Friday, October 27, 2006

Week Nine - Get Gamm Previews ...
Illinois at Wisconsin
Michigan State at Indiana
Northern Illinois at Iowa
Northwestern at Michigan
Minnesota at Ohio State
Penn State at Purdue (Tiebreaker)

Illinois at Wisconsin
On paper this one should be no contest. Yes, Illinois beat a decent (and now back on track - maybe) Michigan State team and battled hard at Penn State a week after a tough loss to Ohio but, well, Illinois just isn’t a good football team right now. They are young and growing. There is talent and the team will turn a corner soon enough, but really, against the Badgers? Let me clarify, against the 7-1 Badgers? No chance … or is there?

Hey, as we saw with Michigan State’s improbable comeback at Northwestern, anything can happen in college football. Of course for Illinois to beat the Badgers, a lot of good has to happen on one side and a deluge of bad has to occur for the other, but still, it could happen. If it is to happen, the Illini need to manage the gap between the offenses. Wisconsin ranks second in scoring offense, Illinois 10th. The interesting part is that the difference between the two through the air and on the ground isn’t that wide. The teams ranks first and second in rushing offense and while neither is particularly adept through the air, they aren’t that far apart. It really boils down to Wisconsin’s ability to control the clock and work the right plays to their advantage. The Badgers win this on experience alone. Wisconsin 27 – Illinois 10.

flakcat says … A long season for Illinois fans looks no brighter against a solid Badger team. P.J. Hill will rumble all over an overmatched Illinois defense. On offense, Illinois is trying to rebuild around Juice Williams at QB, who has looked great at times and overmatched at other times. Illinois 10 - Wisconsin 28

Michigan State at Indiana
First of all, who would’ve thought that this game would have huge bowl ramifications for both teams? Second, who would have thought that this might actually be the Game of the Week in the Big Ten? Well it does and it probably is, or at least Game of the Week II. The thing is, it might be either had MSU not shocked themselves and the nation by coming back from a 38-3 deficit to beat Northwestern, or if Indiana hadn’t shocked everyone in the same, second-take manner the week before by handling Iowa. But it is what it is, and it is a huge game for both teams.

Indiana might well already be bowl eligible had Coach Hoeppner not let the team for brain surgery before week three (loss to Southern Illinois). Michigan State might be the same had they not blown the lead against Notre Dame – because chances are that led to the hangover against Illinois. But that’s all in the past. This is about here and now. The Spartans have an arguably easier road ahead after this one, so a win here is more likely to help propel them to a better bowl than the Motor City. IU has a winnable game at Minnesota next week, but then hosts Michigan and plays rival Purdue. Translation? This one is even more important for Indiana than Michigan State. But don’t tell the Spartans that. They know last week will fade away fast without a win in Bloomington. Look for a lot of offense in this game. Both teams throw the ball well, but defend it so-so. The difference might be the ground game. Michigan State is a good running team, Indiana bad and the Hoosiers struggle to stop the run. That’s where the game will be won… Michigan State 31 – Indiana 23.

flakcat says … Depending on which Spartan team shows up this week, Indiana might just have a legitimate shot to hang around in this game. The Hoosier offense was clicking before hitting the steamroller that is OSU last week. The big question is can the Indiana D contain a sometimes explosive MSU offense? The Spartans have to be riding high after their historic comeback against Northwestern last week. Michigan State has the talent to be one of the top Big Ten teams. The question has always been their fragile mental and emotional state. They answered the bell last week and should have the horses to beat the Hooisers. Indiana 21 - Michigan State 31

Northern Illinois at Iowa
The Big Ten is 13-1 against the MAC so far this season, but with Iowa signal caller Drew Tate on the bench after thumb surgery and the nation’s most unknown great tailback (Garret Wolfe) on the field for NIU, that could change. This is the MACs last decent chance to unseat a Big Ten team and the Huskies have practice – they started the season playing in Columbus against the number one Buckeyes. With Tate, I would rate Northern Illinois’ chances at the upset at 10-percent at best. Without him, and looking at the way Iowa struggled with Syracuse when Tate was also shelved, I’d give it a 50-50 chance.

The real motivation for Iowa will be avoiding its first three game losing streak since going 3-9 in 2000. That and stopping Wolfe. The Iowa run defense has been decent this year, but not great and aside from Mike Hart and perhaps P.J. Hill of Wisconsin, Wolfe is the best tailback the Hawkeyes will face this season. The key in this one will be for Iowa to control the ball. Iowa hasn’t run the ball as well as they’ve passed this year, somewhat of a surprise considering what they had on paper coming into the season. Northern Illinois would love this to be a statement game for their program and a Heisman-invite worthy example of what their star can do with the pigskin. It’ll be closer than the experts think. Iowa 24 – Northern Illinois 20.

flakcat says … The Huskies of Northern Illinois University are struggling to hold their own in the MAC. Teams have started to lock down on Garrett Wolfe, and NIU has few other real options. They can't and won't hang with the Hawkeyes, who will be missing QB Drew Tate but won't need him. NIU 14 - Iowa 35

Northwestern at Michigan
If you are Michigan, how do you successfully protect against injury and a let down in a game you are favored to win by five touchdowns? If you are Northwestern, how do you summon the fire to play a game that you are given no chance to win a week after being “the team” to be on the losing end of the greatest comeback in 1-A football history? I guess we’ll find the answers to both when the two do battle in Ann Arbor this weekend.

Michigan and Ohio State are really in cruise control until they meet for the early 21st century version of “The Game of the Century”. That said, Michigan has to play hard and not get too complacent because any sloppiness could carry over to that contest. The maize and blue also have to be wary of injuries. This is the time of year and the type of game that something bad happens. Northwestern just needs to come out and work the offense like they did early against Michigan State. C.J. Bacher has a future at QB and they do have Tyrell Sutton. Not knowing how the Wildcats will react to last week’s debacle makes this one tougher (score-wise) to pick. Michigan 45 – Northwestern 7.

flakcat says … After struggling to score all season, Northwestern showed some life on offense against Michigan State last week. The NU defense, however, continues to be undependable - if not horrific. I have faith that Pat Fitzgerald will get my Wildcats back on track eventually, but it ain't happening this year. One of the better Michigan teams in recent years will beat the Wildcats like the proverbial red-headed stepchild. The big question is when will Lloyd Carr call off the dogs and if ESPN will stick with the broadcast past the third quarter. NU 10 - Michigan 45

Minnesota at Ohio State
I’m debating how much ink to really give this game. Ohio State is good. Really good. Really, really, really good. This is the last semi-test before the aforementioned Game of the 21st Century. Minnesota is not very good. Not very good at all. The Golden Gophers had to block a field goal as time expired to avoid the embarrassment of losing to 1-AA neighbor North Dakota State. The only good thing about that game for Minnesota was the cool look of the throw-back uniforms. They should keep those around.

But, back to the game at hand. Ohio State has three tune-ups before a huge battle with Michigan. Just like Michigan, OSU needs to avoid complacency and injury. Minnesota is a very shaky 3-5 (0-4) and desperately needs wins to go bowling. With Ohio State, Michigan State and Iowa left on the slate, that is a daunting task. Look for Ted Ginn to score on something other than a catch or pass this week and for the Buckeyes to keep on rolling. Ohio State 41 – Minnesota 6.

flakcat says … Like the NU-Michigan contest, this ranks right up there as must-miss TV on Saturday. It's been a brutal season for Minnesota, and this game will be salt in the wounds. The Buckeyes look pretty darn unstoppable. Michigan may stop them, but the Golden Gophers certainly won't. Take tOSU and the points with a side bet of ABC dropping the game by the start of the fourth quarter. Minnesota 3 - OSU 48

Penn State at Purdue
For the purposes of Get Gamm, this week’s Game of the Week. Both teams are 5-3. Both teams have lost to Notre Dame. Both teams have handled Northwestern. Both teams have taken out Minnesota in closer than they probably should have been battles. Both teams are looking to separate from the pack and secure a good bowl berth. Got enough reasons to tune in now?

This is the only game Purdue plays against the traditional Big Ten powers this season. The Boilermakers avoid both Michigan and Ohio State. The time to make hay is now. The only real gimme left on the schedule is at Illinois and Tiller and Co. need only ask the Spartans how much of a sure thing that one is. A win here makes Purdue a favorite the rest of the way and gives them a fair shot at 10-3 and the Capital One Bowl (Wisconsin currently has that inside track). Penn State follows this up with a daunting trip to Madison, a game against a faux 1-A team in Temple and a rivalry tilt with Michigan State. A win here and the Nittany Lions very likely go 8-4 if not 9-3 and possibly steal that bowl berth. This one is all about the Purdue passing game against a very good Penn State defensive front seven. If the Nittany Lions can control the clock and get a big play or two on offense, I like their chances. However, the offense just hasn’t clicked thus far and that means the home team has the upper hand. Purdue 24 – Penn State 21.

flakcat says … An interesting contest between a pair of Big Ten underachievers this season, the Get Gamm tiebreaker could go both ways. A stingy Penn State defense vs. the dangerous Purdue offense. An sluggish Penn State offense vs. a mediocre Purdue defense. Special teams may decide this one.Purdue 21 - Penn State 31


mayo170 said...

FWIW... I'm getting queasy up here at #1 in the Get Gamm standings.

This week has a bunch of games that just don't add up to the gimme's we've had recently.

BigTenSportsFan said...

Illinois 6 at Wisconsin 7
Michigan State 10 at Indiana 9
Northern Illinois 2 at Iowa 81
Northwestern 30 at Michigan 31
Minnesota 13 at Ohio State 14
Penn State 20 at Purdue 19