*The Pirates are the free game tonight on MLB.TV, by the way. And Go Rockies, I guess.
I’ll start with the Colts because it will be brief. Plainly put, you can’t keep putting all your eggs in fourth quarter comebacks. As you might have heard, the Colts did amazingly well at that all last year and even in the first game this year. Just like a team that comes out way ahead in fumble recoveries, though, these sort of wins have a way of evening out and bringing a team back to Earth. I’ve been saying this for some time, and lo and behold, the final drive fizzled this Sunday against the Dolphins. If the Colts don’t learn to extend their leads and put teams away* this could turn into an awfully disappointing season. Even for fans who expected a step back in terms of win-loss record.
*Maybe by finding a decent running game for the first time since Edgerrin James left to whittle the clock away and protecting the quarterback once in awhile.
Purdue, well, it’s hard to say. They opened the game beautifully. I sure wasn’t expecting them to look that good. You could see, though, that Notre Dame had figured out Purdue’s defense at halftime, and the Boilers made a poor effort to change tactics themselves. If they made an effort at all. The offense did legitimately look much improved throughout the game, even if the team did nothing with a recovered fumble for a short field late in the game. We finally got to see some real wrinkles, giving me some hope that the offense we have been exposed to at this point was somewhat of a ruse, much how NFL teams show super-vanilla offenses during the pre-season. That praise aside, though, you could very easily convince me that Notre Dame came out flatter than usual after losing a tough, hyped up game to Michigan the week before and just didn’t put in the kind of effort leading up to a Purdue team that has not looked impressive. You don’t have to look any further than Michigan last week to see some good evidence for that sort of hangover. Purdue travels to Wisconsin this week, which is a game that has gone very badly the last few years. The hope is Wisconsin will have a hangover of their own after the debacle they went through last Saturday.
That leaves us with Wabash. Sophomore Michael Putko took the start and looked pretty darned good. The defense looked even better. How good? Good enough that the final tally was 69-0, and that was with the offense basically giving up at halftime. The defense was responsible for three touchdowns* and only let Hanover punt once in the second half thanks to all the turnovers they created. The offense pretty well did whatever it wanted to. Basically, it went a lot like you expect FBS-FCS match ups to go, and not how they actually went this year.
*One of those is probably more properly called special teams, but Wabash did start the play on defense, so there.
What did that game tell us, though, other than Hanover is clearly not at Wabash’s level? It’s hard to say. Hanover looks to be a pretty bad team. Before getting rolled by Wabash, Illinois College also had their way with them, winning 49-13. For what it’s worth, the Blueboys also won easily this past week, beating Grinnell by an eerily similar 42-13. The pollsters also didn’t seem to think too much about this win, only bumping Wabash up to 19th. This doesn’t quite seem right, following Wabash’s jump from 25th to 20th without playing a game. It also doesn’t feel right that Wittenberg is (and has been, the past few years) rated ahead of Wabash when Wabash has pretty well had their way in that series as of late.*
*Wabash has gone 5-3 in their last eight meetings, and one of those losses was a 10-7 loss when Wabash was missing their All-American quarterback due to injury. I would like to think having him would have more than made up that three point difference.
It would seem that Wabash winning this week for homecoming is a pretty safe bet, though. Denison is 2-0, but those two wins have come over Earlham and Hiram. If you remember the stadium guide post, you might remember that those two programs are not exactly powerhouses. Since I have been watching Wabash football (2004), Denison has not only lost every time, but lost badly. The combined score over that period? 399-90. Denison only broke into double digits four times in that period. They have been shut out twice and only managed a safety last year. The average score during this period? 44.3-10. If Denison managed to win this game, it would be an enormous upset.
Going forward? Again, it’s hard to judge, but this defense has the chance to be the best Little Giant defense I’ve ever seen in person. If the offense can hum along like the teams I’m used to seeing, this could turn into a deep run in the playoffs. And with the “Purple Powers” era seemingly out of vogue, who knows? Maybe this could be a very special year. One thing’s for certain, though. No way in hell I buy into the NCAC preseason poll. Wittenberg got eight first place votes, Wabash and Ohio Wesleyan both got one. Wishful thinking, rest of the conference. Wishful thinking.