Thursday, September 29, 2011

The B1G Review and Preview- Week 5

B1G Review and Preview- Week 5.
Here, we, go. Week 5 marks the beginning of conference play and not a moment too soon. I’m tired of doing 12 previews each week. Now my work is cut in half, for the same pay. Just to make it reasonable, we’ll pick every Big Ten game so that you can grade our performance every week.

Last week-Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State all won with double digit warm up victories last week. Ohio State won for Big Ten pride against an overmatched Colorado team.

Illinois survived a scare from Western Illinois- as predicted.

Indiana embarrassed us all again. As a result, I’m not going to preview them this year. That’s your punishment Hoosiers for playing like crap against the Mean Green.

Minnesota embarrassed us to North Dakota State- again. I’m not going to make a crass joke about Jerry Kill… until he’s back on the sidelines. Luckily for them, I’ve already profiled them.

My record: 3-2.

B1G GOTW- #8 Nebraska (4-0) at #7 Wisconsin (4-0). 7 p.m. ABC.
There is almost no hope that this game can live up to the hype. National commentators have been talking about this game since the schedule was announced. Yes, Gameday will be in Madison and with it the eyes of the nation will focus in on this game. The Huskers open B1G play at night in Camp Randall Stadium.

Both teams have lived up to their part of the bargain by rolling through the first four weeks. Kudos. It should be a good game, but for those expecting a classic for the ages- I think you might want to take a deep breath.

Wisconsin brought in free-agent, er, transfer QB Russell Wilson. He has been spectacular against inferior competition. However, we know from his time at North Carolina State that he can play with the big boys. He has already thrown for 1100 yards and 11 touchdowns with 1 int. Oh and he can run.

The Wisconsin offensive scheme has not changed and features Junior RB Monte Ball in the backfield. Another 200-plus back that the Badgers like to run at you consistently. He has 9 touchdowns and 360 yards. The change up back is James White. They are both on the Doak Walker watch list.

The Badgers still look to bludgeon opponents to death and then catch them napping with a long pass. Senior 6-3 WR Nick Toon is the deep threat. He has 21 catches for 350+ yards in 4 games. Sophomore WR Jared Abbrederis is his understudy with 15 catches for 233 yards.

On defense, the Badgers rank in the Top 10 nationally in 3 of the four major categories. They have given up 34 points this year. Again though, that was preseason. This will be the first real test.

Still, there is plenty of talent. Linebackers Chris Borland and Mike Taylor are on the Butkus Award watch list. Senior CB Antonio Fenelus is on the Thorpe Award list. J.J. Watt is gone, but the Badgers have 10 QB sacks so far this year.

Nebraska will counter with Taylor Martinez at QB who runs their spread-run offense. He leads the Huskers in both rushing and passing yards. He’s completed just over 50% of his passes and has 4 TD’s and 2 INTs. He has rushed for 421 yards and is a legit dual-threat QB.

RB Rex Burkhead has 420 rushing yards and 7 TDs. He is a hard-nosed, big back who does a little bit of everything. With Martinez and Burkhead, the Huskers have one of the top rushing attacks in the nation. They have gone over 200 yards rushing in every game and over 300 yards twice.

The O-line is very young, but talented. They have a rotation of linemen that includes a true freshman, a redshirt freshman, two sophomores and two seniors. That’s unusual for a Nebraska program that develops offensive linemen and ships them to the NFL with regularity. Still it’s worked so far, the offense is second in the Big Ten and 13th nationally with 42.8 ppg. They have turned the ball over 6 times.

The Blackshirts return pre-season All Americans in SR defensive tackle Jared Crick, SR linebacker Lavonte David and SR cornerback Alfonzo Dennard. Crick has 20 career sacks, David had 152 tackles last year.

The usually stingy unit is giving up 22 ppg thus far in 2011.

Of Note: Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini served as a graduate assistant at Iowa in 1991, while Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema was a junior defensive lineman. Just sayin.

The Line: Wisconsin by 10.

The Pick: Wisconsin has been a steamroller this year. They are in Camp Randall at night, which has been a huge advantage for them lately, 9-2 in the last 11. They have yet to turn the ball over this year.

Nebraska’s offense has played well. However, Taylor Martinez has his ups and downs. I also don’t think the black shirts are going to stop Wisconsin regularly. I think the Huskers play well and make it a game, but you would have to be a huge homer to take Nebraska in this game.

No matter who loses it does not prevent a rematch in Indianapolis as they are in separate divisions. In fact, the Legends Division winner is likely to have 2 losses. A good opening game, but the Badgers appear to be loaded for bear.

Wisconsin 31, Nebraska 17.

Quick Slants-
Penn State (3-1) at Indiana (1-3). 11 a.m. CST
Nittany Lions open up in Bloomington. PSU has QB problems, an old coach, they almost lost to Temple. The only thing worse- would be to be Indiana. PSU 27 Indiana 13.

Minnesota (1-3) at #18 Michigan (4-0). 11 a.m. CSTThis is usually the point in the year where Michigan fades. However, they are at home playing a Minnesota team that played USC tough on the road. Of course, they also lost at home to North Dakota State and New Mexico State. Michigan 35, Minnesota 7.

Northwestern (2-1) at #24 Illinois (4-0). 11 a.m. CSTThis is going to be an entertaining game. Dan Persa returns. Illinois is unbeaten and ranked. I’ll go with the Illini in a wild one- Illinois 41, Northwestern 38.

Michigan State (3-1) at Ohio State (3-1). 2:30 p.m. CSTAnother great opening game. Both are pegged as second place teams in their division. Ohio State got back on track last week. Michigan State is on the road. But, I don’t think Ohio State has figured out its passing game and the Spartans are poised for a big year. Michigan State 21 Ohio State 17.

Notre Dame (2-2) at Purdue (2-1). 7 p.m. CSTThis could be a conference game some year. But not this year. Nor is it much of a game from a competitive standpoint. Notre Dame 31, Purdue 10.

Drinking Beer. Iowa (3-1).

I can’t wait to get angry emails and comments from Husker fans. But good luck to all and let’s get this thing started.

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