Badgers-Illini: Misery loves company
Saturday’s game in Madison pits two teams that expected better things in 2012. Misery, staff writer Marcus Jackson points out, loves company:
5 national disappointments
What a difference a motorcycle crash can make. It’s been all downhill for the Hogs since Bobby Petrino was fired after details of an affair leaked following his crash. Arkansas was ranked 10th with 15 starters returning, but it’s win so far is a 49-24 decision over FCS Jacksonville State. The eccentric John L. Smith might not make it through the season.
It seems like every year, we hear how the Bulls are going to be a legitimate program that stays in the Top 25. Three straight losses have put a stop to that thinking. Skip Holtz might be looking for a job, as his squad ranks seventh in the eight-team Big East in scoring offense (24.6), scoring defense (25.6), total defense (392.2 yards) and rushing (144.0).
Competing for national titles is the expectation in Norman, but the Sooners haven’t been able to avoid that crippling early season loss in recent years. Ranked fourth to open this season with what was thought to be a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Landry Jones, the Sooners have struggled, losing at home to Kansas State. It only gets harder, with No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 11 Texas, No. 8 West Virginia and No. 15 TCU remaining.
The hype surrounding the Hokies focused on quarterback Logan Thomas. The 6-foot-6, 260-pounder was shooting up NFL draft boards, but 2012 has been a struggle for the fourth-year junior (eight TD passes, six interceptions). He ranks ninth in the ACC in yards per game (218.6) and his passing efficiency rating of 124.5 is 10th. And the Hokies, who entered the season ranked 16th, have beaten one BCS team — a 20-17 overtime win against equally disappointing Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets entered the season on the cusp of the Top 25 and gave Virginia Tech a fight. But a home loss to Miami (Fla.) was compounded when Paul Johnson’s squad got pounded at home last week by Middle Tennessee 49-28. The Yellow Jackets are third in the country, averaging 329 rushing yards per game, but an option offense has to value the ball more (seven lost fumbles). Did we mention Georgia Tech can’t stop anyone (allowing 397 yards per game)? Or that Clemson and its high-flying offense (510 yards per game) is next?
5 Big Ten disappointments
How do you know things are bad in Madison? Wisconsin, which churns out offensive linemen like it produces cheese, fired its offensive line coach two games into the season. The Badgers, who led the Big Ten in rushing and ranked 11th nationally last season at 235.6 yards per game, currently sit 12th in the league at 125.6 — and that’s with Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball still at running back. When Bucky beat Illinois 28-17 last season, it was the only time the Badgers scored 28 points or fewer. That’s happened four times this season.
Yeah, the Illini have a new coach. But they returned 15 starters from a team that won a bowl game for the second straight season. Tim Beckman and Co. have lost games to Arizona State, Louisiana Tech and Penn State by an average of 29 points. The defense, thought to be the strength of the team, is last in the Big Ten, allowing 27.8 points per game. And the offense has turned the ball over a league-high 14 times.
The Wolverines were a top-10 team in the preseason, getting a first-place vote in the AP poll from our Bob Asmussen. Seems like eons ago. Denard Robinson, a Heisman Trophy candidate in the preseason, has been a turnover machine. The senior quarterback has more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (six), while completing 54 percent of his passes. The other side of the ball hasn’t been much better, ranking 10th in the Big Ten in scoring defense (23.0) and 11th in rush defense (182.0).
It’s been a frustrating fall for Mark Dantonio, who offered up one-word answers to reporters following a too-close-for-comfort win against an Eastern Michigan outfit that lost to Illinois State. The Spartans have been offensively challenged (last in the Big Ten at 20 points per game). The biggest difference from last year’s 11-3 Big Ten runnerup squad: no Kirk Cousins. The Redskins rookie quarterback’s passing effeciency was 145.1. The Spartans are last in the league this season at 111.4.
If not for former star Tuscola quarterback John Wienke’s punt deep into Northern Illinois territory in the opener at Soldier Field, the 3-2 Hawkeyes probably don’t escape with an 18-17 win. James Vandenberg and the offense were awful in a 9-6 loss to Iowa State, the fewest points the Hawkeyes had scored since Penn State beat them 13-3 last year. And in the Central Michigan loss, Iowa allowed nine points in the final 3:30 in falling 32-31.