First, a little schadenfreude: (let this play while you read the next part, but use headphones if you're at work or if kids are around)
This was a historic loss: first ever to a MAC school. And not even a good MAC school--Toledo had not beaten a I-A school until Michigan. Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp called the loss "worse than Appalachian State."
Also Saturday, Iowa somehow put all the pieces together in a dominant performance at Bloomington. Last time the Hawkeyes went to Bloomington, I was there and it did not go as well. (In fact the football team scored more points than the basketball team did that night.) But the O-Line created huge holes for the running game, Stanzi proved he is the Manzi by recovering from first half nerves to lead Iowa on several scoring drives. It gives me hope for next week (more on that in a minute).
Catching up on some Pick Sixin', not that I really want to:
In the games of Week 6, Auburn (MPF) had a close loss at inexplicably good Vanderbilt. TM and I shared the South Florida loss to Pitt, and the cat had five wins and a bye. I took hit of 10 total points, Quigley moved up two, and (sigh) Ball State entered in the top 25 for the first time ever.
After closing the gap from 19 points (Week 4) to 11 (Week 5), I let it slip to 19 again (Week 6). I needed a strong performance in Week 7 to stay competitive. So what happened? Well, Auburn fired Tony Franklin (he of the Tony Franklin offense), so another loss (this week to Arkansas) was probably inevitable. That was my only loss, but it kicked Auburn to the curb--goodbye, six points. Tina's huge Florida win over LSU was offset by Mizzou's loss to Okie State. Quigley had TWO losses but managed to move up in the standings: Clemson was already out of the top 25 (and appears to be for the duration, now that they've fired Tommy Bowden), and Illinois choked against a potentially good Minnesota (they went 1-11 last year, currently 6-1). Penn State's domination fueled their climb up the charts, currently at No. 3.
So not only did TM's lead grow, the cat is now within scratching distance of second place:
As for the Irish:
The ram/Tar Heel thing took time from stiff-arming cheerleaders to temper Irish expectations. This loss didn't bother me, personally: we knew this team would succeed and fail in fits and starts. I'm not a head coach, so I'm allowed the nuance of "good losses" and "moral victories" and the like. The fact that ND had a -5 turnover margin, on the road, and lost by only five points, shows they were competitive all game through. I'll take a UNC loss over an MSU loss any day.
Games watched, all or part: Interactive Tuesday!! from an Irish bar in downtown Los Angeles, Clemson/Wake (Thurs), Iowa/Indiana (main TV), Texas/Okla (little TV), Tenn/Georgia, ND/North Carolina, Mich St./Northwestern, Okie St./Mizzou, Penn St/Wisc, UCLA/Oregon (the fall asleep game).
Week 8: Bring on the Steenking Badgers
On Saturday we'll be at Kinnick for the Iowa-Wisconsin game. It'll be my third game of the year in three states, TM's fourth in four. The Hawkeyes are undefeated when my co-author attends a home game, so I'm optimistic. We got tickets through a friend of my mom known as "Hawkeye Joyce." I'm telling ya, if you want Iowa tickets, it doesn't hurt to go to someone with "Hawkeye" in her name. I mentioned to Mom to see if Joyce had any connections or ideas on how to score tix for what I figured what a sold-out game. Two emails and 10 minutes later, Joyce had a pair in my name.
I don't know what happened to the Hawks between the three straight losses and the 36-point margin of victory at Indiana, cause they looked like totally different teams. But my hope for a bowl is restored, although the margin for error is slim. Here's how I perceive our best bets to pick up the two wins needed for a bowl*:
- Purdue. They are just awful, they appear to have quit on Uncle Wilford, and they come to Kinnick.
- This Saturday, vs. Wisconsin. They are a talented team, ranked No. 8 in the country (not the conference, the whole United States) just four weeks ago. But they are wounded, discouraged and depressed. Plus they could be breaking in a new quarterback, after Allen Everidge got benched in the PSU blowout.
- @Illinois. Anybody remember when I predicted Illinois would have a huge falloff?
At 3-3, they need five wins in the final six games to get to the eight wins predicted by Vegas. Memorial Stadium was never a house of horrors, and Minnesota (!! ... I still can't fathom it) proved there's not much of a home-field advantage there. The defense is awful, and if Iowa can shut down the Illinois run game and force Juice to pass, we should win.
You heard it here first: Illinois, way too high at 8.0 [projected] wins. No, I haven't looked at their schedule. But I have looked at their depth chart: no Mendenhall, no RB to replace him [and] a shaky Juice Williams still at QB. ... If you're smart enough to be reading this, and you're offered 8 wins for Illinois: Take The Under!
- @Minnesota. I know this sounds weird to say, and I mentioned it above, but Minnesota has gone from 1-11 in 2007 to 6-1 so far. Two conference wins prove they are at least kinda sorta for real. I think this will be a tough game for Iowa.
- Penn State. They are unreal, have crushed everyone they've seen, and for whatever reason we play better at Happy Valley than Iowa City. An almost-guaranteed loss.
Pick Six: TM is going to lose points somehow when Texas hosts Missouri. Ohio State (Quig and MPF) faces a surprisingly tough and ranked Michigan State team. Kansas (Quigley) goes to Oklahoma, sure to be angry about last week. TM will be forced to choose between Pick Six points (Wake Forest) and reptilian fear (Maryland).
In honor of the MACAttack! last week and Mizzou going to face No. 1 Texas, here's a MACFAC(t): Not only is Gary Pinkel a former head coach of a MAC school (Toledo), but he also is a graduate of Kent State and was an assistant at Bowling Green.
Oh, and lookee who's back in the Top 25:
Of course, so is this.
Nebraska: Congrats on staying closer than expected with the Mike Leach Pirate Attack. The improvement is visible, but it's still a loss, so there'll be YouTubery next week (this post is already pretty full). Beat the crap out of ISU, and I'll bring back Herbie next week.
Go Hawkeyes! Beat Badgers!
* Due to the general mediocrity of the Big Ten this year, I think six wins will be sufficient, unlike last year. The conference has seven bowl games (Rose, Aaargh I Hate Your Commercials, Outback Steakhouse, Alamo, Champs, Insight Dotcom, and the Your Punishment Is Going To Detroit In December Bowl). We're currently sixth in total wins (4-3), with three games left against teams below us in the standings.