Sunday, November 4, 2007

Week 10: Penn State and nationwide

I think Week 10 was a good reflection week for Joe Paterno. I read an article somewhere (I can't find the link, or else I'd post it) saying that he thought the "kids" did what they were told and did a good job. Naturally, they "hustled" and we're still a few plays away from being a great team. But I think Joe shouldered a lot of the blame for the Ohio State massacre, and he acknowledged that. I think he realized the playcalling was a little stale and that maybe times have changed in college football.

Fast forward to yesterday, when we lay the lumber on Purdue.

Obviously, this wasn't the cleanest of victories. The stadium was half full for the noon kick and the team played with its perennial noon malaise, allowing Purdue to take the opening kick to the house. The offense nearly responded, driving 85 yards, only to settle for a FG. (Cue frustration.) Purdue went up 10-3 and threatened to make it 17-3 before the defense finally found a spark and made a brilliant stand at the goal line, culminating in a Sean Lee takeaway at the 1. That was the definitive play that turned this game around.

The offense shook off the early afternoon cobwebs and put together a decent showing, posting 26 on the Purdue defense. The one letdown was a Rodney Kinlaw fumble after a huge 20-30 yard run to around the 15 after a block in the back. JoePa got fired up, much to the delight of the Penn State faithful, and then put in Evan Royster, who quickly made the crowd forget that Kinlaw fumbled in the first place. The defense eventually clamped down harder, too, almost taking Curtis Painter down in his own end zone, but he intentionally "fumbled" the ball away before a Boilermaker fell on it on the 3. Even though the final score read 26-19, the only TD Purdue scored was on the opening kick. The defense held Painter and the O to 4 field goals. Special teams was obviously the weakness in this game.

This game reminded me of a few in the past. It had shades of PSU-Purdue 2005 -- a PSU special teams blunder (in this case, a Calvin Lowry fumbled punt) sets up an early Purdue TD, only to have the Boilermakers lose in a scrappy game, 33-15. It reminded me even more of PSU-Illinois 2006. A noon kick right after an emotional loss at home (Michigan, 17-10), so the crowd trickled in late and wasn't too into it. Illinois controlled the first half before the defense finally woke up. The offense finally put up enough points to take the lead, and then the D took care of the rest (including a Juice Williams safety in the same end zone Painter almost fell in).

The Big Ten was all about the comebacks yesterday. Iowa rallied to take out Northwestern late, Indiana came back from a deficit to Ball State to take the win, and Michigan eked out a late touchdown drive to hold off Mark Dantonio and MSU. You gotta be thinking that MSU might be denied yet another bowl after starting 4-0, since they're at Purdue and home against PSU to finish the season. Penn State has a recent history of denying the Spartans a bowl bid, 2 of the last 3 years of which I'm at least aware. Maybe it wasn't John L. Smith after all.

Oh, and the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes, after being down 17-10 to Wisconsin, run away with a great win, and showed that maybe Bret Bielema wouldn't have had a 1-loss season if his Badgers had to play OSU after all. The Badgers have now lost 3 of the last 4. Okay, everybody off the Bret Bielema Express.

Elsewhere, two of the five unbeatens fell. The Oregon Ducks affirmed their Pac-10 dominance this year, running all over Arizona State in Autzen Stadium and Bobby Bowden left Chestnut Hill with perhaps his best victory since 1999, taking down Matt Ryan and #2 Boston College. His Florida State program was in desperate need of that. Even still, I can't see the Seminoles finishing any better than 7-5 this season, with road games in Blacksburg and Gainesville looming. Maryland could also be a party crasher, too.

The other marquee matchup, of course, was the Saban Bowl (LSU-Alabama), which seemed to be going all Alabama's way up through the fourth quarter. John Parker Wilson's fumble at his own 20 at 34-34 was the backbreaker for the Tide. LSU now takes the outright lead in the SEC West.

Speaking of, I think it's a good time to do a conference wrap-up:

SEC: LSU pretty much has the West wrapped up by now with the win over 'Bama. The East is a little bit more complicated, though. Georgia and Tennessee have 2 losses each, with the Vols with the head-to-head advantage. Florida is right behind with 3 losses. I think Florida wins out, but that won't be enough to put them in the title game. The Vols control their own destiny here. They get Arkansas and Vandy at home, which they'll win, but they will continue their series of stinkers on the road and drop a game to Kentucky. Georgia wins out, wins the East, but will fall to LSU in the title game.

Big Ten: It comes down to Ohio State and Michigan again. Yawn. Both will roll into this game with undefeated conference records, but only the Buckeyes will leave Ann Arbor unscathed. Jim Tressel has had Lloyd Carr's number for a while now.

Pac-10: Oregon's schedule gets considerably lighter to finish the year, at Arizona, at UCLA, and home against Oregon State. They'll finish conference play at 8-1 and will be the Pac-10 champs.

Big East: UConn surprised again this week, taking down Rutgers in East Hartford, so the conference title will actually come down to their meeting with West Virginia in Morgantown on December 1. If this was in East Hartford, I might reconsider, but c'mon, this is in Morgantown, and the Mountaineers will stick it to the Huskies and reclaim the Big East title.

No comments: