A strange weekend in America’s heartland to say the least. Michigan hit the snooze button against Akron, Nebraska wore their famous “black shirts” for the first time, which honors the defense – and promptly went out and put on a woeful defensive performance. Don’t even get me started on Wisconsin. As you can tell from the chart, the most bizarre thing is Minnesota’s rise. At 3-0 they have earned the five-hole after a wacky weekend. Sadly, I still won’t be buying them. True to my word though, I will be buying Illinois after a tight loss to a nice Washington team.
Hopefully this isn’t your first time checking out our stock report, but if it is, the above chart is the power rankings of the league. The buying/holding/selling stock in a team is relative to preseason expectations, making a better bowl, or surprising the league and competing for a division title. Just because I’m buying a lot of stock in a team doesn’t mean I think they are better than the first place team. Now that we are all in sync, let’s get after it!
Illinois – So Scheelhaase came back to earth. So the rushing game averaged less than four a carry. So the defense gave up over 600 yards. So what … who cares? Illinois played like you-know-what and still made it a game against a nationally ranked team. This was a seven point game with nine minutes to go thanks to some gritty determination by the Illini. Considering I thought this team would go 1-7 in the league, they are clearly exceeding my expectations. That is the very definition of a “buy.” Week three grade: D
Michigan – Clearly they were looking past Akron for that big tilt next week against … Connecticut? Okay, so that isn’t it. Look, teams have these sleepwalk zombie games from time to time. Of course, four turnovers will also keep teams in it regardless of the opponent. Here is a final theory: Terry Bowden is a coach with a great reputation despite not coaching all that much. Shouldn’t we at least consider the possibility that he lived up to that reputation and had his team prepared and thus the Zips aren’t the fools everyone is making them out to be? Kyler Pohl had some really nice passes and maybe, just maybe this Akron team can make an impact in the MAC. Lastly, the officials were terrible. On the last play alone both a pass interference and a helmet-to-helmet on Pohl could have been called. If it is a penalty in the first 59 minutes, it’s a penalty in the final one. Week three grade: D
Northwestern – A rather ho-hum 21 point victory for NU over a dreadful Western Michigan team. The passing game never really took off like you’d expect the but the ground attack hummed. I think with WMU followed by Maine before the big Ohio State game, Fitz and his staff aren’t going to show everything and the result will be nice wins but nothing flashy, which is what happened the other day. Week three grade: B
Ohio State – A road romp with the backup quarterback? The king is back folks. As for all the yards and points, well that is just Cal being Cal. Bears true freshman Jared Goff is a really skilled young passer. The touchdowns didn’t really matter though. OSU was up 21-0 when Cal first scored. It was 24-14 at the half, 31-17 later, and then 31-20 with a pair of Cal field goals. The Buckeyes moved it to 45-27 and finally the cosmetic score to make it 52-34. So you see, Cal scored but none of them really made it a game. Week three grade: A
Wisconsin – Look,I could spend the entire time complaining about that last play against Arizona State. I won’t though. Wisconsin was up 21-13 early in the second half and really did nothing in the final two quarters. The defense really struggled in the second half and quarterback Joel Stave didn’t make enough big plays. Lastly, with Kyle French, no field goal is a gimme. Let’s look at the positives though: No Big Ten team has ever won in Tempe. ASU is a sleeper in the South and a highly touted team. Wisconsin could have and maybe even should have won on the road at a team that is a comparable to an upper half Big Ten squad. In fact, ASU would probably be third in the league right now behind Michigan and OSU. This game will build character and UW can still do what they want in the Big Ten. If you thought this loss cost the Badgers a national title, you must not have heard of Alabama, LSU, Oregon, Stanford, OSU, Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State or UCLA. Look, Wisconsin could have run the table – who knows – but it was a pretty big climb to the BCS title even with winning this game. Does it sting? Yes. Should we give up on 2013 and expect Big Ten failure now? Heck no! Week three grade: B
Indiana – The Bowling Green win was very, very nice. The Falcons played extremely well and Indiana humbled them, especially defensively. I am close to buying this club but I want to see them play defense well in back-to-back, or even more, weeks. They have home dates with Missouri and Penn State next to sway me, and the nation, and prove the Hoosiers program has finally turned a corner. Neither will win MVP so I’ll congratulate them here but QB Nate Sudfeld and RBs Stephen Houston and Tevin Coleman all had outstanding performances for IU. Week three grade: A+
Michigan State – Connor Cook may have solved the quarterback woes but let’s pump the breaks a bit. They played FCS Youngstown State. Let’s see how this Spartan offense performs at Notre Dame before we dive back in with Michigan State. It was a big sign of improvement, but I’m still skeptical. Week three grade: A
Nebraska – Obviously UCLA is really, really good. This was going to be a tough game but the Bruins also had extra motivation to win one for a fallen teammate. Did that affect their performance? I think it did. As a result I won’t punish the Huskers too much … yet. Honestly, with the schedule going ahead we won’t know which defense to expect until Nov. 2 when they face Northwestern. NU’s defense could look like world-beaters against South Dakota State, Illinois, Purdue and Minnesota and then give up 40-plus to Northwestern. The question now for me is, how hot has Bo’s seat gotten? This is a program that has monster expectations and has now suffered from the play of woeful defenses the last two seasons. Week three grade: D
Penn State – I though UCF could snag the upset, but didn’t put too much into it. Even near the end I thought PSU would find a way to win. Hats off to the Knights – and hey, it is now less than 365 days from the Ireland tilt! This rivalry is really heating up. You know the good people of Ireland can barely contain their excitement for this rematch. Offensively, Penn State did more than enough to win so this defeat is on the defense. What is confusing is the fact that the defense played well the previous two weeks. I think this one says more about Central Florida than Penn State. Still, let’s see how the Lions look in the next two weeks (Kent State and Indiana) before hosting Michigan in a big home test. Week three grade: C
Iowa – It was an improved product but again lapses in play cost Iowa and made it a lot closer than it should have been. It didn’t lead to points but Iowa gave up another on-side kick. A turnover after a nice drive left points off the board. Wasting good field position and settling for a field goal left points off the board. Let’s congratulate Mark Weisman for a great lunch pail, blue-collar day: 35 carries for 145 yards helped the Hawks hold the ball for 16 more minutes than their rival. Week three grade: B-
Minnesota – Obviously we here at Gamedayr hope Jerry Kill a speedy recovery from another seizure and hope he continues to get his condition under control. Now for the game play, Western Illinois really pushed the Gophers and even held a third quarter lead. Philip Nelson was most likely headed to another “meh” performance before he went down with injury. Mitch Leider was alright but between the two, just 12 passes were even attempted. The ground game totaled 49 carries for 213 yards and was the difference maker. I know I have this team fifth but that is what everyone else has being doing around them. The fact is, Minnesota is 3-0 with a woefully soft schedule and hasn’t even dominated in those games. They have a nice San Jose State team, Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern in their next four. It is a very real possibility they could be sitting at 3-4 a month from now. Week three grade: B+
Purdue – Congrats on the moral victory but it was still a loss against an uninspired Notre Dame team. Now for the bad: in addition to losing, the Boilermakers’ rushing game was pathetic (1.8 yards a carry on 21 tries). There was a pick six. Its defense continually failed to get off the field on third down. On and on for Purdue. Again, they showed they have a pulse and won’t roll over but the lack of talent cost them in this game and will cost them in league games as well. Week three grade: C+
Buy That Kid Dinner (if the NCAA allowed it)
Kenny Guiton (QB, OSU) – 21/32, 276 yards, Abe Lincoln (four scores), 85.5 QBR, 14 carries, 92 yards, 6.6 avg. Honorable mention to a ton of running backs around the league (OSU’s Jordon Hall, Northwestern’s Treyvon Green and Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon).
Iowa Interceptions (LB James Morris and DB B.J. Lowery) – Morris’ INT and 27 yard return set up a very short field before the half. While Iowa squandered the opportunity and settled for a field goal, it did push the lead to 13-0. As for Lowery’s … it came late in the second half and was the reason ISU’s on-side kick failed to produce points. I also think the video speaks for itself.
Minnesota Special Teams – Across the board this unit played well. The punter, Peter Mortell, had a nice day with a 45.4 average on five kicks. The kicker, Chris Hawthorne, hit all of his extra points and as a team the Gophers converted their two-point conversion attempt. All in all, that impacted the field position battle and generated five points in a what had been a very tight game heading to the fourth.
Dunce of the Week:
Speaking of special teams … was this a punt or a handoff? Either way I don’t think the Hoosiers coaching staff intended for this to happen. Fortunately Indiana ended up blowing BGSU out so this lowlight can be laughed off here in the seldom-serious Dunce of the Week section.