Sunday, September 26, 2010
What we learned in the Big Ten: Week 4
By Adam Rittenberg
Five lessons from the week that was in the Big Ten.
1. The Big Ten can pile it on: Lopsided scores are common throughout college football in September, but the Big Ten had stayed away from the really insane points totals until Saturday. Wisconsin set team records for points scored (70) and margin of victory (67) against hapless Austin Peay. Ohio State had its highest points total (73) since 1950 and eclipsed 70 points for the first time since 1996 (first time in the Jim Tressel era). Michigan only scored 65 against Bowling Green but racked up 721 total yards and 31 first downs. Iowa and Michigan State both scored 45 points, an impressive total that was dwarfed by the others around the league.
Evan Royster surpassed 100 yards for the first time this season, rushing for 187 yards on 26 carries against Temple.
2. Penn State still a work in progress: Kudos to the Nittany Lions for a stifling second-half defensive performance, the resurrection of Evan Royster (187 rush yards) and an impressive 96-yard touchdown drive to seal Saturday's win against Temple. But I still have some major concerns about this team entering Big Ten play. Penn State simply has to get better in the red zone and stop settling for field goals. The Lions have scored only six touchdowns in 15 red-zone opportunities this season. And while the defense regained its swagger today, Temple didn't have much of a passing attack. Penn State's secondary will be tested a lot more this week at Iowa.
3. Tate Forcier can help Michigan win: After so much speculation about a possible transfer, Forcier took the field for the first time this season and showed that he's still a pretty good quarterback. The Michigan sophomore completed all 12 of his pass attempts for 110 yards and a touchdown. He moved Michigan's offense up and down the field after starting quarterback Denard Robinson went down with an injury, and Forcier might have established himself as the Wolverines' No. 2 signal caller. Robinson should be fine, but his long-term health remains an issue because of his playing style. If Forcier can keep his head in the game, he gives coach Rich Rodriguez another solid option.
4. Purdue is in serious trouble: The injury bug continued to strike the Boilers on Saturday, this time claiming starting quarterback Robert Marve. Coach Danny Hope isn't optimistic after Marve re-injured his left knee in the first half of Saturday's loss to Toledo. Marve tore the ACL in his left knee last summer and tweaked it last week. There's no official word, but expect Marve to miss a good bit of time. Purdue already has lost top receiver Keith Smith and top running back Ralph Bolden to knee injuries. An equally big concern could be the Boilers' defense, which surrendered 31 points and 378 yards to a Toledo team that entered the game ranked last nationally in total offense.
5. Minnesota's season is hanging by a thread: They might as well have played Taps at a mostly empty TCF Bank Stadium as Northern Illinois closed out a 34-23 win against Minnesota. Sure, the full Big Ten schedule remains, but Minnesota hasn't exactly fared well in league play the last decade or so. In fact, Minnesota will need a winning record in the Big Ten for the first time since 2003 to qualify for its third consecutive bowl appearance. And with a home schedule featuring Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State and Northwestern, it will be extremely difficult. The calls are intensifying for coach Tim Brewster to go, and unless we see a dramatic change soon, it's hard to see this ending well.