Week 6 was not kind to The Slate. Purdue found a way to embarrass Northwestern at home, Indiana was blown out of Ohio despite my prediction of a close game, and Michigan got hammered by their in-state rival. We said that there'd be a slew of close games, yet only one of these games was decided by less than 17 points. As predictions go... yeah... notsogood. Nevertheless, there are games to look at, and let's see what we learned.
Indiana 10 at #2 Ohio State 38 - Well. I got this wrong. Even though I predicted Ohio State to win, I figured this game would actually be pretty close. It wasn't. This game was out of hand before the second quarter had even begun. It turned out to be one of those games where a 28 point margin of victory is actually insufficient to describe how thorough a beating the Buckeyes delivered. It was 31-0 at halftime. Indiana didn't put a TD on the board until the fourth quarter. Terrelle Pryor proved he doesn't need to run to beat a crappy pass defense, Pryor threw for a personal best 334 yards. The Buckeyes continue to roll, but better bring their hardhats to Madison.
For Indiana, this has to be a let down. They came within inches of taking down Michigan and looked very competent in doing so. fast forward to Saturday and they looked like a pop warner team. Nothing went right and the Hooisers' vaunted offense got more tahn doubled up by Ohio State. Still, this isn't agame Indiana was supposed to win and looking forward, with a crappy non-conf game this weekend they've got time to heal, practice and pick up the three wins they need to be bowl eligible.
#17 Michigan State 34 at #18 Michigan 17 - Sigh... We've covered this ad nausem. We've got the introspective response. The angry , denial response. The we got beat by another team response. They're all there to go over. The bottom line is that MSU systematically stomped the Wolverines on Saturday. Michigan remains a one horse show, and if that horse isn't running at full speed they're screwed. Sadly, the Michigan Defense did show a little bit of a backbone here and there against the Spartans, it was just that the Wolverine offense could keep from spearing itself everytime it got into scoring position. There are some serious issues that have to be addressed in the Michigan backfield if the Wolverines are going to stand a chance against Iowa's ferocious defense.
Back in East Lansing, the Spartans have to be flying high. They've beaten their in-state rival for the thrid straight game, they're ranked in the top 15, and they've got Illinois on the calendar. State's won two straight big games in a row. The Big Test comes in three weeks when Iowa appears on the calendar.
Minnesota 23 at #20 Wisconsin 41 - As predicted, this was a bloodbath. Going into the fourth quarter it was 28-9 Wisconsin, which quickly became 35-9 as the quarter progressed. Wisconsin effectively doubled the Gophers' first downs, and ran for 250 yards compared to the Gopher's 96. Minnesota is 1-5 and 0-2 in conference with their most winnable game (Northwestern) likely behind them. Wisconsin remains Wisconsin. They're great at hammering teams they're supposed to hammer, but mediocre against teams with a backbone (in conference anyway). Wisconsin has the opportunity to make waves this weekend and erase the sting of their loss to Michigan State, when Ohio State comes to Madison this weekend. To do so the Badgers are going to have to play like their pounding an inferior team, and not play the patented, tight Badger style that got their asses handed to them in East Lansing.
Illinois 33 at Penn State 13 - At least I got something right, though not how close it would be.
I think Illinois and the Zookers shock everyone, move to 3-2 (1-1) on the season and send Penn State back to .500. Illinois by a field goal in Happy Valley.
Penn State looks like it's in free fall right now. The injury train that normally decimates Michigan's secondary and Iowa's running backs has pulled into Happy Valley and appears to have no intention of leaving. This injury list is absurd (via The Morning Call/MGoBlog):
- Linebacker Gerald Hodges: Missed his fourth game with a hairline fracture but has begun running.
- Defensive end Jack Crawford: Foot injury, spent game on crutches on the sideline, might need surgery, Paterno said.
- Linebacker Mike Mauti: Missed game with a high ankle sprain.
- Linebacker Bani Gbadyu: Knee injury.
- Defensive end Eric Latimore: Sustained wrist injury on first play, could be out for an extended period.
- Defensive back Nick Sukay: Possible torn pectoral muscle, also could be out for a while.
- Defensive end Pete Massaro: Treated for dehydration symptoms and played with an injured left quadriceps.
- Defensive back Andrew Dailey: Sustained possible stinger on helmet-to-helmet hit in second half.
- Defensive tackle Jordan Hill: Aggravated previous ankle injury
Penn State is basically a M*A*S*H unit at this point, and it doesn't show signs of getting any better. Latimore, Sukay, and Hill could be out for a while. I don't think this means that Penn State is going to spiral into a Michigan style 3-9 season where everything that can possibly go wrong will, but making a bowl game is no longer the lead pipe lock it once was. There is the possibility now, mind you, the possibility, that the Lions could miss a bowl game; whereas before it would've been unheardof.
Looking across the field I'm in shock to see just how much the Illini have improved since Game One. They're physical. They're nasty. They appear (gasp) well coached. This was a methodical beating delivered by a hungry football team. Illinois trailed 3-0 and never trailed after that. When you see that Illinois piled up almost three hundred yards rushing compared to 65 rushing yards for Penn State, I think you get the picture. Even more impressive was the performance of the defensive backfield. The Illini limited to 8/21 passing, and retruned a pick for a touchdown. While I don't think the Illini will suddenly rise up and win the conference outright, or even come place in the top three, this is a very, very dangerous team right now.
Purdue 20 at Northwestern 17 - Dammit. I had Northwestern winning by ten, and when the Cats wen up by 7 in the third quarter, I figured they had a chance to prove me right. Not so much. Adding to the perception that Big Ten special teams as a whole are an abomination, Cats' kicker Stephan Demos carried over from his outstanding New Years' Day performance by gacking up a pair of makeable field goals, including one that would've tied the game. Not so good. Purdue managed to win this game despite their 3rd string quarterback throwing just 6 for 18 for 47 yards with a pick. Purdue is now the surprise of the Big Ten, standing 1-0 in conference and actually above .500 despite personnel losses that rival the French during trench warfare in WWI. Someone purchase a beard and mustache trimmer for Danny Hope. He's earned it.
On the flip side, Northwestern proved everyone correct who'd doubted their abilities this year. Maybe it's a fluke and the Cats' just took a dump on the field Saturday. But the numbers, and reality say otherwise. Northwestern only turned the ball over once and got gashed by Purdue's makeshift quarterback and and tailback system. Stranger things have happened than Northwestern suddenly upsetting MSU, but I'd be friggin' shocked if it happened. And after Saturday, and both teams' performances, it seems more likely that you'll find St. Ted in a jar of peanut butter than a Northwestern resurgence.