-7 lead. Bothteams would then score touchdowns and the Badgers appeared totie the score late in the second quarter when Anthony Davis leapedover the top of the pile but was not awarded a touchdown. Theofficials marked him just short and replay did not overturn thedecision.
The whole state is wondering why they chose notto give the ball to FB Matt Bernstein on fourth and goal but Ireally do not have a problem with the play call. It is hard forme to question giving the ball to your best player and reallyyour only playmaker on offense. The Badgers never recovered fromthe play and State went for the kill early with an onsides kickto open the second half. They recovered it and Drew Stanton enteredthe game and that was all that she wrote. This team can go placesif he can stay healthy and they need to win their final two gamesin order to go bowling.
Next up for the Badgers is a trip to Iowa Cityand they go from undefeated to underdog in only a week’s time.The Hawks come in as a two-point favorite and it will be interestingto see how the Badgers respond. Can a one-dimensional team challengethis Wisconsin defense? I think we have the answer. State closesout the Big Ten season with a game against Penn State. State comesin as a seven-point favorite and I wonder if they will continuewith their Jekyll and Hyde performances. This is the hardest teamto handicap.
Another upset occurred at the Metrodome as Minnesotawent down for the first time this season at home. Obviously thisteam has thrown in the towel and Gopher fans can book their reservationsfor Detroit and the Motor City Bowl. This is the most disappointingteam in the conference and with this much talent I wonder whatCoach Glen Mason’s future holds. Why he decided to play for a51-yard field goal is beyond me. The kick was not even close andsince that would not have gotten us a cover, I am glad that itsailed wide left. Iowa deserves some credit for turning theirseason around and do not look now, but they are one home win awayfrom possibly grabbing a share of the Big Ten title. This teamstill cannot run the ball, but finds a way to get the job doneand Kirk Ferentz is an elite coach who will be getting offersfrom the NFL in the future.
Minnesota’s defense is finally being exposed asthe weak link on the team. Their front seven is undersized andthey have been manhandled for three straight weeks against teamswith mediocre offenses. Hawk QB Drew Tate threw for 333 yardsand two long touchdowns of 60 and 41 yards. Laurence Maroney hada great day on the ground rushing for 156 yards and three touchdowns.Minnesota cut the deficit to two points but settling for thatlong of kick was the wrong decision and it cost them the game.
Iowa would lose the tiebreaker to Michigan sothey cannot go to the Rose Bowl even if they beat Wisconsin. TheHawks have dominated the Badgers at home and are catching themoff of a devastating loss.
Ohio State made a valiant comeback but fell shortagainst Purdue giving us a win on our top six-unit play. KyleOrton came in to lead his team to a much-needed victory and DustinKeller caught the go-ahead touchdown pass with just two minutesremaining. Boy did we need that touchdown instead of a chip shotfield goal. The Bucks responded well despite the controversy surroundingthem this week and had a chance to tie before their playmaker,Ted Ginn Jr. tipped a pass right into the arms of Stanford Kegler,thus ending the game.
Max is a writer for www.docsports.com.