Yes, our field goal kicking unit worries me (it wasn't just the kick -- our snaps were awful), but I wasn't too discouraged by our performance in Columbus. The defense was usually stuck with OSU starting a drive at midfield, and on their two TD drives, at least they made 'em work it down the field. And aside from that, they showed toughness in standing up to OSU's big line.
One thing -- and it showed in the Miami and Air Force games, too -- we don't come out of the locker room ready to play. In those three games, our offense came out anemic and our defense came out in more of a "feeling out" mode that allowed the teams to drive deep. On the plus side, the D does seem to make decent adjustments after the initial drive. We just can't do that against a quick-start team like Minnesota and get in a hole early.As for the rest of the league (and nation) in today's wild games ...
We had some chances (especially that one before half that coulda made it 10-7), but just didn't come through. Ohio State's a heck of a team and unlike the more experienced NU team that visited in 2001, we didn't look intimidated in the Shoe and feed a frenzy of turnovers and points.
But oh that kicker ... ugh. I know it's a freshman kicker, but you still have to look like you can come close!
Another plus side -- our past opponents keep looking better by the week. We remain Kansas' only loss after they blitzed ranked Mizzou today, and we should have beaten Air Force, a team that got a big win vs. BYU. Hopefully that will give our team some confidence.
* MICHIGAN came out of this Saturday as the biggest winner. No, they didn't look sharp against Indiana, but despite that colossal choke against Oregon last week, the Wolverines are very much back in the MNC hunt. They were ahead of Oregon in some polls last week and now will be ahead of 'em everywhere for the rest of the year unless they lose (and Oregon lost early, so they can win out and boost UM's SOS). And with USC's loss, the Wolverines are sittin' pretty when you consider that most of the teams left ahead of them play each other several times over (Miami plays VaTech, FSU and Tennessee for example). The Wolverines have positioned themselves as the top 1-loss team in the nation ... and as we've seen in most of the BCS years, a 1-loss team makes it.
* OHIO STATE also comes up a winner with USC's loss. Sooner or later, folks will give these guys credit for winning. If the Bucks and Wolverines run the table to their November meeting, there's still a good chance for two BCS bids for the league dsepite the struggles of the rest of the Big Ten. Of course, they have to make it there and it's a long road.:)
* Huge win for MSU to follow up last week. Maybe John Smith is the man they needed in East Lansing. They should beat Indiana and be 5-1 heading into a road swing to Illinois and Minnesota ... win one or both of those and you set up a huge game in East Lansing as the hated Wolverines visit the first Saturday of November.
* On the flip side, IOWA has to be the biggest loser of the day. Were they overlooking MSU to the big Michigan showdown next week? Not sure what happened, but they're in big-time danger of starting the conference slate 0-3 with Michigan and OSU in the next three weeks.
* Following the Hawks is PENN STATE. You gotta wonder how many times these calls will keep going against JoePa (in Happy Valley, no less!), but that really killed momentum before the half and they never recovered. They now face an absolute must-win against Wisconsin on Saturday or else it's a 2-4 mark that could quickly turn to 2-6 after a road swing to Purdue and Iowa.
* ILLINOIS also can go down in the loser column. A 1-4 start with road trips to Michigan, Purdue and Iowa left on the schedule is gonna make it real tough for the Illini to go bowling and if they start dropping some home games, there won't be too many seats full in Champaign.
And if NU fans need some reason to smile after today ... consider that entering October, Northwestern has as many wins as Illinois and Notre Dame
We've got our biggest game of the year coming up. We have to shake off the OSU game and focus on beating Minnesota. If we can weather the Gophers' opening quarter, they seem to slack off later in the game (as we saw at PSU ... or last year's game in the Dome) and they're certainly a beatable team. Win this and you're back at 3-3 for the year and a whole new outlook on the season. The band and students will be back in Ryan Field and hopefully the noise will be as well. Cats come out fired up to play physical football against a Minnesota team looking ahead to Michigan and get a big win!
LET'S GO CATS!!!
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