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On College Football 2022: Week 1 Preview
Dan* said:
Glad to see you'll be back writing football again, Ken! Congrats on the easy win today. You didn't ...
On College Football 2021: Week 10 Recap and Week 11 P...
Ken said:
Yeah, sorry one of our teams had to lose. I've come to appreciate Penn State as a classy and sympath...
On College Football 2021: Week 10 Recap and Week 11 P...
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Hey Ken, congratulations on the win yesterday! Some really odd choices by our coaching staff in that...
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Hey Ken, thanks for the write-ups. I'm enjoying them as usual.

I'm not sure what to make of PSU y...
On Big Ten Football 2020: Week 4 Recap and Week 5 Pre...
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Ooof. What a horrible season for both of us so far.

At this point, I've mostly lost interest in thi...

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Big Ten Football 2020: Week 1 Recap
Sunday, 2020 October 25 - 8:19 pm
Michigan wins convincingly; Penn State dominates statistically but implodes spectacularly at the end of the game, and for a change I have a lot more to say about the PSU game than the Michigan game.

Michigan 49, Minnesota 24
It looked like it was going to be one of those games, and one of those years, when Michigan went four-and-out on its first drive (with a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty and a sack in there), had its punt blocked, and gave up a touchdown two players later. But Michigan scored on its very next play from scrimmage, a 70-yard run by Zach Charbonnet, and suddenly things started looking up. The offense was crisp and efficient. The offensive line played well both in run and pass blocking, Joe Milton made throws accurately and on-time, and the running backs had a field day.

The defense played decently, though I can see that the young cornerbacks are going to have to get better in a hurry to compete against teams with more than one good receiver. I liked what I saw from the defensive line; even with Minnesota's get-the-pass-off-quickly playbook, Michigan still registered five sacks.

Field goal kicking was not great, and that might be the fault of the new long snapper. But that's something I expect will get cleaned up quickly.

In all, though, this was a quality win, on the road, against a ranked team, and that's reason enough to be hopeful... at least until the next inevitable soul-crushing loss, or Ohio State, whichever comes first.

Michigan gets MSU next, who just handed Rutgers their first Big Ten win in 21 games.

Penn State 35, Indiana 36 (OT)
Penn State outgained Indiana 488-211, had the ball for 40:25 vs Indiana's 19:35, and ran 87 plays vs. Indiana's 62. But critical penalties and turnovers kept Indiana in the game late. Still, Penn State found itself with a one-point lead with 1:42 left, at the Indiana 14 yard line after IU turned the ball over on downs. So grinding out a few runs would run the clock out and Penn State would eke out a victory.

Except. On the next play, Penn State scored a touchdown. James Franklin took a lot of criticism for letting that happen instead of trying to run down the clock... and then more criticism for not going for a two-point conversion afterwards. That's somewhat justified, I think. This deserves some close attention. What might have happened if Devyn Ford had taken a knee at the 1 yard line?
  • 1:42 1st and goal from the 1. Indiana faces a dilemma here. With only two timeouts (they burned one earlier in the half), they can't stop the clock on every remaining down. If they call timeout now, they probably only conserve about 25-30 seconds of the game clock, because the game clock is stopped to move the chains; whereas, they could preserve nearly 40 seconds of game clock by calling timeout on subsequent plays. But if they don't call timeout now, they risk letting the clock run down and then Penn State might go ahead and score a TD on its next play, meaning they would have wasted that time. I tend to think IU would call a timeout immediately.
  • 1:42 1st and goal from the 1, QB kneel. Three seconds of game clock elapse. Indiana calls its final timeout.
  • 1:39 2nd and goal from the 3, QB kneel. Three seconds of game clock elapse; the 40-second play clock starts at 1:36. Penn State would face a decision here, too. Kneeling again on the next play means you're not getting a touchdown unless you're planning to go for it on fourth down, which would be aggressive and risky, especially after your kneel-downs have moved you back a few yards from the goal. James Franklin is fairly conservative in these situations, so let's say he plans to kick the field goal.
  • 0:57 3rd and goal from the 1, QB kneel. 40-second clock starts at 0:54.
  • 0:15 4th and goal from the 1, FG. Clock at 0:13.
  • 0:13 Kickoff. Indiana fair catch, ball at 25 yard line.
So Indiana would be down four with 13 seconds remaining, and would have two, maybe three plays to go 75 yards? That seems like a good position to be in.

So kneeling would probably have been the right call. But you didn't: you scored the touchdown. You're up 7. Now what? There are numerous permutations on what could happen next: you could kick or go for 2, you could fail or succeed at the 2-point conversion, Indiana could score a TD on its next possession or not, Indiana could kick or go for 2 (assuming they're down by 1 at the end), Indiana could fail or succeed at the 2-point conversion, and either team could win in overtime. I worked out some rough numbers, and I think your win percentage odds are slightly better if you kick. Yes, getting the 2-point conversion ends the game. But if you kick, there are still many other game-winning scenarios for you left: IU doesn't score a TD, IU doesn't make a 2-point conversion, IU kicks for overtime but loses in overtime.

Of course it didn't work out that way. Both teams scored a TD in overtime, but IU went for a 2-point conversion after theirs and made it. Well, I say they made it but it was awfully, awfully close, and the replay seemed to show the ball going out of bounds at nearly the same time it hit the pylon. In the end there was not enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.

It's a heartbreaking loss for PSU. I'm sure they'll be talking a lot this week in practice about the self-inflicted mistakes, especially with regards to penalties. The season isn't a total loss yet, but Ohio State on the schedule next, there's no more margin for error.

Other Big Ten Games
Michigan State lost to Rutgers, which, ha. Is Rutgers actually good under returning head coach Greg Schiano, or is MSU actually terrible under new coach Mel Tucker? Probably some of both.

Ohio State whomped Nebraska 52-17, though Nebraska did look competitive for a while, and we might have seen at least a few cracks in OSU's run defense. But geez, OSU's QB Justin Fields completed 20 of 21 passes. Yikes.

Purdue upset Iowa 24-20.

Northwestern destroyed Maryland 43-3, so maybe Maryland will be the worst team in the conference this year, sparing Sparty from that fate.

Wisconsin crushed Illinois 45-7.

Permalink  2 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: sports


Comment #1 from Dan (Guest)
2020 Oct 26 - 7:46 pm : #
Hi Ken, good to see you back for another season of commentary! Looking forward to some football.

Congrats on the Wolverines' win! First game with a new QB is always nerve-wracking, but Milton passed the test.

On the PSU ending, I have to point out a small error. When PSU got the ball at the IU 14, Indiana only had one timeout left, not two. They burned one early in the half, as you pointed out, but they also used their 2nd on their last possession before turning the ball over to PSU on downs. So, if Devyn Ford stops at the 1 yard line with a first down, IU could only stop it once more and we could have just run out the clock on 3 kneel-downs.

So, Ford learned a huge lesson there, but he wasn't the only goat. Three turnovers, three missed field goals (one that's a chip shot), 10 penalties for 100 yards (many in crucial situations), poor use of our own timeouts, an "accidental" touchdown, and finally a bad call (my opinion) on a 2-point conversion that gives IU the game.

It's 2020, man. Whaddya gonna do?
Comment #2 from Ken (realkato)
2020 Oct 30 - 6:12 pm : #
I stand corrected. I looked at the ESPN play-by-play to count IU's timeouts and they must have not included one. Here I was trying to give James Franklin the benefit of the doubt about the ambiguity of the situation, but if IU only had one timeout, you're right... the scenario is this:
  • 1:42 1st and goal from the 1. Indiana calls its final timeout.
  • 1:42 1st and goal from the 1, QB kneel. Three seconds of game clock elapse; the 40-second play clock starts at 1:39.
  • 1:00 2rd and goal from the 1, QB kneel. 40-second clock starts at 0:57.
  • 0:18 3th and goal from the 1, QB kneel. Clock runs out.
I see this as a coaching mistake. Sure, Ford could have figured out that he needed not to score on his own, but good coaches would have told him that before he got to the huddle.

And yes, you're certainly right about all the other points PSU gave away. The game should never have been that close. Sorry, man. It sucks.

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