Sunday, October 2, 2011

October has arrived and the first weekend of B1G conference football is in the books

It is a beautiful weekend here in Eastern Iowa, weather wise, as Autumn has clearly arrived. We also have witnessed the opening weekend of Big Ten football, with five conference games being completed, in the new Legends and Leaders divisions.

What do we know, after Week 1 of Big Ten conference play?

Coaching stability is an important part of Big Ten football. Also, strong QB play is very important. In winning championships, defense is often a key component, as well.

Wisconsin (5-0, 1-0 in B1G Leaders) has a very good offensive coordinator (Paul Chryst) to complement head coach Bret Bielema and the rest of the Badgers' coaching staff. Further, NC State transfer QB Russell Wilson is an upgrade at QB for the Badgers in 2011. While a lot of love is going to be thrown out at the Badgers five weeks into the season, are the Badgers as strong as last year's team overall?

The Badgers are clearly the team to beat in the Big Ten, but despite the upgrade at QB, the defense may not be as strong as last year's team and we will have to let the season play out before we compare the Badgers to elite in the FBS. How would the Badgers perform right now vs. LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma or Boise State?

Nebraska (4-1, 0-1 B1G Legends) is breaking in a new OC in 2011, with Tim Beck, elevated from RB coach. Sophomore QB Taylor Martinez and his Cornhusker teammates received a "rude welcome" to the B1G, with a road night game opener in Madison against the defending Big Ten co-champions. The Badgers beat Nebraska 48-17, as Martinez made too many costly mistakes, along with others for the Cornhuskers. New PK/punter junior Brett Maher is a bright star for the Cornhuskers.

Nebraska has really struggled against Top 10 teams as of late. The
Cornhuskers have lost 16 of their last 18 games against Top 10 teams since the
start of the 2000 season... 11 of the losses have been by double digits,
including 6 by at least 20 points.
Ohio State's new head coach Luke Fickel, in for departed Jim Tressel, didn't find Michigan State (4-1, 1-0 B1G Legends) a very easy opponent in the Big Ten opener at home.

Despite the MSU 10-7 win at Ohio State to open the 2011 season, Michigan State's offense struggled in Columbus. New OC Dan Roushar, promoted from OL coach, doesn't have senior QB Kirk Cousins and the Spartans run/pass game is struggling more than not, after a 11-2 season in 2010. Former OC Don Treadwll is head coach now at Miami-OH. The Spartans lost big twice in 2010, with a 6-37 loss at Iowa and a 7-49 loss in Capital One vs. Alabama.

The Ohio State Buckeyes (3-2, 0-1 B1G Leaders) nearly were shut out at home for the first time, since 1982 vs. MSU on Saturday. The suspensions are over, after Week 5. However, quarterback play is the weakest for the Buckeyes, then any season under Tressel. The 2004 Buckeyes had trouble going 4-4 in the Big Ten. Right now, the Buckeyes need to get something going. A road trip to Lincoln is ahead this week.

How easy will Nebraska's home opener in the B1G vs. Ohio State be this week? Both teams are licking wounds right now. Ohio State will get suspended players back on offense, as well as a reserve DE. Both teams need better quarterback play, if they are going to compete in 2011.

The Michigan Wolverines (5-0, 1-0 B1G Legends) beat Minnesota 58-0, after opening 2011 with five straight home games. Sometimes a coaching change is good and the Wolverines appear to be headed in the right direction under new coach Brady Hoke, with OC Al Borges and DC Bryan Mattison. However, just how good will the Wolverines finish? Last year, the Wolverines started 5-0 to finish 7-6 and in 2009, started 4-0 to finish 5-7. There is a trend towards improvement, but is Michigan ready to contend for a B1G division title in Hoke's first season. Junior QB Denard Robinson is exciting and healthy through five games. The defense can't be worse than what they were under former coach Rich Rodriquez and staff.

Sometimes coaching changes work well, but Minnesota (1-4, 0-1 B1G Legends) sadly is hurting right now. Head coach Jerry Kill, who arrived from a successful short run at Northern Illinois, has serious health concerns, after suffering a seizure, after the loss to Miami-OH in Week 3. He was on the sidelines, but he has been missing significant time during the week, since he is seeking medical attention for his condition. Alos, key playmakers were out for the Golden Gophers right now, with junior QB MarQueis Gray and senior RS/CB Troy Stoudermire out.
The 0-58 loss by Minnesota, tops the 0-55 loss to Iowa in 2008, in the final game the Gophers played in the Metrodome.

Illinois (5-0, 1-0 B1G Leaders) enjoyed another victory over Northwestern, as they came back from a 10-28 deficit late in the third quarter at home, to defeat the Wildcats 38-35 to remain undefeated for the first time, since 1951. Head coach Ron Zook has found some stability in the coaching staff, as OC Paul Petrino and DC Vic Koenning begin second season in Champaign. Further, second-year QB sophomore Nathan Scheelhaase threw for a career highs: 391 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Michigan travels to Northwestern for a game in Evanston this week. However, Northwestern (2-2, 0-1 B1G Legends) senior QB Dan Persa still remains a question for the Wildcats, as he recovers from a setback, another leg/foot injury in Champaign. Persa made his first start of the season, after being lost late last year, after being injured on the final score in a win over Iowa in '10. His injury didn't help Northwestern in Champaign on Saturday. This is the first meeting between the two programs, since Northwestern's 21-14 win over Michigan in Ann Arbor in 2008. Michigan has back to back road games with Northwestern this week, then a trip to East Lansing on October 15Th.

Penn State (3-2, 0-1 B1G Leaders) traveled to Bloomington and despite a sluggish offense, Nittany Lions beat Indiana 16-10 to open the Big Ten with a win. The Nittany Lions still continue to go with two quarterbacks, as sophomore Paul Bolden and junior Matt McGloin share time. Bolden played poorly in Bloomington and McGloin lead the Nittany Lions to the lone touchdown drive. Joe Pa is in his 46Th season at Penn State. They have never lost to IU.

Iowa (3-1, 0-0 B1G Legends) enjoyed a bye week to get ready for Penn State in the Big Ten opener at Penn State. Iowa has won nine of the last 11 games over Penn State. The Hawkeyes will travel to Happy Valley, but the first off the field distraction was tabulated for the 2011 season, with second-string freshman quarterback A.J. Derby arrested over the weekend. So, much for a perfect bye week.

Iowa's coaching staff is lead by head coach Kirk Ferentz, OC Ken O'Keefe, and DC Norm Parker, all enjoying their 13Th season in Iowa City leading the Hawkeyes. Junior QB James Vandenberg has been up and down, but lead Iowa to a 21 point comeback win over Pitt in Week 3 and played well in the win over ULM to close out non-conference play. Iowa needs better consistency in all three phases of the game: offense, defense and special teams. If the Hawkeyes can staff healthy, and find success in Happy Valley and early in the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes may find themselves competing for a B1G division title.

Indiana (1-4, 0-1 B1G Leaders) lacked much on offense in the debut of new coach Kevin Wilson in Big Ten play. The road will not get any easier, as undefeated Illinois comes to Bloomington this week for a Leaders division rivalry game. Sophomore QB Dusty Kiel made his first career start vs. Penn State, replacing sophomore Edward Wright-Baker.

Purdue (2-2, 0-0 B1G Leaders) after a 10-38 loss vs. rival Notre Dame in West Lafayette. The Boilermakers are still unsettled at quarterback, like Penn State, with two players rotating at the position. Third year head coach Danny Hope has junior Caleb TerBush and senior Robert Marve rotating at quarterback. Sophomore Rob Henry was the likely #1 heading into 2011, but a season ending injury cost Henry for the season.

Minnesota @ Purdue highlights the fifth game of the week in the Big Ten on October 8Th. Both teams have been struggling. Michigan State and Wisconsin will enjoy bye weeks before the Spartans host Michigan on October 15Th, while Wisconsin enjoys Homecoming vs. Indiana on the 15Th.

In closing, Wisconsin is the team to beat in the race for the Rose Bowl. Fitting, since the Wisconsin Badgers represented the Big Ten in the last Rose Bowl. Are the Badgers a BCS title game contender? Let's see how things fall out in the Big Ten first. After all, the Badgers did come up short 19-21 to TCU last season. Of course, 2011 is a new season!

Michigan State and Ohio State are co-champs from last year, though OSU was stripped of victories last year, due to NCAA violations. The Spartans need to play better if they are going to make a run at the Legends division title. Ohio State has a lot of questions right now, especially with their quarterback play.

Illinois is playing well, but they have nearly lost three staight games at home, vs. Arizona State, Western Michigan and Northwestern. The schedule is favorable for Illinois with the toughest B1G games at home and the games they should win on the road. Ron Zook's seventh season in the B1G and only one winning season in the Big Ten (6-2 in '07). Could this be another year of success?

It should be a great October in College Football, as conference play hits full bore.

On a sad note, Iowa State (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) was unsuccessful vs. Texas in Ames on Saturday night. After beating Texas for the first time ever in Austin in 2010 (Cyclones won 28-21), the Cyclones were roughed up 14-37 by the Texas Longhorns (4-0, 1-0 Big 12). ISU self distructed and Texas is improved from last season's team that finished 5-7.

The Red River Showdown will be played this week, with Oklahoma (4-0, 0-0 Big 12) playing their rival Texas in Dallas. Iowa State travels to Baylor (3-1, 0-1 Big 12), who fell short at Kansas State (4-0, 1-0 Big 12), by the score of 35-36.

1 comment:

Vonbers said...

Its "led" not "lead." Why do you ask so many rhetorical questions? Just give your thoughts! And why do you always give scores backwards???? When you tell the score of a game it's always the highest score first. E.G., Iowa lost to ISU 44-41, not 41-44. Or; Northwestern didn't come back from a 10-28 deficit. That makes no sense! They came back from a 28-10 deficit.