Get Gamm - Week Ten
For the first time since the opening week, I am picking solo. That means I finally beat all comers! We have a very important weekend on tap with one "elimination" game and several other critical match-ups for those hoping to get to, or improve bowl position.
Haste makes waste, so without further ado...
Illinois at Minnesota - The Fighting Illini finally showed some fight last weekend with an unexpected pasting of the Wolverines. Minnesota woke up from offensive hibernation to put up silly passing numbers against a previously strong MSU secondary - all without the Big Ten's best wide receiver. All of that adds up to some intrigue for this weekend's tilt in Minneapolis.
The Illini need to win out to go bowling. That's a tall task but at this point, it is a rallying cry. Minnesota is one win away, with a sure win on the slate next week (South Dakota State) so the Gophers are all about notching their belt with wins to enhance the final holiday destination.
Will either team have a hangover after last weekend? My guess is if either do, it will be Minnesota. This game should have plenty of offense, but Illinois has a great shot to win if it can control the game with the same running prowess it showed last weekend. I need to make a move up the standings, so I will pick away from the field on this one. Illinois surprises again.
Illinois 33 - Minnesota 31
Northwestern at Iowa - Is this the weekend where Iowa finally shows up from the onset and buries a team from the first play? That's the million dollar question. The game of the year looms next weekend for the Hawkeyes, so there has to be some major guarding against a peek ahead. For Northwestern, meanwhile, the mission is simple - get another win and get to bowl eligibility. No look ahead exists. Nothing to focus on but the here and now.
Northwestern has beaten Iowa three of the past four seasons, including last year in Iowa City. However, the health of quarterback Mike Kafka is a major question mark, especially against this defense. The Hawkeyes played as poorly as possible in a runaway win last weekend. I'm willing to bet that Stanzi doesn't throw five picks this weekend.
The Wildcats and their spread attack will make this a game, especially if Kafka can go at full tilt. Iowa will work to control the clock and grind out another win. If Northwestern was healthier, I'd be more willing to call this out at my upset alert. But I'm not sold on the health factor. Iowa lives to set up a huge showdown in Columbus next weekend.
Iowa 27 - Northwestern 16
Purdue at Michigan - There is a critical game being played in Ann Arbor this weekend. The thing is, it is between one team that is 3-6 (2-3) and coming off an ugly, shut out loss and a team that is 5-4 (1-4) and desperately seeking that sixth win given a couple of tall tasks yet to be tended to this November.
Purdue has been oh-so-close numerous times this season. For Michigan, it has been feast or famine with little in between. Prior to getting pasted in Madison, the Boilers had lost games by 2, 7, 3 and 6 in successive weeks at the onset of the season. The trouble is, the trend is worsening, as the past two losses have been by 15 and 37.
The gold and black need to win out to go bowling. Michigan needs one more and maybe more to avoid the Pizza Pizza Bowl. I hate how both teams are playing right now but I sense more turmoil in Ann Arbor. Fans are pretty miffed over the egg laid in Champaign last weekend. Most will pick Michigan here and while that seems like the safer bet, I'm not so sure.
Purdue 24 - Michigan 23.
Western Michigan at Michigan State - The Michigan State Spartans are two plays from 6-3, and a bad decision and a bad call from 8-1. Easy come, easy go. Western Michigan also sits at 4-5 and has been a bit of a disappointment this year. The Broncos were expected to contend for the MAC West title but have been inconsistent all season long.
This game comes at a good time for the Spartans. A win puts MSU at 5-5 with two to play. Bowl games are critical these days - for the extra practice time, the perception of recruits, etc. But this isn't a gimme. WMU will come to play. The Broncos beat Illinois at this time last year and are hungry to follow up what the Chippewas did back in September.
State is dinged up but I think a season of what ifs, and shoulda-coulda-woulda explodes on Western. That momentum may be just what this team needs to get a sixth and perhaps seventh win...
Michigan State 38 - Western Michigan 14.
Wisconsin at Indiana - Another game that has meaning to both teams involved. Wisconsin still has a very outside shot at a share of the league title. Indiana is two games from bowling and still stinging after another tough road loss in a game it was controlling.
The Badgers aren't fancy, but beat you by smashing you in the mouth on both sides of the ball. Indiana has some playmakers but hasn't beaten UW since 2001. The Hoosiers are a year from getting back to a bowl game. Wisconsin is a few games from a sunny trip south on New Year's Day.
Wisconsin 31 - Indiana 13
Ohio State at Penn State (Tiebreaker) - They saved the best for last this weekend. The game of the week in the conference if not in college football. An elimination game. A statement game. The BCS will be watching. The nation will check in to see if the Big Ten is "still playing bad football." All eyes will be on a PA quarterback leading Ohio State and an OH quarterback leading Penn State. This one has - at least in the past few years - pushed aside OSU-Michigan as the tone setter for the Big Ten conference...
The series is all tied up at 12 apiece. Penn State won 13-6 last season, marking two straight wins for the visitor in the series. 12 of the 16 games since 1993 have been won by the home team, however, and I'm not sure - having been to most of the Big Ten stadiums - if there is a better home field advantage than the one in State College.
Both defenses are rock solid. Each team is decent to good with special teams. That puts the onus on the offense. Penn State's is more efficient, more dangerous and more apt to get the job done. Both teams already have a conference loss so a loss here likely means no Big Ten title. For Ohio State that would mark a first non-title since 2004.
I like Penn State's offense more and that is the difference in this one. Well, that and a loud, rambunctious Nittany Nation clad in white.
Penn State 17 - Ohio State 13.