Snap Judgments (cont.)
For the second straight week, Wisconsin played without reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year John Clay, and for the second straight week, the sixth-ranked Badgers (10-1) did pretty much whatever they wanted to against an overmatched conference foe, whipping Michigan 48-28 (RECAP | BOX).
Wisconsin's backfield is just ridiculous. Montee Ball, a third-stringer two weeks ago, ran for 194 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman James White added 161 and two scores. Both set up play-action for Scott Tolzien, who completed 14 of his 15 pass attempts. If there's a more punishing offense in the country right now, I haven't seen it.
Yet the Badgers still aren't a lock to reach the Rose Bowl due to their early-season loss to Michigan State. The No. 11 Spartans (10-1) kept their own hopes alive Saturday with a tremendous fourth-quarter rally to fend off a Purdue upset bid. The Boilers led 28-13 to start the fourth quarter, but Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins threw two touchdowns and ran for another to claim a 35-31 lead. Rob Henry nearly took the Boilers down the field for a last-minute drive, but all-everything linebacker Greg Jones forced Henry to throw a game-sealing pick on fourth-and-eight inside the Spartans' 20 (RECAP | BOX).
Mark Dantonio's team finishes 7-0 at home for the first time in school history, a remarkable accomplishment for that program, and wraps the season next week at Penn State (7-4). If Michigan State wins, and if Ohio State loses at Michigan next week, the Spartans go to Pasadena. If all three contenders win out, it will be the Badgers.
Baseball voters recently bucked convention and awarded the AL Cy Young to 13-game winner Felix Hernandez, choosing not to penalize the Mariners' ace for playing on a team that couldn't take advantage of his dominance. If the Heisman electorate were so progressive, Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson would at least be in the discussion for the stiff-arm trophy right now, but his team's horrendous defense has ruined any hope of that.
Robinson broke the NCAA single-season rushing record for a quarterback Saturday against Wisconsin (he now has 1,593 yards), finishing with 360 total yards and accounting for four touchdowns. Despite missing parts of several games with injuries, Robinson's rushing and passing numbers are comparable to Cam Newton's. But Newton has led his team to an 11-0 start, while the Wolverines are 7-4 and a non-factor nationally, so Robinson won't be visiting New York next month.
Maybe next year.
This one's not exactly a "snap" judgment, seeing as Boise State played on Friday night. It's not exactly a revelation, either. But it bears repeating: Boise's defense is really, really good.
Friday night, the third-ranked Broncos blanked Fresno State, 51-0 (RECAP | BOX). The Bulldogs aren't exactly Oregon or Auburn, but they did come in averaging 34.7 points and nearly 400 yards. They managed 125 yards and one third-down conversion against Boise. Poor Fresno quarterback Ryan Coburn, the nation's 20th-rated passer, finished 6-of-23 with four sacks and two interceptions.
During the game, I tweeted that Boise's D-line (Billy Winn, Ryan Winterswyk, Chase Baker and Shea McClellin) is the best in the country, which elicited inevitable derision from an SEC crowd that's obsessed with Boise's "jayvee schedule." But for two years now, we've watched that front four shut down everyone it's faced, be it Virginia Tech (which gave up trying to run the ball at halftime), Hawaii (which Boise held to its lowest yardage in 12 years) or Fresno. It starts with those guys up front. Hopefully we'll get to see them go up against an elite offensive line in a BCS bowl game.
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