Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Get Gamm Big Ten BBall...
Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. In case I don't get in a blog before hand, here are the games to pick as Big Ten basketball starts off. I hope to get to some thoughts before that, but just in case, here are the games and my picks...

1/2 - Wisconsin at Michigan - The Badgers are flying high after the great win at Texas. Michigan is struggling, big time. Wisconsin 71 - Michigan 60.

1/2 - Indiana at Iowa - A nice road test for Indiana to open, but the Hoosiers are the other team to beat (MSU is the first) this Big Ten season. Indiana 76 - Iowa 59.

1/2 - Penn State at Northwestern - These are important games for these bottom feeders. Penn State is playing well right now and makes it three for three to open on the road - a rarity indeed. PSU 64 - NU 62.

1/3 - Ohio State at Illinois - The early road domination ends. Illinois 68 - OSU 63.

1/5 - Iowa at Wisconsin - Back to back openers against two of the top teams. Ouch. Wisconsin 80 - Iowa 61.

1/5 - Michigan at Purdue - Purdue is young and unpredictable, but a lot better than Michigan. Purdue 78 - Michigan 65.

1/5 - Minnesota at Michigan State - Minnesota is playing well but is untested. State has been tested plenty. Michigan State 81 - Minnesota 64.

1/6 - Northwestern at Ohio State - Ohio State bounces back in the home opener. OSU 72 - NU 58.

1/6 - Penn State at Illinois - Illinois gets off to a strong start. Penn State has the horses to compete but this one slips away. Illinois 67 - Penn State 61.

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Get Gamm - Bowl Style...
Well, we've finally arrived to the top of the mountain. The extra session of college football is nearly upon us. Eight Big Ten teams are a-bowlin', two are in the BCS and one is playing for the top prize. We've got some picking to do (andrewj1313 and I) but before I get to that, a few words on hoops and the Michigan hire.

I see the invite to catch those who missed the ACC-B10 Challenge fell on deaf ears a while back. So, for those who didn't get in on chance two, here is your last chance to be in the running for the BBall version of Get Gamm. Yep, that's you St. Louis Jeff, andrewj1313, mayo170 and BruceS.

Here are your games:
Florida at Ohio State (12/22)*
Texas vs. Michigan State (12/22)*
UCLA at Michigan (12/22)
Illinois vs. Missouri (12/22)*
Purdue vs. Iowa State (12/22)
Wisconsin at Texas (12/29)*
Minnesota at UNLV (12/30)

* = worth two wins or losses.

Michigan gets its man...
Well, I'm not so sure you can call your third option "your man" but nonetheless, the Wolverines certainly stepped outside of the box and got a nice young coach. Rich Rodriguez will bring the same style that Illinois runs to the Big Ten. Hey, as they say, if you can't beat 'em (spread offenses with fast QBs) join 'em. My ony question for the ogling M fans - how is he any different than John L. Smith? Good luck coach and welcome to the Big Ten.

Let's go bowling...
All right, the time has come. The last showdown of Get Gamm football 2007. andrewj1313 is picking with me. Winner after this last session gets to shop the TFS Fan Shop on me ($25). Bowls appear in reverse order of how they were picked (bottom to top).

I'll let andrewj1313 preface things... "It’s put up or shut up time. In a perfect world the Big Ten would win all their bowl games, but with the Rose Bowl pulling Illinois into the BCS, the Big Ten is facing a very tough situation. The quality of our team vs. their team edges towards our opponents. Playing several bowls in the opponents back yard won’t help either. Bowl season will either improve the Big Ten’s image, or solidify everyone’s perception of it."

Motor City Bowl - Wednesday, December 26 at 7:30pm (ESPN)
Central Michigan vs.
Nothing like a little bowl season rematch in the warm and cozy confines of Ford Field. Purdue is in a bowl again, but this is not what they were playing for or expecting halfway into the season. After a hot start, the swoon set in, and frankly, had Illinois not gotten into the BCS mix, the Boilermakers might be home for the holidays (or, in a better locale). Central Michigan, on the other hand, strived for this bowl from day one. This is where the MAC sends its best. The Chippewas are playing well right now and want to be here. That could be the difference in what should otherwise really be no contest. Purdue killed Central in September and should own them this time. But will they? I predict that the Boilermakers will start slow but end strong and eke out a win because frankly what would be more embarrassing? Going to the Motor City Bowl or going to the bowl AND losing?! Purdue 38 - Central Michigan 33.

andrewj1313 says ... Yawn, with a capital “Y!” This is almost as bad as playing Ball State! I know Joe Tiller has done an okay job at Purdue, but I think the fans are settling for mediocrity. No other team in the Big Ten has failed to live up to expectations more than Purdue over the past few years (maybe Iowa) and if the fans and school are okay with 8-4 or 7-5 every year, then Tiller is your man. Illinois has now gone to two BCS bowls compared to Tiller's one. Purdue 48 - Central Michigan 20.

Insight Bowl - Monday, December 31 at 5:30pm (NFL Network)
Oklahoma State vs. Indiana
What a boon for the Hoosiers. After blowing a late season game in Evanston, IU had to beat rival Purdue to secure its first bowl since 1993. If any team deserved it this year, it was Indiana. In actuality, this team was really close to so much more - at least 8-4, maybe 9-3. But this is a great first step and a nice reward. Indiana is the feel good story of the bowl season, hands down. Now, to the game. This one will be fun, if you can see it (NFL Network). OSU scored over 35 points in each of its six wins. The kicker? They give up a ton too. Indiana is explosive and should be able to exploit the Cowboys. I like the dream to continue for the cream and crimson. Indiana 45 - Oklahoma State 38.

andrewj1313 says ... Congratulations to the Hoosiers for playing 13. Five losses and four of them weren’t necessarily to bad teams. I think Indiana matches up well with Ok. St. Just be prepared for the coach (the coach of players) on the other sideline, because Mike Gundy’s “a man!” Don’t do anything that will make him want to puke. The key for Indiana will be focusing; don’t let playing 13 be good enough, stay focused and try to win the 13th for Hoeppner. Indiana 28 - Oklahoma State 24.

Champs Sports Bowl - Friday, December 28 at 5pm (ESPN)
Boston College vs. Michigan State
My first bowl experience will take place in Orlando next week and I'm excited. I love the reward for what was a better than even I expected season for my alma mater and the challenge of facing a team that was once very much in the BCS title mix. It will be interesting to see how the Eagles approach this game. B.C. has the longest current bowl winning streak (7) and their A.D. has guaranteed a win. However, this bid is to the Eagles what a Motor City Bowl bid would have been to the Spartans - a crappy consolation prize. It is a good bowl, but B.C. was a few plays from the Orange Bowl. Matt Ryan or not, I like Michigan State's focus right now. There will be some early rust, but look for State to challenge the very good Eagles run defense and for Devin Thomas to have the game that sends him to the NFL draft. Michigan State 31 - Boston College 27.

andrewj1313 says ... The only thing these teams have in common is they both lost three of their last five games. This is a prime example of the mismatches the Big Ten will be faced with as a result of Illinois in the Rose Bowl. Michigan St. might be able to keep it close for a quarter or two, but Boston College is much more talented on offense then MSU is on defense. This was the #2 team at one point this year and was playing for a BCS bowl only to be rewarded with a non New Years Day celebration against a 7-5 team. If MSU plays smart, BC could be this years “We didn’t play well because we didn’t want to be there” team. Boston College 34 - Michigan State 24.

Alamo Bowl - Saturday, December 29 at 8pm (ESPN)
Texas A&M vs. Penn State
This is a classic, old school match-up between two tried and true programs. And don't let the non New Year's Day status fool you - the Alamo is annually one of the best bowls of them all. The Aggies will have the home crowd but Penn State travels well. Gary Darnell is a one game leader for A&M, Paterno is in his 500th game. This is a rematch of the 1999 game, which Penn State owned (24-0). This is a disappointing place for the Nittany Lions to wind up, but is a chance to send the seniors out with a nice 9 win season while building for 2008 - a season that might be JoePa's last. Penn State has more talent on both sides of the ball and Paterno knows how to coach a post season winner. Penn State 30 - Texas A&M 17.

andrewj1313 says ... A pretty good match up as for quality of teams go, but the advantage will go to A&M as this will be a home game atmosphere. A&M had to have the toughest four game stretch to close out the season going 1-3 during that time. Penn St. can handle playing in a hostile environment, but can they play good enough to win? I think PSU can do enough on the ground and in the air to keep A&M off balance and take home a good victory for the Big Ten. Penn State 30 - Texas A&M 20.

Outback Bowl - Tuesday, January 1 at 11am (ESPN)
Tennessee vs. Wisconsin
This should prove to be a very good match-up. Both teams are young and with talent. Both teams had hiccups this season, though the Volunteers had bigger issues at times than the Badgers. Both teams are led by gutty quarterbacks. Both teams rely on a young defense. Wisconsin is one of the more underrated, solid bowl performers year in and year out. Don't let the SEC Title Game appearance fool you - UGA was better than Tennessee over the course of the season. This will be a close one that comes down to a special teams play. Wisconsin 24 - Tennessee 23.

andrewj1313 says ... Great match up. Wisconsin has won two in a row over the SEC in bowl games and can make it a third this year. Wisconsin needs to establish Hill on the ground and protect Donovan. Tennessee is a typical SEC speed team, but like all Big Ten teams should do against the SEC, play smash mouth football. The SEC relies on speed more then finesse and if Wisconsin can wear them down, it will be a long day for the ugliest coach in college football (Charlie Weis is a close second). Wisconsin 24 - Tennessee 21.

Capital One Bowl - Tuesday, January 1 at 1pm (ABC)
Florida vs. Michigan
Say what you want about the purported Rose Bowl mis-match, I think this is the one that could sting the Big Ten the hardest. Will Michigan be fired up to send Lloyd out a winner? You bet. Can the Wolverines stop the best dual threat quarterback the game has seen in (maybe) decades? I'm not so sure. Tim Tebow is the key. If he didn't put on the banquet circuit weight that Troy Smith did last year, this will be no contest. Henne-Hart-Manningham don't have enough to balance the speed of the Gators. Florida is young, hungry to make an early statement for the 2008 season and not afraid to change things up. Michigan will battle, but Florida is a match-up nightmare for the Wolverines defense. Florida 30 - Michigan 20.

andrewj1313 says ... A terrible match up for the Big Ten as Illinois should have been here. While Florida doesn’t have a true quality win under it’s belt, neither does Michigan, plus this will be a home game for Florida which will be celebrating the first Sophomore Heisman Trophy winner in history. Michigan’s defense will have fits all day with Tebow. If Lloyd couldn’t figure out in three years how to stop Troy Smith, then he won’t be able to do anything about Tebow. I would love for Michigan to prove me wrong and win this one as they did in 2002, but I think Lloyd ends his career at Michigan with another bowl loss. Florida 34 - Michigan 20.

Rose Bowl - Tuesday, January 1 at 4:30pm (ABC)
USC vs. Illinois
I don't care what the media says, I applaud the fact that the Rose Bowl wanted (and got) a traditional Big Ten v. Pac Ten match-up. Shame on the media for pooh-pooh-ing the tradition of the Rose Bowl. To Big Ten fans and Pac Ten fans, it is still the bowl to be in (if you can't play for the national title). I also wonder what the media is thinking when it automatically installs Illinois as a no-chance opponent to the Trojans. Yes, USC is good and playing perhaps its best ball of the season. But, this is the same Illini team that hung the one and only "L" of the season on the No. 1 Buckeyes. Illinois is hungry to be here and will hang with Pete's Trojans. This will be the statement game for the Big Ten, even if it is a loss. USC 33 - Illinois 30.

andrewj1313 says ... I think Illinois has the determination to play with USC, but I don’t think they can handle it, especially in USC’s back yard and future playing field. What will go a long way for Illinois’ confidence is that they already beat the #1 team in the country OSU, on the road. If Illinois plays like that, they very well could make this interesting. I would love to see Illinois do the impossible and beat USC, but conventional wisdom tells me to pick USC…but, I won’t be surprised if Illinois makes a game of it and even upsets USC. Illinois is better than the “experts” are giving them credit for. USC 38 - Illinois 17.

BCS National Championship Game - Monday, January 7 at 8pm (Fox)
LSU vs. Ohio State
You know what, for all the upsets and jockeying that went on all season long, I am pretty damn convinced that we wound up with the two best teams in New Orleans anyway. Yes, OSU needed help after a late season loss. So did LSU. Both teams are a few plays TOTAL away from being the undisputed No. 1 and 2 teams in the land. To the game... I know people are going to pick LSU based on the OSU performance in last year's title game. BIG mistake. This Ohio State team is more focused. No postseason banquet circuits to get in the way this time. The Buckeyes are rock solid. LSU is a great team, but they don't strike me as being as fast as Florida last year. This will be a hard-hitting affair and this time, the Bucknuts break through. Ohio State 26 - LSU 23.

andrewj1313 says ... OSU is 11-1, LSU is 11-2, yet somehow OSU is the team that “backed in” to the championship game and LSU “deserves” to be there?! We all know the SEC is the greatest conference in the history of the universe, and that all others are crap – there needs to be a new division in college football; D-1 Super A consisting of just the SEC and then D-1A with everybody else. I think I just made Mike Gundy puke. Had OSU had to face any other team besides an SEC school, I don’t think they would have gone into this game with the same focus or attitude. OSU wants the SEC so they can shut everyone up. Arkansas showed just how vulnerable LSU is to the ground game and OSU should do what they should have done last year; pound the ball down their throats from start to finish. OSU has come close to a shut out several times this year, it would be freakin’ awesome if it happened in this game. OSU 28 - LSU 20.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A ton to talk about...
Wow, a guy takes his time off for Thanksgiving, goes on an eight-day business trip to the warmth of southern Florida, comes back to un-bury and a ton of stuff happens around him! Time flies when you're busier than one of Santa's elves in mid-December...

Where to start? The bowl berths (which, incidentally, I had almost nailed)? The ACC-Big Ten "not so much of a" Challenge? Michigan's coaching search? A look back at my football predictions and final grade on my work?

Well, I'll get to all of it in the next few days but the first three are the most urgent topics right now. One last thing before I get to it ... those who missed the first round of basketball Get Gamm, you need to make up 11 games before conference play starts up. If you want to be eligible for the prize, you need to pick these games (several being held on 12/8) those of us who picked the challenge, we get to sit back and watch:

Arizona at Illinois (12/8)
Iowa at Iowa State (12/8)
Michigan at Duke (12/8)
Michigan State vs. BYU (12/8)
Purdue at Missouri (12/8)
Kentucky at Indiana (12/8)
Marquette at Wisconsin (12/8)
Seton Hall at Penn State (12/8)
Louisville at Purdue (12/15)
Florida at Ohio State (12/22)
Texas vs. Michigan State (12/22)

The Bowl Berths...
A record ten Big Ten teams were bowl eligible this year. Eight get to make trips somewhere other than home for the holiday's. The big coup was Illinois sliding up to the Rose Bowl, as predicted here. It's funny to listen to the national media blast the Rose Bowl officials for being "way to tied to tradition." That's laughable. Isn't the whole reasoning behind the bowls the tradition? You can't have it both ways.

At any rate, some solid match-ups for the Big Ten this bowl season. There will be cases where we get no love and others where we are sure to surprise. The first game for the Big Ten is 12/26 at the Motor City Bowl. That means picks for the last hurrah of Get Gamm 2007 are due by noon that day. Here are the games, with of course the national title game getting the nod as the tiebreaker.

Purdue vs. Central Michigan, Motor City Bowl - 12/26
Indiana vs. Oklahoma State, Insight Bowl - 12/31
Michigan State vs. Boston College, Champs Bowl - 12/28
Penn State vs. Texas A&M, Alamo Bowl - 12/29
Wisconsin vs. Tennessee, Outback Bowl - 1/1
Michigan vs. Florida, Capital One Bowl - 1/1
Illinois vs. USC, Rose Bowl - 1/1
Ohio State vs. LSU, BCS Title Game - 1/7 (Tiebreaker)

The ACC - Big Ten Challenge...
This is a great thing for college basketball. Something I look forward to every year. The trouble is, Michigan State is the only Big Ten team that has a winning record. No surprise then that the Big Ten has never won the challenge. This year, we took a severe beating. I hope it continues and that the league starts to show up for a change. It's tough when we always have to play the Rodney Dangerfield card. Kudos to Michigan State, Indiana and Penn State for taking care of business. But the rest of 'em? Ugh!

Michigan's next coach...
I love how many "rock solid" sources folks have these days. When even ESPN is screwing the pooch on announcements, you know that there are far more blow-hards than credible people in the business. As a State fan I find it interesting to watch the Michigan situation unfold. All the he said - she said and locks to be the next coach are entertaining to say the least.

Coming soon...
My bowl picks, my season in review and more.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Get Gamm - ACC v. B10 style...
Admittedly not enough time to do proper research and give these games just due. In Florida for business and time is at a premium.

So, without further ado...

Monday 11/26 - Wake Forest at Iowa
Iowa is good and scrappy and so is Wake Forest. Neither team has much to hang their hat on, but I like Big Ten teams at home. Iowa 63 - Wake 60

Tuesday 11/27 - Georgia Tech at Indiana
Indiana comes in madder than a wet hornet after Xavier smoked them in Chicago. The Ramblin' Wreck will be a nice test, but a young IU team learned its lesson. Indiana 78 - Tech 69.

Tuesday 11/27 - Minnesota at Florida State
Might be the ugliest game on the slate. Minnesota is better than I expected, but the 'noles are tough at home. FSU 74 - Minnesota 67.

Tuesday 11/27 - Northwestern at Virginia
This is a good UVA team and well, not such a good NU squad. Not much more to say. ACC evens the slate. UVA 74 - Northwestern 56.

Tuesday 11/27 - Wisconsin at Duke
Does Duke always play at home in this thing? The only unbeaten in the series, Wisconsin will give 'em a run for their money. But the Dukies are playing well right now and sneak out a nice W. Duke 73 - Wisconsin 68.

Tuesday 11/27 - Purdue at Clemson
Two teams that are full of potential. Clemson is probably further along though and at home. ACC gets a two game edge. Clemson 69 - Purdue 61.

Wednesday 11/28 - N.C. State at Michigan State
Michigan State blew it against UCLA and struggled with Oakland, but Neitzel should be 100% again and this game will have the Izzone's attention. NC State is game, but not game enough. Michigan State 72 - NC State 65.

Wednesday 11/28 - Illinois at Maryland
Illinois is a shade better than the Terps at this point, but road games in this series scare me. Going with league allegiance here and hoping the Illini don't let me down. Illinois 70 - Maryland 68.

Wednesday 11/28 - Boston College at Michigan
Two programs rebuilding. A real chance for Michigan to make a statement, but I'm not sold they can do it yet. B.C. 67 - Michigan 62.

Wednesday 11/28 - North Carolina at Ohio State
Probably the clincher. OSU is a good young team but good enough to beat a massively talented Tar Heels squad? Hansborough will go crazy in C-bus. UNC 83 - OSU 72.

Wednesday 11/28 - Virginia Tech at Penn State
Hmmm, interesting match-up. Penn State has talent and has a chance to be decent. VA Tech also has talent and more experience in "big" games. ACC seals the deal with another win begging the question, will the Big Ten ever win this contest? VA Tech 76 - PSU 64.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monday morning QB - on Tuesday afternoon...
Sorry for the late entry this week. Yes, I am still giddy with my Spartans for their big win over Penn State, but alas it is work that has kept me from the column. The days of partying over big wins for days on end stopped when I finally detoxed my liver after four years of cheap, flat beer way back in the mid 90s!

It was a thrilling weekend to cap an excellent Big Ten season. For starters, are you kidding me? TEN bowl eligible teams? Fantastic. Indiana goes up big, holds on and wins late over rival Purdue to seal a bowl game? Priceless. Michigan State goes down big early in the second half, wrestles back the lead and actually holds on late? Wow. Ohio State captures another Big Ten title by flat out owning the Wolverines all day - again? Superb. Minnesota gives Wisconsin all it can handle in an effort to salvage something this season? Admirable. Illinois rambles over Northwestern and stays in play for a BCS berth? Extraordinary. Finally, Western Michigan waltzes into Iowa and ruins Senior Day and maybe squashes bowl hopes? Improbable.

Yep, it was a great ending to top off what's been as exciting a season in the Big Ten as I can recall. The best part? It isn't over yet. There will be at least eight teams bowling, maybe more. Ohio State can still backdoor into the national title game. Illinois is hopeful that the BCS will come calling. Indiana goes bowling for the first time since 1993 - MSU the first time since 2003. It's all good in the Big Ten my friends, it's all good...

I'll do a team by team assessment/grade after the bowl games are officially announced. Suffice it to say that I had some teams pegged and others, well, not so much. Look for that in early December when we're in 'tweener season - between the bowls and meaningful basketball. Until then, a glance at where I think things will play out for each team:
  • Ohio State - another terrific season. The Bucknuts own Michigan right now. They've made Carr into Cooper. OSU needs help, but can still get to the title game. The Bucks have to root for either LSU or WVU to lose because Kansas and Mizzou still play each other and then in the B12 title game. My guess? BCS Title game.
  • Illinois - an incredible turnaround. Guess Ron Zook can also coach in addition to recruiting. Illinois needs help as well, but if OSU gets to the title game, I have to believe the Rose Bowl will be seeking a PAC 10 - Big Ten match-up anyway. My guess? Rose Bowl.
  • Wisconsin - another solid season. Mid-season swoon aside, the Badgers produced another very good season. A New Year's Day bowl is on the table again. Not what it might've been, but good enough. My guess? Capital One Bowl.
  • Michigan - bookend two game losing streaks. Not an ideal way for Lloyd Carr to go out, but let's face it, this was never anything close to a national title caliber team. Injuries doomed the Wolverines as did a defense that was shaky as best. For the maize and blue, who will coach next will be more fun than prepping for the bowl. My guess? Outback Bowl.
  • Penn State - not a bad effort by the Nits this year, but not what was expected. Lost to Michigan, Ohio State, Illinois and Michigan State and therefore, didn't really beat anyone (except Wisconsin). My guess? Alamo Bowl.
  • Michigan State - might the last two results be the turning points for a program that has been asleep too long? Time will tell, but the wins sure served notice and buoyed the Spartans from a trip to Detroit to somewhere warm. Great building blocks for next year and beyond. My guess? Champs Bowl.
  • Indiana - hat's off to the Hoosiers. A heart-warming story of a team winning one for Hepp. IU ends the league's longest bowl drought and gets its just reward. My guess? Insight Bowl.
  • Purdue - a hard, fast fall. From 7-2 to 7-5 in the blink of an eye. From the brink of BCS chatter to wait and see mode. The last three losses came to teams now ahead of them in the bowl pecking order and that relegates Purdue to the "can't win" bowl. A win is expected, a loss is an embarrassment. Can't win. My guess? Motor City Bowl.
  • Iowa - just when you thought Iowa was a lock. That's why they play the games. No one in their right mind (outside of K-zoo) thought that Iowa would lose at home to Western Michigan. But alas they did and now find themselves rooting desperately for Illinois to get into the BCS mix. Without that, forget it this year. With it, an at large comes calling. My guess? Las Vegas Bowl.
  • Northwestern - perhaps no team needed the seventh win more than Northwestern. Tossed into a pool of 6-6 teams fighting for maybe, maybe three at-large spots, NU is not nearly attractive enough to make the cut. Iowa will travel in droves. Alabama is the same. NU has something to build on for next year, but disappointment lingers. My guess? No bowl.
  • Minnesota - well, thank goodness this mess is over. I'll give you that the Gophers played a fair amount of close games and that it should bode well for next year, but man is that gap wide between last place and the four-way tie for seventh.

Players of the Week:
Offense - a ton of choices. From Beanie Wells to Zach Brown, Devin Thomas and more. But you gotta go with Juice Williams. 356 total yards (220 passing, 136 rushing) and three scores. Stellar - and only a sophomore.

Defense - Vernon Gholston from OSU. 4 TFLs, 3 sacks. Led a stifling defense that stymied Michigan all day long.

Special Teams - Austin Starr was a hero in a rivalry game, kicking two field goals - the last a lengthy game winner.

Get Gamm...
AndrewJ1313 sits atop the standings and by virtue of nailing the margin last week, gets to pick the bowls with me this season. This will be our last chance to move in the standings. Stay tuned for bowl announcements.

In the meantime, let's pick ACC - Big Ten challenge! It'll be our start for college hoops, which will go full time when league play tips off. In the meantime, get your picks in by the start of the challenge next week:

Monday 11/26 - Wake Forest at Iowa
Tuesday 11/27 - Georgia Tech at Indiana
Tuesday 11/27 - Minnesota at Florida State
Tuesday 11/27 - Northwestern at Virginia
Tuesday 11/27 - Wisconsin at Duke
Tuesday 11/27 - Purdue at Clemson
Wednesday 11/28 - N.C. State at Michigan State
Wednesday 11/28 - Illinois at Maryland
Wednesday 11/28 - Boston College at Michigan
Wednesday 11/28 - North Carolina at Ohio State
Wednesday 11/28 - Virginia Tech at Penn State

Friday, November 16, 2007

Get Gamm - Week 12 ...
It's here. The Big Ten season is full of rivalry games but there is no week as packed with them as this one. And the big one - Michigan vs. Ohio State - is for all the Big Ten marbles. It's been a tough week to find a minute to get these picks in, but that's given me plenty of time to think them over. Bowl lives and who goes where is at stake, so let's get right to it...

Ohio State at Michigan (Tiebreaker)
Northwestern at Illinois
Wisconsin at Minnesota
Purdue at Indiana
Penn State at Michigan State
Western Michigan at Iowa

Ohio State at Michigan
Let's get right down to it. This game - big shocker - is for the whole kit and caboodle. Winner smells the Roses. Loser is relegated to second run to the rival for a year. Ohio State has flat out owned the Wolverines since "The Vest" took over. He embraced this rivalry from day one and it has shown. Michigan is lucky at this point to have eight wins. Injuries have hurt, but so has the underachieving defense. Ohio State comes in stung by the loss to Illinois and is hungry to make it another happy ending. Hart and Henne are dinged, and even if they go, they'll be targets. I just don't see Michigan getting the win, even though it will be close. Ohio State 23 - Michigan 16.

Northwestern at Illinois
The 101st meeting for the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk is at stake and there is more than a trophy to be played for. Northwestern is bowl eligible but needs a win to guarantee a trip - or at least near guarantee one. Illinois is a win from playing on New Year's Day. A loss isn't a big killer but it would be a downer after the big upset win in C-bus. It'll be tight because Illinois might not yet know how to handle success like that earned last week. Illinois 31 - Northwestern 27.

Wisconsin at Minnesota
The battle for Paul Bunyan's Axe ensues in the Homer Dome. Minnesota can't close this season fast enough. Wisconsin is very much in the mix for a New Year's Day trip and wants to keep double digit wins (including a bowl game) in sight. Minnesota will be fired up to end on a positive but just doesn't have enough in the tank. Wisconsin 34 - Minnesota 23.

Purdue at Indiana
Another game, another trophy at stake. This one is the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket. Purdue has lost two straight and is teetering on the edge of an also ran bowl after coming into November on the cusp of a big, meaningful bowl. Indiana lost a heart-breaker at Northwestern and really needs a win to ensure a bowl berth. These teams can put up points and it should be a barn burner. I think IU gets the win that eluded them last week and puts Purdue in a precarious position. Indiana 37 - Purdue 35.

Penn State at Michigan State
The battle for the ugliest trophy in the Big Ten - The Land Grant Trophy - kicks off in East Lansing at 3:30 on Saturday. Penn State is like Wisconsin and Illinois - in the mix for a New Year's Day trip. Michigan State is like Indiana and Northwestern, as well as Iowa - in need of another win to feel safe. The Spartans have been oh so close all season long and finally got it done at Purdue last weekend, State's first road win over an opponent with a winning record in November since 1998. Penn State is riding high but leaves some troubled defenders at home. MSU takes back the trophy. Michigan State 30 - Penn State 26.

Western Michigan at Iowa
Boring. Iowa closes out a great season ending run, nails down a bowl berth and finishes strong. Iowa 28 - Western Michigan 8.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday morning QB ...
We have a handful of "firsts" to talk about this morning. The first is shocking and telling all the same: this is the FIRST time since 1959 that both Michigan and Ohio State enter their "game week" coming off a loss. For the math challenged, that is 48 years. WOW!

How about this one: the Big Ten has TEN bowl eligible teams. I haven't done the ad nausea research, but I have to believe that no other conference this size (11 teams) has done this before. The SEC also has ten, but has 12 teams. 90.9-percent of the conference is eligible for postseason play (83.3% in the SEC). That doesn't mean all ten will go to a bowl, but ten are eligible and that is quite an achievement and proves the overall balance in the league.

Continuing on the theme of firsts... MSU got its first conference road win over a team with a winning record during the month of November since 1998. No, that isn't a miss-print. Illinois won its first game over a top-ranked opponent since 1956 and its first on the road - ever. Penn State Coach Joe Paterno played - and beat - a former player (Temple Head Coach Al Golden) for the first time in his storied career.
  • Ohio State - ouch. The Buckeyes were in the driver's seat as far as the BCS Championship Game was concerned but that got flushed with the loss to Illinois. OSU can still head to Pasadena and win the outright conference title with a win over arch-rival Michigan.
  • Michigan - double ouch. It appears that the Wolverines played at Wisconsin for no reason other than because it was on the slate. Chad Henne played sparingly and Mike Hart not at all. Why? Michigan knew that no matter what, the OSU game was for all the marbles. Shady if you ask me...
  • Illinois - bravo. Coach Ron Zook recalled leaving the scene of the 40-2 beatdown in C-bus a few years ago with the credo that things would be very different on the next return trip. Good call. The Illini were solid all game long and proved that with sweat and hard work, you can turn around a dud given time.
  • Wisconsin - solid. It wasn't always pretty. It was probably closer than it should have been. But Wisconsin got a nice W over nemesis Michigan in Mad-town and is a win over lowly Minnesota from 9-3 and a likely New Year's Day bowl.
  • Penn State - yawn. 31-0 is always nice. But come on folks, this was Temple. Granted a much improved Temple but still, it was Temple. The Nittany Lions can get into the New Year's Day conversation with a win in East Lansing, but are more than likely looking at a mid-tier bid.
  • Purdue - unimpressive. Sorry Boiler fans, but your team doesn't excite me. The offense is potent but who has Purdue beaten this year? Even with a win in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket, Purdue's best hope is the Alamo Bowl.
  • Iowa - trudging through. Iowa has taken the momentum gained from the comeback win over Michigan State and turned it into bowl eligibility despite myriad injuries and other issues. The only knock on the Hawkeyes, who are as likely to get to seven wins as any of the four stuck on six is that they are bland and mighty beatable. Still, hard to pass up on a team that travels really well...
  • Northwestern - still alive. Just when it looked like Indiana had more or less sealed the fate of the Wildcats, they come through with another great comeback. Wipe out that ugly loss to Duke and this is a team looking to get to eight wins instead of seven. Illinois is a tall task this week and the 'cats are likely the least attractive of the bowl eligibles in the Big Ten.
  • Michigan State - impressive. The Spartans struck first, took everything Purdue could muster and finally closed out a fourth quarter lead. In time, this game could be the one that people point to as the turning point. Meantime, a win over Penn State is paramount if State wants to assure a bowl trip and also lessen the chances that the trip is mere miles down the road (Motor City Bowl).
  • Indiana - devastating. The loss to Northwestern may well be the one that stands between the Hoosiers and a bowl game. You know if it comes down to MSU and Indiana, the Motor City Bowl will take the Spartans. The collapse puts extra emphasis on the rivalry game with Purdue.
  • Minnesota - well... There isn't much to say. The Golden Gophers haven't hung it up as evidenced with the way they fought for the Floyd of Rosedale, but I've been saying it all season long - this just isn't a very good football team.

Players of the Week:
Offense - Juice Williams, QB - Illinois. Hard to argue with the Big Ten's pick this week. Juice beat the Buckeyes with his purported weakness - his arm - tossing four TD passes for the game. He sealed the deal with his strength - his legs - picking up many key first downs in a killer 8+ minute drive to end the game.

Defense - SirDarean Adams, LB - MSU. Adams made two critical interceptions and set up 10 of State's 17 points off of turnovers.

Special Teams - James Bailey, KR - Indiana. The wideout averaged over 40 yards per kick return, including one for a score in Indiana's heartbreaking loss at Northwestern.

Get Gamm:
No one got me this week as there were piles of .500 records for the week. St. Louis Jeff laid an egg that tightened up the race at the top with one regular season week and bowl game picking to go.

Ohio State at Michigan (Tiebreaker)
Northwestern at Illinois
Wisconsin at Minnesota
Purdue at Indiana
Penn State at Michigan State
Western Michigan at Iowa

Friday, November 09, 2007

Get Gamm - Week Ten ...
It's well-established that this race is all about NEXT weekend's OSU v. Michigan match-up. In the meantime, three Big Ten teams are trying to get to six wins and a few are trying to add to six or even seven and step up the end bowl result a notch. With time at a premium for me this week, let's get right down to it...

Indiana at Northwestern
Minnesota at Iowa
Michigan at Wisconsin (tiebreaker)
Michigan State at Purdue
Penn State vs. Temple (Philly)
Illinois at Ohio State

Indiana at Northwestern
Hang on to your hats, this could be a barn-burner. Both teams like to spread it out and can score at will. Neither has a particularly sound defense, though Indiana can get after the passer. IU is bowl eligible but might need one more to be on the safe side. NU needs at least one more and this appears to be the best shot. I like the 'cats to stay alive. Northwestern 38 - Indiana 37.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Indiana finally got their sixth win last week. They can very well keep adding to that total on Saturday with a trip to Evanston. This one could become a shootout (as many NW games are), but I'll still go with Indiana on the road. Indiana 31 - Northwestern 24

Minnesota at Iowa
Floyd of Rosedale is on the line when the Gophers head south to take on rival Iowa. The thing is, Minnesota just isn't a good football team and Iowa was buoyed by that win over MSU and is hungry to get to six wins. It will happen as the momentum carries over for a big Iowa win. Iowa 34 - Minnesota 13.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Iowa is looking to become the 8th Big Ten school to be bowl eligible. They'll get there this week playing the worst team in the league. Minnesota is just plain bad. They really haven't a good game all year (maybe NW). Iowa's defense will dominate. Iowa 24 - Minnesota 10

Michigan at Wisconsin
I know this is a Big Ten blog and all, and that I'm supposed to be objective. But I have to get if off my chest. I have NO respect for Mike Hart and I hate the Wolverines. That said, they have rebounded big time since the disastrous start and no matter what happens in Madison, have a shot at the Rose Bowl and Big Ten title. Wisconsin is hungry to avenge last year's only loss and wants to finish out strong. Going with the home crowd advantage in this one. Wisconsin 23 - Michigan 20.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Michigan is on a roll. Madison is a very tough place to play and after a demoralizing 4th quarter in Columbus, they'll be hungry against Michigan. I still think that Michigan is a touch better overall, so I think they'll pull off a win on the road with Henne and "little brother" Hart. Michigan 37 - Wisconsin 34

Michigan State at Purdue
MSU hasn't won in W-L since 1993. The Spartans are coming off yet another gut-wrenching, heart-breaking loss. Purdue got handled by Penn State but still had a shot at the win. The Boilers are playing for where they go, not if they go. State is fighting for its bowl life. If the Spartans can truly play angry, I can see a win. If not, it could be another trip down heartbreak lane. Going green here... Michigan State 30 - Purdue 28.

St. Louis Jeff says ... After three stinging losses, MSU has to go back on the road to face a tough Purdue team. MSU has been close all year in their losses, and unfortunately, I think they may be on the wrong side of another one this week. I hope they prove me wrong! Purdue 31 - Michigan State 28

Penn State vs. Temple
Yawn. Late season OOC game that means zilch. Temple is better than they've been but still should be no match for Penn State. The Nits still have thoughts of a January bowl dancing in their heads. Penn State 41 - Temple 13.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Penn State gets in a nice little scrimmage before heading to East Lansing next week. Penn State rolls. Penn State 35 - Temple 13

Illinois at Ohio State
This one could be interesting. Ohio State is two games from a second straight trip to the BCS title game. Michigan looms. But here sits Illinois - a team that has some nice wins to its credit this year. The thing is, OSU has such speed on defense that it negates Juice and Mendenhall. Illinois stays close early but it gets outlasted. Ohio State 33 - Illinois 14.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Illinois is having a fantastic year. They'll be going to a good bowl, and have losses to only Missouri (#7 in the country), at Iowa which is a tough place to play, and to Michigan. They will add to that loss total this week in Columbus. Ohio State is by far the best team in the country and will not lose at home. Ohio State wins going away. Ohio State 34 - Illinois 20

Monday, November 05, 2007

Monday afternoon QB ...
It is officially a two horse race to the finish for the Big Ten title. Illinois is the only team still within two games of the top, but cannot do better than a tie for second place. Several teams remain in the chase for bowl eligibility with seven already qualified and three on the brink. It was a weekend with some good football and epic plays but in the end, it still looks like this: Big Two, Little Nine.

Michigan held its spell on the Spartans by staging the third late game comeback win in the past four seasons. The common denominator in all three? Chad Henne. He was brilliant down the stretch with two pinpoint TD tosses to steal away a win from the desperate Spartans in the waning moments of the game. Meanwhile, Wisconsin stayed with Ohio State for three quarters before a late onslaught pushed the scarlet and gray to another impressive win. Those same Badgers and the aforementioned Illini are all that stand between the two meeting at 7-0 on November 17.

As for the rest, well ... Indiana finally got to the six-win mark and can breathe a little easier. Iowa got back to .500 with a late comeback and suddenly looks to be a seven win team. Penn State held off the potent Purdue offense long enough to get back to winning ways. Illinois hammered Minnesota - the one team the Spartans don't get that they so wish they did! NU, MSU and Iowa are perched at five wins, in a season where six might not be enough anyway. It all makes for an interesting last couple of weeks of the season...

  • Illinois - the Illini ran their record to seven wins and have a huge game at Ohio State this coming weekend. While out of the title hunt, a win would be enormous in terms of a final destination for bowl season.
  • Indiana - after several weeks of coming up short, the Hoosiers finally got to the six-win mark. The cream and crimson might need a seventh win, however, to actually garner an invitation. Northwestern and Purdue remain, both winnable, but equally as lose-able.
  • Iowa - the win over MSU sparked something in the Hawkeyes. Beaten and battered, the Hawkeyes have an easy road to two more wins and a bowl game. If any team deserves it, it might be Iowa.
  • Michigan - the Wolverines found a way against the Spartans - again - and won their sixth straight in the rivalry. Chad Henne has a magic when it comes to playing MSU. Wolverines fans hope that magic somehow appears against OSU for a change.
  • Michigan State - that's five losses this season, each by less than a TD. At the half, the Spartans looked left for dead but dominated the first 23 minutes of the second half. Unfortunately, the green and white haven't learned how to seal the deal and now are in a corner when it comes to bowl eligibility.
  • Minnesota - the Golden Gophers are just playing out the string. Two rivalry games remain but it seems like the maroon and gold has packed it in. Illinois ran roughshod on the Gophers at home. Tough first year for Coach Brewster.
  • Northwestern - with three i's to try and "dot" over the last three weeks of the season (Iowa, Indiana, Illinois), the Wildcats are down to two more chances to get to six wins. With only seven bowls (maybe eight) to go around, six wins might not be enough.
  • Ohio State - the Buckeyes continue to answer and need to do so for two more games to get back into the title game. Illinois will be no picnic but I'm telling you, I like this team more than I liked last year's - even with as loaded as that team was...
  • Penn State - the Nittany Lions are playing for destination now. Win two more to get to nine and Florida will come calling. Lose to lowly Temple and embattled Michigan State, and it might be Arizona at best. My guess is they will split the difference...
  • Purdue - the Boilers have yet to beat anyone this season. There is a bowl in the gold and black's future, but the next two - not unlike PSU - will go a long way in determining the final destination.
  • Wisconsin - see Purdue and Penn State. Wisconsin has a grand opportunity this weekend with Michigan coming to town. Win that and the Capital One Bowl is all but a certainty.

Players of the Week:
Offense - Kellen Lewis, QB - Indiana. 406 total yards. 354 passing with 4 TDs. He led IU to its sixth win - a first for the program since 1994.

Defense - James Laurinaitis, LB - Ohio State. 19 tackles, 2 for a loss. 1 sack. A fumble recovery. This guy is an animal.

Special Teams - Aaron Bates, P - Michigan State. He was the unsung hero of the first half against Michigan. Three punts downed inside the 10 - one on the one. A long of 67 yards.

Get Gamm...
St. Louis Jeff hit the jackpot with a perfect week and stands alone at the top. His three wins is tied with Bruce S with three picking weeks remaining.

Indiana at Northwestern
Minnesota at Iowa
Michigan at Wisconsin (tiebreaker)
Michigan State at Purdue
Penn State vs. Temple (Philly)
Illinois at Ohio State

A reminder that my Big Ten preview for basketball is live. A link can be found in the right nav at all times during the season.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Break for basketball...
Note: perhaps I should have waited another week. Read: MSU has its own Appalachian State.

Anyone who knows me or who has followed my former web site and now blog knows where my true sports love lies. College basketball. And no, it isn't just because my alma mater is usually in a free fall on the gridiron by now! I love the game. Can't get enough of it. I just wish I had the time to devote to my previews for hoops that I do for football. But alas, it's all about timing and with football in full swing and work busy, there just isn't the time to go as in-depth as I'd prefer.

That said, I did, as always, take the time to study each team, review their schedules, predict the entire Big Ten season, and for that matter, the entire season for each team in the greatest conference around. So, what follows is a snapshot of what I'd love to ramble on and on and on about but don't have the time for.

I expect great things for the conference this year, but a great divide between the good and the bad with little in between. Unlike the football side of things, there are several programs that will vie for a title in basketball but fewer who will make the postseason. No watered down Big Ten this year. Big boys versus the rest... Without further ado...


1 - Michigan State Spartans

OOC Projection: 12-1
Big Ten Projection: 15-3
Big Ten Tourney: Champs

Postseason: NCAA Tournament - Final Four
Total Record: 34-5

Comments: This team is flat out loaded. A team that had to rely on very little guard depth last year hit the jackpot with three guards in a highly ranked recruiting class. 10-12 players will battle for time, which means a return to the fervent pace that Tom Izzo prefers. If the freshmen can gel quickly, play defense to Coach Izzo's standards and the bigs continue to improve - look out. This could be a sleeper national title contender. Drew Neitzel is a legitimate Player of the Year contender and we saw last year that this bunch can defend. Look for the first Big Ten title since 2001 in E.L.

2- Indiana Hoosiers
OOC Projection: 11-2
Big Ten Projection: 14-4
Big Ten Tourney: Semi-finals
Postseason: NCAA Tournament - Sweet 16
Total Record: 28-8

Comments: It will be interesting to see if any of the recent off court issues (Assistant coach resigning as a part of yet another recruiting rules violation by Sampson and a recruit busted for cocaine) have a bearing on what could be Indiana's best season in years. The Hoosiers lost five players from last year's team but have reloaded with some NBA caliber talent - namely Eric Gordon. If DJ White can stay healthy and the new Hoosiers gel, this could be a big year in Bloomington.

T3 - Ohio State Buckeyes
OOC Projection: 10-3
Big Ten Projection: 13-5
Big Ten Tourney: Finals
Postseason: NCAA Tournament - 2nd Round
Total Record: 26-10

Comments: Talk about reloading. Thad Matta has to replace two lottery picks and three other key players from a team that lost in the national title game last April. There is a nice mix of veteran leadership to go with an influx of fresh blood that will have OSU right in the thick of things again this season. If Jamar Butler can provide the incredible leadership, poise and gamesmanship that will be missed with Mike Conley's departure, the Buckeyes will be a huge factor in the league race.

T3 - Wisconsin Badgers
OOC Projection: 9-3
Big Ten Projection: 13-5
Big Ten Tourney: Semi-finals
Postseason: NCAA Tournament - 2nd Round
Total Record: 24-10

Comments: Another contender that has to reload. Do you sense a theme? Teams all around the Big Ten - with the exception of Michigan State - lost some key cogs from last season. That can certainly be said about the Badgers, who lost its leading scorers (Alando Tucker and Kammron "don't call me Chris Rock" Taylor) and a defensive stopper (Jason Chappell). But don't shed any tears for Bo Ryan. His brand of basketball doesn't call for a superstar - even if Tucker was just that - and he may have one sitting on his roster anyway, in the person of Marcus Landry. Wisconsin will be a thorn in the side of everyone vying for the top slot. They always are...

5 - Illinois Fighting Illini
OOC Projection: 10-3
Big Ten Projection: 12-6
Big Ten Tourney: Quarterfinals
Postseason: NCAA Tournament - 2nd Round
Total Record: 23-11

Comments: It can be argued that Illinois has the best established, returning frontcourt in the Big Ten. The trouble is, will the backcourt produce? Guard Jamar Smith is suspended for the season and that doesn't help an already thin and traditionally (as of late) banged up corps of guards. Illinois will grind teams to their pace and while it is a safe bet that Coach Weber would rather have guys like the Head-Brown-Williams trio on the court, he'll take the laborious approach - especially if it means Ws. It won't be pretty, but Illinois will win its share of games the old-fashioned way - with stiffling defense.

6 - Purdue Boilermakers
OOC Projection: 10-3
Big Ten Projection: 10-8
Big Ten Tourney: Quarterfinals
Postseason: NCAA Tournament - 2nd Round
Total Record: 22-13

Comments: In the past, losing two big-time scorers and battle-tested seniors like Carl Landry and David Teague would relegate the old gold and black to the back of the pack. Not this time. Matt Painter is quietly bringing Purdue back to the top after a few years of suffering in West Lafayette. It helps tremendously that many so-called experts are putting his recruiting class into the same conversation as the one that Tom Izzo landed in East Lansing and Thad Matta in Columbus. This team has some grit returning and will get better as the season wears on and might be the surprise team of the conference when all is said and done.

7 - Penn State Nittany Lions
OOC Projection: 9-3
Big Ten Projection: 6-12
Big Ten Tourney: Quarterfinals
Postseason: NIT - 2nd Round
Total Record: 17-17

Comments: How long has Penn State been due to have a breakout season? A long, long time. In fact, so long that this may be the last shot that Coach Ed DeChellis has in State College. There are two stars in the lineup in Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley and the supporting cast might be as strong as it's been in years. But, can the team get over the hump? It can't get much worse than the 2-14 conference record a season ago. That's why the pressue is on this season. I think Penn State is going to get a few brow-raising wins, but lose its share of head-scratchers as well. In the end, will an NIT berth be enough to save the program from starting over - again?

T8 - Iowa Hawkeyes
OOC Projection: 9-3
Big Ten Projection: 5-13
Big Ten Tourney: Quarterfinals
Postseason: None
Total Record: 15-17

Comments: How's this for starters - Iowa has to replace two players from a very average team. Those players (Adam Haluska and Tyler Smith) combined to put up 35.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 6.2 apg and 2.9 spg. Oh and there is a new coach in Iowa City. It can be said, however, that the latter is a good thing - at least if you ask Hawkeyes fans. Steve Alford was never fully embraced at Iowa for one reason or another. But when new boss Todd Lickliter brings his Butler brand of basketball and turns a relative group of no names into a competitive team, watch the love fest begin. This will be a transition year, but I expect Iowa to surprise people at times throughout the season.

T8 - Michigan Wolverines
OOC Projection: 7-5
Big Ten Projection: 5-13
Big Ten Tourney: 1st Round
Postseason: None
Total Record: 12-19

Comments: Another team with a new coach, searching for a new, tougher identity. John Beilein is just the type of coach that can turn the Michigan program around. Tommy Amaker did yeoman's work in getting the maize and blue past the debacle that was the Brian Ellerbe era and moved the Wolverines out of the shadow of scandal, but never did get them over the hump. Beilein will bring a new style, one that worked in a blue collar sort of way at West Virginia. He has some talent to work with but a brutal OOC slate. Give it time and Michigan will be back in the mix. But U-M is at least a season away from being truly competitive in the conference.

10 - Minnesota Golden Gophers
OOC Projection: 8-4
Big Ten Projection: 4-14
Big Ten Tourney: 1st Round
Postseason: None
Total Record: 12-19

Comments: The biggest coup by any team - possibly in America - that had to go find a coach was Minnesota luring an embattled Tubby Smith away from Kentucky. Smith is a fantastic basketball coach with big time credentials. He knows how to run a spotlight program and has a real chance to build Minnesota basketball into something special. He inherits a rag tag roster of sorts but should have an immediate impact on their level of success. Give him a recruiting class or two and watch the Gophers rise up as well... it just won't happen this season.

11 - Northwestern Wildcats
OOC Projection: 6-4
Big Ten Projection: 2-16
Big Ten Tourney: 1st Round
Postseason: None
Total Record: 8-21

Comments: Coach Bill Carmody has been in Evanston for a while now, with nothing major to show for during his tenure. He's an excellent basketball mind but simply cannot get the type of horses needed to contend in the Big Ten. He often goes the eastern European route and gets some ballers, but his teams haven't been rugged enough to compete. This team was dealt at least a temporary blow as well when Kevin Coble took a leave to tend to his ill mother. Northwestern may prove me wrong, but my guess is that this might be Carmody's last stand in Evanston.

All Big Ten Team:
Drew Neitzel - G, Michigan State
Jamar Butler - G, Ohio State
Raymar Morgan - F, Michigan State
Marcus Landry - F, Wisconsin
D.J. White - F, Indiana

Player of the Year:
Drew Neitzel - G, Michigan State

Freshman of the Year:
Eric Gordon - G, Indiana

Coach of the Year:
Tom Izzo - Michigan State

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Get Gamm - Week Ten...
Time flies during football season, doesn't it? We're already in week ten of the college football season. Three weeks remain in Big Ten play and the two leaders have a tough stretch leading to what could be another classic head-to-head battle for all the marbles.

In the meantime, the schedule this week is meaty as well with a critical battle for two teams desperately seeking to go bowling (Iowa at Northwestern), as well as a match-up that will go a long way in deciding where two particular teams go for the holidays (Purdue at Penn State). Another team has perhaps its best shot at getting what has been an elusive sixth win (Indiana vs. Ball State) while one that recently got to six wants to make it a safe seven (Illinois at Minnesota).

The top two contests of the weekend take place in Columbus and East Lansing respectively and involve the two teams tied atop the Big Ten race. Wisconsin hopes to keep its slim title hopes alive with a huge road win at Ohio State, while the Buckeyes want to further cement their hold on the No. 1 ranking.

Michigan State wants (that verb doesn't do it justice) to end Michigan's five game win streak in the rivalry game AND get to the sixth win that has eluded them so painfully in each of the last three seasons. At the same time, Michigan wants to stay unbeaten in conference play to set up the Nov. 17 showdown with OSU.

All of it adds up to what should be another incredible week in the Big Ten. Lace 'em up, button the chin straps, we're in for a fun ride...

Iowa at Northwestern
Purdue at Penn State
Ball State at Indiana
Wisconsin at Ohio State
Michigan at Michigan State (Tiebreaker)
Illinois at Minnesota

Iowa at Northwestern
This is one game you don't want to sleep on in the Big Ten this weekend. Iowa is maybe the most banged up team in the nation right now, but suddenly have a ray of hope after the comeback win over Michigan State. Northwestern, meanwhile, has a good shot at getting to six wins while playing that banged up team in Evanston. Iowa gave up yardage in droves to the MSU aerial attack and CJ Bacher and the 'cats chuck it around more than just about anyone. This will be a tight contest, but despite the injuries, I see Iowa surging forward with some new found confidence and sneaking away with one on the road. Iowa 23 - Northwestern 21.

Bruce S says ... Iowa 31 Northwestern 28. Iowa has renewed vigor after a good win last Saturday. They'll have plenty of their fans at the game so it may have somewhat a home game feel to it. NW's spread offense will move the ball but will come up just short in points. Iowa will prevail in a game which many come down to whomever has the ball last might win.

Purdue at Penn State
This is the game that will decide if Purdue stays in the title hunt or is relegated "pack" status. So far, there are few indications that Purdue can win a game against a marquee opponent. The Boilers are 0-2 in both shots this year, including a whipping at the hands of Michigan - on the road. Penn State may be out of the race, but you can count on one thing - the Nittany Lions will not pack it in. Win out, get to nine victories and go someplace warm for the new year is PSU's mantra. I do think it will be close because the Nits spent a lot of energy in last week's defeat. But in the end, Purdue still can't get over the hump against one of the better teams they'll face this season. Penn State 27 - Purdue 20.

Bruce S says ... Purdue 34 Penn State 27 Penn State will be suffering from a hangover after last Sat's game. Purdue's offense will gladly take advantage of this a score just enough to get a big road win.

Ball State at Indiana
This is the game the Hoosiers have been waiting for... but as they say, be careful what you wish for. Ball State may not have beaten a BCS conference team - yet - but they came awfully close at Nebraska and stayed right in the game with Illinois last week. You know those are confidence builders. The thing about this one too is with so many Big Ten teams (10) very much in the hunt to become bowl eligible, one win might not do the trick. That makes this even bigger for IU. I think they shake the losing bug, rebuild some momentum and get that elusive sixth win. Indiana 31 - Ball State 23.

Bruce S says ... Ball State 20 Indiana 35 Indiana's offense will awaken against a pretty good MAC team and finally propel the Hoosiers forward to become bowl eligible.

Wisconsin at Ohio State
This is probably the biggest game on the slate this weekend, with apologies to the MSU - UM rivalry tilt. Wisconsin has rebounded nicely from a two-game October losing streak with two main ingredients - a power rushing attack and a smothering defense. What a coincidence to be playing a team that has been built on that all season long. Ohio State proved to the nation that it belongs atop college football with its pasting of Penn State in front of a blinding (white out), boisterous crowd. Now the scarlet and gray need to stay sharp as the home stretch is in sight. PJ Hill is good to go, but foot injuries have a way of biting you when you least expect it. I see the Buckeyes zoning in and dominating this game. Ohio State 30 - Wisconsin 12.

Bruce S says ... Wisconsin 13 Ohio State 34 The Buckeyes can almost smell the BCS championship game invitation right now. They seem to be clicking on all 8 cylinders right now. An up & down Badger team will not deter this OSU team from reaching its goal.

Michigan at Michigan State
Ahh, the battle for The Paul Bunyan Trophy. A rivalry whose bitterness isn't as known outside of Michigan as it should be. I know, I live it. Wolverines and Spartans may live in apparent harmony most of the year, but trust me, when game week arrives, we hate each other. For this one, I am going to put on my homer hat. MSU is due to beat the Wolverines who have somehow, very nicely managed to win seven straight (not to mention five straight in the series). Hart and Henne may be starting, but shoulder injuries on QBs and bum ankles on RBs have a way of flaring up at inopportune times. State was stung by yet another "typical State" loss last weekend, but has been pointing to this one since Mark Dantonio came aboard. Michigan's title hopes take a major blow... Michigan State 31 - Michigan 30.

Bruce S says ... Michigan 35 Michigan State 24 With Hart & Henne expected to play, Michigan's offense will be too much for a suspect Spartan defense, which seems to be wilting in the second halves of its games. The potent Spartan offense will not be able to match Michigan's output. Thus, Michigan State will only come close once again to getting over the hump.

Illinois at Minnesota
This one has "trap game" written all over it. Minnesota is not good. Not good at all. But to the Gophers' credit, they fight hard every week. Minnesota has been close several times this season and played a solid first half at Michigan last weekend. Illinois might get caught enjoying its sixth win, achieved last week against Ball State. The Illini were far from sharp in that contest and have been off kilter for a few weeks now. I'm not going to predict the upset, but I'll be the first to tell you that it is more likely to happen than you think. Illinois 34 - Minnesota 27.

Bruce S says ... Illinois 38 Minnesota 14 The Illini will coast in this one. Illinois has too much to play for to let a down trodden Gopher team get in its way. Zook will have this team ready to play. Minnesota gets a late score to avoid a complete embarrassment.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Monday Morning QB ...
It is very clearly a two-horse race to the finish in the Big Ten race. Yes, Wisconsin, Purdue and Illinois are all technically alive, but I'm here to tell you, Ohio State won't lose more than one time the rest of the way. The key is where that loss takes place - if at all - and how Michigan fares as it hits its most brutal stretch of the season (at MSU, at Wisconsin, vs. OSU). Sorry rest of the conference, but like I said last week, this two or three year run is a little throwback to the 1970s - i.e. it's all about the scarlet and gray & maize and blue.

So what about the rest of the conference? Well, only one of the four that were vying to get a sixth win and bowl eligibility did so - Illinois. The other three wait another week and meanwhile, Iowa stayed alive. Can you imagine? The Big Ten could have as many as ten bowl eligible teams. TEN! My prediction is that it will happen. But unless a few bowls are lacking a team due to eligibility issues within their conference ties, two of the ten could be staying home...

Outside of the Big Ten - if you didn't see this ending, it is MUST-SEE!

Time for the weekly team by team, this time with Bowl Predictions:
  • Ohio State - statement win in Happy Valley on Saturday night. That place was a mad house on TV - can't imagine what it was like to be there. The Buckeyes have Wisconsin this weekend, followed by Illinois and Michigan. Suddenly this team looks better to me than last year's. Prediction - 12-0 (8-0), BCS Title Game
  • Michigan - the Big House was deathly silent as Minnesota waltzed to a 10-0 lead, but then the future of Michigan football took over. Mallett, Manningham, Minor and Brown ruled the second half and Michigan cruised to its seventh straight W. It gets immediately and progressively tougher each of the next three weeks. Prediction - 8-4 (6-2), Capital One Bowl.
  • Purdue - the Boilers are mighty tough, as long as Michigan and Ohio State aren't the opponent. What it means is that the gold and black are looking at a decent bowl bid with a nice final record. Penn State is a wounded opponent that could have a hang-over, but from there, the schedule gets a little easier. Prediction - 9-3 (5-3), Outback Bowl
  • Wisconsin - the Badgers have a chance to get right in the BCS berth mix with back-to-back contests against the leaders - Michigan and Ohio State. But, with PJ Hill dinged up, I just don't see it happening. Prediction - 8-4 (4-4), Champs Sports Bowl
  • Illinois - the Illini are in good shape. Two very winnable games remain sandwiched around a chance to send a message to No. 1 OSU. Illinois is young and sometimes fragile, but should get to a nice game this postseason. Prediction - 8-4 (4-4), Insight Bowl
  • Penn State - the Nittany Lions have to get right and quick. Purdue and Michigan State remain (as well as Temple) and there is still a lot to be played for. I see one slip up the rest of the way. Prediction - 8-4 (4-4), Alamo Bowl.
  • Indiana - the Hoosiers have been stuck on five wins for three weeks now. Ball State is the best remaining chance to get over the hump, thought the NU game could be the true bowl elimination game for both teams. Prediction - 6-6 (2-6), No Bowl.
  • Northwestern - The Wildcats have two of the last three at home and probably need to win two to go bowling if for no other reason, because MSU will be more attractive to the Motor City Bowl than either the 'cats or Hoosiers. Prediction - 6-6 (3-5), No Bowl.
  • Iowa - The Hawkeyes got new life with the come back win over the Spartans. Three winnable games remain and it might take all three to make a bowl. Prediction - 7-5 (4-4), Armed Forces Bowl
  • Michigan State - the Spartans were stung by Iowa in the process likely saw any hopes for a bowl berth outside of Michigan fade away. The Motor City Bowl is not what anyone in green and white wants, but hey, beggars can't be choosers. Prediction - 7-5 (3-5), Motor City Bowl.
  • Minnesota - well on its way to 1-11, the Gophers did put up a fight for a half at Michigan. Can be a spoiler with games remaining against Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. Prediction - 1-11 (0-8).

Players of the Week:
Prediction - look for someone that plays for Michigan to get a nod next week as five of MSU's opponents have garnered POTW honors from the Big Ten after playing against the Spartans.

Offense: OSU QB Todd Boeckman. Hard to argue against the pick by this week. Boeckman was in control and sharp all night long in a big win for the Bucks.

Defense: Purdue secondary. Held CJ Bacher, previously white hot, to 209 yards and a 50-percent completion percentage while picking off three passes.

Special Teams: Iowa Punter Ryan Donahue. An 82-yarder. An average of 51.6 yards per punt. Critical in Iowa's comeback as he fueled the field position game.

Get Gamm:
Most everyone nailed five of six for the week, but only BruceS thought OSU would have the easy time they did in Happy Valley. The race for the top is tight, with three regular season weeks to play and bowl season too boot.

Iowa at Northwestern
Purdue at Penn State
Ball State at Indiana
Wisconsin at Ohio State
Michigan at Michigan State (Tiebreaker)
Illinois at Minnesota

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Get Gamm - Week Nine...
Can you believe that we are already to the final weekend in October? After Saturday, three-quarters of the regular season for college football will be in the books. Man time flies! Maybe that's because it has been such an amazing season. Upsets have been the rule, not the exception. The Big Ten hasn't been immune, yet has nine teams with real shots at bowl eligibility. Not bad for a league that continually gets hammered by the media as being weak and overrated.

This week sees one huge battle and some other key games. The big one takes place in State College where the Buckeyes are looking to stay on top of college football. A slip up gives Michigan a sudden inside track because the Wolverines can play this week without Henne, Hart and Manningham and still crush Minnesota. Several other teams are fighting for that sixth win and jockeying for bowl position. Don't turn away, it is just another in a long line of meaningful weekends in the Big Ten...

Ball State at Illinois
Purdue at Northwestern
Michigan State at Iowa
Indiana at Wisconsin
Minnesota at Michigan
Ohio State at Penn State (Tiebreaker)

Ball State at Illinois
A quick glance and you might think that this is just what the doctor ordered for a young Illini team that has been stung in consecutive games and brought back to earth. But if you look past Ball State, the'll bite you. Just ask Nebraska, who got lucky to beat the Cardinals at home in September. Illinois is on its heels but can get that magical sixth win with still plenty to play for. I see a sluggish start for the orange krush, but in the end, the Illini have too many playmakers and too much hunger to get this opportunity slip by. Illinois 27 - Ball State 20.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Is Ball State a charter member of the Big Ten? Two road games against Illinois and Indiana might make one think so. Illinois looks to get back to their winning ways this week against Ball State. Ball State almost pulled a shocker on the road at Nebraska earlier, but I think Illinois will get the better of them this week. After losing to Michigan last week, Illinois will get back on track with a win against another MAC school. It might be close for a while, but Illinois pulls away in the end. Illinois 38 - Ball State 24

Purdue at Northwestern
I've taken heat from Boilermakers fans every summer that I've preseason predicted a Northwestern win over the gold and black. This wasn't one of them, but I have to admit, my tune is changing. The Wildcats are better than I expected (Duke loss be damned) and on a bit of a roll right now. A win here makes the streak four and gets NU to six wins. Purdue got back on track last week with a blowout win over Iowa. I'm more than a little torn here. The offenses could both go wild in this game. That means it might come down to special teams play. And even those statistical categories are about neck and neck when you take in the big picture. Time to flip a coin... Northwestern has more to play for and gets a big win. Northwestern 33 - Purdue 31.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Northwestern is another one of those teams looking to become bowl eligible. Unfortunately, they are playing Purdue. Purdue's offense looked to be back in true form last week against Iowa. Northwestern is giving up 30 ppg (that's even with a shutout). Not a good combination. Purdue goes t0 7-2. Purdue 35 - Northwestern 21

Michigan State at Iowa
The Spartans are one of four teams trying to get to six wins this weekend. Playing on the road in the Big Ten is never, ever easy and Iowa has posed a problem for the Spartans in Iowa City for years. State's last win in Kinnick came in 1989. To put that in perspective - my picking com padre St. Louis Jeff and I were sophomores ... IN HIGH SCHOOL ... at the time! One thing is for sure, MSU is playing tough, win or lose this season. Iowa? Not so much. The Hawkeyes have been abysmal on offense all season long and though teams have a knack for getting healthy against the MSU defense, most of that was during the JLS era when defense didn't seem to matter. MSU has a bright stretch ahead of it, Iowa does not as there is no way the black and gold win three of four to go bowling... Michigan State 24 - Iowa 16.

St. Louis Jeff says ... I recently read an article on Coach Dantonio saying they have been talking about the "b" word (bowl). Well, looking at their remaining schedule, this may be MSU's best chance of reaching bowl eligibility. I know they haven't won in Iowa since I was in high school (1989), but this MSU team has a real shot this weekend. They showed that they don't quit last week against OSU (which has been lacking on the latest MSU teams). That same article mentioned that losses to below-500 teams has kept MSU out of bowls in recent memory. Iowa is always tough at Kinnick Stadium, but their offense (15 ppg) is as bad as the St. Louis Rams (11 ppg). I see MSU getting bowl eligible on the road this weekend. Michigan State 31 - Iowa 23

Indiana at Wisconsin
Is the third time the charm for the Hoosiers? IU started the season at 5-1 and in two opportunities to get bowl eligible have not fared too well. There was the debacle in East Lansing followed by a fumbled (literally) opportunity at home against Penn State. Wisconsin snapped its two game losing streak with a crushing win over Northern Illinois but has to be fearful of a fast and dangerous QB as that has been their Achilles Heel of late (read, Illinois game). Wisconsin blasted IU in Bloomington last year, but a very Kellen Lewis-like QB by the name of Antwaan Randle El led the Hoosiers to a big win (63-32) in Madison six years ago. Wisconsin just doesn't lose that often at home and won't get caught looking ahead to OSU. Wisconsin 31 - Indiana 21.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Indiana had a chance last week to get that elusive sixth win, but ultimately fell short against Penn State. Wisconsin got exactly what they needed...a win (albeit against lowly Northern Illinois). I think Indiana might have to wait until next week's game against Ball State to get their sixth win. It will be closer than some might think, but Wisconsin takes this one. Wisconsin 34 - Indiana 20

Minnesota at Michigan
I'm going to save some breath here. Sorry Minnesota, but you dumped a coach that had led you to success and now you must ride out the transition. The Gophers have lost to powerhouses such as Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green and 1-AA North Dakota State while barely beating Miami-OH for its only win. Michigan can rest all of its stars for the rivalry game with MSU next week and still win by 20-plus points. Michigan 41 - Minnesota 14.

St. Louis Jeff says ... I gave Minnesota the benefit of the doubt last weekend and thought they just might be able to pull out a win against NDSU. No more. Minnesota is just plain bad. To lose to Florida Atlantic, NDSU and BGSU and get lucky against Miami (OH)...unthinkable. We're talking about a Big Ten school. Michigan is back in the picture after their horrible start. Look for a laugher. Michigan 45 - Minnesota 10

Ohio State at Penn State (Tiebreaker)
No doubt, the Game of the Week. Night games in Happy Valley are something else. The place will likely pull off a white out - something to behold on TV let alone in person. These teams match up well and I think it is going to be a defensive struggle. Two of the best linebackers in the land will match wits - James Lauranitis and Dan Connor. The QBs are very similar. The WR corps the same. OSU has a tough ride in to stay on top and it starts at Penn State. That said, the difference is the ground game. The Buckeyes have an edge and more depth and that is how they will win this game. Ohio State 16 - Penn State 9.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Easily the game of the week in the Big Ten. In prime time Ohio State takes on Penn State up in Happy Valley. OSU had the game in hand last week, then got a little sloppy which made the score closer than it really was. Penn State went on the road and beat a decent Indiana team. OSU's defense is just playing out of their minds. Penn State is on a roll right now. At night...that darn lion roar...the's going to be a really tough test for OSU, but in the end I see them pulling it out. Ohio State 28 - Penn State 24

Monday, October 22, 2007

Monday afternoon QB...
Does this feel like the 1970s or what? I was just a kid in the 70s (born in '73) but a peek back in time reminds me that for a decade, two teams ruled the roost in the Big Ten - Ohio State and Michigan. It feels an awful lot like that again this season (last year too). The teams stand alone, unscathed at the top, two games clear of the nearest competition.

The Big Ten is however, getting ZERO national respect this year. Many feel OSU will be the next giant to fall from the top. Michigan did lose to a 1-AA team and got hammered in week two as well, so that doesn't help. Meanwhile, prior to this past Saturday, perennial doormats Illinois and Indiana were still a big part of the conference race. So, while on one hand I can see where the disrespect comes from, I still think it has as much to do with overall infatuation with the SEC, their gorgeous women and thunderously loud night-time crowds.

Let them look past the Big Ten. What they might miss is the best defense I have seen on TV or in person - maybe ever. Yes, Ohio State's defense is that good and yes, I think it is better than the one the national title team fielded back in 2002. They'll also miss a Michigan team that is finding a way to get things done, despite an array of bumps, bruises and in some cases, much more serious injuries. They'll look past the fact that Illinois, Indiana and Michigan State are simply getting better and not that the league is just mediocre. I say, let 'em do it.

The Big Ten will get a chance to prove its worth (and me right) come bowl season. For starters... there are five teams eligible and four one game away. Might the B10 send nine bowling this year? That very well may happen indeed...
  • Illinois - the Illini blew a tremendous chance to prove they are totally back. Self-inflicted destruction kept the orange and blue from a season-making win.
  • Indiana - the Hoosiers have come crashing back to earth the past two weeks. IU was much better against PSU than MSU but fumbled (4 times) away its chance to get a marquee win.
  • Iowa - yikes! The Hawkeyes are bad on offense. Really bad. Iowa may only have one more "sure" win on the slate - a rivalry date with Minnesota.
  • Michigan - just when you thought the Wolverines were dead, the maize and blue extended an impressive streak at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. They haven't lost there since 1983!
  • Michigan State - the Spartans fought hard in Columbus but found out first hand how good the OSU defense is. State is improved, but needs to show it in a key trip to Iowa City this weekend.
  • Minnesota - I don't wanna say I told you so (against NDSU) but, I told you so. This is not a good football team. The defense is as bad as I've seen in years and the offense is still in growth mode. 1-11 is very, VERY realistic.
  • Northwestern - don't look now but the Wildcats have won three in a row. Think they might still be kicking themselves over the loss to Duke as they sit one win away from a bowl?
  • Ohio State - best Buckeyes defense I've seen. The difference between this version and 2002 is that the offense seems to be on more solid footing. Is a repeat trip to the title game possible? You bet. Maybe even likely.
  • Penn State - a nice road win for the Nits at Indiana. The defense rose up and the offense was sound. Good timing to be firing on all cylinders with OSU coming to Beaver Stadium.
  • Purdue - Iowa was just what the doctor ordered for Purdue. Still not convinced that the Boilers are a great team, but they can be very good with a chance to get a few more quality wins down the stretch.
  • Wisconsin - see Purdue. NIU was just what a wounded Wisconsin team needed. Particularly with a brutal two game stretch coming up (OSU and U-M sandwiched between Indiana and Minnesota).

Players of the Week:
Offense: Chris "Beanie" Wells, TB - OSU. Wells nailed the Spartans' coffin shut, picking up three first downs late to salt away a win. Oh yeah, he also racked up 221 yards on the ground.

Offense: James Hardy, WR - IU. 14 catches, 2 scores, 142 yards against PSU.

Defense: Maurice Evans, DE - PSU. The guy was a stats machine. 6 tackles, 4.5 TFLs, 3.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 PBU and 1 fumble recovery.

Special Teams: Kevin Kelly, PK - PSU. 3-3 on field goals in a 5-point PSU win over IU.

Get Gamm:
Plenty of 6-1 records for the week - 7 to be exact. However, most called for an OSU blowout of MSU. FWIW, I nearly nailed that score and picked the NDSU upset but got burned by two home teams - Illinois and Indiana. The winner in back-to-back fashion was St. Louis Jeff. Jeff picked the Bucknuts by 4 and was closest to the 7-point final margin.

Ball State at Illinois
Purdue at Northwestern
Michigan State at Iowa
Indiana at Wisconsin
Minnesota at Michigan
Ohio State at Penn State (Tiebreaker)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Get Gamm - Week Eight...
The Big Ten race really figures to crank up a level this weekend, despite only four head-to-head match-ups (three teams finish up their OOC slates). Illinois has a chance to stay in the race or start to fade to the pack when Michigan comes in for a prime time battle that will have Champaign rocking. Michigan State isn't in the race per se, but can upset the apple cart with an upset of No. 1 ranked Ohio State. Iowa is trying to fight for its bowl lives - needing three wins in five games to get there. The Hawkeyes' opponent - Purdue - desperately needs to get back to winning after two rather large duds in a row. Finally, Penn State travels to Indiana. While winning the league crown may be a long shot for either squad, a win would go a long way in the race to get to the more prominent bowl bids.

Out of conference, the MAC gets two more shots at the Big Ten and Minnesota has the unenviable task of taking on hungry and unbeaten 1-AA foe North Dakota State. Recall, the Bison nearly upset a much better Golden Gophers team last year and already dismantled one of the MAC leaders - Central Michigan - earlier this season.

All in all it makes for another interesting weekend. Seven teams are within one win of bowl eligibility. Another pair are two wins away. This weekend will go a long way in determining who goes somewhere for the holidays and who stays home...

Northwestern vs. Eastern Michigan (at Ford Field, Friday)
North Dakota State at Minnesota
Northern Illinois at Wisconsin
Michigan at Illinois
Penn State at Indiana
Iowa at Purdue
Michigan State at Ohio State (Tiebreaker)

Northwestern vs. Eastern Michigan (Ford Field, Friday 10/19)
Call this a pre-Motor City Bowl battle, although one team for sure won't be there (EMU). Still, it is being contested at Ford Field, on a day other than Saturday and pits the two tied-in conferences head to head. For Eastern, it is a chance to take a step up. For Northwestern it is a chance to get within a game of a bowl bid. It is one that the Wildcats can't take for granted, as EMU battled Michigan decently a few weeks ago. I like the way Bacher is playing. Maybe the defense can finally ratchet things up a notch... Northwestern 38 - Eastern Michigan 28.

St. Louis Jeff says ... After two thrilling victories, Northwestern can finally breathe a sigh of relief when they step on the field against Eastern Michigan. Northwestern's offense should have no trouble with Eastern in one of three very easy (should be) non-conference games for the Big Ten this week. C.J. will have a field day against a defense giving up an average of 30 PPG. Northwestern 48 - Eastern Michigan 21

North Dakota State at Minnesota
Hmmm, what to do, who to pick. Minnesota has been in a lot of games this year but simply cannot close the deal. NDSU is unbeaten, was a blocked field goal from the upset last year and has already knocked around a 1A foe (CMU). I really like the evolution of the Golden Gopher offense but the defense is not as good as the one my rocket football team fields. And, I don't like a coaching decision like the two-point conversion try before it was necessary in last week's loss. All of that adds up to another loss for the maroon and gold. North Dakota State 33 - Minnesota 31.

St. Louis Jeff says ... (See above about easy non-conference game) This is going to be a great game...oh wait, we're talking football aren't we? I thought this was a hockey game at first. Minny should have no problem with ND State. Minnesota 35 - NDSU 7

Northern Illinois at Wisconsin
This is an uncharacteristic down year for the NIU Huskies but you won't hear Wisconsin complaining. The Badgers are actually lucky to be 2-2 in the conference and only riding a two-game losing streak. Why? The Iowa and MSU wins could have easily gone the other way. This is a chance for the Badgers to get right and get back to winning. It helps that PJ Hill can get a rest when at home because Lance Smith - who isn't allowed to travel with the team due to off-field issues - is available. The Huskies hung with Iowa in the opener but that was a neutral site game against a far less imposing offense. Wisconsin 34 - Northern Illinois 10.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Wisconsin looks to right the ship after two games they prefer not to remember. It's good then that they have Northern Illinois coming into Madison this weekend. No contest in another easy non-conference game on the Big Ten schedule this week. Wisconsin 38 - Northern Illinois 10

Michigan at Illinois
My how far the Illini have come. Despite the loss to Iowa, the Illini are right in the Big Ten title mix and have a huge opportunity to score another epic home win. Michigan is the third straight ranked opponent to visit Champaign and a win would here would mean more to the program than the Penn State and Wisconsin wins - combined. The Wolverines seemed to have gotten back on track, and played their best game - by far - in a romp over Purdue last weekend. Still, there is a great chance that Mike Hart will have reduced effectiveness due to an ankle injury and there is the fact that Illinois fields a mobile QB. Illinois won't win the Big Ten this year, but it will win this game and be a factor in the race. Illinois 27 - Michigan 23.

St. Louis Jeff says ... In what should be one of the two best games in the Big Ten this week, Michigan looks to keep their momentum on the road in Champaign. After coming back to earth last week in it's loss to Iowa, Illinois has a very tough test at home this week. While Illinois has taken many steps in their recovery from the last few seasons, I think Michigan will squeak out a close one on the road. Michigan 28 - Illinois 24

Penn State at Indiana
In year's past, this would be a definite "so-what" game. Not this time. Both teams are 5-2, 2-2 and seeking to not only hang on in the Big Ten race (I still say 6-2 wins it) but are also looking to sew up bowl eligibility. Penn State is so different as a team away from Beaver Stadium than at home that it isn't even funny. Indiana is still trying to develop a home field edge. The Hoosiers got stung hard in East Lansing last weekend while the Nittany Lions trounced Wisconsin. The PSU defense is tough, the IU offense has a lot of weapons. It really comes down to who can make more plays. Sounds cliche, even sort of stupid, but that's what the game is about. I think Penn State will continue to struggle on the road in what will be an instant classic. Indiana 38 - Penn State 37.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Usually this one would fall under a blowout (easy prediction). Penn State has won two straight after their two close losses against Michigan and Illinois. They completely blew away Wisconsin up in Happy Valley, and while Indiana has stepped it up this year, I don't see them getting that magical sixth win this week. Penn State 31 - Indiana 21

Iowa at Purdue
The Hawkeyes got a much-needed shot in the arm last week with a late stand and upset win over Illinois (that just doesn't sound right). Purdue is reeling in all facets of the game after two straight duds against the big boys (OSU and U-M). Iowa has a rock solid defense and proved last week that it can stop a talented offense. Purdue is in a funk, but due to snap out of it ... at least I think they are. If the game was in Iowa City, I would lean towards the Hawkeyes. But I think the Boilermakers are ready to snap to and get back on track. Purdue 23 - Iowa 14.

St. Louis Jeff says ... Iowa comes to W. Lafayette this week hoping to keep it's momentum from their win over Illinois. Purdue is hoping to get things back on track after their games with Michigan and Ohio State. Being back at home should help Purdue get back on a winning streak. Purdue 38 - Iowa 17

Michigan State at Ohio State (tiebreaker)
I promise you this - MSU fans everywhere are hearkening back to two dates in history - 1974 and 1998. The commonality? Unranked Spartans teams stunned No. 1 rated Buckeye squads. MSU is playing with that "we're NOT the same 'ol Spartans" chip on its shoulder right now and has nothing to lose and everything to gain. But it isn't as if Tressel's team hasn't been here before. Ohio State has won 25-straight regular season contests and the 'shoe is one tough place to play. The key for MSU will be to have early success. The key for OSU is to continue to get other-worldly play from a defense that leads the nation. Big Ten's best O vs. Big Ten's best D. I like MSU's chances to score the upset, but when in doubt, defense wins games... Ohio State 24 - Michigan State 16.

St. Louis Jeff says ... In my humble un-biased opinion (GO GREEN!), easily the best game of the week. No one is going to give MSU a chance (except probably Andy!) to go into Columbus and upset the top-ranked Buckeyes. They did it before, and while it will be a great game, I think in the end, Ohio State and it's home fans will take home a win. I think MSU keeps it close throughout the game though, and don't see a blowout like some of the so-called experts may think. Ohio State 35 - Michigan State 31