SjT: Around the Big 10 - 9/16

Everyone seems to have survived week 3, except Illinois, so Steve makes a few observations on the way things went around the Big 10 on this September 16th....

Good day for the league, namely by winning the big profile game.
Whoever dropped something on Lloyd Carr's head, thank you! The man went deep, the man had his team on a mission and the Wolverines -- of last year's Alamo embarassment -- could be a very, very dangerous team that makes it to Columbus with an 11-0 record. They're solid on both sides of the ball and have a chip on their shoulders. After watching John Saunders and the ABC on ESPN ..or ESPN on ABC ...or ESPNABCwhatever gang question the strength of the Big Ten all day when OSU and Iowa fell behind early, it was good for the league to roar back like that.

As for NU - from WGN online and the Net it sounded ugly. But a win's a win. I think we all saw that our offense just isn't going to be the same this year with a freshman quarterback, be it Kafka or Brewer. But I liked hearing of the defensive pressure and blitz packages. I was a bit sad to see Kafka yanked because he was getting close, but understand that Coach Fitz can't have the turnovers.

I see a lot of hustle by our team, but we just miss those leaders on each side that Baz and McGarrigle were - the O-line in particular really needs to step up and open some holes. But that's what these pre-conference games are for, and we'll hopefully start coming together when Big Ten play rolls around.

As for the rest of the league, what we know at this point ...

* TEAMS TO BEAT: Ohio State and Michigan. No surprise here except that the Maize and Blue was snubbed a bit by the preseason polls and pubs. But they each have great backfields on offense and rapidly improving and quick defenses. If they keep their focus, it could be a mammoth of a game in Columbus at the end of the season.

* DARKHORSE: Iowa. They just don't have the overall talent on both sides that the big two do, but they have Drew Tate and a top-notch coach and that could spell upset, especially for that night game in Kinnick with the Bucks (though Ferentz has had Michigan's number, too).

* BOWL TEAMS: Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue. None of these look like top 20 teams at this time, but should have enough to make it to the bowls unless they beat each other up and slip up somewhere else along the way. PSU's big question is the freshman quarterback, MSU's is their inconsistency especially after September and Wisconsin doesn't look like they've found their identity without Barry yet. Minny and Purdue look like the same old Gopher and Boiler teams of recent years - good against cupcakes but not ready for prime time. Champs Bowl here we come!

* THE REST: Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana. It's tough to see any of these three making a bowl now with NU's loss to UNH and no game between the Hoosiers and Cats. But they each are capable of playing spoiler to one or two of the teams in the middle of the league and are by no means the cupcakes in the cellar that most leagues have. Five or six wins from each would not be surprising.

Two big games in the Great Lakes State next week for Sparty and Michigan. We'll find out how legit the Badgers are in the Big House and if the Irish can rebound in hostile East Lansing. PSU-OSU should be good as well (though the Bucks are gonna be waiting after PSU's ambush last year and the frosh QB will be in for a rude welcome to Columbus) and Minny-Purdue a big one for mid-level bowl position. Let the conference race begin.

As for the Cats, hopefully our pass defense -- which got a nice rest this week:) -- will be ready for that mini-shotgun of Nevada so they don't pick us apart like UNH did. And the O-line better start getting a chip on their shoulders so we can start shoving Sutton and Jordan down their throats like Fresno State did.
GO CATS!!!
-SjT

Stephen J. Truog, former NU Marching Band member and now educator in Arizona, comments on the Wildcats from both the sidelines and his couch
He has his own NU oriented Web Site - Visit SjTonline

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