Spartan Nation’s Big Ten Wrap Up, Week 4.

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The biggest question in the Big Ten is how healthy can M Rod keep his QB?  Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.

The biggest question in the Big Ten is how healthy can M Rod keep his QB? Photo courtesy of Bill Marklevits.

Big Ten Soft-Saturday Edition

On a day that was being dubbed “Soft Saturday,” for Big Ten Conference football as a whole, Hondo and the Spartan Nation picked up the slack for me in spades and made what would have been otherwise perhaps the dullest of all game days this season. My normal Saturday, writing for Spartan Nation, is typically spent fervently scouring and utilizing all available technologies keeping up with all the Non-MSU Big Ten games so I can report it back to you all in my weekly Wrap-Up. Thankfully however, Hondo took mercy on me and served me up some Mean Spartan Green instead of the purported bland Big Ten football “Soft Saturday.” As Spartan Nation staff member s can attest, sitting up in the High Cathedral Press Box with the big guy is a pleasure. It’s also true, there’s no such thing as a dull “Soft Saturday” when you’re surrounded by guys like Hondo, Hollis and Izzo, watching the Spartans easily pound the competition, in an emotional win. That’s just Mean Green, VIP…Spartan Nation style!

 

On another note, look for my Thursday article listing the Big Ten Match-ups for this coming Saturday!

 

 

Illinois (2-1)

Bye Week.

 

 

Indiana (3-0)

Indiana 35 Akron 20.  

The Hoosiers took care of a winless Akron team at home this weekend to remain unbeaten as QB Ben Chappell tossed for a career high four TD’s, and finished 23 of 33 for 342 yards in total. Indiana WR Tandon Doss continued to excite on kick returns taking the opener 41 yards, and later scoring on 9 yard jaunt. WR Terrrance Turner was Chappell’s go-to-guy collecting 121 yards on six receptions on a career day for himself, as well. The Hoosiers did not turn the ball over and went two-and-two on fourth down conversions. The Zips (Akron) were simply outmatched in this game where the Hoosiers never trailed and led 35-13 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

The chink in the Hoosiers armor clearly is going to be experience at this point. Their strength of schedule thus far, actually lack thereof, will come into play when they meet up with the Wolverines to begin the conference play this Saturday. How will they fair? No one really knows… including their players and Coach. What’s for sure the Hoosier schedule is about to reach a different stratosphere competition wise.

 

 

Iowa (3-1)

(18)Iowa 45Â Ball St 0

Hawkeye football returned to looking like Hawkeye football this week in their victory over the Cardinals in Iowa City. They successfully put the ugly loss at Arizona behind them as their defense gave a shut-out performance in handing Ball State a goose egg-  Hawkeye style. QB Ricky Stanzi had three TD’s through the air on a 288 yard, zero interception, performance. Combine that with his 19 of 25 catches per attempts and you’ve got an efficient passing attack. One perhaps significant development came when Stanzi hooked up with Johnson-Koulianos for a third quarter TD, the second of the day, and the third in two weeks. Stanzi to Koulianos has become a threat to watch for. Johnson-Koulianos had 4 receptions for 87 yards to lead all receivers. One week after losing promising RB Jewel Hampton to injury for the season, RB Adam Robinson led the Hawkeye rushing game with 22 carries and 115yards. Receiver Marvin McNutt left the field with an injury, but is reported to be okay in moving forward this week.

The chink in the Hawkeye armor, though not displayed this week, could well be road games. They are notoriously tough at home but you take them out of their element your chance of success obviously increases. After the nasty loss in Arizona over a week ago, this team still has to find its away-legs and slough off that haunting loss, as the Big Ten season starts. An away win could give them the confidence they need to contend for the Big Ten Championship once again.

 

 

Michigan (4-0)

(21)Michigan 65Â Bowling Green 21

The Wolverines took a ride on an emotional rollercoaster in Ann Arbor on Saturday that is atypical of a team that scores 65 points on their opponent. Two Wolverine QB’s: Denard Robinson (bruised knee) and Tate Forcier (minor knee tweak) experienced injuries in the course of the dominating Michigan performance. Many have speculated the diminutive size of these two Rodriguez recruits may potentially prove to be a liability in the Big Ten conference. Having both QB’s suffer injuries against the likes of non-conference opponent Bowling Green this Saturday did nothing but arouse those contrarian suspicions, anew. Both however, are expected to be fit for duty in the days ahead. On the more optimistic side Michigan proved that they can still light up the score-board albeit against a much lesser opponent, when Denard is hurt, which was a huge question mark for this team.  Michigan QB’s Robinson, Forcier and Freshmen Devin Gardner combined for 23 of 26 passing, which rates as the second highest completion percentage in Wolverine history (with more than 10 attempts).  On the day the Michigan offense had 721 total yards. Surprisingly 466 of those yards came on the ground, the most they’ve accrued since 1992 against Iowa. The 65 Wolverine points were the most scored by a Michigan offense since 1986. Meanwhile, it was Bowling Green’s offense that was more hampered by injury as QB Aaron Pankratz made his first ever career start, filling-in for an injured typical starter Matt Schilz. Pankratz went 17 of 28 for 231 yards and gave up one interception. The Wolverine defense took advantage of the overmatched opponent and looked better against this opponent than UMass ( from the FCS), a week ago.

The chink in the Wolverine armor is still experienced depth on both sides of the ball; however, both back-up quarterbacks proved that they are capable of very good play (against lesser opponents). How well this will translate into conference regular season games against significantly tougher opponents remains to be seen however. Inexperience is only remedied with time, something Rich may or may not have a lot of, as Head Coach in Ann Arbor.

 

 

Minnesota(1-3)

N Illinois 34Â Minnesota 23

The Gophers woes continued yet again this week with another embarrassing loss at home, this time to a MAC opponent. Fan morale and patience are wearing very thin inside the Gophers new TCF Bank Stadium. Minnesota, now at 1-3 on the season, with ugly home losses to FCS foe South Dakota and now a formerly 1-2 MAC team in Northern Illinois, has created the notion that the semblance of a respectable season is rapidly becoming a very difficult uphill battle in Minneapolis. And Head Coach Tim Brewster’s seat just got considerably hotter. Gopher QB Adam Weber however, threw for a season high 373 yards and one TD, but it clearly wasn’t enough as the Gopher defense got run-over by the Huskies Chad Spann who had a career day himself rushing for 223 yards and two TD’s. In all, Northern Illinois had 297 yards rushing and were held to a lowly 81 yards passing. Infact the Gophers outgained the Huskies in total offense  470 to 378, which makes the loss just that much more insulting. Additionally the Gophers time of possession was 36:43 to the Huskies 23:17. The Gophers therefore were just ineffective in putting points on the board despite ample opportunity. MarQueis Gray lead the Gophers receiving game with 8 receptions for 117 yards and one TD. Minnesota’s running game was held to only 97 yards. In one of the few interesting and/or relevant scoring summaries of the week, here it goes:

The chinks in the Gopher armor are too many to list at this point in the season. Confidence surely will be in short supply heading into Conference play now. The Gophers need to do some soul searching and attempt to piece together what remains of a long season ahead. But, like I said earlier, it’s going to be an uphill battle just to reach middle of the pack at their current stage.

 

 

Northwestern(4-0)

Northwestern 30  Central Michigan 25

The Wildcats managed to hold-off a scrappy Chippewa team this week in Evanston, and in so doing remained undefeated on the season. Wildcat QB Dan Persa gave another impressive effort going 23 of 30 for 280 yards, with two TD’s and one interception. Northwestern RB Jacob Schmidt punched in two scores himself. On the day the Wildcats put up 429 yards of offense, 149 of those yards on the ground. Leading the rushing attack was RB Trumpy who picked up 53 yards on the ground with 12 carries. Despite the score, it wasn’t until late in the fourth quarter when the Chippewa’s actually made this one seem close. At 14:54 left in the fourth quarter the Wildcats, on a Schmidt run, went up 30-13. After wards, two Chip TD’s within roughly six minutes of each other late in the fourth quarter provided the final margin.

The chink in the Wildcat armor for this game is simply not being able to put their opponent away, and allowing them to creep within one score, late in the fourth. The Chippewa’s are not as good a team as they were last year when they finished ranked. The Wildcat competition is about to be kicked up a few notches, too. They likely will not retain the luxury (to still get the win) in some of those games if they don’t play a full four quarters of football.

 

 

Ohio State (4-0)

(2)Ohio St 73  E Michigan 20

What happens when the number two team in the nation, coached by Jim Tressel, meets up with a winless MAC team? A 53 point victory sounds about right. And that’s what happened when Eastern Michigan came to the Horseshoe this weekend. The Buckeye’s 73 point total was the most of any Buckeye squad in six decades. Buckeye QB Terrelle Pryor continued to impress with a 20 for 26 passing effort for 224 yards, four TD’s and no interceptions. Receiver Dane Sanzenbacher led receivers with nine receptions for 108 yards and four TD’s, which tied two other school records (4TD’s). On the day the Buckeyes racked –up 645 yards of offense, 342 on the ground and 303 coming through the air. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is not known for running up the score on clearly outmatched opponents, it’s just that former Michigan Wolverine and now Eastern Michigan Head Man Ron English’s squad really was this overmatched in all facets of the game. Short of telling his players to intentionally flop, there really wasn’t any way to make this one a respectable contest. The Buckeyes scored on their first six drives of the game. This game was every bit as lopsided as the score indicates. What’s perhaps more interesting than the game itself was this strange and perhaps ominous quote from Ron English himself following the game, “"Every dog has his day. I've had my days," English said. "I'm taking mine right now, and I'm sure there'll be a day when I'm giving mine again. Whether it be here or somewhere else. But I promise you I'll be back giving my butt-whuppin's out, too." So, take that for what’s it worth.

The chink in the Buckeyes armor is special teams. Eastern just wasn’t the team to adequately expose any chinks in the otherwise stout Buckeye armor.

 

 

Purdue (2-2)

Toledo 31Â Purdue 20

Toledo did what they’ve been unable to do since 1992 this Saturday in defeating Purdue in West LaFayette. The Rockets, of the MAC, entered the game ranked dead last in the nation in total offense and by the end of the game, they actually out-gained Purdue by eight yards, 378yds to 370yds. Adding injury to this insult for the Boilers came when starting QB Robert Marve was injured for the second straight week.  The injury (left knee) came on the third drive of the game, he’s scheduled to have an MRI Monday to determine the extent of the damage. Marve tore his left ACL last summer and this may well be a similar re-injury. Boiler head man Danny Hope said he is already assuming Marve will be out for “awhile.” His Back-up QB, Redshirt Freshman Rob Henry again filled in for the ailing Marve and threw for 140 yards, one TD and one interception. Soon after the early Marve injury, Toledo was up 14-0 in the first quarter and they never surrendered the lead. Early in the third quarter the lead swelled to 24-3. One the bright side the Boilers rushed for more than 200 yards for the third straight time. The Rockets however, were perfect on their third down conversions with three. The Toledo offense who’d in games previous looked downright terrible, levied a decently balanced attack upon the Boiler defense with 209 yards passing and 169 yards rushing. Poor Boilermaker defense and offensive questions with the absence of Marve marked the days defeat. No Purdue receiver or rusher reached 70 yards of offensive output. All this collectively reveals the many chinks within the Boiler armor. They are indeed, struggling.

 

 

Penn State (3-1)

(23)Penn St 22Â Temple 13

Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions took care of their stubborn MAC opponent this weekend by beating Temple in State College. The day wasn’t without worry for Paterno however, as his team trailed the Owls 13-6 at the half way point. The second half was a complete shut-out for the owls however, as the Nittany Lion defense tightened up the clamps. Temple, a bit of a surprise thus far, fell to 3-1 on the year after a nice win against UConn last week. Nittany Lion QB Freshman Robert Bolden was 18 of 28 for 223 yards passing with no TD’s or interceptions in what seemed a slightly disjointed performance lacking rhythm. Evan Royster who has had a great career at Penn State, but who has struggled significantly this year, had a nice day with 187yards on 26 carries. He’d previously only mustered 110 yards on 31 carries over his entire first three games combined. In all the Owls simply outplayed the Nittany Lions in the first half, but made some adjustments and came away with a win against a dangerous Mid-Major squad.

The chink in the Nittany Lion armor continues to be youthful inexperience with this squad. Bolden and Co, are gaining experience with each game however, and their ability to tighten up the loose screws in the second half to pitch a shut-out is speaks to their coaching and ability. How far that’ll take them in Big Ten play however, is anyone’s guess.

 

 

Wisconsin (4-0)

(11)Wisconsin 70Â Austin Peay 3

In what was possibly the most ridiculously obscure match-up in a chocked buffet of ridiculously soft non-conference games this week, the Badgers simply embarrassed Austin Peay right out of Madison. Austin Peay, in case you’re wondering is billed as “Tennessee’s Fastest Growing University.” But, the only thing growing for their Football team this Saturday were the knots and bruises on their bodies, their opponents score total, and their collective bank account for the privilege of a Camp Randall man-handling. You can’t fault the Gov’s (Austin Peay Governor’s) though, that’s what it takes to build a successful program; in fact, they deserve credit for even getting off the bus. The Badgers got the “W” they were after however, and were happy to oblige their grossly mismatched opponent, while liberally substituting and playing non-starters much of the day. The 70 point Badger total was a school record for most points scored, and the 67point victory was the largest margin of victory in Badger history. The Badgers had 618 yards total offense and John Clay rushed for 118 yards. The Badgers scored TD’s in all seven drives in the first half of play.  Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien was nearly perfect on the day in what action he saw, going 15 of 17 passing, for 217 yards and three TD’s.  Additionally, Wisconsin had one penalty all day.

The chink in the Wisconsin armor as it heads into Big Ten play at this point could be in the massive discrepancy in ability between themselves and this final tune-up opponent. You simply don’t learn much about your teams’ mettle in such a soft match-up. On the flip side you do get to play the bench sitting portion of your roster though. But even then they likely could have learned more scrimmaging against their scout team than anything Austin Peay threw at them.

 

 

Keepin Tabs on Nebraska (4-0)

 

(6)Nebraska 17Â S Dakota St 3