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Big Ten report

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ARIZONA STATE (+8) @ IOWA

 

** Iowa was delivered a huge setback on offense last weekend when their top receiver Maurice Brown went out with an ankle injury and will be sidelined until mid-October.  Brown was by far the Hawkeyes best  and most productive receiver having caught 14 of Iowa’s 31 completed passes this season.  He also has 3 TD’s on the year.  In his absence, Iowa will start Ed Hinkel and Ramon Ochoa at wideouts this Saturday vs. Arizona State.  Those two have combined to catch just 5 passes this season.

 

** If you looked at last week’s stats in the Iowa vs. Iowa State game, you would have no idea how the Hawkeyes won the game by 19 points.  They had only 10 first downs the ENTIRE GAME.  That total was 12 fewer than the Cyclones.  The Hawks passed for just 72 yards and only had 243 total for the game.  ISU, on the other hand, came up with 390 total yards.  Iowa was also a paltry 2 of 13 on 3rd down attempts.  Special teams killed Iowa State as they had 2 punts blocked (one was returned for a TD) and another one deflected.  Iowa ended up scoring almost half of their points (20) off of ISU turnovers.

 

 

KENT STATE (+25) @ PENN STATE

 

** PSU needs to find a running game and quick.  We knew this would be a potential problem for them coming into the season as they did not have an experienced “go to” type back as Larry Johnson has moved on to the NFL.  The Lion coaching staff is still searching for the back they can count on to carry the ball 20 times a game or more.  Thus far, not one PSU running back has carried the ball more than 12 times in a game.  The Lions rushed for just 44 yards last Saturday vs. Nebraska and that simply won’t get them many wins.  True freshman Austin Scott as the most potential, however Paterno has stated that he doesn’t know the offense well enough to keep him in their full time just yet.  His best option at this point might be to use “do it all” Michael Robinson as the tailback.  Robinson is the backup QB and also plays WR and tailback.  He knows the offense and is extremely explosive.  Joe Pa’s “running back by committee” is not working after three games so don’t be surprised if picks one and tries to stick with him this weekend vs. Kent State.

 

** We reported last week that starting punter Jeremy Kapinos status was up in the air due to a disorderly conduct and underage drinking charge.  Kapinos made the trip to Nebraska and punted for PSU.  Also, DT Scott Paxson, who was accused of receiving stolen property earlier in the week, made the trip with the team and played in the game last Saturday. 

 

** PSU is definitely banged up after last weekend.  Starting TE Casey Williams is out for the season after tearing the ACL in his knee during the second quarter of Saturday’s 18-10 loss @ Nebraska.  In practice last Thursday, defensive end Sam Ruhe's sprained his knee and didn’t make the trip to Nebraska.  Backup defensive tackle Jay Alford missed his second game in a row with a knee injury and Jeremiah Davis, one of PSU most experienced defensive lineman, is out for the season after a series of concussions during preseason camp.  That leaves PSU very thin along the defensive front and is showed last Saturday as Nebraska 337 yards on 72 carries and dominated time of possession, almost two to one.  Also, some of the PSU defenders actually admitted after the game that they are “tired and worn down” after just 3 games. 

 

 

BOWLING GREEN (NO LINE) @ OHIO STATE

 

** There is currently no line on this game due to the “up in the air” status of Buckeye QB Craig Krenzel.  He injured his throwing elbow during the second quarter of Saturday’s thrilling 44-38 triple O.T. win vs. NC State.  He continued to play, however after the game and on Sunday his elbow tightened up and he complained of soreness.  He did not practice on Tuesday and will be re-evaluated throughout the week to see if he will play on Saturday.  Speaking of Krenzel, if he gets OSU to overtime, based on past success, you can chalk it up as a win.  In fact, the senior quarterback has now directed the Buckeyes on a combined six overtime drives against Illinois, Miami and N.C. State. All six drives have ended in a Buckeye TD and OSU won all 3 games.  Senior Scott McMullen got all of the snaps with the first team offense on Monday and Tuesday.  It’s looking more and more like he will get the start this weekend.

 

** Our word from Columbus is that head coach Jim Tressel is EXTREMELY upset with the play of his offensive line this season.  The Bucks rushed for just 44 yards last week and have totaled only 164 in their last two games.  That is not acceptable for the way Tressel operates.  He wants OSU to dominate the ground game and physically pound on his opponents.  That has not happened this year with the exception of the Washington win to open the season.  The rushing dilemma, we’re told, has nothing to do with the fact that Maurice Clarett is not lining up at tailback.  The reason is 100% the poor play of the offensive line.  They haven’t been tough enough or physical enough to establish the run.  Tressel is concerned.

 

** This is obviously a much bigger game for Bowling Green than it is for OSU.  Many of the BG players are from the state of Ohio and grew up as huge Buckeye fans.  Many of them had dreams of playing in the Horseshoe, but were either not recruited by the Bucks or at least not offered a scholarship.  They will be looking at this game as their one chance to “prove” they belong or should have been recruited by their dream school.  One thing is for sure, the Falcons will be 100% focused and ready for this game.  Those are scary situations sometimes when you have a team treating this as their “game of the year” vs. a team that could be viewing this as just another game before they hit the Big Ten schedule.

 

 

CALIFORNIA (+4) @ ILLINOIS

 

** Cal head coach Jeff Tedford will make a change at QB this week.  Reggie Roberson started the Bears first 4 games, while Aaron Rogers was coming off the bench.  Those roles will be reversed this Saturday as Rogers gets his first start in Division 1A after transferring from Butte Junior College.  Both QB’s have played well this year each completing over 60% of their passes.  Rogers has thrown for 360 yards, 3 TD’s and no interceptions in his first 4 games.  Thus he has had plenty of time on the field so it’s not as if Cal is starting a QB with no experience whatsoever.  Also, on a side note, keep in mind Cal has had 8 days to prepare for this game after traveling to Utah last Thursday evening.

 

** Last Saturday the Illini defense came out very strong giving up their lowest point total in the last 32 games.  Problem is, the Illinois offense scored their fewest points since October of 1998 in their 6-3 loss @ UCLA.  The Illini had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime with just 27 seconds left, however kicker Brad Gockman missed a 43 yard field goal.  It was his first miss of the 2003 season after hitting 6 in a row.

 

** The Illini are now 1-2 on the season, however they are “this close” to being a perfect 3-0.  In their two losses by a combined 10 points, Illinois had more first downs and total yardage than both Missouri and UCLA.  In fact, in their two losses combined, the Illini had 38 first downs to their opponents 27 and 688 total yards to their opponents 409.  Thus, they are definitely playing better than their record would indicate.

 

 

NORTH CAROLINA (+15 ½ ) @ WISCONSIN

 

** Wisconsin tailback Anthony Davis was injured on his second carry of last weekend’s home loss to UNLV.  Davis sprained his ankle early in the first quarter and never returned.  After the game he had an immobilizing boot on his foot which he has continued to wear this week.  He did not practice Monday or Tuesday and is not expected to practice this week.  It’s highly doubtful that he will play this Saturday.  Head coach Barry Alvarez has said that unless Davis is close to 100% (which we doubt will happen) he will not play him with the Big Ten schedule starting the following week.  Unless something drastic happens, expect Dwayne Smith (who had 92 yards rushing last week) to get the start.

 

** After Wisconsin struggled on offense in a steady rain at Camp Randall Stadium last Saturday, we expect them to get back on track vs. UNC.  The Heels have the WORST defense in the nation (that’s 117th out of 117) giving up 535 yards of offense per game.  They are also second to last (116th) in scoring defense giving up 43 PPG, 111th in rush defense giving up 233 YPG and 108th in pass “D” at 302 per game.  This will also be UNC’s first road game of the season after hosting both Florida State (37-0 loss) and Syracuse (49-47 OT loss).  This weekend could be tough as many of the Heels will be making their first EVER road trip.  In fact in the first two games, UNC has played 20 newcomers including 11 true freshman. 

 

** If you simply looked at the final score of the UNLV – Wisconsin game last week, you didn’t get the whole story.  The 23-5 Badger home loss was VERY deceiving as UNLV did nothing on offense totaling 11 first downs, 94 yards rushing and 93 yards passing for the entire game.  Wisconsin had 5 turnovers (to UNLV’s one) which directly led to 20 of the Rebels 23 points.  UNLV’s longest offensive drive of the game was just 30 yards.  Wisconsin had the ball 9 times in Rebel territory, 5 times inside the 20 and three of those times they were inside the 5 yard line.  After all of that, Wisky still only came away with 3 total points.  So while the score indicated that Wisconsin was dominated, it was actually the other way around.  Not to say the Badgers played well because they didn’t, however the score was no where close to indicative of how the game went.

 

 

ARIZONA (+25) @ PURDUE   

 

** This game has the makings of an absolute blowout.  The only thing that might keep in from being just that is if the Boilers are peeking ahead to their game vs. Notre Dame next Saturday.  The Wildcats, after beating the worst team in Division 1A (UTEP) in game one, have been beaten by a combined score of 107 to 23 in their last two games.  Those were both home games vs. LSU and Oregon.  Those blowout losses were NOT deceiving as the Cats’ were whipped in every category in both of those games.  In the two losses combined they were “out first downed” 57 to 19 and outgained 975 yards to 370.  Those games are what you would call butt whippins.  Now they travel to Purdue for their first road game of the season and the Boilers will want to please the home folks after losing their home opener to Bowling Green 27-26.

 

** As has been publicized since late last season, the AU program is in disarray.  This will definitely be a “play against” or “stay away from” team this season.  At the end of last season it has been reported that nearly 60 Wildcat players met with university president, Peter Likins, and asked for the dismissal of head coach John Mackovic.  The head coach has also had public feuds with a number of players including tailback Clarence Farmer (who has been limited to 123 yards this season due to injury) who won’t even talk to his coach unless he has to.  The situation got so bad at the end of last season that the team almost didn’t get on the plane to head to their final road game @ Cal as a protest against Mackovic.  They ended up going to that game (and covering which was a miracle when you consider the situation), however it hasn’t gotten much better this season.  We expect this season to head downhill fast for Arizona.

 

** Purdue’s top wide receiver, Taylor Stubblefield, left last weekend’s win @ Wake Forest in the first half with an ankle injury.  He had an immobilizing boot on his foot which was removed on Tuesday.  He was able to practice with the team on a limited basis Tuesday.  Head coach Joe Tiller expects him to play this Saturday, although he said he probably won’t know for sure until Thursday or Friday. 

 

 

NORTHWESTERN (+3) @ DUKE  

 

** Because Northwestern head coach Randy Walker was extremely upset with his offensive line play in last Saturday’s 44-14 whipping at the hands of Miami of Ohio, he “opened up” some of those positions this week.  Walker said that some of the back ups on the O-Line were injured during fall camp and didn’t get an equal shot to compete for the starting job.  Now that those players are healthy and the line played poorly last Saturday, he’s giving them a shot in practice this week.  Walkers made his feelings known earlier this week, “I’m not sure we’ve been playing the five best guys.  We’re going to work hard this week at determining who are the best.”  Thus, there could be some changes on had for the Wildcats this weekend when they travel to Duke.  Also, starting QB Brett Basanez injured his shoulder vs. Miami (Oh) last week and has been limited in practice to this point.  However, he is expected to start this Saturday.

 

** One thing you might want to watch with this game, and any other in that region, is the affect of Hurricane Isabelle.  It is expected to hit North Carolina sometime Thursday and the affects could linger into Saturday.  As of know, Northwestern and Duke have not made any contingency plans should the game be cancelled due to the Hurricane.  Even if the games in that area are played, they could be affected greatly by the rain and poor field conditions.  Something to keep an eye on.

 

** The Blue Devils are trying to win their third consecutive game for the first time since the 1994 season.  They are coming off wins over Western Carolina 29-3 and Rice 27-24 in overtime.  If they beat Northwestern this Saturday, the Devils will do it without their top RB at 100%.  Last year’s leading rusher, Alex Wade (1,013 yards in 2002), has been bothered by a hamstring injury which he developed before their season opener at Virginia.  In fact, Duke head coach Carl Franks thinks it will bother him all season.  So far this season, Wade has only carried the ball 20 times for 67 yards.  However, senior Chris Douglas (last year’s second leading rusher) has picked up the slack rushing for 312 yards in three games this season. 

 

 

MICHIGAN STATE (NO LINE) @ NOTRE DAME

 

** This game has no line due to MSU’s question mark at QB.  Starting signal caller Jeff Smoker has an injured big toe and as of Wednesday was “50-50” as far as his chance to play this Saturday.  If Smoker can’t play, redshirt freshman Drew Stanton will start in his place ahead of junior Damon Dowdell.  Stanton has yet to throw a pass in a college game, however Dowdell was ineffective at best in his two quarters of work in MSU’s 20-19 home loss to Louisiana Tech last weekend going 7 of 11 for just 54 yards.   

 

** Both teams will probably be “reeling” a bit this week but for different reasons.  ND was simply beaten up physically and manhandled by Michigan 38-0.  The Irish offense was basically inept (see last season) totaling 140 yards.  They had ONE YARD passing at halftime of last week’s game.  At one point they ran the ball on first down for their first 12 possessions.  If they don’t pick up a passing game fast, the Irish will have a very hard time moving the ball.  Many Irish backers are calling for freshman Brady Quinn to be the starting QB.  Head coach Tyrone Willingham is sticking with Carlyle Holiday for the time being as he will remain the starter despite just 55 yards passing vs. Michigan.

 

** The Spartans, on the other hand, will be “reeling” for a whole different reason.  They weren’t pounded into the ground like ND was, however they still lost their game but the circumstances were much different.  MSU was up 19-7 with just over a minute to go in the game and was dominating in total yardage (by over 120 total yards).  Lousiana Tech then scored 2 TD’s in the final 1:09 to win the game 20-19 leaving the Spartan players and coaches emotionally shot.  We’ll see if they can bounce back this Saturday.

 

 

MICHIGAN (-7 ½ ) @ OREGON

 

** We feel that this could be a very dangerous game for Michigan.  The Wolverines are coming off a dominating performance against Notre Dame, 38-0, however is that because Michigan is simply a dominating team this year or because ND’s offense stinks.  We’re not sure at this point.  The previous two weeks told us nothing about the Wolves as they beat up on teams they should crush in Central Michigan (45-7) and Houston (50-3).  CMU almost lost to Division 1AA Eastern Kentucky last week winning 42-41 despite trailing 34-14 in the third quarter and giving up over 600 yards of offense.  That was a week after CMU beat Division 1AA New Hampshire 40-33.  Thus, they are simply not a formidable opponent for a team like Michigan.  We thought ND would hang tight with Michigan as they always do, however with no passing game whatsoever, that showed to be nearly impossible.  This week might be the Wolves biggest test until the face Ohio State at the end of the season.  With all the talk of national championship and heisman trophy radiating throughout Ann Arbor, Michigan better be focused 100% on this game or that talk could end quickly.

 

 

KENTUCKY (-9) @ INDIANA

 

** Kentucky and new head coach Rich Brooks sets some goals coming into the 2003 season and one of them was to get to a bowl game.  In order to accomplish that, the Wildcats feel they must beat Indiana on Saturday.  Brooks and his players know that if they drop to 1-3 (with their only win against Division 1AA Murray State), their bowl hopes would become extremely difficult as they have a very tough schedule ahead of them.  One thing that Brooks has emphasized this week is getting off to a fast start.  UK has struggled early in games and in fact they only have one TD in the first quarter this year and that was with just 22 seconds left in the opening frame vs. Murray State.  They want to get ahead this weekend rather than trying to play catch up.  They have beaten Indiana eight of the last nine years so they should have some confidence going into this one.

 

** Wildcat QB Jared Lorenzen sprained his knee in last week’s 10-point loss @ Alabama.  He went through a light practice on Tuesday and was expected to be full speed by the end of the week.  He should be under center on Saturday.  Lorenzen is 2-1 against the Hoosiers having thrown for nearly 900 yards and 7 TD’s in those match ups.

 

** One thing to keep an eye on for this Saturday’s game is the Kentucky passing attack vs. a young Hoosier secondary.  Last week vs. Indiana State, the Hoosiers started 3 TRUE FRESHMAN in their defensive backfield.  That could be very tough this week against a very experienced QB.  Head coach Gerry DiNardo commented on how he brought his defensive backs coach down from the press box to “babysit” his starters.  IU is simply young all over the field this year.  Against Indiana State, the Hoosiers started 6 freshmen in the game.  They also have played 23 true or redshirt freshman have already played in a game this year.  Finally, of their 25 true freshman class, 13 have already seen game action which is unheard of.  DiNardo is a solid coach and should make IU a winner in the future, however the future is definitely not this season.   

 

     

UL-LAFAYETTE (+34) @ MINNESOTA

 

** The Gophs could be without their leading tackler this Saturday when they host mighty UL-Lafayette.  Linebacker Ben West (who had 12 tackles last week @ Ohio) injured his left leg in last week’s Ohio win but came back on the field later and finished the contest.  His leg has been bothering him this week and he might not be able to go on Saturday.

 

** Minny Head coach Glen Mason was not at all happy with his team’s performance last week @ Ohio.  Despite the 42-20 win, Mason called the outing “average”.  He said they missed too many tackles and were just sloppy overall as a team.  He wants them to hit all cylinders this week vs. the Ragin Cajuns so they have some momentum going into the Big Ten season.  For us, after watching Minnesota play this season, it’s really hard to get a good gauge on this team.  We think they are pretty good on offense and improved overall, however their competition has been so weak we’re just not sure.  We’ll see when the conference season begins.

 

** One thing about playing UL-Lafayette, the Gophs don’t have to worry about facing a potent offense by any stretch of the imagination.  The Cajuns are 111th in total offense and 114th in scoring offense (out of 117) after their 3 games against South Carolina, Louisiana Tech & Houston.  Lafayette had not led one single second of a game this year and scored their FIRST offensive TD just before halftime of their third game.  Wow, another top notch opponent for the Gophers.

  
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