Boilermakers

Pur-Dud

Thanks for stopping by!  While I am very grateful for those who take the time to read my work, I would greatly it if you read this one on HuskerMax.com.  

Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 11/18

Throughout the 2013 season, I’ll be ranking the Big Ten schools 1-12.  Click here to see where your team was ranked last week.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Ohio State.  Buckeye kicker Drew Basil should be icing his leg now in preparation for all of the kickoffs and extra points he’ll attempt against Indiana’s horrific defense.
  2. Wisconsin.  This year’s battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe might be one of the most evenly matched contested in 10-20 years.

    Adrenaline fueled 20 year olds and axes. What could possibly go wrong?

  3. Michigan State.  Why is the (presumptive) Legends champ third?  Having just watched Sparty in person, I’m not terribly impressed with them.  Put it this way:  if Nebraska reduces their five turnovers down to say, three, the Huskers are sitting in the #3 slot.
  4. Minnesota.  Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type in late November:  the Gophers are still alive to win the division.  Granted they must beat Wisconsin and Michigan State (and have Sparty lose to Northwestern), but stranger things have happened – like Minnesota having the third best record in the league.
  5. Nebraska.  It’s 2003 all over again as Husker Nation is divided on if Bo Pelini should stay or go.  But if the team isn’t ready to play against Penn State or Iowa (or has another five turnover game) the decision A.D. Shawn Eichort faces becomes a lot easier.
  6. Penn State.  The home finale for the Nittany Lions and arguably their best chance to finish the season with a winning record.
  7. Michigan.  Who is this team, and what have they done with Michigan Football?
  8. Iowa.  In a normal year, Iowa’s best chance of beating Michigan would be to hope the Wolverines were looking ahead to Ohio State.  This year it is more about whichever team shows up.
  9. Indiana.  A fun two week stretch as the Hoosiers will see the best team in the conference (Ohio State) and arguably the worst (Purdue).
  10. Northwestern.  At what point does the Northwestern narrative switch from being “unbelievably unlucky” to “just not that good”?  The craziest part is with two wins (over Michigan State and Illinois) they could make the entire Legends Division bowl eligible.
  11. Illinois.  Brace yourselves and avert your eyes as Illinois and Purdue clash in the Bottom Feeder Bowl.  Personally, I’ll be rooting for Purdue just for the sake of preserving 0-7 Illinois vs. 0-7 Northwestern next week.
  12. Purdue.  Okay Boilers, I’ve had you in the cellar all year long.  Here is your chance to escape.  Try not to trip, get lost, or walk into the wall.

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 11/11

Throughout the 2013 season, I’ll be ranking the Big Ten schools 1-12.  Click here to see where your team was ranked last week.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Ohio State.  I’m pretty sure the game of “how many style points will Urban try to score” will be more interesting than the game of “Ohio State vs. Illinois”.  Anything under 50 is likely a disappointment.
  2. Wisconsin.  The Badgers move back up to #2 after winning one of the best non-conference games by a B1G school.  (Other finalists, btw:  Michigan 41, Notre Dame 30; Illinois 45, Cincy 17; Ohio State 40, Buffalo 20)
  3. Michigan State.  If MSU can win in Lincoln, they win the Legends.  But a loss doesn’t put them out of the running.  Fortunately Sparty got an extra week to get ready.
  4. Minnesota.  Give the Gophers a week off to savor and enjoy their four game run and national ranking.  They may will not win again until their bowl game.
  5. Nebraska.  Yes, the Huskers did not beat your father’s Michigan, but that is a game the Big Red would have lost a month ago. Now, can they find a way to beat Sparty to take control of the division?  Or will they need to recruit healthy offensive linemen from the crowd?
  6. Iowa.  Since beating Purdue tells us nothing about how good (or not good) Iowa is, the Mendoza line climbs up to #6 this week.

    Purdue is best known for: a) World’s largest drum, b) Being my largest punchline?

  7. Penn State.  The Nittany Lions have a Purdue walk-thru to help them get ready for two big games with Nebraska and Wisconsin.
  8. Michigan.  Have the Wolverines really lost three of their last four conference games?  If Michigan played Minnesota again tomorrow, the score would still be 42-13, just with Michigan on the losing side.
  9. Northwestern.  The Wildcats must beat Michigan to have any hope of not finishing last in the Legends.  There is a good chance that might happen.
  10. Indiana.  It’s rare to see such separation between the #10 and #11 teams in a twelve team conference.  But a 52-35 win by the Hoosiers does just that.
  11. Illinois.  If I’m Illinois, I completely look past the Ohio State game and focus on beating Purdue for the right to finish 5th in the Leaders.
  12. Purdue.  I’m tempted to include Rutgers and Maryland in the rankings this year, just so I can put Purdue even lower than 12th.

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 11/4

Throughout the 2013 season, I’ll be ranking the Big Ten schools 1-12.  Click here to see where your team was ranked last week.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Ohio State.  Since there is no conceivable way that Ohio State could possibly lose two out of their next three games, I’m calling it:  The Buckeyes are your 2013 Leaders Division champions.
  2. Michigan State.  I’m not quite ready to call the Legends, but a huge win over their “big brother”, all but seals the division race.  Michigan State doesn’t need to win out, they just need to either beat Nebraska or have the Huskers lose at Michigan, at Penn State or against Iowa.
  3. Wisconsin.  Quick – somebody tell the Badgers that they should not have an attractive non-conference game in November (BYU).  Instead, they should be playing a boring divisional game against Illinois at 11 am on BTN.
  4. Minnesota.  Let the Gophers enjoy their run for another week (and potentially more if they can beat Penn State).  Reality (in the form of Michigan State and Wisconsin) is coming to close out the season.
  5. Nebraska.  In an under-appreciated trophy game, Nebraska earned the right to use “NU” for the next 12 months (suck on that, NW!).  Oh yeah, the Huskers’ final pass was a rather decent play.

    Nebraska’s favorite duo: Pudgy and Pornstache

  6. Michigan.  The Wolverines drop for being all but mathematically eliminated from the Legends race and for failing to get a positive rushing yard against Sparty.
  7. Iowa.  I view the Hawkeyes as the B1G’s version of the Mendoza line, separating the above average from the bottom feeders.
  8. Penn State.  The Nittany Lions are clearly the third best team in the Leaders, which is lot like being the third best Baldwin brother – after Alec, nobody really cares.
  9. Northwestern.  You know you’ve had a bad stretch of injuries when Iowa looks at your RB depth chart and goes “Damn, that sucks”.  At this rate, Michael Wilbon’s ego will be getting carries by the end of November.
  10. Indiana.  With a bowl game a remote (but not realistic) possibility, Hoosier fans may now focus entirely on basketball.  See ya next year!
  11. Illinois.  Remember back when the Illini were 3-1 and perceived to be dark horse challenger in the Leaders?  Yeah, they don’t either.
  12. Purdue.  Multiple choice:  The “black out” that Purdue held for the Ohio State game was a) the school’s excuse to trot out an all-black alternate uniform, b) a desperate attempt to gain momentum against a top five foe, c) what likely happened to the Boilermakers after having 56 points dropped on them, or d) the recommended level of intoxication for any Purdue fan choosing to attend the game?

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 10/28

Throughout the 2013 season, I’ll be ranking the Big Ten schools 1-12.  Click here to see where your team was ranked last week.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Ohio State.  With a four week stretch of Purdue, bye, Illinois, and Indiana, the biggest question Ohio State faces is what will their band do in their next performance?
  2. Michigan State.  When the Spartans offense plays half as good as their defense, they are the second best team in the league.
  3. Wisconsin.  I think it says something about the strength of the conference when on November 1, Wisconsin’s toughest remaining game is against BYU.
  4. Michigan.  A pivotal game for Legends supremacy (such that it is) this weekend in East Lansing.  If Michigan wants to contend, they must win.
  5. Iowa.  The Hawkeyes are not this high because I think they’re all that great.  It’s because I think everybody else isn’t as good.
  6. Nebraska.  The blueprint for beating Nebraska:  force them to throw, and attack the defense up the middle, after confusing them with motion, shifts, and odd formations.
  7. Minnesota.  I think there were some snickers when I say this team could go on a Coach Kill inspired run.  But tell me his presence didn’t have an impact on their win over Nebraska.
  8. Indiana.  If the Hoosiers want to make a bowl game, this week’s game against Minnesota is a must win.

    For Halloween, Indiana will dress up like a Christmas tree ornament.

  9. Penn State.  Did Bill O’Brien say something to piss off Urban Meyer?  Fortunately, PSU gets a break in the schedule to lick their wounds.
  10. Northwestern.  Their next three games are against the top three teams in the Legends.  Let’s see if the Wildcats can embrace going from “contender” to “spoiler”.
  11. Illinois.  The Illini went 0 for October, but have the potential to go 4-1 in November.  That said, they will be lucky to get to a bowl game.
  12. Purdue.  Some encouraging words for the Boilers as they get ready to host Ohio State:  No matter what happens, you won’t slip in the rankings!

B1G Power Rankings – Week of 10/21

Throughout the 2013 season, I’ll be ranking the Big Ten schools 1-12.  Click here to see where your team was ranked last week.

Prepare to disagree…

  1. Ohio State.  The Buckeyes are in cruise control to the point where the biggest story from their win over Iowa was their marching band’s tribute to Michael Jackson.
  2. Wisconsin.  Too bad for Wisconsin that the East/West split is not in place this year, because the Badgers would be in the driver’s seat.
  3. Michigan State.  Demerits to the Spartans for only scoring 14 against Purdue.  That’s embarrassing, even for Michigan State’s offense.
  4. Michigan.  The offensive records got all of the headlines, but the defense should be raising some red flags.
  5. Nebraska.  Expect another home road game as Husker fans invade the Twin Cities to close out a very easy October.
  6. Penn State.  Penn State got two weeks to rest and prepare for the Buckeyes.  Will it be enough? 
  7. Indiana.  The good news is Indiana can score a lot of points.  The bad news is the Hoosiers give up even more.
  8. Minnesota.  Is this team getting ready for a “Win It For Coach Kill” stretch run?
  9. Iowa.  I just don’t know what to make of Iowa this year.  Are they middle tier or bottom feeder?  We’re about to find out.
  10. Illinois.  The Illini are undefeated when they score more than 33 points.  The Illini won’t score 33 against Michigan State.
  11. Northwestern.  Remember when the Wildcats were the trendy Legends Division pick?  Now a bowl game is somewhat in question.
  12. Purdue.  The Boilermakers are idle this week.  Their offense has been idle for the entire month.

Pur-dud or Pur-fect?

Thanks for stopping by!  While I am very grateful for those who take the time to read my work, I would greatly it if you read this one on HuskerMax.com.  

Why?  As a writer for the site, I earn a fraction of a penny per page view.  And with three mouths to feed, and a poor wife who becomes a football widow 12 Saturdays a year, I need those penny parts to keep everybody happy.  

Thank you,

Feit Can Write

This week, I heard a talk radio host say that Nebraska’s 44-7 win at Purdue could end up being a turning point in Nebraska’s season.  With all due respect to that host (who I’m not going to name here), that’s pure hyperbole.

Nebraska’s win wasn’t exactly a surprise, and it sure wasn’t a thing of beauty.  I doubt there will be a big demand for DVDs of this game.  I’m guessing there were many Nebraska fans who switched over to better games during the fourth quarter.  All in all, this was a forgettable game against a team that is not very good.  Should Nebraska win the division, I doubt they will look back and say “Man, that game at Purdue is where it all came together.”
While it wasn’t a turning point, it was a perfect game for this team at this time.  Their first road game – as much as any game in a stadium that would be half empty if not for the 15,000 Husker fans who snatched up tickets for pennies on the dollar.  A to-be-expected off day for a redshirt freshman quarterback.  Another soft offense for a young defense that is searching for confidence, experience, and success.  A fairly easy win before another off week.  The only way to improve upon the game would be to eliminate the injury to guard Spencer Long.  Otherwise, the game was both a dud and exactly what the team needed.

So what did we learn?

Nebraska is capable of putting away inferior opponents early.  For the second straight week, Nebraska started the game like this:  Kickoff, force a 3-and-out on defense, march the ball down the field, and score on their first possession.  By the end of a fairly sloppy first quarter, Nebraska was up 14-0, and never looked back.

The absolute worst thing a team can do when playing an obviously lesser team is to let them hang around and gain confidence.  By jumping on teams early, Nebraska establishes a level of dominance that is tough for bad teams to overcome.  A fast start won’t always work out (see also, UCLA), but it is a trait that good teams possess.

The targeting rule – and especially the enforcement – must be fixed.  I disagree with the officials’ decision to flag and eject Stanley Jean-Baptiste for “targeting”.  That statement is not necessarily in regards to the question of if SJB hit the Purdue player with his helmet, or if he did so intentionally or maliciously, but rather the incredibly inconsistent manner in which that penalty is called.

Case(s) in point:  a) A few minutes after Jean-Baptiste was ejected, Harvey Jackson tackled a Purdue player in the middle of the field.  From the live action, Jackson’s hit looked identical (same body position, same point of contact) as the hit that got SJB tossed.  No flag was thrown.  b) Earlier in the quarter, Jean-Baptiste blitzed Danny Etling, but couldn’t quite get him down for the sack.  Instead, SJB picked up Etling and threw him down for no gain.  That tackle was far more intentional and unnecessarily violent than the hit that got him tossed.  c) Throughout the rest of the day, Husker fans undoubtedly saw bigger hits from other games (and conferences) that were not called or enforced the same.

If you want to make a case that SJB led with his helmet, and made first contact with the Purdue player’s helmet, be my guest.  The video evidence may just prove you right.  But if you need to slow the replay down to super-duper-slo-mo to determine what happened (i.e. you cannot see it with the naked eye or a regular speed replay), then I question if you should throw a player out of the game.  Some hits are violent and intentional enough to warrant a 15 yard penalty and immediate ejection.  This tackle was not.  I’d like to see the replay official issue a 5 yard penalty and a warning to Jean-Baptiste that another similar hit will get him tossed.

Tommy Armstrong is not invincible.  Ever since the South Dakota State game, many fans and media members have placed backup quarterback Tommy Armstrong on a pedestal.  Breathless praise, mythical accounts of his accomplishments (Nebraska never punts when he is in!), comparisons with Tommie Frazier (they both took over mid-season!) – in short, a whole lotta hype for a kid who had who faced some below average defenses.

And then, Saturday happened.  Six of 18 passing for 43 yards.  Three interceptions.  Four rushes for five yards.  Senior Ron Kellogg III was clearly the better player on Saturday, and by a wide margin.  Suddenly, Taylor Martinez wasn’t so bad after all.

In Tommy’s defense, it was his first road start.  And I’m guessing Tim Beck is probably the only person in the state who sees a clear benefit to having Kellogg play every third series.  Finally, it remains clear that Tommy Armstrong, Jr. is the future of the program*.

*Unless Johnny Stanton looks really good in the 2014 Red-White Scrimmage…

So what don’t we know?

How much of the defensive improvement is due to growth/scheme/execution – and how much is due to the opponents?  Over the last two games, the Blackshirts have given up a total of 24 points and 588 yards.  Throw out the late touchdown for each game (a 75 yard drive by Illinois against Nebraska’s reserves, and a 55 yard touchdown by Purdue with 39 seconds left, and the defensive performance improves to 10 points and 458 yards total over two games.  That is impressive, especially considering that Nebraska allowed more yards and way more points in three non-conference games.

But why the improved numbers?  Is the defense growing and maturing?  Are new players mastering Bo Pelini’s schemes?  Has John Papuchis found the right mix of players?  Or is it more about the swirling 30 mph winds that Illinois faced as well as the offensive impotency of Purdue?  My hunch is it is a little bit of both:  the defense is playing better than they were against Wyoming and UCLA, but those teams would put up yards and points on Nebraska.

How beat up are the Huskers?  Purdue may be one of the least respected teams in the conference, but they sure played a physical game.  Guard Spencer Long is done for the year with a knee injury.  There were many Huskers who had to be helped off or didn’t return to action, including Kenny Bell, Jamal Turner, Josh Mitchell, Thad Randle, and a few others who I’m forgetting.  That doesn’t even mention starters Taylor Martinez and Jake Long, who both sat out.

This is where the second bye week is ideal, as it can give players a chance to rest and recuperate.  And they’ll need it before the November stretch drive.

Was Tommy Armstrong’s bad day orchestrated to make Taylor Martinez look better?  In the week leading up to the Purdue game, a couple of Lincoln radio hosts were trying to make sense of why Ron Kellogg was getting reps when Tommy Armstrong, Jr. is clearly the better QB.  One of their theories was that it was “political” – the coaching staff had so much invested in Martinez that it was vital to them that he remain the starter when his toe heals – even if there is a better option.

So assuming their grassy knoll theory to be correct, it stands to reason that Armstrong was either coerced to throw three interceptions or Beck and Pelini conspired to make sure Armstrong would have an outing so poor the fans would realize that ol’ Taylor isn’t so bad after all.

Yeah, that’s got to be it.  It surely cannot be the coaches who watch and grade every rep from every practice know more about where their players are at than us armchair coaches with a radio show, video blog, or a column on a Husker website (*ahem*).

How Full Is Your Glass?

Given the divide I’m seeing between the “Pelini Apologists” and the “Bo Bashers”, I’d like to provide a stat, quote, observation, or factoid that best illustrates the position of these two diverse groups.

Glass Half Full:  With back-to-back stellar defensive performances, the Blackshirts are back.  And they mean business.

Glass Half Empty:  Even Purdue’s mediocre defense could shut down their inept offense.  The defense is waiting to be exploited by the next good offense.

5 Players I Loved

  1. Randy Gregory.  Knowing that Gregory was twice committed to Purdue, seeing his talents in person had to be painful.  Two sacks, a fumble recovery, and a safety is just salt in the wound.  He put a move on a Boilermaker tackle that was as good as anything you’ll see on Sundays.
  2. Ameer Abdullah.  It doesn’t matter who is taking snaps, Abdullah is the hub of Nebraska’s offense.  If he goes, the offense goes.  And when he goes for 126 yards (and over six yards a carry), the offense is going to go very well.  His 33 yard touchdown run was a thing of beauty.
  3. Quincy Enunwa.  I am loving the senior season that Q is putting together.  Aside from being a picture perfect blocker, Enunwa is also a go-to receiver capable of making the tough catch.  His highlight was a 35 yard reception that had almost everything you could want:  speed, strength, a nifty spin move, leaping over defenders, and a devastating stiff-arm.
  4. Ron Kellogg III.  The old adage is that the #2 quarterback is the most popular guy on the team.  Apparently, that doesn’t necessarily apply to the guy is quarterback 2b.  Regardless, Kellogg just keeps on going.  He’s not flashy, nor does he have the highlight reel potential of Martinez or Armstrong, but he is simply consistent in what he does.
  5. King Frazier.  I’m always thrilled when a career backup or player deep on the depth chart finds their way into the end zone as Frazier did against Purdue.  Such a great reward for all of their hard work and dedication.

Honorable Mention:  Jordan Westerkamp, Leroy Alexander, Aaron Curry, Greg McMullen, Husker fans who took over another stadium.

5 Areas for Improvement

  1. Tommy Armstrong Jr.  Say what you will about how the QB rotation impacts him, but Tommy had a rough day.  Now let’s see if he learns from it, and improves.  I’m willing to wager that his good games will far outnumber his bad games.
  2. Dropped Passes.  A notable number of passes were dropped in this game.  We can debate if the passes were poorly thrown or if the receiver is at fault, but this is something that cannot be allowed to continue.
  3. Punt Returns.  Jordan Westerkamp had a seven yard punt return.  That is the second longest punt return of the season.  I’m starting to accept that this staff cares more about safely catching the ball than advancing it up field.  Fine.  Whatever.  But there were a couple of Purdue punts where a NU defender potentially could have blocked the kick – or at least put a scare into the punter – but instead held up.  I get that a 15 yard roughing penalty is an absolute killer, but I’d like to think that the possibility for a block, or even a punt that is shanked by a punter under pressure, is worth the risk – especially if you’re abandoning the return game.
  4. Sam Foltz.  I had no issue with Sam Foltz’s performance – 43.8 yards per punt is a fine average.  But I do have issue with the workload that Foltz endured.  Six punts?  That’s far too many in a game that ends up 44-7.
  5. Chuck Long.  I enjoyed listening to Kevin Kugler’s call of the game on BTN.  But I was not nearly as impressed with color commentator Chuck Long.  Aside from his style (monotone and rather lifeless) he didn’t provide a lot of knowledge – unless you did not know that a “50/50 ball” is one that could be caught by the offense or the defense.  Enlightening.
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