I have much disdain for generic recaps by people who didn't watch the actual games. That's why DVR and Eddie George's Bar and Grill are such a boon for my Big Ten recaps for this week. Eleven Big Ten games were played this weekend and I watched nine of them in their entirety. My apologies to Iowa and Purdue, but I will watch them on BTN this week. You can read my Indiana recap here.
Another important caveat. I don't give a damn who you played this week. Towson? USC? Sister Mary's School of the Deaf and Blind? The bottom line is this - Did you execute? Did you hit someone? Did you play above or below expectations?
Michigan 31, Western Michigan 7: Hey guys, we're back!
A well-meaning and inebriated Buckeye fan talked to me in Eddie George's the other day, saying "Looks like all that extra practice helped." Well, my drunk friend, you're absolutely right. RichRod's Option Spread, featuring players that you know, actually fit the system, looked effective early. Tate Forcier, moved fluidly in the offense, getting the 3-4 yards on option runs that Threet and Sheridan couldn't get last year. I've felt dirty discussing Michigan football for the last two years. This week made me proud, as if I had a drug addict son who's finally out of rehab, married, and just received a promotion at work.
The defense looked stout against Western's star quarterback Tim Hiller, but the real story here was the feeling surrounding the Michigan team. There hasn't been much joy in Mudville ever since Michigan began losing games at an unprecedented pace in 2008. All of last year's wins were miracles, save for the Mini beating. This game was bigger than anyone will admit. Wolverines everywhere can feel, at the absolute least, that the program is on the right track. Do they have to beat ND next week? No. Do they have to make the Capitol One Bowl? No. But oh sweet Lord do I feel they're on the right path.
My favorite line from a Buckeye fan: When Forcier was subbed out and Robinson came in for the first time to take snaps, one guy looks over and says "wait, where did Forcier go" to which the Buckeye fan responded, "oh, he had to go do 15 reps on the bench press before RichRod would put him back in." Cliched, but clever.
Ohio State 31, Navy 27: Senator Tressel is under investigation for unintentional hubris
I have one word for this game: arrogance. Tressel inserted his backup quarterback in the second quarter (for reps probably) instead of letting Pryor go for the kill early. He ran an offense that failed to utilize Pryor's legs and athleticism, instead muting his offensive playcalling in the name of "not showing too much" for USC to study. Behind a line that was unable to move anyone in the run game, Tress ran up the middle unsuccessfully on fourth and two instead of kicking a field goal. If not for a Ricky Dobbs pick on the two point conversion, we're talking about a 50/50 chance in OT that Navy pulls the upset of the year.
What's my logical conclusion here? Tressel failed to take Navy seriously and in even when the game was in doubt, he failed to alter his conservative gameplan, almost costing Ohio State the game. Counter argument? They won the game and no one got hurt. My rebuttal? You've got the Ultimate Weapon at quarterback (he may be the hardest person to sack in CFB), you've got a WR corps that played extremely well (Sanzenbacher and Ballard had great catches), and you've got an overmatched Navy defense. Attack, let the dogs out, unleash the dragon, damn the torpedoes, etc. The biggest question for next week, besides how many points Law Buckeye will favor USC by, is whether the Senator will take off his conservative Sweatervest, throw on some Under Armour and show the Trojans something different in Columbus.
Penn State 31, Akron 7: Aaron Maybin who?
I was impressed by the front four defenders of Penn State. They generated pressure instantly, overwhelming Akron's O-Line easily. BSD discusses the dominance here and it's good to see an inspired Nittany Lion defense, especially against cupcakes.
As for Daryl Clark, he's the best overall quarterback in the Big Ten by a long shot. Immaculate footwork, quick decision making, confidence in his OL, throws a catchable ball...Eventually someone will discuss the NFL and Clark in the same breathe.
Missouri 37, Illinois 9: Ron, can I get you a seat warmer?
As we discussed earlier this year, Illinois has a lot of weapons on offense and defense. All Zook needs to do is utilize them. Against the Tigers, he failed to do so. Forgodsakes, get Juice Williams out of the pocket! The man proved last year that no good comes from a staid offensive plan. Typical Illini possession - shotgun formation, Juice takes the snap, gets good blocking (+1 to Illini O-Line), throws an incomplete pass or scrambles for two yards. Benn went down, but the depth of the Illinois wide receiving corps is well documented.
What did we learn here? Ron Zook is a bad game manager? Ron Zook and his new OC are unable to make in-game adjustments? Didn't we already know this? Looks like Phil Steele's statistical love of the Illini might have been misplaced. As for the Illinois defense, I don't begrudge them anything. They made a bunch of stops in the first half, holding Mizzou to long field goals and waiting for the Juice led cavalry that never came.
One thought of optimism, straight from Hail to the Orange: "Recall that in both 1983 and 2007, the season began with a loss to Mizzou. Illinois went to the Rose Bowl both years."
Minnesota 23, Syracuse 20: It took a Mini-miracle to survive
In the initial Greg Paulus Challenge game, the Gophers showed an inaccurate passing game, an undisciplined offensive line good for numerous penalties and missed blocks, and a lack of general talent. This game couldn't have gone worse...except that they won.
When 375 lb. Jeff Wills whiffed on a block, directly leading to a Weber fumble, I shook my head. And when the defense began missing tackles in the second half, letting ‘Cuse back in the game, I put my head on the bar table. Secretly, I believe in the Gophers. But this first game gave me no confidence in their 2009 prospects. Adam Weber, known for his athleticism and accuracy, had a below 50% completion percentage and looked uncomfortable with any receiver not named Decker. Minnesota's pass game, full of timing route's and tough angles, was completely off kilter until late in the game. Weber was 12-33 passing at one point.
Positive, let's be positive like Brewster. Decker is an athlete with good hands and better instincts for the ball. The secondary, save one big mistake on the Paulus deep TD, made some great plays on the ball and sealed the game by intercepting Paulus in the end zone. They will be one of Minnesta's strengths this year.
Michigan State 44, Montana State 3: I got you! I got your ass!
A nice Full Metal Jacket quote should probably be saved for a bigger game, but I've got Kubrick on the brain and the Spartans looked good in pounding Montana State. Kirk Cousins, the starting QB whose previous claim to fame was starting 10-10 passing against OSU last year, showed an incredibly accurate arm and throws a catchable ball. It also looked like Dantonio has opened up the offense. Or Cousins is that much better than Hoyer, same results either way.
On the defensive side, #40 Roderick Jenrette had four Playstation Hit Stick worthy plays. Good to see some early season aggression taken out on opposing wide receivers.
A couple interesting things happened in this game. Michigan State receivers struggled early with drops, the main culprit being Keshawn Martin. Dropsies plagued the Spartans last year and hopefully these were just early season issues. Blair White however, he of the Gossip Girl worthy name, caught everything in his way and has transformed himself into the main option in the passing game.
In the "oddly enough" category, Greg Jones was on the kickoff team. Hmm, considering the history of MSU stars getting hurt on special teams, I would say that's an interesting choice. Also, I hope you noticed the couple that kisses after every MSU touchdown. If this was ESPN, we would do a puff piece about how football strengthens their relationship and forges their marriage bond even closer.
Northwestern 47, Towson 14: Supergirls and Kafka
Not so much to discuss here. Kafka was ready, his mechanics are improved and he's still tougher than nails. Just witness his blocking to spring a NW ball carrier.
In the "Woo Woo" section, I was surprised to see a bunch of hot NW girls in gray sports bras cheering on the Wildcats. Take that SEC! Our hotties are brainiacs too. Fantastic.
Wisconsin 28, Northwen Illinois 20: Bielema continues his mission to confuse me
Scott Tolzien started out all hot and sexy, 6-6 passing for 120 yards and a touchdown. I love the decision to start Tolzien - it takes guts to bench Sherer and bypass Phillips for an unproven Junior who is known as a career backup. Just as, I was voicing my respect for Bielema after another Tolzien-led scoring drive, in comes Phillips to get snaps. I don't understand this! Finish the game, leave your hot arm in, blow out NIU early!
The Badgers hung on for a win, I would prefer that Bielema claims a #1 QB and goes from there. QB instability was the problem last year, why skirt the issue again?
One player who stood out to me - J.J. Watt, a 290 lb. sophomore DT who spent the entire first half in the Husky backfield. Apparently he transferred from CMU - originally a 200 lb linebacker, he's put on 90 pounds and looks like a high motor killer.