Another week, another No. 1 goes down.  The big story in the Big Ten last week was easily the fall of Ohio State.  We all knew it was bound to happen eventually, but usually that Ohio State loss is to a random, unranked opponent (like Purdue).  Michigan State is now in the drivers seat, and Wisconsin is still lurking in the weeds somewhere.  Other than those three is there anything really worth watching in the Big Ten?

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the weekend is Northwestern-Michigan State.  Nobody could have expected the Spartans to have the season they are having, as they really look like a team that could take the conference title.  The Wildcats cruised along all year, behind quarterback Dan Persa, before dropping a stunner to Purdue.  An idle week gave the Cats a little more time to prepare for MSU, but this team is legit and I don’t see them losing this week.  They should run all over Northwestern and put the hurt on Persa with that defense.  They should, but this is college football.
Prediction: Spartans 34, Wildcats 19

Indiana at Illinois has the potential to be an exciting, unranked affair, if the Illinois D comes to play.  The two teams are a complete contrast.  The Hoosiers have fire power in the former of quarterback Ben Chappell, who is fifth in the nation in passing yards per game.  On the flip side, the Illini can run the ball with the best of them, averaging over 200 yards a game, but can’t throw the ball, ranking near the bottom of college football in passing YPG.  It will be interesting to see if Illinois’ defense, which slowed Ohio State and shut down Penn State, can slow down the Hoosiers’ air attack and keep it close.
Prediction: Hoosiers 38, Illini 17

The early favorite for “Snoozer of the Week” is the Penn State game, when they travel to Minnesota to face a putrid Golden Gophers team.  Minny hasn’t won since opening day, and Penn State has struggled, getting trounced by ‘Bama, Iowa, and Illinois.  Minnesota’s defense is obviously nowhere near that caliber, so Penn State should have an easy time putting points on the board.
Prediction: Nittany Lions 21, Gophers 15

I honestly didn’t see Ohio State losing to Wisconsin.  I though the Buckeyes were too good from top to bottom and deserved to be the top team in the country.  They just weren’t effective offensively and couldn’t stop John Clay on the defensive side of the ball.  That said, I think they rebound in a big way against the Boilermakers.  Freshman quarterback Rob Henry has drawn some Tim Tebow-type comparisons, but I don’t think he can help Purdue keep up with an angry Buckeye squad.
Prediction: Ohio State 29, Purdue 16

The game carrying the most implications will take place in Kinnick Stadium in Iowa, when the 13th-ranked Badgers visit the 15th ranked Hawkeyes.  Both teams come in with a loss, with Wisconsin dropping theirs to the 7th-ranked Spartans and Iowa dropping that heartbreaker against the Wildcats in Tuscon.  Iowa boasts one of the top ten defenses in the nation, while the Badgers aren’t limited to a top offense, but also have a very solid defense as well.  This game can go one of two ways.  The Badgers may still be riding high from their victory against Ohio State, and might be just a little cocky coming in, or the Badgers know they’ll have to control their own destiny and hope Michigan State loses more than once to grab that Big Ten title.  Either way, should be a fantastic game.
Prediction: Badgers 23, Iowa 20

Magnifying Week 8:

  • Game of the Week: Easy one. Wisconsin/Iowa should be a tight game throughout, but the Badger running game may be too much for even Iowa to handle.
  • Player of the Week: Ben Chappell.  I know I’m going with a guy in a game that doesn’t have too much behind it, but Chappell should have a huge game through the air, despite a solid defensive squad from Champagne.
  • Player to Watch: There’s a difference between this and the previous.  Though Rob Henry won’t put up the offensive numbers that a guy like Kirk Cousins will, he’s a rising freshman in the Tebow-mold.  And we all know how loved Tebow was.  Henry gets his first start on a big stage against the Bucks.
  • Snoozer of the Week: A few more weeks of putting Minnesota here and I’m going to start feeling guilty.  If Ohio State gets up big early, that has the potential to be a boring one too.
  • Upset of the Week: I didn’t call for any, but let’s just say I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Northwestern or Purdue sneak a win this week…
  • Bust of the Week: Ricky Stanzi.  I know Stanzi hasn’t been as big as he was last year for the Hawkeyes, but he’s still been very good.  Against a Wisconsin team that made Terrelle Pryor look silly, Stanzi has his work cut out for him.  Iowa will have to win with D.

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