Welcome to the Pet Peeves edition of "Carrying On About Big Ten Football". This week's column will be completely normal with the exception of random PET PEEVE alerts every few paragraphs to catch you up on the things in sports that have been frustrating me.
In other words, certain aspects of the sports world have been so overwhelmingly annoying to me that I haven't been able to concentrate on enjoying Big Ten football. And I feel like talking about them.
If you're not the type who likes to listen to complaining, you may want to skip this one.
You've been warned.
PET PEEVE ALERT: I'm sick of the Brett Favre coverage. Okay, that's not very accurate. I've always been sick of the Brett Favre coverage, and I don't understand how anyone can cheer for him after retiring and un-retiring a million times because he likes media attention a lot more than training camp practices. So, I'm admittedly biased.
(By the way, you know Favre started his career a Falcon, right? I guess there's more than one Falcon involved in staging and stringing out elaborate productions to hijack national news feeds and draw attention to themselves...but enough about Balloon Boy.)
So did you see the end of the same Vikings/Ravens game I did yesterday? The one where Favre and company choked away a 27-10 lead, went back on top late, and then escaped a loss to a .500 Ravens team because their field goal kicker missed on the last play of the game? My headline for that story is: "Ravens kicker blows chance to upset Vikes".
The USA Today sub-headline is: "QB's heroics thwart furious rally by Ravens".
How did Favre's heroics stop the Ravens' rally? Favre's heroics consisted of sitting on the sideline with his head buried, not wanting to watch Baltimore ruin his perfect season on a mid-range field goal attempt. Did he block the kick? Did he throw a Hail Mary?
No. He won because Baltimore missed a makeable field goal.
Sounds like "heroics" to me. END PET PEEVE ALERT.
UNDER THE MICROSCOPE: BIG TEN WINNERS 117, BIG TEN LOSERS 56
My plan for this week's microscope section was to lay out five things I learned from the prime-time showdown between Illinois and Indiana Saturday night. But let's face it, who wants to dwell on a matchup between teams that entered the evening in 10th and 11th place, anyway?
Instead, we'll ignore Michigan (because they scheduled and destroyed a 1-AA team, the Tennessee Titans...I mean Delaware State Hornets) and lay out one thing I learned from each of the five games between conference teams.
PET PEEVE ALERT: Delaware State lost twice Saturday. Shouldn't there be a rule against allowing a school to forfeit so they can go lose to someone else? The Hornets chose to lose a league game against North Carolina A&T so they could grab a monster payday in Ann Arbor (and get destroyed in the process). When's the last time a college football team lost twice on the same day? It shouldn't be allowed. END PET PEEVE ALERT.
1. INDIANA 27-14: IU's Mitchell Evans is an underrated weapon.
Evans, a wide receiver and Wildcat quarterback, caught three passes for 17 yards and rushed nine times for 84 yards (including a 31-yard dash) in the Hoosiers' home win over Illinois. My notes during the game contained this verbatim phrase: "He's fast."
That's the kind of hard-hitting analysis you pay me for right there.
The "fast" junior gives Indiana variety at the quarterback spot and a different look from main pistol man Ben Chappell. If that wasn't enough, Evans even tried a pooch punt that went a whopping eight yards...but bounced off an Illini player to give the home team a new set of downs. It was that kind of night.
Although the Hoosiers were picked to finish at the bottom of the Big Ten, they have a winning record and need only two wins in their last five games to become bowl-eligible. It won't be easy (and if they can't pick up a W in Evanston this weekend, the task becomes nearly impossible), but there's a chance.
2. IOWA 20-10: No one should ever pick against the Hawkeyes.
I can say this with a great deal of certainty, as the last three times I had the opportunity to pick against Iowa, I did (at Wisconsin, vs. Michigan, at Penn State). In each of these three instances, obviously, I choose poorly.
And that, my friends, is why my wife is destroying me in FBT's Ten by Ten competition.
Anyway, I apologize to Hawkeye fans everywhere for underestimating Iowa on a regular basis. Kirk Ferentz's squad has rolled up a legitimate 7-0 record and survived three of the five difficult road games that self-proclaimed experts everywhere were convinced would be the Hawks' undoing.
In the latest win, a comeback victory in Madison over Wisconsin, Iowa shut out the Badgers 17-0 in the second half to remain unblemished. Ricky Stanzi's consistency (or lack thereof) has been a big storyline for the Hawkeyes, but a quarterback is ultimately judged by winning percentage...and I'd say 1.000 is more than acceptable.
PET PEEVE ALERT: There is absolutely no excuse for ranking a defeated USC team ahead of unbeatens like Iowa, Boise State and Cincinnati. Boo to the media . Boo to the coaches . Kudos to the BCS computers (wow, never thought I'd say that).
Can we stop with the farce already and rename the national championship the "Best-Performing Team Among Pre-Determined Possibilities Florida, Texas, USC, Notre Dame, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Alabama"? END PET PEEVE ALERT.
PET PEEVE ALERT: Never mind, I'm not done. Here's the other sentence from this morning's USA Today that bugged me, as I was reading about the USC Trojans: "[Pete] Carroll gushed about his quarterback [Matt Barkley], a likely Heisman favorite of the future."
Heisman talk for Barkley already? After playing five games? The kid's thrown for a grand total of five touchdowns and three interceptions. Yep, he's in (or will soon be in) the running for best player in the country.
Can we stop with the farce and rename the award the "Best Performing Quarterback or Running Back From Pre-Determined Teams Florida, Texas, USC, Notre Dame, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, and Alabama"? END PET PEEVE ALERT.
3. MICHIGAN STATE 24-14: Is this the year of the go-to receiver in the Big Ten?
While the conference may be more often known for great running backs, it seems like teams--more than ever--tend to live and die with their No. 1 receivers. What would Minnesota be without Eric Decker? Purdue minus Keith Smith?
Fans in East Lansing got a show from two of the league's best, as Northwestern's Zeke Markshausen caught 16 passes for 111 yards and a score, while Michigan State's Blair White grabbed 12 for 186 and two touchdowns.
Translation: Markshausen and White combined for over half of the game's receiving yards and their touchdowns accounted for more than half of the contest's points.
Somebody cover these guys, please!
4. PENN STATE 20-0: So this is what it means to "whitewash" opponents? Penn State's defense put on another clinic in snowy Happy Valley Saturday, which is really ceasing to be news at this point. In their six wins this season, the Nittany Lions are allowing an average of 6.7 points per game.
Imagine what the numbers might be like if key linebackers Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman hadn't been in and out of the lineup with injuries.
They say "defense wins championships", and although the Lions' schedule won't do them any favors (still looming: a date with the Buckeyes, sandwiched around trips to Michigan and Michigan State), last year's co-champions could find themselves hoisting a trophy again if the Hawkeyes happen to slip up.
5. PURDUE 26-18. Yes, the Boilermakers can beat teams other than themselves.
Purdue finally managed to avoid self-destructing long enough to pull off a big victory, giving first-year coach Danny Hope a signature upset win over Ohio State and snapping a five-game losing streak in the process.
Aaron Valentin, who's shown a knack for making big plays and even bigger turnovers, caught two touchdown passes and (thank goodness for Purdue fans) managed to hold onto the ball to spark the Boilermakers to their first win over a ranked opponent since 1743. (Okay, maybe 2003. It only felt that long.)
The biggest question remaining about this year's Purdue squad won't be answered for another week: is the Ohio State upset an anomaly for a team long known as "Spoilermakers" (due to occasional upsets by an otherwise irrelevant program), or will the win over the Buckeyes jump-start Hope toward bigger and better things (as a 1997 victory over Notre Dame did for then-coach Joe Tiller on his way to 10 bowl trips in 12 seasons)?
With the struggling Illini coming to town Saturday, the Boilermakers have a golden opportunity to make a statement about the promising future of their program...or whether the beatdown of Terrelle Pryor was only a fluke.
MAYBE BROADCASTING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
In the space of fifteen minutes Saturday afternoon, I saw graphics on Big Ten Network and ESPN referring to Jim Tressle , Delarware State , and Toby Gerhard (as in Gerhart, the leading rusher in the Pac-10).
I think I'm going to rename this section "Maybe Spelling Is Easier Than I Thought".
Other quotes that made me chuckle...
READER SUBMISSION OF THE WEEK-
"The guy who's picked up the snac...sn...the s...sn...s...s...sn...the slack, excuse me. I wanted to say 'snack', I'm hungry over here!" -- Ray Bentley (via @kohenari).
UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE WEEK:
"This team [Purdue] has a tough time hanging onto the football." -- Wayne Larrivee
SAY WHAT? AWARD OF THE WEEK:
"These guys" [Purdue again] take pride in special teams." -- Chris Martin
Um, is that the same team that lost to Northern Illinois because they fumbled two punts? The squad that gave Minnesota three touchdowns a week ago off of a 7-yard shanked punt, a fumbled kickoff, and a blocked field goal? And let's not get into all the turnovers against Northwestern.
On Saturday against the Buckeyes, Purdue fans literally (and audibly) cheered successful fair catches and punts that crossed the line of scrimmage. I've never heard anything like it...but things had gotten that ridiculous in West Lafayette, where simply not muffing a punt is now cause for celebration and rejoicing.
Anyway, there's a lot of choice words we could use to describe Purdue's special teams, but pride is nowhere on the list.
BAD PUN OF THE WEEK:
"Moye, oh Moye, what a catch!" -- Matt Millen, describing a reception by Penn State's Derek Moye.
"I'm sorry about that." -- Matt Millen
"You should be." -- Sean McDonough
PET PEEVE ALERT: There should be a national law prohibiting announcers from discussing replays and reviews until the referee has ruled whether or not the call stands. Period. Not a single word. I don't know what the solution is: use all of the quarter's commercials back to back...take us to the studio for a four-minute game break...I don't care, but don't let the commentators open their mouths while the network shows us all 73 angles of the replay.
I've had it with announcers who decided what actually happened while the play was going on live (whether his knee was down or not, whether he stepped out of bounds or not, etc.), then use all 73 shots to point out why they were right...and, predictably, are stunned when the replay official doesn't agree with them.
I'm also sick of broadcasters who repeat the phrase "indisputable evidence" ad nauseam, but don't understand what it means. If the official on the sideline said the player stepped out of bounds...and on the replay it looks like he may have stayed inbounds...unless there's a shot of every step he took that shows green grass between his foot and the sideline...the call stands.
Sometimes I wish announcers would get rid of the "indisputable evidence" buzzwords and describe what the replay official is looking for this way: "If there's one single person out of our millions of viewers who isn't positively laughing out loud right now because the call was so obviously wrong, they won't overturn it."
The call on the field stands, whether correct or not, as long there's any sliver of doubt one way or the other. Remember that the next time you hear announcers walk you through 35 straight pictures of if the ball possibly moved as the player went to the ground or not. If they're debating it (as they always do), the referee won't overrule it. END PET PEEVE ALERT.
MAYBE OFFICIATING IS EASIER THAN I THOUGHT
While we're talking about referees, allow me to offer my apologies to Ohio State fans everywhere for the horrendous "forward progress" call after an apparent Keith Carlos fumble late in the first quarter at Ross-Ade Stadium. Carlos was stood up by Buckeyes defenders, stripped of the ball by Kurt Coleman, and Ohio State celebrated another Purdue turnover that would set the visitors up for points in the red zone...only to be stunned when the referees gave the Boilermakers the ball back because the receiver's forward progress had been stopped.
Normally, a player's forward progress is stopped by the referee blowing upon the whistle in his mouth to alert the players, the crowd, and nervous alumni everywhere that the player may no longer advance the football he is carrying.
Or, in this case, I guess the referee can just swallow his whistle, watch the play unfold, feel sorry for Purdue, and decide after the fact it didn't look like Carlos was going to go anywhere, so his forward progress must have, in fact, been stopped.
(In fairness to the official we're ridiculing, he probably assumed it really wouldn't matter one way or the other since Purdue would turn the ball over again in the next few plays because--face it--that's what they do.)
Of course, a referee's judgment call (even if he made his judgment well after the play had ended) is non-reviewable (Buckeye fans, you might remember this from the '02 national title-winning pass interference call against Miami that came AFTER the Fiesta Bowl postgame fireworks), so Ohio State lost a golden chance for points, and Purdue added insult to injury by putting together a long drive to take the lead.
Those of you that have read this blog for a while know I'm a biased Purdue fan, but still...
...maybe officiating is easier than I thought.
THANK GOODNESS FOR MY DVR
I loved the juke move by Indiana wide receiver Damarlo Belcher to embarrass Illini cornerback Dere Hicks en route to the end zone. Nasty.
Impressive catch by Brandon Saine on a swing pass thrown behind him to the wrong shoulder (hmm, that sums up Terrelle Pryor's day, doesn't it?).
Awesome interception by Iowa's Amari Spievey (one of a pair he had on the day) to end the Badgers' last chance at a comeback in the final minutes.
Speaking of picks, Purdue defensive back Brandon King may have had the play of the weekend with a brilliant diving snatch on an out route he had no business jumping. King's highlight play was his second pick of the quarter and helped the Boilermakers outscore Ohio State 14-0 in the pivotal third period.
What was your favorite highlight? How about a crazy announcer quote? Don't forget to send them in each weekend to @TimCary : you could make it into next week's column (also featured on FirstandBigTen.com )!