Hlog Week 8 Big Ten Rank: 1. Minnesota, 5. Iowa

Northwestern brings up the rear

Mike Hlas
Published: October 20 2013 | 2:47 pm - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 10:08 pm in
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The one good thing about having just two teams ranked in the Top 25 is you can't have three of your ranked teams get beat by unranked clubs in one day, a la the SEC with LSU, Georgia and South Carolina.

So it was a good weekend for the Big Ten, which saw its two ranked teams (Ohio State and Wisconsin) go 2-0, and saw its number of ranked teams double by Sunday morning when Michigan and Nebraska were added to the Associated Press rankings.

On with the rankings for Week 8, and only Week 8.

1. Minnesota, W 20-17 at Northwestern. Hey, who saw this coming? The Gophers become the first team other than Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin to hold the No. 1 spot.

Jerry Kill, the Gophers' head coach in self-imposed exile because of health reasons, showed up and gave a halftime speech to his team. Kill's wife drove him from Minneapolis to the Chicago suburbs to attend the game, which he watched from a Ryan Field suite.

"He's kind of like Linus' blanket," Minnesota acting head coach Tracy Claeys said. "To have him around just makes everybody feel comfortable because he means a hell of a lot to all of us. That's what I told them at halftime: 'If Coach can make the effort to get here and drive, then we can dig a little bit deeper and play just a little bit harder. It'll be special to be able to finish it off.' I'm so proud of them.

"The other thing that makes this so special is that we needed to win a game for the people in Minesota. They've been patient with us. We got started out good. We understand that everybody wants to win right now."

Those quotes came from this Twincities.com story.

2. Wisconsin, W 56-32 at Illinois. Taking care of business. The Badgers are good at that against teams they're supposed to beat.

The victory ended Wisconsin's losing streak in night games at 5.

"The offense was very powerful tonight," said Badgers Coach Gary Andersen. "They ran the ball extremely well."

Understatement. Wisconsin rushed for 289 yards. Melvin Gordon had 142 of that, on just 17 carries. He has 1,012 yards in seven games, averaging 9.5 yards per carry.

The Badgers now get two weeks to prepare for their next game, at Iowa on Nov. 2.

3. Ohio State, W 34-24 vs. Iowa. The Buckeyes didn't punt, the first time they hadn't done that in a game since they played Youngstown State in 2008.

It's a 19-game winning streak for OSU, but it still hasn't played a Top 15 team in that time. That won't change in the next four games when the "opposition" is Penn State at home, at Purdue, at Indiana, and Illinois at home.

Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch managed a pair of corn-related references to Iowa in his "Scarlet and Gray Matter" notes package in Sunday edition.

"Eventually, Carlos Hyde made Iowa's defensive line look like late-October cornstalks, battered and broken." And, this haiku:

Hyde harvest party

Clearing rows of corn-fed foes;

a combine in cleats.

Now that's corn.

4. Michigan, W 63-47 vs. Indiana. Jeremy Gallon set a Big Ten mark with 369 receiving yards. Devin Gardner set school marks with 503 passing yards and 584 total yards. The Wolverines had a team-record 751 yards.

But ... the Wolverines allowed 572 yards. To Indiana. Does that make it seem like Michigan football is Michigan football? No, it does not.

"We won the football game," said Michigan Coach Brady Hoke. "That's the only thing I care about."

Hoke probably has other concerns.

5. Iowa, L 34-24 at Ohio State. That's right, this loss is being ranked ahead of Michigan State's 14-0 win over Purdue. For a half, the Hawkeyes looked like the proverbial well-oiled machine. They had the ball for over 18 minutes, their offensive line dominated, their many formations with three tight ends had the Buckeyes off-balance, and they got a lot of mention on "Upset Alerts" in America.

Then came the second half. "They don't give door prizes for a good first-half," Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz noted afterward.

As they did against Michigan State in their previous game, the Hawkeyes were stymied after halftime. Ohio State had the ball for 23:05 in the second half in scoring 24 points. The second-half rushing yardage was OSU 194, Iowa 29.

But a lot of people -- a lot of people surprisingly didn't think this would be much of a contest. The Hawkeyes competed on the road against the league's best team. There's no door prize for that. But a similar effort would have beaten most of the other teams in the Big Ten.

6. Michigan State, W 14-0 vs. Purdue.  After two straight strong offensive outings to suggest MSU had elevated its profile to Legends Division contender, the Spartans managed a meager 294 yards against a lackluster Purdue defense, and scored just one offensive touchdown. That came on a trick play, a pass thrown by wide receiver Tony Lippert.

Hey, you can't get fired up for every game, and this one had "letdown" stamped on it in bright Boilermaker colors. Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal wrote this:

MSU didn’t come ready for this one. Happens to every college football team once in a while. You weren’t excited to see it, either — according to the 25,000 empty seats at Spartan Stadium — and the team wasn’t pumped up to play it. Human nature. The Purdue effect.

But the Spartans' defense was still the Spartans' defense, which is a good thing.

Said MSU Coach Mark Dantonio: “It's not a step back, not when you win. A step back is when you lose. ... We won the football game and I’m never going to apologize for winning.”

The two big-guy coaches at Michigan schools said basically the same thing Saturday after winning games in totally different ways. Both of their teams are 6-1. Neither is feeling very puffy right now.

7. and 8. Nebraska and Penn State. Idle. Nebraska returned to the Associated Press Top 25 by not playing. So give the Huskers the No. 7 slot, and Penn State the No. 8.

9. Indiana, L 63-47 at Michigan. The good news: The Hoosiers piled up 572 yards at Michigan Stadium. Who does that?

The bad news: The 751 yards Michigan gained against Indiana will be a standard for Ohio State to chase when the Buckeyes come to Bloomington on Nov. 16.

Indiana is tied for 119th in total defense among the 123 unconditional FBS members. But it's ninth in total offense, so its games are at least entertaining.

10. Illinois, L 56-32 vs. Wisconsin. That's 16 straight Big Ten losses for the Fighting Illini.

Steve Greenberg of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote "The product on the field is better. The vibe off the field is better, too."

But he went on to write(Illinois Coach Tim Beckman) makes too many excuses for his team. Are the Illini young? Yes, but they aren’t the babes-in-the-woods Beckman paints them as. The offense is a veteran unit. The defense has a handful of leaders with long experience, too.Do the Illini lack depth? They do, sure. But, halfway through his second season, Beckman shouldn’t be using that as an excuse, either. The depth should be improving. Is it? It’s hard to see it if it is.

11. Purdue, L 14-0 at Michigan State. The Boilermakers are 1-6, which means they must win their final five games to go to a bowl game for the second-straight year.

In other words, Purdue is not going to a bowl this season.

True freshman quarterback Danny Etling was sacked five times for the second-consecutive game. He also threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

But, Purdue's defense didn't allow a score in the first three quarters. That's progress, and progress is also the Boilermakers can now hope for in this transitional year.

This may be much like Kirk Ferentz's first season or two at Iowa for Purdue's Darrell Hazell. You build a framework with the players you have, take your lumps on the field, and plug away.

12. Northwestern, L 20-17 vs. Minnesota. Not having quarterback Kain Colter and running back Venric Mark because of ankle injuries hurt. But the Wildcats got outplayed by a Minnesota team that seemed to have the makings of a possible 0-8 Big Ten record.

Wildcats Coach Pat Fitzgerald said both injured players could return Saturday at Iowa. He needs them.

"We have five more games left to play, we've got five great opportunities ahead of us," Fitzgerald said, "and that's the way we've got to approach it."

He also has a 3-game losing streak, and all the excitement that was in Ryan Field two weekends ago for the Ohio State-Northwestern game is fast becoming a distant memory.

The Wildcats not only haven't yet faced Iowa, they still meet Nebraska, Michigan and Michigan State before closing at Illinois. Just getting from 4-3 to bowl-eligibility could be a chore.

Some wordy reporter asked Fitzgerald to go through his cost-benefit analysis of his team's failed onside kick with 2:07 left, and the Chicago Sun-Times provided his reply in its Sunday paper.

"I didn't have time to do a cost-benefit analysis."


 
 
 

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