Monday links: Where do Wildcats go from here?

So much happened on Saturday. Where do we start with daily links? How about here, with a look at a Northwestern season that began with such promise but now is filled with questions after two losses in a row. That’s what happens when you play back-to-back games vs. arguably the Big Ten’s best teams–and not Illinois and Purdue, like Nebraska. Still, the Wildcat defeat at Wisconsin was particularly disturbing.

Lee Barfknecht of Omaha.com writes that the Wildcats still don’t have enough depth of talent to get to the top. On a depth chart of the top 44 players, Barfknecht estimates, they probably have 25 to 28 title-caliber guys when assessing size, strength and speed. You need about 35. A sign of that — and it’s a significant worry — is the repeated gashing from opponents running the ball the past two games.

***

Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star writes that Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis saw confidence in his unit on Saturday.

That’s great. The Husker defense needs all of the confidence it can get after a rough September. But, honestly, Nebraska shouldn’t get too chesty after stifling a Purdue offense that started a true freshman quarterback for the first time and is among the worst in the nation.

***

Nick Baumgardner of Mlive.com thinks questions are beginning to mount for Michigan after it lost its first game of the season in a wild four-overtime setback at Penn State. And, he’s correct.

Baumgardner minces no words: Michigan’s ineptitude on offense, both on the field and in the play calling booth, in overtime was worse, and the crushing defeat against the Nittany Lions was, in reality, exactly what this team deserved Saturday night.  For Michigan, it was one mistake too many. It never deserved to win this thing, and in the end, it didn’t. Devin Gardner is still too loose with the football. The offensive line has more questions than answers and the defense crumbled under pressure in the final minute.

Any questions? I don’t have any.

***

There was a lot to like about the performance of Michigan State’s offense in the win at Indiana. And one of them was the contributions of youngsters on offense.

Diamond Leung of Mlive.com notes that sophomore Macgarrett Kings Jr., Michigan State’s leading receiver, had five more catches against the Hoosiers and has made an impact in the return game. Freshman Delton Williams leads all tailbacks averaging 5.9 yards per carry and rushed for 92 yards in his second career game. Fellow true freshman R.J. Shelton showed off his speed in scoring on a 34-yard touchdown run off a reverse. It all seems to be coming together for MSU, doesn’t it?

***

Should Ohio State fans be stressed out that the Buckeyes may be left out of the BCS title game? Doug Lesmerises and his cohorts at Cleveland.com debate it. Long story short: A light schedule could end up being Ohio State’s undoing. Oh, and Alabama, Oregon and Clemson all are very good.

***

Wisconsin looked very impressive in dispatching Northwestern. Turns out, the Badgers were motivated by an inspirational pregame speech by linebacker Chris Borland.

“It was kind of just, ‘Guys, I don’t need to say anything. We all know what we’ve got to do, so let’s go out there and do it. We all know what we’re capable of,’ ” linebacker Ethan Armstrong said, recounting Borland’s inspirational words.

How dominant was the Wisconsin defense? One of the nation’s most dynamic offenses rushed for 44 yards, completed 43.6 percent of its passes, was 2-for-17 on third-down conversions, allowed seven sacks (by seven different players) and punted 11 times.

***

The great Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has his weekly grade card for the Badgers. And, Bucky is gonna like it.

It is uncanny how Gary Andersen and his staff are able to use so many players so effectively.

***

Just like that, the gang at Sippin’ On Purple are wondering if after six games the dream at Northwestern is dead. Wow.

As the story notes, if that was Northwestern at its worst at Wisconsin … well, Northwestern at its worst is pretty bad. “The Wildcats played several really good football games to start the year, but if that Big Ten championship thing is going to be a thing, they have to go 6-0. A team that occasionally plays like that probably can’t go 6-0, because a team that plays like that can lose on any given Saturday. That includes this upcoming weekend against Minnesota, in a game Northwestern is expected to win, but, you know, umm…. that could be trouble.”

***

I agree with Andrew Logue of the Des Moines Register on this: Kirk Ferentz deserves more cushion to craft a turnaround.

With the “easy” part of Iowa’s schedule in the rear-view mirror, Ferentz’s critics may grow louder in coming weeks. And, that’s too bad if it happens. Logue says it’s unlikely Iowa repeats the six-game slide of 2012. The 2013 Hawkeyes have a quarterback (Jake Rudock) who is becoming more comfortable in coordinator Greg Davis’ system, and a trio of senior linebackers determined to avoid another collapse.

“I think all of us feel this is a better football team,” Ferentz said. “We’re a more capable team, right now. But every year is a new adventure; every game is a new adventure.”

Iowa fans may have to wait a year, however, for the real fun to begin. Be patient.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: So, what you’re trying to say is that Nebraska hasn’t beaten anyone of note?

My take: He’s exactly right. MSU may be the team to beat in the Legends.

My take: Well, I thought Penn State would run on Indiana, too, and that didn’t happen.

My take: Yes, let’s lighten up on Joel Stave, OK? He’s just a sophomore who already had done many good things.

My take: Exactly.

My take: Amazing stat.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (2 Comments)
2 Post Your Comment
delmar1950 on 10/14/2013 @ 11:28am EDT Said:

Rick Brown I think that when Wisconsin came into the shoe they had not had a touchdown pass thrown against them, Miller threw four touchdowns. Iowa will not leave the shoe without a rushing touchdown scored on them and you can bet on that.GO BUCKS

huskerfanbb on 10/14/2013 @ 11:58am EDT Said:

The schedule did not favor Northwestern, and winning the Legends is probably a dead issue. Not only do they have to win out–and they have yet to play both Michigan teams and Nebraska–but they will need a lot of help. Penn State did them a favor by beating Michigan, but still, they have to hope that ALL of those three teams lose two B1G games and I don’t know that is likely to happen with Michigan State playing well and Nebraska improving on defense.

I also don’t see Michigan winning this thing after the Penn State loss. No way are they beating OSU to end the season, and it’s unlikely they’ll get by Michigan State, Northwestern, and Nebraska unbeaten. They’ll have at least three conference losses.

If Michigan State beats Nebraska in Lincoln, I could see them winning out, but even if they drop one to the Wolverines or Northwestern, they’ll likely still get in.

Same for Nebraska. If they can win their home tilts against Sparty and Northwestern, a loss to Michigan likely won’t hurt them.

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