Friday, November 3|
Minnesota has shot at Big Ten title
By Mel Kiper
After their huge upset victory on the road against Ohio State, Glen Mason's Minnesota Golden Gophers (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) now have an opportunity to win the Big Ten championship, which would earn them their first trip to the Rose Bowl since way back in 1962 when they defeated UCLA 21-3.
To do so, they have to take care of business on the road this week at Indiana. This will be homecoming for the Hoosiers, who are looking to bounce back from a 58-0 thrashing by Michigan. The Golden Gophers, on the other hand, have to guard against an emotional letdown after spoiling the national championship hopes of the Buckeyes last week.
If Minnesota remains focused and can handle Indiana, next up for the Gophers is a home game against Northwestern on Oct. 28. They travel to Camp Randall Stadium to face Wisconsin on Nov. 4, then after a week off, close out the regular season at the Metrodome against Iowa on Nov. 18.
Last week against Ohio State, Gophers junior wide-out Ron Johnson was a vital difference-maker, hauling in eight receptions for 163 yards. RB Tellis Redmon accounted for 118 yards on the ground, with senior center Ben Hamilton doing a great job the entire afternoon of controlling things along the interior. The cat-quick, fundamentally sound veteran finished up with eight knockdown blocks against Ohio State. Providing a key block on Redmon's critical TD scamper was underrated senior LT Adam Haayer.
Defensively, the Golden Gophers held Ohio State to just 200 yards of total offense, with super blue-chip senior DE Karon Riley again wreaking the most havoc. DT John Schlecht was also a major factor up front, recording seven tackles, two of which were behind the line of scrimmage.
This week against Indiana, Glen Mason's squad figures to be at nearly full strength from an injury standpoint. The only question mark in terms of the starters is the tight-end spot where Scooter Baugus, who hauled in his first career touchdown reception against Ohio State, is hampered by a strained left knee. Depending on Baugus' status on game day, freshman Ben Utecht would factor in at that spot. Viewed as a very capable pass-receiving option, Utecht has seen plenty of game action in the early going this year.
Applewhite clearly No. 1 QB at Texas
|Minnesota RB Tellis Redmon rushed for 118 yards against Ohio State.|
Texas hosts the Missouri Tigers on Saturday after a nice bounce-back victory against Colorado on the road this past week.
The Longhorns, who will be looking to move to 5-2 with a victory over Missouri, no longer have a quarterback debate on their hands. Junior Major Applewhite entered the Colorado game as the established No. 1 signal caller. But his performance against the Buffaloes was less than spectacular. For the day, he completed 23 of 40 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns. He was picked off once.
While his stats aren't bad, Applewhite is still reluctant to tuck the ball away and run with the football. In his defense, you have to remember that he's not that far removed from a major knee injury (torn ACL) he sustained in the Cotton Bowl.
Applewhite missed spring practice and actually didn't start throwing until July. As the weeks move along, he figures to gain more and more confidence when it comes to using his legs to beat a defense. Last week against Colorado, Chris Simms didn't see any action and is now viewed as strictly a backup to Applewhite.
There has been some speculation that if Applewhite remains in control of the Longhorn attack, there is a possibility that Simms could redshirt in 2001, giving him two full seasons as the undisputed No. 1 signal caller. The concern for Mack Brown is that with Applewhite's previous knee injury, does he feel comfortable enough to not have Simms available as the backup next season?
Walker emerging at WR for Michigan
With Drew Henson settling in as the Wolverines starting quarterback, the offense really clicked last week in their 58-0 thrashing of Indiana. Henson completed 14 of 18 passes for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Over the last three weeks, junior Marquise Walker has emerged as an All-American caliber wide-out. Against Indiana, he also flashed his athletic prowess on special teams. Walker not only blocked a punt but also scooped the ball up and took it in for a touchdown. On the next offensive possession for the Wolverines, Walker hauled in a 75-yard reception from Henson that set up a touchdown run by Anthony Thomas.
For the afternoon, Thomas ran for a total of three touchdowns, bringing his career total for rushing touchdowns to 47. This ties him for the all-time career lead at Michigan with Tyrone Wheatley.
This week, the Wolverines host interstate rival Michigan State at The Big House in Ann Arbor. I'll be there along with Larry Beil and the entire "College GameDay" crew on ESPN Radio. Michigan, currently tied for first place and in a mad scramble for the Big Ten title, will be looking for a little revenge against the Spartans.
Last year, MSU hung on for a 34-31 victory, highlighted by a brilliant performance by WR Plaxico Burress, who hauled in 10 catches for 255 yards. Michigan, led by the hot hand of QB Tom Brady, did manage to stage a furious comeback, outscoring MSU 21-7 in the fourth quarter. In the end though, Michigan State survived.
Purdue's O-line steps up for Brees
Purdue, also in the hunt for a Big Ten championship, could actually be unbeaten at 7-0 had it not been for special-teams breakdowns against both Notre Dame and Penn State.
While Drew Brees garners most of the national attention and deservedly so, you can't overlook the quality performance that has been turned in by the Boilermaker offensive line. This group, led by underrated senior LT Matt Light, has allowed the opposition to sack Brees just six times in nearly 300 pass attempts. Light, a 6-foot-4, 300-pound veteran, has started 32 games during his fine stay at West Lafayette.
Proving to be a key performer in the pass offense thus far has been true freshman wide-out John Standeford. Last week against Northwestern, Standeford hauled in six receptions for 74 yards and three touchdowns. For the year, he's tied with senior WR Vinny Sutherland for the team lead with 40 catches for a 12.2 yard average and five touchdowns.
With Sutherland moving on to the NFL after this season, Standeford figures to be the primary target along with TE Tim Stratton for young signal-caller Brandon Hance when the Boilermakers take the field for the 2001 campaign.
Cal seeks first win vs. Washington in 18 tries
After upsetting UCLA in three overtimes by a count of 46-38 last week, the Cal Golden Bears (now 2-4) have to travel to Husky Stadium on Saturday to face Washington.
Cal has lost 17 straight games to Washington. Last year Cal was up 24-10 in the third quarter, only to fall by a count of 27-24. Tom Holmoe and his staff will be hoping that last week turns out to be the breakthrough game for his young QB Kyle Boller and the Golden Bear offense.
Keep in mind, the 46 points scored against UCLA were more than Cal had scored in their previous four games combined. Entering the UCLA game, they were averaging just 13.8 points per game. Boller, just a sophomore, had really struggled throwing the football as well.
But against UCLA he stepped up his performance level, tossing three touchdown passes while accounting for 252 yards through the air waves. He also ran for 59 yards. While he completed less than 50 percent of his passes, going 16-of-34, Golden Bear receivers dropped five passes and Boller also threw the ball away on several occasions.
Overall, this was by far Boller's best effort of the season. Assisting Boller was the eye-catching effort turned in by talented 5-foot-7, 190-pound sophomore RB Joe Igber. The exciting youngster finished with 179 yards of total offense, while accounting for three touchdowns. Igber was at his best catching the football, totaling five receptions for 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
We'll have to see if the momentum the Golden Bears offense built up continues this week against Washington at Husky Stadium or comes to a screeching halt.