Best & Worst of the Big Ten, Power Poll Week Four

September 27, 2009

Written by Jon Miller

Best of the Big Ten: That belongs to the Iowa Hawkeyes, who never panicked even when more than a few of its fans did (present company included).  They fell behind 10-0 on the road.  Not just on the road, but at the Whitehouse night in Happy Valley.  The offense played to a ‘C’ grade overall on the night, and that is probably being kind.  But the defense played to an ‘A-’, the only blemish being Penn State’s first play from scrimmage.  PSU color commentator Jack Hamm (yeah, the Jack Hamm) told Ed Podolak at halftime that Iowa’s defensive line might be the best he has ever seen in college football.   Now, far be it from me to argue with Jack Hamm, but it’s not yet the best in the Ferentz era.  I think he probably was trying to subconsciously make himself feel better about why PSU’s offensive line was getting dominated.  But this line is real good, and it’s only going to get better as the season rolls along.  So is Iowa’s offense, as there are plays to be had all over the field in every game this year.  Iowa just isn’t executing crisply yet.

Kirk Ferentz said last week he had never seen so many players in and out of practice since the start of camp, due to injury.  As Stanzi gets on the same page with his receivers, and once Bryan Bulaga and Tony Moeaki get back on the field, this offense is going to improve exponentially.  Big Ten, beware of that.  This was the game to get the Hawks, and it didn’t happen.  Iowa has two weeks before it plays another league game, at home against Michigan in prime time.  I think Iowa wins the next two to go to 6-0 before hitting the road for back to back games against Wisconsin and Michigan State.  Split those two, then beat Indiana and Northwestern at home, and you could be looking at a trip to the Horseshoe with an Iowa team at 9-1, 5-1 in league, with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line, with the best defense in the conference and an offense that will be able to do more damage than the one that took the field against Penn State.

Best of the Big Ten, Part Two:  Wisconsin’s 38-30 win against Michigan State was another solid win for a Wisconsin football team that appears to have found a quarterback.  Scott Tolzien was 19/31 for 243 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions in this game.  The Badgers gained 436 total yards, but their defense allowed 486 yards.  The Spartans lost by one touchdown and a two-point conversion after turning the ball over four times on the road.  That’s how you lose on the road, and they did just that.

Worst of the Big Ten:  Michigan State.  They are now 1-3 on the season, and it appears that this Michigan State program under the direction of Mark Dantonio is similar to Michigan State teams of the past, unable to stand up when the spotlight is on.  This team was picked to finish third in the Big Ten by the media prior to the start of the year and they were a trendy darkhorse to win the league title.  Now, they have Michigan at home next week, which MSU has risen up against in the past even in down seasons.  After that game, if the past is an prologue, it’s fold the tents time, as the football program gives way to Midnight Madness and Tom Izzo’s bunch.  I am pulling for Michigan to win that game, so a kill shot will be delivered on the Spartans.  If they fall to 1-4, they might even lose on the road at Illinois the following week.  By the time the Hawkeyes arrive, they should be out of contention for a legit January bowl game.

Worst of the Big Ten, Honorable Mentions:

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Illinois: Ohio State didn’t have to much in this game, in a driving rainstorm, to shut out Illinois 30-0.  The Illini managed just 170 yards of offense, Juice Williams has regressed back to his sophomore self (13/25, 77 yards, two interceptions and throwing missiles at receivers 10 yards away).  They do not have the chemistry to overcome what is going on, an they are going to fold up the tents, too.  For Iowa’s sake, let’s hope they can rise up to beat Penn State next week or Michigan State the week after, but I doubt it.

Northwestern’s Defense:  I had higher hopes for this unit, but Corey Wootton clearly is not his pre-injury self just yet.  Mike Kafka continues to throw the ball well, but its dink and dunk for the most part.  I felt Saturday’s game against Minnesota was a potential bowl elimination game for the loser.  The Cats lost, and they are 2-2.  They play at Purdue this week, who is surprising me with their play, then go to Michigan State in two weeks, home against Indiana who is also surprising, hosts Penn State, is at Iowa and Illinois before wrapping up against Wisconsin.  Do you see four more wins for bowl eligibility?

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Jon Miller’s Big Ten Power Poll, Week Four

1. Iowa:  All four of Iowa’s opponents to date are 3-0, their lone losses to the Hawkeyes
2. Ohio State:  They have a solid defense, still not totally sold on their offense
3. Wisconsin:  Doing what they have to do to win, which is Badger football
4. Michigan:  Young team showed some moxsie in coming back late, but against Indiana
5. Penn State:  They are who I thought they were
6. Minnesota:  They are not great, but they are 1-0 in league
7. Michigan State:  They have a better team than Minnesota; not playing that way
8. Indiana:  Showing some heart this year
9. Illinois:  Showing no heart this year
10. Purdue:  Better than I thought they were; DiNardo was right, about this
11. Northwestern:  Defense is letting them down so far

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Upcoming games this week:

Arkansas State at Iowa:  ASU less than 80 yds rushing at home vs Troy.
Michigan @ MSU:  Spartans typically win this one, then fold it up. 1st roadie for Blue.
Wisconsin @ Minnesota:  First road game for Wisconsin; can Minnesota play physical?
Northwestern @ Purdue:  Can Boilers deliver kill shot?
Penn State @ Illinois:  PSU will get Illini’s best, but is that nearly enough?
Ohio State @ Indiana:  Indiana is pesky, but OSU too good on defense.

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