Saturday, September 22, 2007

Week #4 Wrap - Chief Grinds on the Road!

Different team and different game every week. You just never know what's going to happen each and every Saturday in the world of CFB. That's why they play the games. The last six in our selections were complete coin tosses either going to OT or settled by less than a TD. How about that BAMA / DAWG game in Tuscaloosa? Folks outside the conference just needed to watch that one from start to finish to see why the SEC is far and away the strongest conference in the land, top to bottom. There were also a few big upsets today capped by Syracuse shocking Louisville on the road in the commonwealth. Other teams were exposed as conference play got underway (Penn State , Arkansas, Texas Tech, and Pitt come to mind). Yuck. All of these teams let me down today in my weekend picks.

It's been said that average teams can find a way to win at home. Heck, even bad teams can win at home against good competition once in a while. Good teams find a way to win on the road at all costs, especially in conference during the first weekend of BIG-10 action. It wasn't pretty. And the offense did struggle at times today with the passing game. But, our unstoppable running game led by Rashard Mendenhall and a tenacious defense who made several big stands in this one were enough to triumph on the road inside Memorial Stadium (Bloomington, IN) over a pretty decent Hoosier club. Final score - ILLINOIS 27 / Indiana 14 (recap).

Mendenhall did indeed answer the call and continues to be one of the best backs if not THE best back in America whom nobody seems to know. He rushed for a career high 214 yards today on 27 carries including a punishing TD romp in the 2nd half. All in all the ILLNI racked - up 293 yards on the ground and only gave up 134 yards to the number 6 rushing offense in the land. The Defense played awesome today in forcing four turnovers at key moments of the game when Indiana was on the prowl. Special teams were good with a blocked punt as well. We're not 3-1 on the young season for the first time in a long time as we head back to Champaign for a showdown on Zupke Field with Penn State. Should be a good one.

Elsewhere in week #4 there was carnage and underperformances all over the place. Let's face it, going into this weekend the slate of games was less than stellar. Sure, there were a few great matchups like GEORGIA and BAMA, but there were also a ton of 'who cares' games. It was a weekend of surprises and coma-state performances by a bunch of the big dogs. Nebraska, Florida, Louisville, Arkansas, and Penn State all looked sluggish today either at home or on the road. Nebraska was fortunate to come away with a win at home. Same for Florida on the road at Ole Miss today. And what the hell happened to Louisville? That's two straight losses for the team that just can't seem to play defense to save its life.

Penn State / Michigan was a battle in the trenches today - classic BIG-10 football. Mike Hart is a stud who deserves a week off after carrying 44 times for 150 yards. This, after his 35 carries against Notre Dame last weekend. And speaking of the Irish, they finally scored an offensive touchdown and rushed for over 100 yards. Still yet, despite a pep talk by REGIS they lost badly at home to SPARTY. I honestly don't see a win on their schedule until early to mid november. It doesn't get any easier over the next month or so.

Kentucky looked impressive to me today on the road in Fayetteville against Arkansas. Sure, the HOGS gave it away on penalties and mistakes at home. RUN DMC (McFadden) is amazing, but give credit to Woodson and head coach Rich Brooks. He did the impossible at Oregon in turning that program around for Bellotti and is now doing a better job in Lexington at Kentucky. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to field a competitive team in the SEC especially when you're known for your hardwood prowess. Kentucky has always sucked at football with a few exceptions over the years. Rich Brooks is my early coach of the year with wins over TOP-20 teams in consecutive weeks: Louisville and Arkansas.

Ohio State looks like the frontrunner in the BIG-10 right now. Wow, sure it was Northwestern at home but they looked very impressive last week and now this week. Michigan seems to have a clean shot for 6 or 7 wins in a row with the possible exception of that 10/20 showdown in Champaign. Penn State was exposed today as a fraud - not nearly as good as their 3-0 start suggested against what literally amounted to the ultimate cream-puff schedule.

And never bet against Georgia and Coach Richt ont he road in the SEC, now 23-3. Wow, that's an impressive figure. Unless you play in the SEC or are other familar with that conference you don't have an appreciation of how good that is. QB Stafford had a great game. I must admit he's really blossomed over the past two years. Watchout for the DAWGS - they are for real this year as SEC contenders and BCS players. Loaded with speed and talent.

On a side note, it looks like GAMEDAY may be heading West to Eugene next weekend with the DUCKS up on Stanford 45-31 late in the 3rd. That could be a great showdown between top-15 clubs as CAL (The Fighting Tedfords) comes north to take on Bellotti's DUCKS in Autzen. Oh Nellie! Where's Keith Jackson when you need him? That should be your ABC game of the week.

My undisputed top10: USC, LSU, Oklahoma, Florida, WV, Ohio State, CAL, BC, Texas, and welcome Georgia. On to week #5 already (can it be?). And check-out College Gameday Final for all you need to know about what you missed on Saturday.

Bonus coverage this week, my conference rankings:

1) SEC (no question here at least, far and away the strongest).
2) PAC-10 (actually, not that far behind the SEC top to bottom - ok, maybe they are).
3) BIG-12 (TX and OK are the cream of the crop here). Where's Colorado? Where's Nebraska?
4) BIG-10 - Ugh, Ohio State and then a mess of mediocrity. Illinois is on the move!
5) ACC - BC and the other 11 schools. Watchout for Miami - are they for real?
6) BIG EAST - We'll see how good this conference really is over the next month.

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