by Robert Weintraub
The team is an unstoppable offensive machine. They run the ball from what are at heart simple formations and blocking schemes. And they score seemingly at will.
I refer, of course, to the Wisconsin Badgers.
Now if you heard a team scored 83 points on Saturday, you would have guessed it was Auburn, Oregon, or one of a dozen wide-open spread teams. Nope. Instead, it was the old-school boys from Madison, who sledge-hammered Indiana 83-20 behind a straightforward running attack out of the Woody and Bo era. From his left tackle position, All-America candidate Gabe Carimi led a line that caved in the Hoosiers defense. His performance up front that enabled Wisconsin to pile up 338 rushing yards despite the fact that the defending conference player of the year, John Clay, didn't even suit up for the game.
There are a bevy of stats that can be thrown out there after this one, but my favorite is this one -- the Badgers hoops team only got to 83 points in four of their 34 games last season.
Auburn's basketball team isn't far ahead of the pigskin crew, either. Of course, the annual grudge match with Georgia was less about the rivalry or the fact that the Tigers clinched a spot in the SEC title game, and more about Cam Newton. I'll spare you any more talk about the allegations made against the Newtons of Westlake, as they are known in these parts. I enjoyed the CBS coverage, which made it seem like the fact Cam ran on to the field to thunderous applause from the Jordan-Hare crowd vindicated the Auburn quarterback in the court of public opinion. And announcers Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson seemed more put out that Tigers coach Gene Chizik stonewalled them in the pre-game production meeting than about the charges themselves. That was likely the proper reaction, however. SEC school pays big-time recruit? Snore. Been going on since the first days of the conference. But a football coach shutting out the network that's paying big dollars to televise the games each week? That's a far bigger violation.
Auburn, like Wisconsin, cut through the enemy defense like a Ginsu through a tin can. Georgia gamely scored with the Tigers for three quarters, but made a strategic error -- the Bulldogs kicked a field goal. Can't beat the Battering Cam that way. Sure enough, Auburn punched it in twice after the Bulldogs went for three and won 49-31. Regardless of the result of the Iron Bowl against Alabama, Auburn will be in Atlanta for the SEC title game.
Their opponent will be South Carolina, who went old fashioned themselves, pummeling Florida in The Swamp behind the punishing runs of Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks beat the Gators down 36-14. The fabulous freshman ran it an incredible 40 times for 212 yards and three scores. Forty carries for a freshman in a showdown for the division, on the road! But it was quarterback Stephen Garcia who had the signature run of the day, barreling over Will Hill at the goal line in the second half. Congrats to the Gamecocks. Don't forget, they had Auburn way down during the game at Jordan-Hare earlier this season. Payback in the Dome is hardly out of the question.
Even Oregon, the very quintessence of the score quickly, run-a-million-plays-and-get-the-defense-upchucking attack, went to a more traditional clock-killing drive to salt away a serious upset bid by Cal. Taking over with 9:25 left in the game, up by a precarious two points, the Ducks ran it 15 times and passed just once, despite LaMichael James struggling with an ankle knock and several big blows to the torso throughout the game. In the end, James got a big first down, and Oregon was able to kneel it out. The drive might have been Oregon's most impressive of the season.
The key play in the game was a rare illegal motion penalty against a kicker. Bears booter Giorgio Tavecchio took a little stutter step before a field goal that put Cal in front 16-15 midway through the fourth quarter. That was ruled a penalty, and he missed the re-kick from short distance. Cal only possessed it once more in the game.
Oregon wins with a bludgeoning drive. Wisconsin puts up 83 points on a conference foe. Just another predictable week in college football.
- If TCU were a power conference team, no one would punish them for their 40-35 win over San Diego State. The Aztecs jumped up early during the last game at Aron Carter Stadium before a major renovation, then TCU scored 37 unanswered points. SDSU put up a couple of late touchdowns to make it interesting. Now there is all manner of talk that the Frogs blew the goodwill they built up by crushing Utah last Saturday. It didn't help that the Utes laid an egg at Notre Dame. Indeed, Boise jumped TCU in the AP poll.
- Stanford-Arizona State. The Cardinal are up 17-13, three minutes to go. It's a big third down for Stanford, and the Devils need to make a stop to get the ball back and have a shot at the upset. Up in the broadcast booth, Adam Archuleta, the overpaid Redskins safety turned Versus color man, actually told the ASU defense that it was time to "sack up." They've gotten so edgy since the days when it was OLN! P.S., the Devils lacked testicular fortitude, as Stanford converted and won.
- Awesome scene in northern Ohio on Wednesday night. The Miami (OH)-Bowling Green game was obscured by a massive fog bank. Somewhere down on the field, BGSU punched in a score. The cannon went off in the end zone, and the smoke mixed with the fog. But the score was overturned on replay. The Falcons scored again, the cannon went off again, and once more, replay said no. By the time Bowling Green scored with no quarrel, and the cannon fired for a third time in five minutes, Perry Stadium resembled something from the Battle of Antietam. Supposedly, Miami kicked a field goal on the game's final play to win 24-21.
- The Redhawks are in a first-place tie in the MAC East. Out West, Northern Illinois is dominant. They blasted Toledo 65-30 in a battle for the division title with the Rockets. That's how to celebrate Senior Night!
- A pyrrhic victory for Northwestern and quarterback Dan Persa, who gets overshadowed by the likes of Ricky Stanzi and Terrelle Pryor and Denard Robinson, but who could be the All-Big Ten quarterback. He was elusive, accurate, and clutch against Iowa, leading 85- and 91-yard touchdown drives in the fourth quarter as the Wildcats knocked off the Hawkeyes 21-17. Persa thrice ran for first downs on third down in the winning drive, then threw the touchdown pass that got the "W" for Northwestern. Sadly, as Persa pushed off to join the celebration, he ripped his Achilles tendon and was lost for the remainder of the season.
- In a truly bizarre and mind-blowing stat, Iowa and Northwestern combined for -1 return yards. That was on for 21 kickoffs and punts! Specialists, take a bow.
- Leonard Hankerson of Miami has been on our All-Drool team all season, and he had another breakaway touchdown Saturday. The Hurricanes beat Georgia Tech in the Backup Bowl 35-10. Hankerson's touchdown was his 11th, tying the fabled Michael Irvin for the school record.
- My Syracuse Orange are now bowl eligible, thanks to a 13-10 win over Rutgers that was the football equivalent of a trip to the DMV. Whatever. 7-3 baby!
The OFI Top 25
4. Boise State
6. Ohio State
11. Michigan State
13. Virginia Tech
14. Oklahoma State
16. South Carolina
19. Northern Illinois
21. Texas A&M
24. Mississippi State
The Lowsman Watch
1. Gabe Carimi, left tackle, Wisconsin. See above.
2. Ryan Kerrigan, defensive end, Purdue. Kerrigan destroyed the edge of Michigan's line, with four sacks, five tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles (he recovered one). Kerrigan has 14 forced fumbles in his stalwart career in anonymity, which is the Big Ten record. His next strip will be the national record.
3. Cliff Harris, return specialist, Oregon. On a night when the Quack Attack was stuck in neutral, Harris made things happen on special teams, returning a punt 64 yards for a score, his fourth on the season.
4. Marco Nelson, safety, Tulsa. The true freshman had three picks in Tulsa's 28-25 win over Houston. Nelson has six on the season.
5. Dustin Hopkins, kicker, Florida State. He made a 55-yard field goal, his third of the game, as time expired and FSU won a dogged fight with Clemson 16-13. Hopkins missed a chance to win the game last Saturday against UNC, so this felt doubly good.