Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Get Gamm - Bowl Style
Here is the official bowl slate. Picks are due before kickoff of the first game. Good luck. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Note - don't miss at the bottom the first round of Get Gamm Basketball. Those games start on next week already too!

Champs Sports Bowl - Orlando, FL
December 27, 4:30pm
Wisconsin vs. Florida State

Gamm says ... The first in a slate of what should be seven good bowl games for the Big Ten this year. FSU is on the cusp of returning to the top of the ACC. Wisconsin had a highly disappointing campaign that included a mind-numbing loss to lowly Michigan and a gut-wrenching loss at Michigan State. Still, the season ended well and the Badgers are hungry to keep building for next year. I like Wisconsin in Florida bowl games... Wisconsin 24 - Florida State 20.

Buckeye Nation says ... A real "pick 'em" game between two teams who disappointed their fans this season. Something tells me that the Badgers pull this one out. Wisconsin 23 - Florida State 21

Alamo Bowl - San Antonio, TX
December 29, 8pm
Northwestern vs. Missouri

Gamm says ... I so want to pick the Wildcats in this one. NU had a fantastic season and rightfully deserved a better bowl slot than Iowa. But alas, that's business in the Big Ten. Vegas doesn't like Northwestern's chances at all, I am not as pessimistic. The NU defense is better than it is getting credit for and while Mizzou is good, a lot of folks are still basing their game thoughts on the pre Oklahoma State game Tigers. Missouri will win, but not by the wide margin some expect. Missouri 33 - Northwestern 30.

Buckeye Nation says ... This matchup is interesting. Mizzou is undoubtedly disappointed given the thinking at the beginning of the season that they were BCS Championship contenders with Chase Daniel at QB. Northwestern, on the other hand, exceeded expectations, even though they lost star RB Tyrell Sutton for the meat of the Big 10 schedule. The 'Cats aren't accustomed to this type of post-season revelry, but the Tigers are. Missouri 38 - Northwestern 27

Insight Bowl - Tempe, AZ
December 31, 6pm
Minnesota vs. Kansas

Gamm says ... Credit the Minnesota staff and players for a wonderful turnaround this season. This is a nice and just reward. Trouble is, Kansas is a lot better than a Golden Gophers team that was exposed an awful lot over the last few weeks of the season. I think Kansas cuts through this defense like a hot knife through butter. Kansas 41 - Minnesota 27.

Buckeye Nation says ... Both of these squads started out hot, but limped home to close out the season. Kansas however, rebounded in knocking off Mizzou, while the Gophers seemed to get worse with every game, concluding with a blow-out loss at home to archrival Iowa. The clock strikes midnight for the Gophers...as it did for the last month of the season. Kansas 41 - Minnesota 24

Outback Bowl - Tampa, FL
January 1, 11am
Iowa vs. South Carolina

Gamm says ... The one and only favorite - per Vegas - this Big Ten bowl season is Iowa. The Hawkeyes have the Penn State feather in their cap, and three of the team's losses game in a row in heartbreaking fashion. Iowa might have the most upside potential going forward but will all the hype get to Hawkeyes? I don't think so. South Carolina isn't a great SEC team, maybe not even a truly good one. Iowa wins and Greene rides off into the NFL... Iowa 27 - South Carolina 14.

Buckeye Nation says ... The Hawkeyes vs. the Gamecocks will be a great way to start a full day of bowl viewing. And in my view, the Big 10 fans will be smiling when it's all over in this one. Iowa 34 - South Carolina 26

Capital One Bowl - Orlando, FL
January 1, 1pm
Michigan State vs. Georgia

Gamm says ... So, the gurus are calling this one the rock solid lock of the bowl season. Georgia in a landslide. Well, in the immortal words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friend. UGA fell to this game. MSU aspired to it. The Bulldogs have been praised for their losses to Florida, Alabama and Georgia Tech. Ahem, last I checked Ohio State, Penn State and Cal were every bit in that neighborhood. That garbage aside, the running back show will be spectacular. And, we could be watching the future of the Detroit Lions (Matthew Stafford) at the helm of the dawgs. I think State has more to prove and more to play for. Have a 2000 Citrus Bowl flashback... Michigan State 34 - Georgia 31 on a late field goal.

Buckeye Nation says ... Speaking of disappointing seasons, the Dawgs thought they were headed to Miami when the season opened up, but had to settle for Orlando as a consolation prize. The Spartans on the other hand exceeded expectations by being in the hunt for a share of the Big 10 title until the final day of the season. Dantonio has the Spartans headed in the right direction, but they're not there just yet. While I'd like to see Andy smile, I don't think he will be after this one. Georgia 42 - Michigan State 17.

Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
January 1, 5pm
Penn State vs. USC (TIEBREAKER)

Gamm says ... In my book, this one is as good as the national title game. Both were uncanny road slip ups away. Both teams are stocked with NFL talent. USC might be bored playing in, ho-hum, another Rose Bowl. Penn State is hungry to show it is worthy of the national title talk that existed up until that Iowa loss. I'm looking for a classic, but in the end, SC has too much. USC 23 - Penn State 21.

Buckeye Nation says ... Two teams that could have been undefeated but for one slip-up, marks this year's Grandaddy-of-them-all matchup. I'd love to see the Lions do it, but the Trojans get the home field advantage, and the win. USC 38 - Penn State 13

Fiesta Bowl - Glendale, AZ
January 5, 8pm
Ohio State vs. Texas

Gamm says ... On one hand, you have an Ohio State team tired of hearing how it gets killed whenever the spotlight shines. On the other you have one pissed off set of Longhorns, screwed by the system that inexplicably doesn't take into account head-to-head. Now, Oklahoma might well be the best team in the land, but Texas has something to prove. Ohio State might have a bit more talent, but Texas is a play away from playing for something even bigger. Texas 20 - Ohio State 16

Buckeye Nation says ... Probably the third best bowl matchup on the entire slate after the BCS Championship game and the Rose Bowl. The Buckeyes are very familiar with Phoenix, having played there 4 out of the past 6 years, but the last time in Arizona was a clunker. Texas has never faced a defense like OSU's, on the other hand, OSU has not seen an offense quite like Texas's offense. The Longhorns are smarting from not making the BCS title game, in spite of beating Oklahoma, and Colt McCoy finished 2nd in the Heisman voting. They will finish second here as well. Texas thinks they are playing in the wrong game, and the Buckeyes are looking for redemption. Look for the Buckeyes to finally give the conference the respect it deserves. Ohio State 28 - Texas 23.

Get Gamm Basketball (my picks in bold, score only needed for MSU - Minnesota):
Illinois @ Purdue

Michigan State @ Minnesota (MSU 64 - Minnesota 63)
Northwestern @ Penn State
Wisconsin @ Michigan
Iowa @ Ohio State

Ohio State @ Minnesota
Penn State @ Wisconsin
Indiana @ Iowa
Michigan State @ Northwestern

Illinois @ Michigan

Monday, December 15, 2008

Playing catch-up...
Well, life continues to be busy, but I've finally found a gap to get back to what I love... talking Big Ten football and hoops.

In the few weeks since I last posted, the Big Ten gave its best run ever at the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. If only Iowa could make a free throw, or Illinois a late stop, the Big Ten would finally, finally, be able to shake that ACC twow-on guerrilla off its back. We also saw the mighty - Purdue and Michigan State - get soundly thumped by the leaders of the ACC. Hey, the way I look at it is simple - November and December games are fun and all, but talk to me in March, when it matters.

Other than the Challenge there have been some nice games so far. Ohio State has a few solid wins to its credit. So does Michigan. Might the basketball team help ease the pain for all the Michigan football fans still licking their 3-9 wounds? The top tier teams will still make this a two or three horse race, but the middle of the pack will provide some defining moments come January and February...

Over the same time frame, the Big Ten football awards were released. The bowl selections made. Some national hardware passed out. So much to weigh in on...

No real qualms with any of what the coaches or media selected in terms of the Big Ten awards, with one exception: Mark Dantonio and/or Pat Fitzgerald deserved the Coach of the Year honors over Joe Paterno. If it were "Staff of the Year", then give it to Penn State, but you won't convince me that JoePa had as much impact on that team as Dantonio or Fitzgerald who made decent teams look very, very good. Paterno's team was loaded from the get-go.

The bowl games shook out as expected. Despite being the underdog in six of the seven match-ups, I like the Big Ten to fare just fine this postseason. More on that next week when I post my picks (Buckeye Nation, get me yours by THIS Thursday please).

Congrats to those who grabbed some national award coverage as well. Shonn Greene deserved the Doak Walker. Javon Ringer deserved All America honors. The Big Ten gets the shaft from the national media but watch a handful of NFL games each weekend and count the Big Ten starters on each roster. You can have your conferences, I love the Big Ten.

As for the national picture - Texas got screwed, even if Oklahoma is playing better right now. And the Heisman gets no complaints here. Could have been any of the three. I question, is it "best player", "MVP", or "best player on the best team"? All three give you a different winner in my book...

For those who want to weigh in now, here is the bowl slate. Picks are due before kickoff of the first game. Good luck. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Champs Sports Bowl - Orlando, FL
December 27, 4:30pm
Wisconsin vs. Florida State

Alamo Bowl - San Antonio, TX
December 29, 8pm
Northwestern vs. Missouri

Insight Bowl - Tempe, AZ
December 31, 6pm
Minnesota vs. Kansas

Outback Bowl - Tampa, FL
January 1, 11am
Iowa vs. South Carolina

Capital One Bowl - Orlando, FL
January 1, 1pm
Michigan State vs. Georgia

Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
January 1, 5pm
Penn State vs. USC

Fiesta Bowl - Glendale, AZ
January 5, 8pm
Ohio State vs. Texas

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We interrupt this lengthy break between football games to talk hoops!
Anyone who knows me or who has followed my former web site and now blog knows where my true sports love lies. College basketball. 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 just slowing down 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 a great divide between the good and the bad with a little bit of mediocrity sprinkled in between. Not unlike the football side of things, there are just a handful of programs that will vie for a title in basketball. Granted, I did these picks BEFORE the season started, so I may already be in for some flak (Michigan comes to mind) but hey, I just got around to posting this!


T1 - Purdue Boilermakers

OOC Projection: 12-1
Big Ten Projection: 16-2
Big Ten Tourney: Semi-finalist

Postseason: NCAA Tournament - Elite 8
Total Record: 32-5

Comments: This team is flat out loaded and yet still young. The brand of basketball being played under Matt Painter makes Purdue a threat to run all the way to Motown.

T1 - Michigan State Spartans
OOC Projection: 9-3
Big Ten Projection: 16-2
Big Ten Tourney: Champs
Postseason: NCAA Tournament - Elite 8
Total Record: 31-6

Comments: This is as deep as Michigan State has ever been. The key will be the way all the pieces and parts come together. There is youth and experience, speed and talent, size and speed. Can that translate into a dream run to Ford Field and the Final Four?

3 - Wisconsin Badgers
OOC Projection: 9-3
Big Ten Projection: 14-4
Big Ten Tourney: Semi-finalist
Postseason: NCAA Tournament - 2nd Round
Total Record: 25-9

Comments: This team lost some talent, but when don't Bo Ryan teams reload? I fully expect the Badgers to be in the thick of the Big Ten race with eyes on making a deeper advancement in the tournament than has been the norm under Ryan.

4 - Ohio State Buckeyes
OOC Projection: 9-2
Big Ten Projection: 12-6
Big Ten Tourney: Finalist
Postseason: NCAA Tournament - 2nd Round
Total Record: 24-10

Comments: Another contender that has to reload. Ohio State brings in another monster big man with potential and is really young again. This team will be much better in March than it is in November.

5 - Minnesota Golden Gophers
OOC Projection: 11-1
Big Ten Projection: 8-10
Big Ten Tourney: Quarterfinals
Postseason: NIT Final 4
Total Record: 22-12

Comments: Tubby Smith is already starting to work wonders in Minneapolis. The Gophers should make noise and a run at a tourney berth, but will have to settle for a run to MSG instead.

T6 - Penn State Nittany Lions
OOC Projection: 9-4
Big Ten Projection: 7-11
Big Ten Tourney: Quarterfinals
Postseason: NIT Final 4
Total Record: 20-17

Comments: Is this the year that the hard luck Nits finally get it going? Maybe not when it comes to an NCAA bid, but it will settle - gladly - for a nice run to MSG and an NIT Final 4.

T6 - Illinois Fighting Illini
OOC Projection: 13-1
Big Ten Projection: 7-11
Big Ten Tourney: Quarterfinals
Postseason: NIT - 2nd Round
Total Record: 22-13

Comments: I think of the middle-of-the-pack teams that Illinois has the most upside potential. The record might even be good enough for a trip to the Big Dance, but there is not a lot in the way of chances to impress with a so-so OOC slate.

T8 - Michigan Wolverines
OOC Projection: 9-4
Big Ten Projection: 6-12
Big Ten Tourney: 1st Round
Postseason: None
Total Record: 15-16

Comments: Hindsight is 20-20 - right? That makes me think this will be the pick I am most off base on. The win over UCLA was impressive but Michigan just isn't there... not yet. 2009-2010 is the year to watch out for the Wolverines.

T8 - Northwestern Wildcats
OOC Projection: 7-4
Big Ten Projection: 6-12
Big Ten Tourney: Quarterfinals
Postseason: None
Total Record: 14-17

Comments: Another intriguing team. Northwestern has experience and can shoot the long ball. Will this be the breakthrough year Carmody and Co. have been waiting for?

10 - Iowa Hawkeyes
OOC Projection: 8-5
Big Ten Projection: 5-13
Big Ten Tourney: 1st Round
Postseason: None
Total Record: 13-18

Comments: Simply a case of not enough horses in the barn. Iowa may pull off an upset or two but will reside in the basement most of the season.

11 - Indiana Hoosiers
OOC Projection: 7-5
Big Ten Projection: 2-16
Big Ten Tourney: 1st Round
Postseason: None
Total Record: 9-22

Comments: Nope, not a misprint. Indiana is going to really struggle this year. But don't get used to this. Tom Crean will make unbelievable strides with this team and set himself up for a fantastic turnaround in 2009-2010.

All Big Ten Team:
Kalin Lucas- G, Michigan State
Manny Harris - G, Michigan
Raymar Morgan - F, Michigan State
Marcus Landry - F, Wisconsin
Robbie Hummel - F, Purdue

Player of the Year:
Robbie Hummel - F, Purdue

Coach of the Year:
Matt Painter - Purdue

Monday, November 24, 2008

Monday afternoon QB - regular season review...
As I look out the window at millions of tiny snowflakes that are starting to pile up and soon wreak traveling havoc, I am still in a daze over how fast the Big Ten football season flew by. Maybe it was because - for a change - I wasn't wishing it to end, since my alma mater came through with a stellar campaign. Maybe it's because I'm just so busy all the time (I know, I still owe my bball previews). Regardless, the regular season is over and now the waiting game begins.

Who goes where? Does OSU slide into a BCS game and move everyone up a notch? Does any leap-frogging take place? For the record, it shouldn't. Bowls should flat out be required to take teams in the order of finish. I know, that's not realistic with the money involved, but then why not just make a tournament instead?

For my last football piece in a while, I want to go team by team, give you my postseason awards, my bowl projections and general thoughts on the season that was. After that, I'll get to basketball, we'll have our last football Get Gamm of the year - bowl style - and then we'll slide full time into hoops. Note, we will NOT pick the Big Ten/ACC Challenge this year - too little time! Get Gamm Hoops will start when Big Ten play tips off in late December.

Back to the last Get Gamm for gridiron, several went 6-0 this week, but Buckeye Nation was closer on the margin in the PSU-MSU game, so BN, you're in the spotlight for the bowl picks...

Player of the Week
There are a lot of good choices for POTW this go around. Shonn Greene was a beast - again. Daryll Clark was a phenom (damn the columnist from State College who questioned if his head was right!). Greg Jones had 15 tackles, three for loss. Curtis Painter had the type of game we've been waiting for all season long. In the end, I have to go with the guy who led his team to a Big Ten title - Daryl Clark. A career day for the junior, proving Penn State a worthy champion.

Team by Team
Time for a quick synopsis for each team, including a look at how my predictions played out and what is left for 2008 before the books are officially closed...

Illinois Fighting Illini - The Illini were a dud a year after stunning everyone with a run to the Roses. Just goes to show you what losing a top-notch tailback can do to a team without much of note in the cupboard behind him. It was all on Juice this year and his supporting cast let him down. Illinois failed to ride the wave of momentum created last year and will have plenty of questions heading into 2009. Most pressing? Was 2007 a true one-hit wonder?

Prediction: 9-3 (5-3), T2 and a Capital One Bowl berth
Actual: 5-7 (3-5), T6 and home for the Holiday's
My grade: Missed it by four games overall, two games in conference. D.

Indiana Hoosiers - Indiana never bounced back after that crushing home defeat at the hands of Ball State. The absence of Kellen Lewis all spring seemed to carry over into the fall, and his bouts with a bad ankle didn't help either. Speaking of injuries, there might not be a team in the country as hard hit as the Hoosiers. The emotion that carried IU in 2007 disappeared this year. Can Bill Lynch get it back and make Indiana competitive again in 2009? He probably needs to in order to save his job.

Prediction: 7-5 (3-5), T7 and a Motor City Bowl berth
Actual: 3-9 (1-7), 11 and home for the Holiday's
My grade: Missed it by four games overall, two games in conference. D.

Iowa Hawkeyes - Iowa really came on like gangbusters after an early season slump. In total, the Hawkeyes lost four games by 12 points, beat Penn State and crushed rivals Wisconsin and Minnesota. The loss to Illinois stands out as the only real head-scratcher. The team is set up to contend in 2009 for sure - IF Shonn Greene comes back. Greene was a monster and also the definition of consistency with 12 games in a row over 100 yards rushing. The defense was excellent and the finish puts Iowa in position to possibly jump ahead of a few teams when the bowl bids come calling. I think Iowa goes to the Champs Bowl in Orlando and challenges the attendance record that MSU fans helped set a season ago.

Prediction: 5-7 (2-6), T9 and home for the Holiday's
Actual: 8-4 (5-3), T4 with the bowl berth TBD
My grade: Missed it by three games on both ends. D.

Michigan Wolverines - No one saw this coming. A slight step back while the program adjusted to its first coach out of the Bo Schembechler school of coaches - sure. But this? Michigan put up its worst season in 129 years of football. Rich Rodriguez became the first U-M coach since Harry Kipke in the 40s to not beat OSU in his first try. The Wolverines lost to Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State in the same year for the first time since 1987. It was ugly from the very beginning to the bitter end. The question is, will it get that much better in 2009? Rich Rod has a history of quick turnarounds, but I wonder if he'll have the horses yet...

Prediction: 7-5 (3-5), T7 and a Champs Bowl berth
Actual: 3-9 (2-6), T9 and the worst season in school history.
My grade: Missed it by four games overall, but only one in the conference. D.

Michigan State Spartans - While blowout losses in huge games against Ohio State and Penn State wounded this team, no one expected nine wins. Most, in fact, expected a step back. Mark Dantonio has this program heading in the right direction. The attitude is as strong as it has ever been. The understanding of what it takes to win and the will to do so with backs against the wall is there. The only thing missing can start to filter in now that the staff has shown such quick results - top-notch recruits. If Dantonio and Co. can win with decent talent, imagine what it can do when it has some horses? A bowl berth to the Capital One or Outback is at stake. I think MSU lands in the Outback Bowl, and gets a huge 10th win of the season in the process.

Prediction: 8-4 (5-3), T2 and an Outback Bowl berth
Actual: 9-3 (6-2), 3 with a bowl berth TBD.
My grade: The only one I got wrong was the predicted loss at NU. A-/B+.

Minnesota Golden Gophers - The pleasant surprise of the season. From 1-11 to 7-5 with the all important extra practice time that comes with a bowl berth in their pocket, Minnesota made a big statement this year. This is a young team that hit some bumps after a 7-1 start, but that is still poised to make continued strides. Next year brings a new stadium, another solid recruiting class and another year of experience. Who knows, the Gophers could make a 2007 Illini type run in '09. As for the bowl berth, it all depends on Ohio State. If the Bucks get an at-large BCS berth, the Insight Bowl becomes the destination. I'm not seeing that though, meaning Minnesota gets one more game in a dome this season (Motor City Bowl).

Prediction: 4-8 (2-6), T9 and home for the Holiday's
Actual: 7-5 (3-5), T6 and a bowl berth TBD.
My grade: Three games off overall, one game in conference. C.

Northwestern Wildcats - Another team that made great strides this season. Northwestern made a three game improvement and brought a big game atmosphere back to Evanston on more than one occasion. Wipe out a head-scratching loss at Indiana and the 'cats tie for third and get ten wins. The last few weeks were a battle, with a dinged QB and a third-string tailback thrust into action but the Wildcats found a way to get it done. Northwestern can aspire as high as the Outback Bowl this year, as low as the Champs, but given the win over Iowa and one more win than the Hawkeyes, I like the 'cats to head to the Alamo Bowl.

Prediction: 6-6 (2-6), T9 and an at-large bowl berth
Actual: 9-3 (5-3), T4 and a berth TBD.
My grade: Off by three games all the way around. C.

Ohio State Buckeyes - Well, the third time will not be the charm for Ohio State so a co Big Ten title will have to do. Ohio State sold the current season for the future when it benched Todd Boeckman early on and went with freshman phenom Tyrelle Pryor. That may pay off big time down the road. Ohio State had a very good season, even if it is a downer a year removed from another blown shot at a national championship. 2008 should set the scarlet and gray up for another dominant run in '09 and in the meantime, it will include another trip someplace warm and fun for New Year's. The Buckeyes still can manage an at-large BCS berth, but alot depends on Oregon State and Boise State. If Oregon State wins next week, USC likely bumps the Bucks out. Even then, the lure of a Boise State - Utah "second" title game could also keep OSU out of the BCS mix. My feeling? The Buckeyes get a solid match-up with Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.

Prediction: 11-1 (8-0), 1 - BCS Championship Game berth
Actual: 10-2 (7-1), T1 - bowl berth TBD
My grade: One game off all the way around. A-/B+.

Penn State Nittany Lions - Congratulations to the Big Ten champs and Rose Bowl rep. This season will boil down to one great big coulda, shoulda, woulda. That Iowa loss. I think Penn State was built the right way to challenge for the national title. Strength in all three phases of the game. Solid athletes all around. I'm still not sold that Penn State wouldn't win a four game team tournament and claim the national title. But alas, we'll never know. That's the brutality of college football. It is basically one and done. Still, the Nits should get a good game in Pasadena and have a legit shot at finishing as high as top 3 in the nation. Long live JoePa!

Prediction: 9-3 (5-3), T2 - BCS at-large bowl berth
Actual: 11-1 (7-1), T1 - Rose Bowl berth
My Grade: Missed them by two games on both ends. B.

Purdue Boilermakers - Along with Michigan, probably the biggest disappointment in the league. Coach Tiller's swan song was entirely forgettable - up until the systematic dismantling of rival Indiana. The loss to Oregon sent the old gold into a tailspin that it never recovered from. The shame of it is, Purdue had some pretty good talent. There will be some rebuilding to do and with a new coach, so time will tell how much Tiller will be missed in West Lafayette.

Prediction: 7-5 (4-4), 6 - Insight Bowl berth
Actual: 4-8 (2-6), T9 - home for the Holiday's
My Grade: Missed them by three games overall and two in conference. C.

Wisconsin Badgers - Maybe the biggest dud of them all, not because the Badgers fell flat and missed out on anything, but because after a hot start, this was a team that lost every big game it played and found ways to lose games in myriad ways. It took a wayward kicker for the Badgers to beat a 1-AA foe over the weekend too. Given how the Bielema era has flattened out after a white hot start, it might be time to start shopping for new coordinators. Still, UW managed a bowl berth and that will pay dividends heading into 2009. The win over Cal Poly kept Wisconsin out of Motown for the Holiday's and moved them to the Insight Bowl.

Prediction: 8-4 (5-3), T2 - Alamo Bowl berth
Actual: 7-5 (3-5), T6 - bowl berth TBD
My Grade: Off by only one game overall but two games in conference. B.

Gamm's Postseason Awards

Offensive Player of the Year -
Shonn Greene, TB, Iowa
Defensive Player of the Year - James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State
Coach of the Year - Mark Dantonio

Friday, November 21, 2008

Get Gamm - Rivalry Week
Can you believe that we are already to the last week of regular season play in the Big Ten? Amazing how time flies. At least when you have a team you are rooting for that is doing well (sorry Michigan, Indiana and Purdue fans)...

This week, Buckeye Nation and AndrewJ1313 will pick with me. Fitting since between the three of us, we're all vying for a piece of the Big Ten crown. Oh and for the record, I will NOT be rooting for Michigan this weekend. Yep, it helps State, but in my book, if we tie with the Bucks, so be it. They beat us soundly and would deserve the Rose Bowl berth. That said, if M pulls off the shocker of the year and State beats PSU, I'm not going to turn down Pasadena!

For those who want to try to get to Pasadena regardless of who is playing, Comcast sent me this link to promote a sweepstakes...

Battle for the Old Oaken Bucket
Indiana at Purdue
- This is the end of the road for the Hoosiers and Boilermakers, no matter the outcome. It is also the end of a long road for Boiler boss Joe Tiller. Both teams have been disappointing this season, but Purdue has been the bigger bust. This is just the second time a Tiller team won't go bowling and given the talent PU had coming back, this is a bitter pill to swallow. Indiana failed this season due to a rash of injuries. So, toss all of it out the window for this game. It will be a fierce battle in what should be cold, maybe snowy conditions. Not much has gone right for the old gold and black, until now. Purdue 31 - Indiana 17.

Buckeye Nation says - The annual clash for the Old Oaken Bucket has one of the coaches making his swan song at home. The season wasn't what Joe Tiller or Boiler fans were expecting by any stretch of the imagination. The Hoosiers showed a little spark early on, but the loss to Ball State began a string of losses that left Indiana spiraling out of bowl contention once again.
Look for the Boilers to end on a winning note, sending Joe Tiller out with a smile on his face. INDIANA 23 - PURDUE 31

AndrewJ1313 says - IU-PU, that pretty much sums up this game. Tiller's last hurrah was a forgettable one for everyone involved. True the Purdue program saw major improvement during Tiller's tenure, but has really gone stagnant since Brees left. Indiana, the feel good story of a year ago, was brought back to reality this year and it's a shame. This year’s version of the Indiana/Purdue game is for last place in the Big Ten. Both teams are win-less on the road and I think that continues this week...at least Tiller can say he went 4-3 at home in his last season and leave Ross-Ade on a high note.Purdue 32, Indiana 26

The "Big" Game
Michigan at
Ohio State - For the first time in a very long time, this game has very little say in any race - conference or national. Yes, OSU is in line to smell the Roses with a win and a Penn State loss but Michigan, well they're in line for nothing having already clinched the worst season in school history. Ohio State is favored by what has to be one of the largest margins in the history of the rivalry. Michigan is dinged up with nothing to play for but pride. One thing on Rich Rodriguez's side? First year Wolverines coaches are 10-1-1 all time versus OSU including nine wins in a row. That won't be enough for Michigan this time. It could be ugly. Ohio State 24 - Michigan 6.

Buckeye Nation says - THE GAME has never seen this before: an 8 loss, no bowl eligible Wolverine squad heading to the Horseshoe for the 105th meeting in what many call the Greatest Rivalry in sports. The Buckeyes' dream season of going back-to-back-to-back to the BCS National Championship game was shattered in the Coliseum in September, and sealed when they lost to Penn State in the rare night game in Columbus in late October. The Buckeyes have been generally solid on defense this season, and are beginning to put it together on offense with freshman phenom Terrelle Pryor and the smash-mouth, leaping runs of Beanie Wells. Michigan, on the other hand, is hurting at QB and is enduring their worst season ever under controversial coach Rich Rodriguez. Usually, this one is where you throw out all the record books. Not this year. This will be senior day in Columbus, and a frenzied scarlet & grey crowd will have no problem getting fired up for this one, with memories of John Cooper Michigan game foibles still fresh in most Buckeye fans' heads. This one may be close early, but look for the Buckeyes to wear the Wolverines down and then cruise to a big victory, which would be Jim Tressel's 7th over UM in 8 tries. MICHIGAN 10 - OHIO STATE 42

AndrewJ1313 says - I think everyone has heard by now that Michigan is not that good. I know everyone says to “throw out the records, its Michigan vs. Ohio State” but I’m not sure that holds true this year. This is officially the worst Michigan football team in HISTORY. 129 years of playing the sport and this year, RichRod’s first, is Michigan’s worst. The point spread is 20.5 points, but if I were a betting man, I’d take Michigan to cover. If you look at the history of this game, anytime Ohio State has given Michigan a beating the following year, Michigan returns the favor in either destroying Ohio State or upsetting them – Tressel is very much aware of this I’m sure, so beating Michigan by 20.5 points isn’t likely, it’s very possible, but not likely. The question will be, will Ohio State not score at will. I think Pryor is hungry to play in this game, Beanie wants the ball 30 times and the seniors on Defense don’t want to give up anything, so Michigan has to play out of their minds and OSU has to suck something awful for Michigan to win. I heard an interesting stat on the radio today: current Michigan Freshmen now have more losses in their college football career then the 4th year seniors at Ohio State. After Saturday, RichRod’s first year will have nine losses.OSU 32, Michigan 17

Cal Poly at Wisconsin - Think the Badgers are already looking at airline reservations to Tempe, San Antonio or Orlando? Think again. Cal Poly might be from the FCS (formerly 1-AA) side of the tracks, but the Mustangs rank third in the nation among FCS squads and have already picked off one FBS school (San Diego State). Also, does Appalachian State over Michigan ring a bell? The Badgers bounced back with a HUGE comeback win last weekend and need this victory to assure a bowl berth. It won't be easy but in the cold and snow, I expect the Badgers to push a good team from Cal Poly out of the picture by the 4th quarter... Wisconsin 30 - Cal Poly 20.

Buckeye Nation says - The Badgers have been the enigma in the Big 10 this season. Once you think you have them figured out, they do something crazy, like win when they shouldn't, and lose when they had a victory seemingly tucked away. After the big comeback against the Gophers and winning the Paul Bunyan Axe, the Badgers get a test from a Mustang squad that is better than most people realize. However, Cal Poly has never seen Big 10 football, and the weather and Badger fans in Madison will have them longing for the trip back home to California. CAL POLY 10 - WISCONSIN 38

AndrewJ1313 says - Starting your season against Cal Poly as a tune up game is one thing, but to end your season against Cal Poly? This would be about as boring as watching OSU finish their season against YSU (although this year Michigan is the equivalent). Wisconsin does nothing to boost their bowl game with a win but may find itself not selected for a bowl if it loses. In a season where Wisconsin was suppose to be the team to challenge OSU for the conference title, Wisconsin gets to 7-5.Wisconsin 48, Cal Poly 17

Battle for The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk Trophy
Illinois at Northwestern
- My how the tables can turn from one season to the next. Last year, the Wildcats were on the road and the ropes, needing a win to secure a bowl berth. Illinois was 8-3 and seeking to get to 9-3 with the scent of Roses lingering in the air. This year? Illinois is 5-6 and needs a win and some help to go bowling. Northwestern is 8-3 with its sights on 9-3 and a shot at a New Year's Day bowl berth. Illinois has been more up and down than the Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios this season. Northwestern has yet to beat a "better" team in conference play. Will the Illini throw caution to the wind and fight out a win? Or will NU shut the door early and start dreaming of a sun New Year's Day? This is the Wildcats' year... Northwestern 33 - Illinois 27 in OT.

Buckeye Nation says - The Wilcats are in a bowl regardless, but the Illini must win on Saturday in order to become bowl eligible. Northwestern is coming off a huge program win at Ann Arbor, whereas Illinois suffered another loss, this time at home on senior day, one year after their Rose Bowl season. The Illini are in a bit of disarray and "the Journey" has been nothing but hype and dashed hopes; Juice has been turning the ball over, and was benched in the 4th quarter against OSU until his backup got injured. Look for the Wildcats to pull off the win in Evanston that will be satisfying to them, especially in denying the hated Illini a bowl bid. ILLINOIS 24 - NORTHWESTERN 28

AndrewJ1313 says - This should be a great game as Northwestern is playing for its 9th win and a New Year’s Day Bowl, while Illinois is trying to get to bowl eligibility. The question for Zook and the Illini this week will be, is there a controversy at QB? Last week against OSU Juice was pulled for a few series before returning to the game to lead Illinois to a late score – does that mean anything? Time will tell. Northwestern appears to be the more complete team but Illinois has played well on the road this year, although their road record doesn’t reflect it (@ Missouri to start the season, @ Penn St and @ Wisconsin all very tough places to win on the road). Logic says take the team that is 4-2 at home and not the team that is 1-4 on the road, but I think Illinois has faced tougher competition on the road this year then Northwestern has beaten at home. Illinois 38, Northwestern 33

The Battle for the Land Grant Trophy
Michigan State at Penn State
- Okay, so the rivalry was contrived when Penn State joined the Big Ten back in the early 90s, but it has provided some memorable moments along the way. This is, however, the first time that the game upstages Michigan-Ohio State in terms of importance and worthiness of viewership. Penn State might have killed Indiana last week, but is led by a QB who is second-guessing himself right now. Michigan State comes off what could be a momentum-killing BYE week or the best thing to happen to a program that was really stung by injuries. This game is for the Big Ten title. Penn State wins and they go to Pasadena. Michigan State needs some help from bitter rival Michigan if it wins but would gladly take the accolades that go with winning or sharing their first title in 18 years. Penn State leads or is close to the top in every statistical category that matters. No team in the league has shown as much heart as the Spartans. Which one prevails? It will be better than Vegas thinks... Penn State 31 - Michigan State 27.

Buckeye Nation says - Mark Dantonio is in good shape to be named Big 10 coach-of-the-year given the way he has turned things around in East Lansing. This time, the Spartans won games late in the season instead of fizzling out as has been the case in recent years. The Lions were on an even bigger roll, and Joe Pa was looking at a possible last hurrah and a BCS Championship game berth until they began reading their press clippings, and thought all was clear after barely winning in Columbus. The Hawkeyes knocked over the lofty dreams of the Nittany Lions, but there is a Rose Bowl at stake this Saturday as well as the Land Grant trophy. The Spartans will likely not go to the Rose Bowl (unless the unthinkable happens in Columbus), and even then, they would have to pull off a HUGE upset in Happy Valley. Both teams have had revival seasons, but the big edge here goes to the home team. MSU 17 - PSU 38

AndrewJ1313 says - Someone should tell Dantonio that MSU is suppose to be the “Little Sister” in Michigan. I liked the hire of Dantonio the day I heard about it and this is why – he has done what JLS never could; win games late in the season. MSU is 9-2, and has looked impressive doing it. The question is, did MSU’s loss to OSU tell how large the gap is from the upper tier teams in the Big Ten or did MSU have an off week? If the answer is the former, this will not be as good of a game as it looks to be – I don’t think this will be the case. I think Dantonio and MSU are ready for the spot light and will be ready to take it to Penn St. The problem is Penn St. is a great football team that plays its best in Happy Valley. The Lions can smell the Roses (unfortunately for them, they may be facing a team they already humiliated once this year – Oregon St.) and just need to stay focused for 60 minutes. Just like against OSU and Iowa, this game will go down to the wire for Penn St., but I think they get it done, although I will not be surprised if MSU pulls the upset. Penn St. 20, MSU 13

The Battle for the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy
Iowa at Minnesota
- This game is about more than just a rivalry, it is all about bowl positioning. Minnesota blew a big opportunity with the second half collapse at Wisconsin last weekend. Iowa is very much in line to battle Northwestern for a New Year's Day bowl berth - if the Big Ten gets two teams in the BCS picture. The Golden Gophers will have Eric Decker back, but Iowa has Shonn Greene, who, combined with Beanie Wells and Javon Ringer forms the best tailback trio in the land. Minnesota will throw everything it has at Iowa, but the Hawkeyes are too strong in the trenches. Iowa 27 - Minnesota 18

Buckeye Nation says - This year's battle for Floyd of Rosedale has both participants heading to bowl games after the season. However, as of late, the two are heading in different directions, Iowa is on the rise, and the Gophers are on the decline, and now the Gophers' leading receiver is doubtful for Saturday. This also marks the final home game for the Gophers in the Metrodome, a Lou Holtz-inspired idea that Minnesota alums have regretted ever since. Nevertheless, I see the Hawkeyes continuing their winning ways in a tough hitting contest, as they keep the pig in Iowa City. IOWA 26 - MINNESOTA 23

AndrewJ1313 says - Which one gets the better bowl game? That is what this game will resolve and it seems like Minnesota may have peaked weeks ago – the Gophers just haven’t been able to get their mojo back since the heart-breaker to Northwestern. They played very inspired ball last week at Wisconsin, but failed to play a full 60 minutes and just let Wisconsin have their way with them in the 4th quarter. Iowa on the other hand has been playing with some swagger, winning four of their last five including the knocking off then unbeaten Penn State. Iowa’s four losses are by a combined 12 points and I think this team is much better than their road record and are headed to the Outback Bowl. Iowa 20, Minnesota 16

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday afternoon QB...
Back from a needed respite in the warmth of Florida, ready for a Big Ten championship weekend. There are now seven teams eligible to extend their seasons with one more in the mix - Illinois. There are three teams tied at the top with one solely in control of its destiny - Penn State.

Just as the conference race has come to a crescendo, so is the Get Gamm race. Dan has made a nice move of late to tie me at the top. St. Louie and Buckeye Nation are right behind. Who knows, had Andrew not missed a week, he might be right there too. Speaking of the latter pair, you both get to pick with me this week, so send those my way by Friday.

Player of the Week... I was out of Big Ten country but well aware of what went on around the Big Ten this weekend. Shonn Greene had another monster weekend and locked up, in my book, the second first team spot at running back with Javon Ringer. In my estimation, both should be finalists for the Doak Walker. Greene is also my hands down POTW for his 211 yards, 2 scores and now 11-straight games over the century mark.

Around the Big Ten... Penn State and Ohio State got big wins to set up the final weekend. Wisconsin got a critical comeback, rivalry game win and should have no trouble finding its way to a bowl game unless it gets beat at home by Cal Poly. Iowa made strides towards grabbing the fourth best bowl slot in the Big Ten with a win over Purdue. Northwestern withstood the weather and Michigan and could get to nine wins. Minnesota is reeling but gets another crack at a rival. Illinois must win at Northwestern and hope enough slots open up to get an invite. No small task.

Penn State - It seems that Daryll Clark might be having some issues with his head (not due to the hit at OSU). How will that play into what is a HUGE game in Happy Valley this weekend? It is Senior Day. Penn State can win the Big Ten title and still stay (although not realistically) in the national title hunt. We'll see if the team is fully recovered from that gut-wrenching loss to Iowa or not. PSU is playing for the Rose Bowl, an at-large BCS berth, or worst case, the Capital One Bowl.

Michigan State - How will the week off affect the Spartans? Will the down time, and limited practice during the first week allow some rust to build and slow the momentum, or was it exactly what the team needed to refill the tank and finish this improbable run at a Big Ten title? State certainly needed the time to heal the wounds, the key will be to avoid any timing issues early at State College - a place where MSU has been close but hasn't won since 1965. MSU is playing for the Rose Bowl, an at-large BCS berth (long shot), the Capital One or Outback Bowl.

Ohio State - The Buckeyes are on a mission. Since the loss to Penn State, OSU has been firing on all cylinders and has a wounded, horrible Michigan team coming to town. OSU will look to avoid the same fate it faced in first meetings against Fritz, Bennie, Bump, Bo, Mo and Lloyd - that is a loss to Michigan. Chances are slim to none this year, but hey, strange things happen in these rivalry games, especially because this is U-M's bowl game. OSU is playing for the Rose Bowl, an at-large BCS berth or the Capital One Bowl.

Northwestern - Pat Fitzgerald has worked wonders with the Wildcats this year. After locking up a rare win at Michigan, the 'cats get to come home for a chance to officially send Illinois home without a bowl game. Despite injuries and setbacks against the better teams it has faced, NU is on track for nine wins - something that doesn't happen that often in Evanston. This weekend, it is all about a rivalry win and bowl positioning. NU is playing for the Outback Bowl, Alamo Bowl, or Champs Bowl.

Iowa - The Hawkeyes may look back at this season and wonder "what if". As in what if they'd closed the deal in those four games lost by a total of 12 points? The Hawkeyes travel to Minnesota to battle for the big pig - Floyd of Rosedale - and are fighting for optimum bowl position. A win could shoot the black and gold as high as the Outback Bowl, though more likely somewhere before New Year's. Iowa is playing for the Outback Bowl, Alamo Bowl or Champs Bowl.

Minnesota - The Golden Gophers are officially slumping. Three straight losses have marred an otherwise brilliant year. The last one was particularly painful but there is one more shot at re-taking a rivalry prize. The Gophers are playing for bowl positioning though seem pretty locked into one of the lower bowl spots at this point. Minnesota is playing for the Alamo Bowl, Champs Bowl, Insight Bowl or Motor City Bowl.

Illinois - The Illini are just a step ahead of Wisconsin based on conference record to date, but are stuck in a dog fight for their bowl lives. This team has talent but has struggled to retain last year's momentum and now must go on the road, beat a rivalry having a solid season and then HOPE it gets an invite to a bowl. Fortunately for the Illini, there appear to be spots available outside of the Big Ten rotation, because even with a win, I'm not sure there will be enough reason for the Motor City Bowl to take the Illini over say, Wisconsin. Illinois is playing for the Motor City Bowl or an at-large fill in berth.

Wisconsin - The Badgers won a game that they may have had little business winning last weekend. Their bowl lives on the line, UW came back from a large second half deficit to beat rival Minnesota and re-secure Paul Bunyan's axe. That win may have been the shot in the arm this team needed to finish the season strong. Take care of Cal Poly and a bowl outside of the Midwest looks feasible. The Badgers are playing for the Champs Bowl, Insight Bowl or Motor City Bowl.

Michigan - Welcome to the Big Ten Rich Rod. You just put up the worst season in the 129 year history of the winningest college football program of all time. That said, you have one shot at erasing all of the bad from this season. Beat Ohio State, in C-bus and the U-M faithful may throw a parade for you! Heck, the folks in East Lansing probably would, so long as the Spartans beat Penn State... How often is that the case?!

Indiana & Purdue - May as well lump these disappointments together. They are playing the official Tidy Toilet Bowl in West Lafayette this weekend. Is it basketball season yet (oh, sorry IU!)? What is there to say about this game?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesday afternoon quarterback...
It was another exciting weekend in the Big Ten, with upsets all around and a final definition of top, middle and bottom tiers in the conference. It is now officially a three team race to the finish and there are still two teams fighting, scratching, clawing for bowl berths. It should be a fun final two weeks...

Before I get to the team by team and POTW honors, a congratulatory note to Buckeye Nation for being the only one to foresee the upset and therefore the only one not to go 3-3 on the week. BN, I am hitting FLA for some vaca this weekend, if it's okay with you, why don't you pick with me and this week's winner next week. That way I can cover my predictions in this one blog...

Phats, the win by BN leaves you as the only one so far not to Get Gamm... how's that for incentive?! Hint - don't pick your Boilers to win any more games. :)

Get a recap from the Big Ten and see who they picked for POTW.

Player of the Week Honors: I'm going to go with the Tailback Trifecta of Beanie, Javon and Shonn this week. Each went over the century mark. Each tallied two scores. Each led their teams to critical wins. The Big 12 may be the QB Conference, but the Big Ten is TB Central.

Around the Big Ten (in order of current standings)...

Top Tier Teams:

Michigan State Spartans
- 6-1 (9-2): Who would have thunk it? For the first time in 18 years, Michigan State has a shot at the Big Ten title. Talk about the fast track to success. This season's success will only further solidify what Mark Dantonio is doing with the program and should ensure year-in and year-out challenges for the top spot in the league. State gets a much needed week off before heading to State College for what will be the biggest game for the program in years. MSU has to root for Illinois or - gasp - Michigan, to pick off OSU and beat Penn State to smell the roses. Bowl picture: Rose, Capital One or Outback.

Penn State Nittany Lions - 5-1 (9-1): Iowa flat out owns Penn State of late, especially coming off of an extra week to prepare. Saturday marked the first time that Penn State beat itself on offense (credit does go to the Iowa defense of course) with three field goals when TDs would have been the norm early in the season. Indiana should be the perfect rebound game for the Nits and emotions will run high for the finale. Win out and PSU smells the roses. Bowl picture: Rose, Other BCS, Capital One.

Ohio State Buckeyes - 5-1 (8-2): Ohio State put the Penn State loss behind it and took it to Northwestern over the weekend. Pryor had his best game to date, Beanie Wells was dominant and the scarlet and gray defense opportunistic. OSU needs to win out and get some love from the Spartans to smell the roses but is still very alive. The road trip to Illinois is a potential trap with Michigan looming and never sleep on that rivalry game, but something tells me the Bucks waltz to a tie for the Big Ten crown. Bowl picture: Rose, Other BCS, Capital One

Middle Tier Teams:

Northwestern Wildcats - 3-3 (7-3): Northwestern is dinged up and took a big blow to the ego last weekend when the Buckeyes pushed them around like a rag doll. The Wildcats still have an outside shot at New Year's Day but are likely playing for the Alamo Bowl at this point. Michigan and Illinois remain and both are very winnable, but at the same time, could cause problems too. Michigan is back on track - finally - and playing for its seniors. Illinois might be clinging to it's bowl life. Here's hoping NU gets at least one more for posterity. Bowl picture: Outback (long shot), Alamo, Champs, Insight

Minnesota Golden Gophers - 3-3 (7-3): Minnesota is facing adversity for the first time all season and so far, not responding well. The pick-six that took the wind out of their sails against NU was apparent against nemesis Michigan. Two rivalry games remain - at Wisconsin and home against Iowa. The Badgers are looking better and Iowa is currently riding high. 7-5 seems imminent at this point. Bowl picture: Outback (long, long shot), Alamo, Champs, Insight, Motor City

Iowa Hawkeyes - 3-3 (6-4): Iowa is on top of the world right now after getting the biggest program win in years last weekend against then No. 3 Penn State. The trick will be to get past that and hunker down, with two very winnable games remaining. Purdue comes to town wounded and with nothing to play for but the dignity of lame duck coach Joe Tiller. Iowa certainly could play a factor in the New Year's Day chase, though they would likely be hard-pressed to pass an MSU team that beat them earlier in the season. Bowl Picture: Outback, Alamo, Insight

Illinois Fighting Illini - 3-3 (5-5): Illinois continued its season-long ride on the world's most topsy turvy roller coaster with a semi-shocking neutral site loss to Western Michigan. The Broncos are a good team (beat Iowa on the road last season too) but this was a major blow to the psyche of the Illini. With Ohio State and Northwestern looming, the prospects of a bowl berth at all are maybe a bit of a stretch. I'll give them some benefit of the doubt though. Bowl picture: Champs, Insight, Motor City

Wisconsin Badgers - 2-5 (5-5): Wisconsin has found its ground game. A week after blowing a game it had no business losing and rushing for nearly 300 yards in the process, Wisconsin followed up with 440 yards on the ground in a swamping of the Hoosiers. Wisconsin gets a reeling Minnesota squad at home, followed by Cal Poly. That gets them to seven wins and a shot to hit a respectable bowl. Bowl picture: Alamo (long shot), Champs, Insight, Motor City

Lower Tier Teams:

Michigan Wolverines - 2-4 (3-7): Nope, not a typo. Michigan is a bottom feeder this year. Don't get used to it. It may be a few more years before Michigan is back at the top, but this is likely a one-year trip to the basement. The Wolverines finally got a win last weekend after five straight on the losing end. Northwestern won't be easy and Ohio State is a daunting task, but hey, first year Michigan coaches flat out know how to beat the Buckeyes. Spartans everywhere hope it doesn't come down to it, but might have to secretly hope for the maize and blue to pick off OSU in the finale. That game IS Michigan's bowl game...

Indiana Hoosiers - 1-5 (3-7): One hit wonder it is. IU is limping - literally - to the finish line with the only real hope remaining a win over rival Purdue. The trip to State College could get really ugly, particularly if Indy truly has to start its fourth string QB. Can Bill Lynch turn things around next year? Will he get the chance?

Purdue Boilermakers - 1-5 (3-7): Right up there with Michigan as one of the biggest disappointments in all of college football this year. Purdue was pegged to be at least a middle of the pack team and has been on a free fall since blowing a big lead against Oregon. A trip to Iowa makes life even tougher, with all eyes on the Old Oaken Bucket Bowl on 11/22.

This week's schedule:
Penn State 52 - Indiana 10 (Indiana at Penn State)
Michigan 24 - Northwestern 23 (Northwestern at Michigan)
Ohio State 31 - Illinois 24 (Ohio State at Illinois) - Tiebreaker
Iowa 27 - Purdue 14 (Purdue at Iowa)
Wisconsin 33 - Minnesota 13 (Minnesota at Wisconsin)

Friday, November 07, 2008

Get Gamm - Week 11
Time flies when basketball and football seasons start to blend. I still owe you some hoops predictions, but first thing's first - the chase for the Big Ten football crown.

Dan gets to pick with me for an unprecedented fourth time this season and it'll be a mad dash to the finish. The difference maker for the week may be the game between our schools... but more on that below.

If you want the Big Ten.org preview for the weekend, go here. Otherwise, read on...

Illinois vs. Western Michigan (Ford Field)
I hope Illinois was paying attention last year when Iowa took one on the chin in the season finale vs. the Broncos. The MAC can play football. Ask Indiana or Michigan. Western is 7-2 and with a MAC West title unlikely (behind CMU and Ball State) this is perhaps the biggest game on their slate. Illinois needs this win, big time. The Illini are one win from bowl eligibility and two from total bowl security. With Ohio State and Northwestern left on the slate, that makes this a must win. On one hand, I would not put it was WMU to pull off the upset. On the other, Illinois has too much to play for and has some momentum after beating Iowa. In a close one... Illinois 31 - Western Michigan 27

Dan Meyer says ... ILLINOIS 27 at Western Michigan 17--Wish I knew more about the Broncos, though they appear not to be a big threat to Central MI and Ball State. Illini have been erratic on alternate weeks; I would not be surprised to see this game still close some distance into the fourth quarter. Illini, like the Badgers, need this for bowl position and even eligibility so I think they avoid the overlook trap and hold on.

Ohio State at Northwestern
The biggest game in Evanston in some time. The Wildcats have an opportunity to make a statement against an elite program, but will have to do so without Sutton and Conteh. OSU has had a chance to rest and recover and hopefully for Buckeyes fans, regroup, for the stretch run. It is going to take a near perfect game from the banged up 'cats to get this W - paired with a sub par effort from the scarlet and gray. I just don't see it happening. Ohio State 33 - Northwestern 13.

Dan Meyer says ... OHIO STATE 31 at Northwestern 17--Fitzgerald is a legitimate candidate for COY and the Wildcats have done their fans proud so far. Suspect that Bacher will start in spite of a spectacular running performance by the backup last week. Buckeyes are one fumble away from leading the Big 10/11 and still have excellent BCS bowl possibilities. Net result: both offenses have talent, but stronger Buckeye D prevails.

Michigan at Minnesota
The Battle for the Little Brown Jug has very little luster this year. Michigan is playing for respect and nothing else, since the Wolverines are in last place and officially bowl dead. Minnesota is trying to get a rare win over their rival and in the process, stay in line for a New Year's Day bowl berth. The Wolverines have lost in all sorts of fashion during this five-game losing streak and have to be due to snap to. The trouble is, I think the team may have officially lost all desire after the heartbreaker at Purdue. Michigan has yet to play a complete game all season and that doesn't change in Minny. Minnesota 34 - Michigan 30.

Dan Meyer says ... Michigan 13 at MINNESOTA 21--Oh, the glory in the land of 10,000+ lakes as the Little Brown Jug returns. Weber and Gopher special teams recover from last week's miscues and even a good game by Minor can't save it for the "Woe"verines.

Wisconsin at Indiana
This game is HUGE for both teams. Wisconsin needs to rebound from the debacle in East Lansing, Indiana from another home loss to a MAC squad. Both teams need wins - and fast - to become bowl eligible. Indiana needs three in three games (highly unlikely with a trip to PSU in the middle). Wisconsin needs at least two, preferably three because Cal Poly will be a FCS foe. Indiana, I feel, is better than the 3-6 record but has been devastated by injury. Wisconsin is MUCH better than 4-5, but that loss at Michigan and then the following week at home vs. Ohio State sent this team into a chasm. Hill and Clay should be able to run wild. Wisconsin 41 - Indiana 20.

Dan Meyer says ... WISCONSIN 24 at Indiana 17--Possible upset special, the Hoosiers have played the Badgers surprisingly tough over the past decade and Bucky has been a big disappointment. Nevertheless, this is a must win for the Badgers to go bowling and I think that they JUST prevail.

Purdue at Michigan State
This game is more important than it might seem at first glance. Purdue needs to win out to get a shot at a bowl. Michigan State needs to win to stay in line for not only a New Year's Day bowl berth, but also a share of the Big Ten title. The Boilers found their stride last weekend against Michigan. Then again, who hasn't this year (with apologies to Wisconsin)? Michigan State squeaked one out and must play better on Senior Day to avoid an upset. I like Ringer to run wild, the MSU receivers to catch the ball much better and for Purdue to move the ball but struggle to score. On a rainy, cold, windy day... Michigan State 30 - Purdue 17.

Dan Meyer says ... Purdue 14 at MICHIGAN STATE 28--Forget Obama, the love affair at West Lafayette is with Justin Siller; though Painter may still start if healthy. I have no illusions that last week showed anything other than Michigan's defensive shortcomings; still, it was fun. Spartans have momentum from dodging a bullet last week and, as above, the Spartan D is more consistent than Purdue's. Ringer, then, almost is overkill as the green and white prevail.

Penn State at Iowa
The Hawkeyes have lost four games by a total of 12 points this season. Will that razor thin margin give Iowa hope that it can beat Penn State? Or provide final proof that the black and gold can't seal the deal this year? Penn State might show a little early rust and some stress from squarely wearing the target, but not even a world-class effort by Shon Greene can overcome the overall talent gap that exists. Penn State is on a mission and though this will be a close game, Penn State pulls away late for victory number 10. Penn State 27 - Iowa 17.

Dan Meyer says ... PENN STATE 27 at Iowa 16--Could be interesting (and informative to Dantonio later) to see how Greene does against the Lions D. Nevertheless, JoePa is on a big-time rush and should welcome the Spartans later with a perfect record. Iowa makes it competitive at Kinnick, but the roadies prevail.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wednesday afternoon QB...
Been a busy start to the week, thus the delay. But it isn't because last week was a yawner. Far from it. We had five games decided by a touchdown or less and we're in for a wild, wild finish.

Congrats to Dan Meyer, who bounced back to win the Get Gamm honors and close the gap on your leader - me! Dan, you know the drill. Four weeks of picking to go yet (including Bowl Week)...

With the housekeeping out of the way, let's talk POTW and fly around the Big Ten:

Player of the Week... There are ample candidates to take the honors after last weekend. Two backup QBs got the love from the Big Ten and both were instrumental in their team's victories. Call me a homer, but MSU doesn't win without Brett Swenson last weekend. I'm going with Swenson, who calmly nailed a career long and then a game winner to lead Michigan State to a highly improbable (the way they played) victory over Wisconsin...

Illinois: The Illini survived a fourth quarter collapse against Iowa and got one game closer to bowl eligibility. Illinois still faces Western Michigan, Ohio State and Northwestern, so getting to six or seven wins is going to be no small task. That said, this team is good enough to go bowling and after last year, should be bowling. Prediction? One more win and a trip to the Motor City Bowl.

Indiana: Indiana was a long shot for a bowl berth heading into last weekend's battle with Central and comes out still mathematically alive, but hanging by a thread. With Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue left and three wins needed, it looks like last year was an anomaly and not the start of something new. IU appears due for a coaching change soon too, now that a new A.D. is in place...

Iowa: The Hawkeyes clawed all the way back into the game in Champaign last weekend, only to lose in the final moments. That makes four losses by a total of 12 points for the black and gold. This weekend's tilt with Penn State is as big a game as Iowa has had in some time. A win sends a definite statement, a loss isn't the end of the world. The Hawkeyes still have Purdue and rival Minnesota on the slate and should get the requisite six wins. Prediction? One or two more wins and a New Year's Eve in Arizona for the Insight Bowl.

Michigan: Are you kidding me? Michigan is 2-7 this year. Two and freaking seven! No one saw this coming, new coaching staff or not. The Wolverines will have their first losing season since 1967. Michigan will be home for the holidays after 33 straight years in the postseason. Now Rich Rodriguez is talking like this may well spill into next year. M fans have to be cringing. It's the old, be careful what you wish for. With Carr, I see this team more like 6-3 right now, not 2-7...

Michigan State: I saw a great article today comparing the Spartans to the Minnesota Twins. What a perfect analogy. MSU isn't the most talented team in the Big Ten. MSU is middle of the pack in most statistical categories. But the Spartans are well managed, have enough players with enough talent and that make limited mistakes to keep them around. The Spartans have a bead on a tremendous recruiting class for 2009, so this should be just the start of a long-term turnaround in East Lansing. Two games remain, and Purdue is not to be overlooked. I like State to go 9-3 and give PSU a scare while settling for a Capital One Bowl bid.

Minnesota: Last week's heartbreaker was a bitter, bitter pill to swallow, but in the long run, probably makes Minnesota a better team. Three rivalry games remain - Michigan, at Wisconsin and Iowa. None of them will be easy for the Golden Gophers. I see one more win coming with a much deserved trip to the Alamo Bowl as just reward...

Northwestern: The win at the Homer Dome last week may well have been the difference between 7-5 and 9-3. The Wildcats fought through personnel losses to come up with a huge road win and have a very good chance to win two more games over the next three weeks. If NU can build on that feeling and success found by scraping and clawing to a win last weekend, a win or two is certain as is a rewarding trip to the Outback Bowl.

Ohio State: The Bucks got a chance to rest, reflect, lick their wounds and prepare for the stretch run - a run that should bring three wins and another BCS berth. It will be interesting to see if there is any change in Tyrelle Pryor after the tough, tough loss to Penn State before the bye week...

Penn State: The Nittany Lions also had a week off to rest and recover for a stretch run that will have a bright spotlight on their every move. The trip to Iowa is no gimme and a season-ending game with Michigan State looms that would be worth the Big Ten title to both and a hopeful title berth for the Nits. Iowa will give PSU a run for their money this weekend, but fully expect the Nittany Lions to be playing it's biggest game in at least a decade on Nov. 22.

Purdue: Last weekend, Purdue may have found its next signal caller. Who will run the show this week at MSU remains to be seen. The Boilers are still alive in the bowl chase, but have back-to-back road trips to Michigan State and Iowa and appear to be home for the Holidays. Will last weekend's rousing win over Michigan get this team rolling? Or was that one last hurrah for Joe Tiller?

Wisconsin: Wow. Last week was as tough as it gets for the Badgers. I know, I went to Michigan State and have seen plenty of games where State dominated, only to find a way to lose. Bret Bielema is on the hot seat and seems really lost right now. He cost his team 20 critical yards after the Badgers scored to go up 24-13 and is being questioned more than ever right now. That is a good football team that is snake bitten this year. The Badgers need two, preferably three wins to go bowling but I'm struggling to see where the third one comes from - aside from Cal Poly and Indiana. UW will go bowling, but only because another conference can't fill it's slots...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Get Gamm - Week 10
Amazing how fast time goes by when you are swamped with life! Alas, it is already Friday and that means football is upon us. Two big boys - PSU and OSU - get to rest for the stretch, but everyone else is ready and rarin' to go.

BruceS will be picking with me this week and I have an overall two game lead with four regular season weeks and bowl season to go. Can anyone catch me?

Central Michigan at Indiana - Well, the Hoosiers finally got back on a winning track last weekend, but can they pull off another win this go around? Central Michigan is arguably one of the best teams in the MAC and IU already got bull-whipped by a MAC foe at home. The Hoosiers need wins to get back to a bowl game. Kellen Lewis is due back, but is he healthy enough to spell the difference? The Hoosiers are clearly different when he is at his best and running the show. CMU has been escaping of late, but won't be the latest MAC team to beat a Big Ten team. Indiana 31 - CMU 27.

BruceS says ... CMU has the QB to cause problems most teams. However, IU's big win last weekend will give them enough momentum to carry them through to another "W" this week against a good MAC team. IU 31 CMU 27.

Michigan at Purdue - The Loser Stays Home for the Holidays Bowl! Had you asked me back in August, I would have guessed this would have New Year's Day implications, not Motor City Bowl or Bust implications. Michigan has lost four straight. Purdue has lost five of six and sits in dead last. Both teams have major offensive challenges. Purdue's are tougher yet though with former Heisman candidate Curtis Painter likely on the rack with a bum shoulder. Purdue can't lose every league tilt, can they? Michigan can't keep looking completely helpless, can they? If ties were possible, that would be my call. Michigan 13 - Purdue 9.

BruceS says ... A game pitting two teams under performing according to everyone's preseason predictions. Purdue, at home, will be able to throw on a weak UM defense enough to get the win. Michigan is just not very good this year and it is payback time for a lot of teams. Purdue 31 Michigan 24.

Northwestern at Minnesota - A week ago, this would have been an epic battle of two of the nicest stories in the Big Ten this fall. That was before Tyrell Suton was lost for the season and C.J. Bacher came up lame at Indiana. Minnesota is firing on all cylinders and its offense will provide all sorts of trouble for the Wildcats' defense. The Gophers are also taking the ball from teams more than a bully takes candy from the neighborhood nerd. Too many chips are against NU so Minnesota keeps on rolling. Minnesota 45 - Northwestern 31.

BruceS says ... Minny playing very well and should prevail against a banged up NW team. NW just won't be able to outscore the Gophers with Sutton out and Bacher hurt. Minnesota 34 Northwestern 20

Wisconsin at Michigan State - My game of the week. Wisconsin surely isn't as bad as their 4-4 (1-4) record. Michigan State has to prove it can overcome jubilation (win over Michigan) much in the same way it did adversity (ugly loss to OSU). The Badgers seem to be moving forward now that Sherer is at the helm and the stable of dinged but good tailbacks are a force to be reckoned with. The Spartans have a shot at a Big Ten title and that keeps them focused. Ringer might run on UW like Greene did a few weeks back and look for Hoyer to be solid again. It will be close, just like Vegas is calling, with redemption for Swenson... Michigan State 27 - Wisconsin 24.

BruceS says ... The Spartans are on a mission and seem to be focused each and every week. Wisconsin has been up and down, but coming off a good win to help their confidence. I give the edge to the home team with more to fight for. Another win for the good guys. GO GREEN! Michigan State 35 Wisconsin 24

Iowa at Illinois - This is a close runner-up to MSU-WIS as the game of the week. Both teams are in the bowl hunt. Illinois is due to come back up after another head-scratching performance last weekend. Iowa should be fresh off its bye and has a chance to get bowl eligible just ahead of its biggest game of the year (PSU comes to town). Iowa has one of the best defensive units in the Big Ten. Illinois moves the ball at will on most. Something's gotta give. Iowa has won five straight in the series and 8 of the last 10. Which Illinois team will show up? In a game like this, the better defense wins... make it: Iowa 26 - Illinois 24.

BruceS says ... These two teams are like two elevators traveling in opposite directions; one going up while the other is going down. Iowa is playing like many predicted at the beginning of the season while Illinois has been a disappointment to many. Iowa continues their winning ways with a good road win in Champaign. Iowa 24 Illinois 21

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday afternoon QB...
Okay, first off, I do try hard to be fair and unbiased here, but putting on my Spartans fan hat - man that victory felt good! Yes, it came when State should have won and they way they did. But still, green and whiters all over the world know, it is still a win over our rival. Now that I got it out of my system (at least for the blog!) let's look around the league from top to bottom...

Penn State - huge win in Columbus. Much like Michigan State, the Nittany Lions won somewhere they hadn't in years. Only it had been since 1978 since JoePa had the Buckeyes' number in the 'shoe. Everyone is quick to assume this team will run the table, but I promise you Iowa will be no gimme, nor will Michigan State at the end. Should PSU win out? You bet. Will they? Stay tuned. It would be great for the Big Ten to get the Nittany Lions into the BCS Title game but there is a lot of football to be played. The bye week comes at an opportune time. Time to rest, refocus and reload with eyes on the prize.

Ohio State - Terrelle Pryor's freshman tendencies finally bit the Buckeyes in the butt. The OSU offense was stagnant against a great Penn State defense and that put the onus squarely on the super-frosh's shoulders. He'll learn from this and the Buckeyes will be that much better for it down the road, but any last gasp hopes for a third straight trip to the BCS promised land have ended. The Buckeyes can still run the table, go 10-2 and make a BCS game, but there has to be some level of disappointment in a college town used to playing for all the marbles. OSU gets a week to get it back together before two trips to the state of Illinois and the season ender with Michigan. I can't wait to see how Pryor responds...

Michigan State - that long carried monkey off its back, Michigan State must next show it can rebound from success like it can rebound from failure. The Spartans will be favored in the next two games and if the green and white stay focused on the tasks at hand, can go into the final week with a Big Ten title on the line. When was the last time State was in the race this deep in the season? In reality, 1990. 1999 saw two straight losses that ended title hopes and 2003 saw a big drop off after the Michigan loss. A win against Wisconsin will not be easy, not in the least, but it will be interesting to see how the Spartans get up for this game.

Minnesota - the Golden Gophers are just quietly staying right at the top of the Big Ten race. Northwestern, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa remain on the schedule, three of those games at home. I know I keep wondering when Goldy will crash back to earth, but the deeper they go, the more I wonder if that will actually happen. No matter how the next four weeks go, this is the best comeback story in recent memory. If Minnesota keeps believing and finding a way, it could produce the biggest single season turnaround in NCAA history...

Northwestern - The Wildcats took a step back in the loss at Indiana and life doesn't get any easier, with Tyrell Sutton out for the regular season and C.J. Bacher questionable for Saturday. Minnesota, Ohio State, Michigan and Illinois remain for a team desperate to get to at least seven wins, if not more. None will be easy. You could say the Wildcats will be favored in one (Michigan), perhaps in a second (Illinois) but facing tough tasks against OSU and Minnesota. The next few weeks will tell you if NU goes to Detroit or somewhere warm for the holidays.

Iowa - The Hawkeyes got to sit back, rest and watch the other ten teams in the conference beat up on each other last week. Iowa sits one game from bowl eligibility with four games left. The Hawkeyes travel to Illinois this weekend, play Penn State and Purdue at home and end on the road in Minnesota. Three wins seem well within reach and I will predict right now, Iowa will give Penn State all it can handle. First thing's first - travel to Illinois to face a wounded and dangerous Illini squad.

Illinois - This team has been as wild as a ride on Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point all season. Way up, way down. The Illini have beaten no one of consequence and still need at least a split in the last four to be considered for a bowl. That won't be easy with home games against Iowa and Ohio State, a trip to a neutral site to play a good MAC team (Western) and a road, rivalry tilt with Northwestern. Right now, I'm not so certain the men in orange will get two more wins and even then, I think it might take three to lock a bowl bid up. We'll see what Juice and Co. have in them when border rival Iowa comes calling.

Michigan - There are some mighty long streaks that are about to end in Ann Arbor. This sort of losing and frustration has not been a part of Michigan football in my lifetime, which begs the question - how patient are the M fans? Is this acceptable for one season and one season only? What about next year, when a freshman or redshirt freshman QB is calling the signals and the defense loses some top performers? Shorter term, the Wolverines just need a win. Purdue is the worst team in the Big Ten this year and Saturday is an official bowl elimination game in West Lafayette. That just might make it the game of the week...

Wisconsin - The Badgers seem to have found some rhythm with Dustin Sherer at the helm, but now that Travis Beckum is shelved for the season, who will he target when the pressure is turned up? Wisconsin is a dangerous team that is too proud not to get to six wins, but still has to travel to MSU and Indiana before a home date for Paul Bunyan's Axe. Cal Poly is a gimme in the finale, but the rest are dangerous. The Badgers might get a State team still giddy from last week but they certainly earned attention for their win over Illinois. Another good game coming up this week.

Indiana - IU got a surprising and much-needed home win over Northwestern last week and finally has a little momentum on its side. Central Michigan comes calling this week and the Hoosiers are fully aware of what a MAC team is capable of doing. The Hoosiers need at least three more wins and with a trip to Penn State still looming, that means taking care of business this week, against Wisconsin and then protecting the Old Oaken Bucket.

Purdue - Imagine what winning against Oregon would have done for this team. We might not be looking at the complete opposite (6-2 instead of 2-6) but we'd likely be seeing another Tiller team in a bowl game. That is about as likely to happen as seeing Michigan run the table. Time for Tiller to let Danny Hope play more of a role and start playing the young kids. Purdue will get another win somewhere, the question is, when, where and against whom?

Big Ten PotW: Call it homerism if you want, but I am going with Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer from MSU at the co-Players of the Week. The tandem out-gained Michigan by themselves and accounted for all five scores in a big, rivalry win.

Get Gamm - BruceS was the only one aside from me to go 4-1, so Bruce, you get to pick with me this week...

Coming soon... pre-season basketball thoughts!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Week Nine - Get Gamm
We're gettin' to the nitty gritty. Big match-ups are starting to grace the slate in droves around the Big Ten. None this week bigger than PSU at OSU. Penn State hasn't won in C-bus since 1978. Ohio State has owned the Big Ten of late. Penn State has a shot at running the table and getting the national title that eluded them in 1994. OSU still has a shot at getting to a third straight title game. All that for ONE game! How will it all play out? Time to spill...

Illinois at Wisconsin
Call this one the "Disappointment Bowl." Illinois is 2-2 in the league and 4-3 overall and in need of a signature win. Wisconsin in riding a four game losing streak, two of those at home. The Illini need at least two wins to get to bowl eligibility. Wisconsin needs three. To say this game is critical is an understatement. On one hand, I cannot see Wisconsin's offense making the necessary improvements to get this "W." On the other, I cannot see Wisconsin losing a third straight game in Mad-town. QB play is critical for the Badgers' success. QB play is a given for Illinois. The difference is the home crowd and the UW defense. Wisconsin 31 - Illinois 24 in OT.

AndrewJ1313 says ... Who would have thought going into this game that neither of these teams would be ranked? Juice Williams is a rare talent but unfortunately outside of him, the offense struggles. Wisconsin started 3-0, had a bye week and has yet to return from it. Both teams are not living up to the pre-season hype and while Illinois has looked better as of late (and didn't lose to a terrible Michigan team), I think a wounded Badger squad returns home and gets a much needed W. The Badgers can't lose 3 at home - right? That's really all I'm basing this pick on. Wisconsin 32, Illinois 27

Northwestern at Indiana
This season has quickly run away from the Hoosiers. IU was the feel good story in the Big Ten a year ago, but since being bull whipped by Ball State, Indiana hasn't done squat. Part of it is due to the injuries to Kellen Lewis. A bigger part is the loss of 3/4 of the secondary to injury. Neither bodes well with a hot Wildcats team coming into Bloomington. Northwestern has a great, great chance to get to a New Year's Day bowl berth, but has to win games like this to do so. Northwestern squeaks by an inspired Indiana team. Northwestern 34 - Indiana 33.

AndrewJ1313 says ... Northwestern is the second biggest surprise in the Big Ten this year and they are already bowl eligible. Now they can focus on the quality of bowl game they go to. The remaining schedule looks to have two sure wins, two toss ups and a real struggle that will probably be a loss. One of the sure wins should come this weekend against Indiana. The only thing going in Indiana's favor right now is they don't have Ohio State on the schedule. At this rate, Indiana might (MIGHT) have just one win left on the schedule. I hate to see Indiana take such a huge step backwards after a solid 2007. Northwestern 32, Indiana 21

Minnesota at Purdue
Talk about a tale of two teams going in entirely different directions. The promise of a great send off for Joe Tiller is now mired in horrible play and in-team fighting. Kory Sheets blasted Curtis Painter, and Tiller more or less called Sheets ignorant for doing so. Ouch. Not what a team desperately in search of a win needs right now. Meanwhile, Minnesota comes in after a BYE, is a shocking 6-1 and looking to build to a great bowl berth. Two things could happen in W.L. this weekend: Purdue could rally and respond and show some heart while gaining a critical win, or Minnesota could come in and flat out roll a team in turmoil. I want to believe the former, but until Purdue shows me something - anything - I am going with the latter. Minnesota 40 - Purdue 31.

AndrewJ1313 says ... Minnesota is the biggest surprise in the Big Ten this year and Purdue is the second biggest disappointment (see Michigan for the first although Wisconsin is vying for that honor). In Minnesota's one loss, they never stopped fighting. This team, like Northwestern, is bowl eligible and now looking to determine where they go this holiday season and that is going to help this team surge through the remainder of their schedule pulling out at least two more wins. Purdue just hasn't been the same since that blown opportunity against Oregon. The one bright spot is Purdue's defense held both Penn St. and OSU in check keeping both under 20 points but fell apart against Northwestern. Playing at home might help Purdue put together a winning effort this weekend. Minnesota 26, Purdue 24

Michigan State at Michigan
Michigan State is going to run first and foremost. No surprise there. The surprise will be the ease with which the Spartans do so. Ringer will go Cobb & Duckett (200+) on the U-M defense. Hoyer will be sharp enough to keep the M defense honest. No one on the Michigan offense can approach Beanie Wells or Terrelle Pryor in terms of escapability and scare factor. I like the special teams play of the green and white all day, every day over U-M. State jumps out early and often and cruises to its biggest win in the series since 1967 and in the process pretty much cements Michigan's first losing campaign since that same year. Michigan State 31 - Michigan 14. (For my full, biased preview, go to my other blog)

AndrewJ1313 says ... Like Andy said, "U-G-L-Y." That pretty much sums up Michigan. Michigan State was in the wrong place at the wrong time last week when Ohio State's offense finally woke up. I don't think the 45-7 loss is an indication of MSU collapsing again like they did under JLS, I attribute it to OSU playing like they should have all year. I can still see this team getting to 9 wins (mainly because only one of their remaining opponents has a winning record) and possibly playing in the Outback Bowl. Michigan St. 28, Michigan 20

Penn State at Ohio State
Best game in college football this weekend. Winner takes the Big Ten. Winner stays in the National Title race. The Nittany Lions haven't won in C-bus as a member of the Big Ten. Haven't won there since 1978. Ohio State is coming off its best game of the season. The offense and defense clicked together in East Lansing and all the bounces went the way of the scarlet and gray. In a game where literally everything is equal, it comes down to QB play. Daryl Clark is more experienced than Pryor, even if the two are mirrors of one another athletically. Penn State got the Michigan monkey off its back and now they get the C-BUS off their back. Penn State 23 - Ohio State 17.

AndrewJ1313 says ... Game of the week in college football (that pick was easy). No team in the country has looked more complete on all sides of the ball then Penn State. People can pick on their schedule all they want, but the bottom line is Penn State is winning the games they are suppose to the way they are suppose to. Let's see if PSU is as good as advertised. Ohio State FINALLY played like the team everyone thought they were in a dismantling of MSU. The key for this week for both teams will be the defensive line. If OSU's d-line can get pressure and allow the secondary and LB's to roam and make plays like they did last week, I think OSU will dominate this game. If PSU's d-line pressures and contains Pryor we may see Boeckman come in to air out the ball and stretch the field, but we've all seen how Boeckman has handled the pressure of the last three big games he's played in dating back to last year (Illinois, LSU, So. Cal). I really think OSU has found it's grove and needs this game to prove to everyone that this team can perform on the big stage again. GO BUCKS!!! OSU 30, Penn St. 24