It's been a thrill to watch the different Big Ten defenses operate this year. Coaches make their little adjustments, defensive's sag under the weight of bad offensive's, and unknown 2 or 3 star recruits become big-time players. If this was NFL Films, Steve Sabol would be smoothly walking into your living room...
Sabol: "2009 saw a fresh wave of Midwest heroes on the gridiron. But these weren't your pretty faces or All-American quarterbacks, no, these were the pug nosed brutes of the Big Ten. Cornfed strong and smart, these monsters chewed up opposing signalcallers and sniffed out running plays. Ladies and gentlemen, these are the defensive stars of the Big Ten Conference in 2009."
Anyways, last Saturday was a trainwreck for a couple teams defensive units and a strong affirmation of others strengths. Let me answer the questions I posed last week quickly -
How will Indiana attack the relatively vanilla attack of Iowa? The Indiana offense was the key here, opening up a lead and forcing Stanzi to throw into zone coverages. Five INT's followed.
How does Fitzy gameplan against Clark and Royster? 146 first half yards for the Lions showed that Fitzy's players were on point early, but the Wildcat defense tired late in the game, crushed by the offensive units inability to move the ball.
Can Michigan stop giving up big plays for long enough to survive Illinois? NO NO NO NO. Good God no. The LB's took bad angles, the safety's took bad angles...and the big plays were plentiful. 7 plays over 20 yards in fact.
Will the Spartan 4-3 be tested at all versus Mini? Whoops, stupid question. The run defense was stout, as always, but the pass coverage made Adam Weber look like Tom Brady. That vanilla 4-3 barely moved the whole game, letting Weber know exactly what sports would be open.
Did Purdue's D-Co learn anything from OSU about stopping Wisky? No! The Boilers allowed Wisconsin's Student Body Right sweeps and off tackle power runs to be executed with nary a hitch.
This week, I'll take a look at what defensive adjustments should probably be made in the Big Ten games, the games you WILL NOT BE WATCHING BECAUSE:
- The Big Ten doesn't allow night games in November.
- The Big Ten conference hates increased revenue and self-promotion, which if it was the Dalai Lama, would be an admirable characteristic.
Onto the games...
Will Wisconsin for the jugular early against Indiana? The Badgers have seen enough of the Bill Lynch Pistol to know exactly what's coming - quick slants, quick sit down routes, and the occasional Wildcat (Wild Hoosier?) formation. Fortunately for Bielema, he has the dogs to fluster Chappel early. Will he bring Schofield and the LB's on early blitzes, leaving his corners exposed against the HUGE Indi receivers?
Will Illinois bring pressure against Adam Weber? Illinois runs a 4-3 scheme similar to MSU. They don't blitz a lot, but aim to pressure the QB with Clay Nurse and delayed blitzes from Ian Thomas (a very talented Soph LB). The only danger of laying in that cozy 4-3? Illinois has nondescript corners and Minnesota just had their biggest offensive confidence booster of the year against the horrendously lax zone of MSU.
How will Greg Robinson stop the bleeding against Purdue? His 3-4 and 4-4 schemes are being shredded weekly, albeit in different fashion. Illinois ran inside/outside zone reads, exposing the indecisive tacklers of Michigan. Notre Dame, Indiana, and Penn State used deep routes to expose weak cornerback play. Purdue will attack with straight forward off tackle runs at first and when that's slowed, will resort to throwing to receivers sitting down comfortably against the weak kneed defenders. Greg can blitz early, but Iowa showed what that results in (long touchdowns to slot receivers or tight ends).
Who will smash Pryor first? You can usually throw out typical expectations during these monster matchups. Jacked up on adrenaline, someone will do something out of character early and change the games atmosphere. The most likely suspect is Pryor, who our own Law Buck is predicting (or at least praying for) a breakout game. His scrambling from broken pockets is a sight to see, all stiffarms and loping strides. I assume Sean Lee will have spy duties and this clash of titans will lead to someones Waterloo.
How will Northwestern stop Brandon Wegher? This true freshman looks extremely comfortable slamming into the holes created on those wonderful off tackle runs Iowa executes so well. Wisconsin slowed these by pushing the Hawkeye offensive tackles deep into the backfield and rerouting the running back into a linebackers arms. Will NW follow suit using Corey Wootton's speed?