Week 9 Results: Three Higher Ranked (but not necessarily favored) Teams Fall

BIG 12 No. 6 Missouri 17 (7-1) at No. 14 Nebraska (7-1).  Nebraska wins 31-17: Nebraska’s offense is clearly more dominant running the ball than passing it.  However, there is an observation to be made that perhaps they’re just taking advantage of the weaknesses of their opponents.  (I know the likely reality is that the Cornhuskers are just a better running team, especially with a true freshman at Quarterback, but it’s worth making the point.)  Against their six opponents with more vulnerable rushing defenses they ran the ball 2.5 times more often than they passed it.  However, against Oklahoma State who has an extremely ineffective passing defense, that ratio declined to just 1.25.  And on Saturday against Missouri they were passing the ball almost as often as they were throwing it…until Taylor Martinez was hurt.  His back-up Zac Lee only completed one of his four passing attempts and Nebraska basically just handed the ball off to Roy Helu Jr. for the remainder of the game.   Helu gained 307 yards on 28 carries, but 80% of his carries came after Martinez left the game.  In addition, almost 200 of those yards came on just 3 plays, which were touchdown runs of 66, 73 and 53 yards. Impressive statistics, but that clearly wasn’t the game plan entering Saturday’s contest.

BIG TEN No. 5 Michigan State 6 (8-1) at No. 18 Iowa (6-2).  Iowa wins 37-6: Given Michigan State’s rather convincing loss of the turnover battle and their inability to move the ball or score against Iowa on Saturday, all signs point to a failure on the part of the Spartans.  But another way to look at it is that it wasn’t their failure as much it was the Hawkeyes’ success.   The Hawkeyes beat the Spartans with the things they do best.  

  • Iowa is ranked 5th in the nation in Rushing Defense and they completely shut down  Michigan State’s rushing attack (just 31 yards rushing!). 
  • Iowa is ranked 2nd in Passing Efficiency Defense and 2nd in Turnover Margin and Spartan Quarterback Kirk Cousins was not only  ineffective passing the ball (throwing just 1 Touchdow), he also threw 3 Interceptions.   
  • Iowa has the 8th ranked Scoring Defense and it held Michigan State scoreless until the 4th Quarter when the Spartans finally scored a touchdown, their only points of the game.

ACC No. 22 Miami (5-2) vs Virginia (3-4).  Virginia wins 24-19. Just a few minutes into the 2nd Quarter, Miami Quarterback and leader Jacory Harris was knocked out of the game and threw an interception in the process.  His back-up Spencer Whipple came in and started two drives that both ended in Interceptions.  Whipple’s back-up Stephen Morris came in and completed just 2 of 6 passes, then threw back-to-back interceptions on his next two attempts.  After that something clicked and Morris completed 7-12, threw two touchdowns and rushed for a third. Miami came close to winning this game and the fact is that the score was 0-0 when Harris suffered his injury (concussion).  This week with Morris taking the snaps as first-string Quarterback in practice, the discussion will be about how he came in and almost won the game for the Hurricanes.  However, it is worth noting that both back-up quarterbacks started with almost identical statistics.  On their initial drives Morris completed 2 of 10 passes with 2 INTs while Whipple was 3-8 with 2 INTs, so it’s very hard to argue that Morris was more successful taking a look at the identical data sample.  Perhaps Whipple would have found success on his next 12 passes as well?