After the buffet of blowouts last weekend, the Big Ten finally opens up conference play this weekend. Purdue is the only idle team this week, coming at a perfect time after the Boilermakers were upset against Toledo last week.
As far as the rest of these matchups, at least two of these games should prove to be wire jobs. Wisconsin will meet Michigan State, in what could be the best game of the day. The Badgers are coming off a 70-3 drubbing of Austin Peay, while the Spartans come off a win of their own, playing inspired ball for coach Mark Dantonio, who suffered a heart attack after MSU’s overtime win against the Irish. Early word is that Dantonio will be in the box to coach this game, so I’d expect another inspired game from this Spartan squad. With the Spartans two-headed running game creeping towards 1,000 yards, and Kirk Cousins putting up solid numbers under center, I almost want to call an upset, but it’s difficult to go against a team that just dropped 70 points, regardless of their opponent.
Iowa rebounded nicely from their loss at Arizona, posting a shutout against Ball State. Penn State narrowly avoided a major upset against Tempe, but overcame an early deficit to pull out a win. The Nittany Lions’ only real contest this season was against ‘Bama, and we all know how that turned out. I think Ricky Stanzi is too much for this Penn State team and Iowa could win surprisingly easily.
Illinois was the only idle Big Ten team last week, and they needed all the time they could get to prepare for their matchup against the No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. The Bucks were one of the two Big Ten teams to post 70 points in their wins, doing it over Eastern Michigan. There are very few teams that can keep up with Terrell Pryor and this Buckeyes team, let alone the Illini doing so on Saturday. Still, Ohio State is prone to a let down at least once per season. It came against Illinois a couple years ago. Could that happen again this weekend?
In what could be a surprisingly close game, Michigan heads to Bloomington to meet up with the Hoosiers. Quarterback Denard Robinson left the game on Saturday for the Wolverines, but it didn’t stop them from putting up 65 against Bowling Green, behind the forgotten Tate Forcier. It made little sense to put “Shoelace” back in against the Falcons, but he is expected to be ready to go at full strength for their Big Ten opener. On the flip side, the Hoosiers boast a top notch air attack, behind quarterback Ben Chappell, who has yet to throw an interception this season. We could be in for an offensive showcase on Saturday.
In what will most surely be my pick for Snoozer of the Week, Northwestern will travel to Minnesota to meet up with the bottom of the barrell in the Big Ten, the Golden Gophers. Northwestern has played a pair of close games, but still are a seemingly easy 4-0. I see no reason Dan Persa and the Wildcats can’t go for five this weekend.
Breaking it down a little more…
- Game of the Week: Wisconsin/Michigan State. I think the other ranked game between Iowa and Penn State could lean towards the Hawkeyes big time. The Badgers-Spartans should be the most tightly contested game on Saturday, with a pair of teams that like to grind it out on the ground.
- Player of the Week: Terrelle Pryor. This category seems silly in the Big Ten. Each week is a toss-up between Pryor and Robinson. I like the former to put up big numbers against an average Illinois team.
- Snoozer of the Week: I like Northwestern, but any game involving Minnesota is a snoozer since they lost to South Dakota State.
- Upset of the Week: Given the Hoosiers’ pass offense, I wouldn’t be surprised if they managed to sneak one out against Michigan. That seems like a bigger upset than Michigan State over Wisconsin, though the latter seems more likely.
- Bust of the Week: John Clay. I love Clay. The dude is a bruiser, but he’s going up against a good run defense with one of the top linebackers in college football, Greg Jones. If the Spartans stop the running game, they could be looking at a climb in the rankings.
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Suddenly everyone is predicting an easy win for Iowa. This scares me. Historically, when Iowa wins, it’s a close game. Trust me, I hope it’s a blow out, but I have a feeling I’ll still be nervous into the 4th quarter. Iowa by 10.