Pickin’ On the Big Ten
INDIANA AT NAVY (Line: Midshipmen -2.5)
The Hoosiers need this win in the worst way, not just to keep their admittedly slim bowl hopes alive but to wash away the aftertaste of last week’s near-upset of Ohio State. Navy is eminently beatable though the Midshipmen are playing a lot better than the team that gave up 50 to Notre Dame in the season’s very first game. I expect Kevin Wilson to go vertical early and often, hoping to roll up a three-score lead so the defense can deal with Navy’s tricky offense without much pressure on it. It’ll be a good game; there’s little doubt in my mind the Hoosiers will prevail. Indiana 44, Navy 27.
PENN STATE AT IOWA (Line: Hawkeyes -3)
The real question is whether Kirk Ferentz’s ownership of Penn State will still be valid under the new management. PSU’s former coach always seemed to have a poultry-flavored game plan for the Hawkeyes, even in years when Iowa wasn’t a particularly dangerous team. Bill O’Brien certainly knows the Nits have struggled at Kinnick over the years but doesn’t seem like the sort of guy who would go soft on the road. Matt McGloin will be the best quarterback Iowa has faced by a considerable margin. Yet Iowa’s defense is more than capable of bottling things up and carrying the team if it has to. Just think of the Iowa offense for a minute, if you can bring yourself to. Got it? Now remember: Iowa is four points away from being 6-0 and ranked.
The key to the game will be whether either team can score touchdowns on the other. I don’t think that will happen very much in this game. It’ll be field position and field goals all night long. That matchup favors Iowa strongly, though I don’t think there’s any danger Iowa runs away with this game. They’ll win, though. Iowa 16, Penn State 10.
MICHIGAN STATE AT MICHIGAN (Line: Wolverines -10)
Michigan State managed 16 points (13 in regulation) at home last week against the Big Ten’s No. 2 defense. What will Sparty do on the road this week against the Big Ten’s No. 1 defense?
Michigan has gone 183-51 in four victories but has lost to the two best defenses it has faced, which may be the two best defenses anyone will face in college football this season. What will the Wolverines do against yet another good defense?
My best guess: it’ll be a close game through about two and a half quarters before the Spartan D finally gets gassed after a long afternoon of three-and-outs for the visitors. Then you’ll see Michigan start to pull away and mark its territory in the usual fashion. Michigan 31, Michigan State 13.
NEBRASKA AT NORTHWESTERN (Line: Huskers -6.5)
It’s “put up or shut up” time for Northwestern, which needs to win this game if it expects to be taken seriously as a Rose Bowl contender. The same is true for Nebraska.
Northwestern is set up to give the Huskers fits with a lot of fast guys who can do multiple things. Throw in yet another underachieving Bo Pelini defense (I should just put “underachieving Bo Pelini defense” on AutoText) and it’s not hard to envision the Nebraska offense laying down another greased-pig-on-wet-ice performance. If Northwestern’s defense can force a couple turnovers and turn them into touchdowns (not field goals) the ‘Cats could get a signature win that would make everyone take them seriously. If the game simply turns into a point-scoring contest, that favors Nebraska, simply because the ‘Skers are bigger. Northwestern really doesn’t have an opportunistic defense and hasn’t been able to get off the field enough against less imposing opponents. Evanston’s a lovely town. The Huskers are going to look forward to their next trip back. Nebraska 38, Northwestern 30.
PURDUE AT OHIO STATE (Line: Buckeyes -18.5)
This would be a good game, but Danny Hope said that maybe the problem last week was that he didn’t stay with Caleb TerBush enough at quarterback. Pizza every night this week in the Fickell house! Ohio State 56, Purdue 23.
MINNESOTA AT WISCONSIN (Line: Badgers -18)
It’s tempting to think the Gophers are in enough of a freefall that Felix Baumgartner is getting jealous. I still think Minnesota’s secondary is a great unit and will be able to force Wisconsin to do nothing but run, which is a really, really bad way to try to beat Wisconsin. Especially now. Back at the end of September — you know, three whole weeks ago — Minnesota looked like a team ascending while Wisconsin looked like it was losing its way. Flash forward to now. The Badger offensive line looks nearly as good as it did last year while the Gophers have gotten pantsed in their last two outings. No matter how improved Minnesota’s defense may (or may not) be, the Gophers just can’t hang with the Badgers. Yet. Wisconsin 34, Minnesota 17.
Next week’s games:
- Indiana at Illinois: Two drunk donkeys fighting over a turnip
- Purdue at Minnesota: Sadly, at least one of these teams will go bowling
- Michigan at Nebraska: Probably the best Big Ten game next week
- Iowa at Northwestern: If the winner of this game beats Michigan, hello Indy
- Ohio State at Penn State: The lazy jokes will overshadow the game
- Michigan State at Wisconsin: Season-killer for the loser