Hail blu

Nov 25, 2003 7:57 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sadly, this is Doc’s last college article with the regular season winding down to conclusion. However, Doc will try to improve upon his stellar 64 percent accuracy with a special column detailing his bowl game selections.

The 100th meeting between Michigan and Ohio State had everything you would want in the college football game of the year.

The contest ”” played in front of an NCAA-record crowd of 112,118 at Michigan Stadium ”” would not only determine the Big Ten Champion, but it also had national title implications. And these two teams make up one of the most storied and long-standing rivalries in college football.

Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, the luck that helped them to a 9-1 overall record coming into this game ran out against the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. Michigan captured the conference title and earned a trip to the Rose Bowl with a 35-21 win on Saturday.

MICHIGAN: QB John Navarre got some redemption with the win. Even though he owns nearly every major passing record at Michigan, he was pegged early on in his career as the guy who couldn’t win the big game. He had to deal with constant criticism from the media and was often booed by his own fans on game day. With this win, Navarre got the last laugh. Michigan ended a two-game slide against the Buckeyes and gained its first outright conference title since 1997.

Michigan will go to the Rose Bowl since Southern California took care of business against UCLA (making them the prime candidates for a possible National Championship match-up against Oklahoma at the Sugar Bowl). The Wolverines would have to move up from No. 9 to No. 2 in the BCS standings to get a shot at the Sugar Bowl. With USC’s win, that’s not going to happen.

OHIO STATE: Heading into the Michigan game, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings. A win could have sent them to the Sugar Bowl and a shot at a second consecutive national championship. Ohio State had relied on a strong defense and an often-inept offense to win nine out of its first 10 games. But many critics ”” including myself ”” pointed to the Buckeyes slim margins of victory as a sign the team was more lucky than good.

Although the Buckeyes did make a game of it, their defense put them in a hole in the first half.

WISCONSIN: Despite getting hit by a laundry list of injuries, the Badgers still had a chance to defeat Iowa on the final play of the game. Down 27-21 to the Hawkeyes, the Badgers found themselves with a fourth and goal situation at the Iowa four-yard line with time running out. QB John Stocco ”” who was subbing for injured QBs Jim Sorgi and Matt Schabert ”” threw the ball into the end zone with hopes of the go-ahead score. But FS Sean Considine broke up the play and sealed the win for Iowa.

IOWA: The Hawkeyes took control in the second half as Wisconsin RB Anthony Davis and QBs Jim Sorgi and Matt Schabert all left the game with injuries. Iowa scored twice, once on a one-yard touchdown run by RB Fred Russell and again on a field goal. The defense stopped Wisconsin on downs after the Badgers had first and goal from the 9. Russell gained 150 yards on 19 carries.

PURDUE: The Boilermakers ended their regular season defeating Indiana, 24-16. In the process they captured the Oaken Bucket and sealed a likely New Year’s Day Bowl bid. It was the familiar names for the Boilers that did most of the damage against the Hoosiers. WR John Standeford and RB Jarod Void both had big games. Standeford caught six balls for 151 yards. He needs just four more catches to break the Big Ten record for career receptions. Void chipped in with 136 yards on 31 carries.

INDIANA: The Hoosiers wanted to play spoiler and mounted a serious second half rally against Purdue. Indiana, though, missed plenty of scoring chances. Kicker Bryan Robertson missed one field goal attempt and had another blocked.

MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans ended Penn State’s disappointing season with a 41-10 win in East Lansing. QB Jeff Smoker left the fans something to remember in his final home game, throwing for 357 yards and four touchdowns against a Penn State defensive unit ranked No. 2 in the nation against the pass.

PENN STATE: The loss was the Nittany Lions’ ninth of the season, the most in school history. This is only the fourth losing season Penn State has suffered through in Coach Joe Paterno’s career. The defeat brought up more questions about the future of Paterno at the university. Some fans and media outlets think that the game has passed him by and that it is time for him to retire. With the team’s performance the last couple of years, I might have to agree with them. But Paterno firmly states that he is not going anywhere.

ILLINOIS: It seemed the Illini had control of their game with Northwestern early. Kicker John Gockman booted a first quarter field goal and Travis Williams returned an interception 32 yards for a touchdown, putting Illinois ahead 10-0. The Illinois still led 13-7 at halftime, but collapsed in the final two quarters of a 37-20 defeat.

NORTHWESTERN: With the victory over Illinois last week, the Wildcats are eligible for their first bowl bid since 2000. I think they deserve it, as they played well in the second half of their season. We will have to see where they wind up. The Cats rushed for 444 yards, causing QB Brett Basanez to only attempt nine passes. Jason Wright rushed for 251 yards on 42 carries with four touchdowns.

As I look over the early lines for next week, I see a couple of early selections:

Virginia Tech (+2½) at Virginia: The Cavs could be playing for a possible bowl bid. I think tailback P.J. Daniels will have a big game against the Hokies defense. Virginia Tech has had a tough stretch and is in another tough spot here. VIRGINIA.

Miami, Fla (-3½) at Pitt: Miami can salvage the end of its season with a win. Losses to Virginia Tech and Tennessee put the Canes’ national title hopes on hold. Miami has another tough test here on the road. WR Larry Fitzgerald will have a field day against the vulnerable Miami defense. Take the dog at home. PITT.

Louisville (-3) at Cincinnati: I also like the home dog in this scenario. Louisville’s defense has given up all sorts of points recently and the Bearcats have played good football at home. Richard Hall, a weapon both at WR and RB, will rebound after having a disappointing game. CINCINNATI.

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