An incredibly impressive win for the Badgers in Provo on Saturday, defeating BYU 40-6. That game followed the Badger Blueprint about as closely as you could optimistically expect. On offense, they ran the ball consistently almost the entire game which allowed them to throw the ball whenever they pleased. On defense, they limited the Cougars big plays, capitalized on turnovers, and strengthened near the red zone to keep BYU from ever finding the end zone. After two games at home against inferior opponents that were at times shaky, the Badgers stepped up in their real non-conference test of the season and passed with flying colors. Now they get their week off before stepping into conference play.
And does anybody have Jonahton Taylor's Heisman odds yet? Might be a good time to jump on those while they are still in triple digits. I got a feeling those numbers are going to start dropping soon. These Badgers aren't a Top 10 college football team of all time by any means, but it's easy to see a road where they are 8-0 or 9-0 heading into the last month of the season. If Taylor can produce in conference like he has produced in his first three non-conference games he's going to get some Heisman buzz late in the year. Now that's easier said than done, especially for a freshmen, but I think it's definitely worth keeping an eye on. But if Wisconsin can go 12-0 on the year heading into the Big 10 Championship game, they are going to warrant a Heisman candidate and Taylor should be that guy.
Other big Badgers takeaways:
- Game of his career so far for Alex Hornibrook. 18-19, 256 yards, 4 TDs. A great showing on the road for the sophomore QB. More important than the stats were a couple of big time throws he made into tight windows yesterday, a progression in his game that I hadn't seen yet. Very encouraging.
- Another second half where the Badgers gave up 0 points. Teams have yet to score a 2nd half point on the Badgers this season. I'd doubt that trend holds up the entire season but they'll be tough to beat this year if it does.
- Seems like the Badgers got out of Provo injury free, at least in football-terms. No big injury concerns leaving the non-conference. I was very nervous when Fumagalli got rolled up on during the final real Badgers drive of the game and had to leave the field. But he came back that same drive and caught a touchdown pass so I'll assume he's OK. On to conference play!
- These first four conference games for the Badgers now look completely different than I was expecting during the summer. Northwestern, @Nebraska, Purdue, Maryland. In July I was thinking Northwestern at home out of the game would be a nice test for Bucky seeing as Northwestern traditionally plays Wisconsin tough. And on the road against Nebraska could be one of their toughest tests of the season. Get by those two and coast through Purdue and Maryland at home. Now those first two games don't look nearly as tough as they did in July and the last two are setting up to be stiff challenges. And overall, the Big Ten is shaping up to be more competitive top-to-bottom than I was expecting these season. Could be a strong year for the conference with quality depth and quality teams towards the top.
Nobody gives the Hawkeyes more backhanded compliments than I do, and this this going to sound like another one of those but I swear this is suppose to come off sincere.
Saturday's 31-14 win over North Texas was a classic Kirk Ferentz win and it worries me.
Sure that game was ugly as all get-out and had to worry Iowa fans to no end. But that was a classic Kirk Ferentz, Iowa Hawkeye football victory. It wasn't pretty, it sent expletives out of nearly every Hawkeyes fans mouths, and if was downright embarrassing at times. But in the end, the Hawkeyes gritted out a win down the stretch and left the non-conference at 3-0.
Kirk has made many North Texas-like teams look like middle of the road Big Ten teams for years now. This is nothing new. I don't know if he is working through situations in the non-conference or over-rotating guys into the game to get them reps or what the deal is but making weak teams look better than they really are is par for the course for Kirk Ferentz led teams. And then they continue to do that all year in the Big Ten season and end up 8-4 or 9-3. It's almost like clockwork. So even though this Iowa team looks a little less talented than teams of years past, I'm afraid they could be sucking us in to thinking this is a down year before ending up 8-4 or 9-3.....which is exactly the scenario I laid out in my preseason prediction blog for the Hawkeyes.
Now....let's get back to our regularly scheduled snarky Hawkeye blog post.
I still say they go 6-6. I was watching the Badgers during that 2:30 kick so I only got to see the Iowa/North Texas game during time outs and half time but my goodness, that had to be a trainwreck for 3 quarters. Then you add some injury concerns on there apparently and that's not how you want to shut down your non-conference season with Penn State coming to town this week.
So the Hawks are 3-0 right now. Here's how I see the rest of their season:
Sure Losses: Penn State, Ohio State, @Wisconsin
Probable Losses: @Michigan State, Minnesota
Toss-Up Games: @Northwestern, Purdue, @Nebraska
Probable Wins: Illinois
So with the Illinois win, that puts them at 4 wins. Winning 2 of those 3 Toss Up Games to get to 6 wins. Which means to get to 7 wins they'd have to sweep those three Toss Up Games or pull an upset on one of those Probable Losses games.
I hope Iowa fans like Detroit in the winter because the Quick Lane bowl representatives will be keeping a strong eye on the Hawkeyes this season.
Had some other options on the docket to hit in this third spot but since we've already reviewed the Badgers and Hawkeyes games, may as well finish the Three Count off with a Cyclones review as well. I think there is only so much you can learn when you're a Power 5 school playing a MAC school on the road, but for what it's worth that's a big win for the Cyclones. They aren't at a point in their program where they can take wins for granted. So to go out to Akron and pick up a win is a big deal for Iowa State.
They had to battle a little adversity to pick up that win as well. That second quarter was an ugly quarter for the Cyclones. There were some question marks starting to perk up for Iowa State heading into halftime. Credit to Matt Campbell and the rest of the crew, they answered in the second half and played very well. Even with Iowa State not being able to close out that Iowa game, 2-1 leaving conference play is about what you would have expected from Iowa State before the season began. So not many complaints right now.
Now they get a bye week before Texas comes to town on a Thursday night in two weeks. That's not a bad time to play Texas. Should be a nationally televised night game, so you know Cyclone fans are going to Pack the Jack. Should be a fun atmosphere for that game and despite Texas' great showing this week against USC, you gotta think that could be a winnable for Iowa State. Or at least it's a game the Cyclones might have to win if they hope to make a bowl game. Let's break down the rest of the Cyclones' schedule similarly to the way we did for the Hawkeyes.
Currently sitting at 2-1. Which means they need to finish 4-5 in conference play to reach 6-6 and a bowl game.
You have to assume they lose their three games against ranked teams: Oklahoma, TCU, Oklahoma State.
But you would assume they can handle their business at home against Kansas. And at this point, I'm counting the Baylor game as a win until I see something that tells me different from Baylor. So that would be 4-4 so far.
That means they'd have to split the following four games:
vs. Texas (9/28)
@ Texas Tech (10/21)
@ West Virginia (11/4)
@ Kansas State (11/25)
I can see Iowa State winning one of those three road games. I can't see them getting two of them though. Which means a loss to Texas puts them behind the 8-ball all season in terms of bowl eligibility unless they pull off an upset somewhere along the way. A win though? Then the Cyclones are riding high.
A win against Texas puts them at 3-1 on the season. Can you imagine Cyclones fans being 3-1 to start the season? A FOOTBALL season?? They would lose their minds. Even going into Norman the following week isn't terrible since they'd have Kansas coming to Ames the following week. Take your beating in Norman, come back beat Kansas, and you're 4-2.
So then Iowa State is 4-2 to start the year, with their losses being to a Top 5 Oklahoma team and a game they gave away against Iowa. That would be a cause for optimism for a fan base desperately wanting to be optimistic about their football program for years. If you assume that Baylor game later in the season is one that should end up in the Win column, that just means Iowa State would have to find one more win on the schedule to actually be playing in December for a change.
I realize that's a lot of assumptions and predictions but still. Big game in Ames in a couple weeks when the Longhorns come to town.