Saturday, October 25, 2008

What's that? IU won?

Yes, the Hoosiers squeaked past No. 22 Northwestern, 21-19 in Bloomington.

This will go down as an upset on paper, but Northwestern probably didn't deserve a ranking. They have won six games, but haven't beaten anybody. The Wildcats biggest win was at Iowa, a team that now is 5-3.

The Hoosiers played well in the game, especially on the defensive side. After giving up more than 400 yards four of the last five weeks, the defense gave up 316 this week. They got two interceptions and recovered three fumbles.

The offense out-gained Northwestern, amassing 319 total yards with no turnovers. Nearly all of that came through the air, with Ben Chappell throwing for 219 yards.

It's easy to say win will help the Hoosiers get back on track, especially after I predicted no more wins after last week's loss to Illinois. There may be one or two wins left this season. Next week is home against Central Michigan, which is a potential win. CMU 6-2 after beating Toledo by one today. They did lose to Purdue, so it is possible with a quality defensive effort IU could get win number four.

Wisconsin is playing bad enough lately to keep IU in the game on Nov. 8, but Penn State is going to spank the Hoosiers and I just don't see IU beating Purdue on the road in Joe Tiller's last game.

It was a nice win this week over a good team, but this will not turn the season around. IU's fate has been sealed.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The truth hurts

The game of the weekend (surprise!) doesn't involve the Hoosiers. It is No. 3 Penn State v. No. 9 Ohio State. There is more on the line here than the lead in the Big Ten football race.

There is national significance, not just because Penn St. needs to win to keep pace with Texas and Alabama, Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, but to show the Big Ten is more than a doormat, also ran conference.

Already, the pundits are talking about how Penn St. could lose this game and how they'd be forced to consider Ohio State for the BCS title game again. After two straight blow-out losses, the Buckeyes don't have much clout left as a national championship contender. But yet after five straight wins, the word is Ohio State could make it back to the big game again. It is getting so bad that writer Ivan Maisel was compelled to write this column.

The IU season is over, so I am becoming a Big Ten fan. That means rooting for Penn State this weekend. Pundits, and more importantly writers and voters, tired of the Buckeyes getting spanked in big games. If the Nittany Lions stay undefeated, they may be able to gain a little more respect for the conference and will have a better shot at getting in the national championship game.

If there is only one undefeated team and two one-loss teams to chose from, there is no way Ohio State gets the nod over say, Texas or Alabama. But a one-loss Penn State team (with a win over Ohio State) has a much better chance. On the flip side, an undefeated Penn State team would hold a lot more weight in the remaining weeks of the season over two one-loss teams.

For once, the eyes of the Midwest won't be fixated on the Ohio State-Michigan game as we near Thanksgiving. Instead, we will be watching Penn State-Michigan State game, and wondering whether 1994 will repeat itself.

Yes, that Penn State team also went undefeated, including a convincing win in the Rose Bowl. But they did not get a piece of the title. Nebraska was the consensus No. 1 team. I saw them play IU in Bloomington that year. That team was special, even if they couldn't blow out the Hoosiers.

I just hope the Lions get some respect from the voters this year. It would be a crime to see them run the table twice in the Big Ten and get nothing both times.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Looking to the future ... IU football

Another week, another loss. This time at Illinois, 55-13. But this time it begs another question, one that has been lingering the last 10 years:

Where is the IU defense?

Out of 14 possessions, Illinois scored on 8 of them. Two of the possessions where they didn't score were the end of the first and second halves. That means the defense stopped Illinois only four times out of 14.

During the five-game losing streak, the IU defense has given up a ridiculous amount of yards:
  • 563 (Illinois)
  • 422 (Iowa)
  • 333 (Minnesota)
  • 497 (Michigan State)
  • 463 (Ball State)
Giving up more than 400 yards four out of five games is not going to get it done, no matter how many points the offense can score. It is the same problem the Hoosiers had during the Antwaan Randle El years. They could score 35 points per game, but gave up 36.

I still don't understand how a team could recruit so much offensive talent year after year, but not find enough on defense to keep the Hoosiers in the game consistently. I didn't watch much of the game against Illinois Saturday, but what I saw was Illinois running and throwing the ball all over the lot. It seemed every completion was to a wide-open receiver. Juice Williams didn't have many difficult throws to make because the defenders were never around his receivers.

I'm not a football coach, so I don't understand the problem. Is this a problem with the defensive system ... the players ... the coaches?

The above numbers are unacceptable for a high school football team.

Speaking of unacceptable, the second half last night ridiculous. When the game is out of hand (IU was down 34-7 and then 48-10), why would you kick field goals of 23 yards and 31 yards? This team has major offensive problems. Why not go for the touchdown?

To me it looked like the team and everyone else gave up? I don't think much of losing by 42 instead of 48. It was almost laughable.