Thursday, September 20, 2007

Get Gamm - Week Four
Ernie - aka mayo170 - took the honors last week with a very nice 9-2 record. He was the only one who picked the Hawkeyes to take it on the chin in Ames and otherwise missed on games the rest of us failed to pick correctly.

For ten Big Ten teams, conference play starts so let the wide-open league race begin. My how different things look after three weeks than they did as I wrote my previews...

Illinois at Indiana (Noon) - Tiebreaker
Northwestern at Ohio State (3:30)
Penn State at Michigan (3:30)
Michigan State at Notre Dame (3:30)
Iowa at Wisconsin (7:oo)
Purdue at Minnesota (8:00)

Illinois at Indiana
For the past several years this one was a battle of futility. The winner got to grab solid hold of tenth place and avoid the very bottom of the rung. That was then. Now we've got a game with some intrigue. Enough so that I have made it the tiebreaker. This contest is HUGE - yes, even at this point in the season - in terms of what it means for bowl eligibility. Both teams field impressive young quarterbacks and some turn-your-head receivers. The difference may be that the Illini are a bit more tested and have more defensive play-makers. Give it another year and this one may be more than for a bowl berth, it may factor into the Big Ten race! Indiana rides the home field, but barely: Indiana 27 - Illinois 24.

Ernie says ... Both teams are showing signs of life after several years of misery. Though Illinois seems to be putting things together nicely under Zook, Indiana has home field, along with the possibility of coach Lynch making history as the Hoosiers can improve to 4-0 for the first time under a first-year coach. I really like the Hoosiers to start the Big Ten season with a win, 23-19.

Northwestern at Ohio State
Just when I thought the Wildcats might be turning a corner, they go and lay an egg against hapless Duke. The Blue Devils snapped a 22-game losing streak on Northwestern's home turf - ouch! Meanwhile, the Buckeyes really impressed me with a resounding road win against a good Washington team. Ohio State is winning with defense while the offense gels. Northwestern got lucky to beat Nevada, then lost to Duke. I don't think the men in purple have a prayer unless they play the perfect game. Ohio State 34 - Northwestern 10.

Ernie says ... Northwestern started the season off right, reeling off two victories, but boy does the loss to Duke sting. Ohio State is right back where they left off, winning game after game. Northwestern is dangerous when they are allowed to hang around in games, but Ohio State’s defense is so adept at making adjustments on the fly and moving to the ball, I don’t see any way the Wildcats pull an upset here. Ohio State takes their first Big Ten win in the 2007 season 31-10.

Penn State at Michigan
Might JoePa finally get a long - and that's an understatement - awaited victory over nemesis Michigan? Since joining the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions are 3-9 against the maize and blue. The last PSU win over Michigan? 1996 in Ann Arbor. To put that in perspective, the freshmen on this year's team were 7 or 8 years old then! Granted, it isn't like the dominant stretch is full of Michigan run-aways wins. The last three (2006, 2005 and 2002) are by a combined 12 points and the last one in Ann Arbor came on a semi-controversial last play of the game. At any rate, the past is past. Penn State is a better football team right now than Michigan. Chad Henne is still dinged up. Michigan is still stinging from losses to Appalachian State and Oregon despite a hollow blow-out win over lowly Notre Dame. Penn State hasn't played anyone of note and struggled with Buffalo. It'll be better than some might expect, but Penn State keeps the pressure on Lloyd Carr. Penn State 27 - Michigan 13.

Ernie says ... If you ask me, this is one of the toughest calls of the week. There is so much going on in the minds of both Michigan and Penn State, it’s a difficult one to figure out logically. Michigan needs to win now, but are they capable? Penn State hasn’t really played anyone, and they haven’t beaten the Wolverines since JoePa was middle-aged. Fortunately or unfortunately for Michigan it’s at home. I’m not sure that Michigan is going to hold on with this one. Penn State takes down Michigan 31-28.

Michigan State at Notre Dame
This one has long been a friendly rivalry. Notre Dame was instrumental in helping State build its national stature, the two played in the famed 10-10 tie in 1966 ... the list goes on and on. Things haven't been nearly as chummy of late - flag plantings, trophy with-holding, false accusations of players slapping the head coach, MSU having won the last five in South Bend and 7 of the last ten overall. Combined with the exasperating ineptitude of the Fighting Irish this season, you have the makings of a nasty, physical football game. MSU is in a situation where it is expected to win. ND isn't expected to do anything and can't really lose. All of it makes for an interesting build up. The bottom line is, Notre Dame has no offense and the defense is dog tired. MSU has a better than advertised defense with an offense that has sputtered of late. It'll be a good game, believe it or not. Why? Because it almost always is... Michigan State 24 - Notre Dame 16.

Ernie says ... Notre Dame is pulling out everything to get a victory over their nemesis this week, and they need to. The Ara Parseghian Statue will be dedicated, and there will be many alumni football players on hand. State is impressing a lot of people with their ability to not shoot their own foot this year. The mistakes are gone, they are focused, they are hungry and they are very well-coached. In essence, MSU is everything that Notre Dame is not this season. I look for MSU to put a big hurt on Notre Dame early and get past all the hype that is Notre Dame 31-10. Whether or not ND’s touchdown is offensive or defensive, who knows.

Iowa at Wisconsin
Hmmm, what to think here. A big time opener for both teams. Wisconsin has beaten more formidable foes, if you can put Wazzou in that category. Iowa's defense is downright stifling, but the offense has left a lot to be desired. The Badgers were matched for three quarters, score for score by The Citadel and barely beat UNLV. The Hawkeyes lost to rival Iowa State who was 0-2 with a loss to 1-AA Northern Iowa. What to think? One thing is for sure - Camp Randall will be rocking. It is honestly the closest the Big Ten can get to the Richter Scale atmosphere in Baton Rouge. Wisconsin rides the home crowd to extend the streak to 13-straight. Wisconsin 20 - Iowa 13.

Ernie says ... What bad timing the Hawkeyes have. Iowa just lost to their in-state rival and Wisconsin needs to remind everyone why they are worthy of their high-ranking after some shaky wins recently. I see Wisconsin making a statement this week with a big victory, 28-16.

Purdue at Minnesota
I wonder if Coach Mason is smirking to himself these days? There is some definite rebuilding going on in the Twin Cities. The Gophers are pretty fortunate to be 1-2 as they could just as easily be 0-3. Then again, all the games were close ... if you can count close against lesser foes as a moral victory. Purdue's offense is firing on all cylinders and has to be licking its chops right now. The Boilers aren't exactly stopping teams with the defense, but they'll get it done in the opener. Purdue 42 - Minnesota 30.

Ernie says ... Is a preview necessary for this? Minnesota sits just above Michigan in the basement of the Big Ten, having barely eclipsed the 100-points for, while Purdue has racked up over 150 points in three games and hasn’t lost yet. This will be the biggest shakedown of the week, with Purdue welcoming Minnesota’s coach Brewer to the Big Ten with a loss. Purdue 45-14.

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